Anyone twenty or older who has been somewhat awake to global issues has undoubtedly heard of “WMD’s” and knows that the “war on terror” was justified via claims that “terrorist countries” had, or were about to have, weapons of mass destruction. This was revealed to be a lie – a lie even the promulgators of mass deception, the MSM, had to eventually admit. (And, as those with their heads not stuck in the sand of denial must surely realize, the U.S. is more of a “terrorist country” than many of the other places it throws that label at).

Thus, the war-cry of “they have WMD’s” turned out to be a lie – a lie that was vehemently defended by the likes of Bush, Powell, Cheney, Rice – you know, the whole US Empire gang. Yet, this gang denied their wrongdoings for sometime, trying to cover their lying tracks with claims they were misled by misinformation.

Denial seems very popular these days amongst politicians. And, while wealth is not “trickling down” as the republicans and neo-cons keep promising it well, one thing that is definitely trickling down is denial.

One type of denial I come across regularly is WPD – white privilege denial.

WPD sounds like this: “Yeah, I’m white, but I worked REALLY hard to get where I am. I am not successful because I’m white; I’m successful because of my work ethic.”

Or, it sounds like this: “I suffer from racism too. I went to a school where I was one of few white kids and I got picked on all the time.”

Or, it sounds like this, “I am discriminated against as a white person because I can’t get financial aid or scholarships. I don’t get the benefit of affirmative action. ..”(By the way, for a post that debunks myths surrounding affirmative action, see here.)

Or, it sounds like this: “I am not white. I am a mixture of German, Dutch, Scandinavian, and Scottish.” (Hello! What the hell color do you think that is? Mix a bunch of different whites together and what do you get? White!!!) Another one in this vein: “I’m not white, I am Caucasian.” Duh.  You and Homer Simpson.

Many white people are very reticent to own up to their white privilege. Many, in fact, get VERY ANGRY when confronted with the claim that their white skin privileges them in NUMEROUS ways.

What these deniers often fail to realize is the concept of intersectionality. They think because they are disadvantaged or oppressed in other ways that this somehow cancels out the white privilege. But, one can have white skin privilege, or be, as I like to call it, a POWP (person of white privilege) and NOT have class privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, etc. Or, as Tim Wise puts it, “None of this means that white folks don’t face challenges. Of course we do, and some of them (based on class, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or other factors) are systemic and institutionalized. But on balance, we can take for granted that we will receive a leg-up on those persons of color with whom we share a nation.”

Or, in other words, regardless of how many other ‘oppressive marks’ one has, white skin is NOT a mark of oppression, but a mark of privilege.

Just how dangerous are these WPD’s? Very!

Like weapons of mass destruction, white privilege deniers are incredibly harmful. They damage the fabric of society. They perpetuate racism, prop-up white privilege, and create animosity within social justice movements. WPD’s keep white privilege in place while simultaneously blaming POC at an individual level for problems that are societally induced and maintained.

WPD’s are those white people that claim racism doesn’t exist while they go about being racists in their daily lives. WPD’s are those white people that always try to change the subject when a critical examination of whiteness takes center stage. WPD’s get offended when you tell them their whiteness is showing. They defend their position in society, their status, their prime place in history with all sorts of excuses, and particularly with claims that they themselves have worked REALLY, REALLY hard for any perks they have. They also love to pull out “I suffer from all the horrible stereotypes about white people” talking points such as “Because I’m white, people think I am rich and stuck up, but it’s just not true,” or, “Because I am white people think I am racist, but I am not. I have a black/Mexican/fill in the blank friend.” Blah, blah, blah.

WPD’s suffer from, as Renee at Womanist Musings calls it, the “Audacity of Whiteness.”

Face it all you WPD’s, if you ever find yourself denying your white privilege or complaining that you are oppressed because you are white, you are acting not only as a WPD but as a WMD –  as a weapon of mass destruction. Racism is weapon, and one that undoubtedly takes a massive, destructive toll on society. As a WPD, you are actively attacking the world with your racist weaponry, with your white privilege denial.  As Tim Wise notes, “White privilege is, in short, the problem.” (Read his excellent post, “This is your nation on white privilege,” here.)

Yes, white privilege is the problem, and white privilege deniers are a massive weapon that helps to keep this problem in place. If only we heard speeches of the like: “The USA has been found to be harboring WPD’s on a massive scale. Those of us who care about bringing an end to this world threatening fact need to take united action to help these WPD’s overcome their dangerous ways. Join with me, today, to lead our world out of its WPD dependence.”

As I don’t foresee this type of speech coming down the pipes anytime soon, and certainly not from the likes of Sarah Palin (who Sarah Benincasa spoofs as ‘meeting her first black person’ here), those of us who see WPD for what it is need to do our part to eradicate this invasive form of denial. So, POWPs and POC, I encourage you to make this week (and every week) one in which you do whatever you can to get WPD to put down their weapon.

(For a related post I wrote a while back on the social construction of whiteness, see here.)

21 thoughts on “What if WPD’s (white privilege deniers) are just as dangerous as WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction)?

  1. Sure,the classic white privilege rant. In the last period on all kinds of “progressive” blogs and sites white “privilege” has been raised to the level of the “irreducible Jew” of the Nazis, some sort of a super-conspiracy/primal sin which is indelibly linked to all white people and which nothing we can do can erase it. Having run out of palpable racism to fight,a new kind of permanent Boogie-man was created to keep all the race-pundits busy. It’s like they had to invent some reason for eternal whining.

    Since the very presence of a white person seems to emanate “Oppression-Particles” I see no other recourse than for progressives to kill every single white person since that is the only way for true “Justice” and “Equality” to be achieved. In the endless demonization of whites where every ill on a “POC” is immediately connected (even trough some really shaky reasoning) to the Great White Conspiracy. And before you accuse me of pulling a Godwin I have to remind you that many pre-Nazi academic anti-Semites didn’t want to exterminate the Jews they were just pointing out the great “Jewish Conspiracy” against all the other peoples of the Earth. Kind of like whites and “POC’s”

    And for all the “progressive” whining about “othering” how funny that you use with gusto a term (POC)that means “everyone minus the white devils”

  2. And another thing.
    Notice how the tone of the discourse becomes more and more and hateful with passing time, From merely the “detection of white privilege” to “incredibly harmful”, “damage the fabric of society”, “weapons of mass destruction”, “actively attacking the world”, “world threatening fact”

    Gee, why don’t we put all white people in concentration camps for reeducations (or maybe “showers” for the reluctant)

    A little rewriting

    “Deutschland has been found to be harboring Jewish Privilege Deniers on a massive scale. Those of us who care about bringing an end to this world threatening fact need to take united action to help these Jewish Privilege Deniers overcome their dangerous ways. Join with me, today, to lead our world out of its Jewish Privilege Deniers dependence.”

  3. @Zane Speaking of white privilege…open mouth and insert foot. Everything in your commentary only serves as evidence to support the veracity of this post.

    The minute you begin to discuss privilege it causes immediate animosity on the part of the privileged person in an effort to maintain the social hierarchy. Regardless of how “hard” you worked the opportunity to work hard would not have existed had you not been a privileged person to begin with. Each and every success in this life is predicated on the marginalization and exploitation of another. If you are not gaining from race privilege, then it is class, gender, cis, hetero, western etc. The global system is set up to construct certain bodies as other and this cannot be denied.

  4. Zane,
    Wow, that’s quite a weapon you’ve got there. Is it an automatic?

    Thanks for your comment. I know you have a lot of wpd’s polluting your comment threads at Womanist Musings. People sure get all bent out of shape when their privilege is scrutinized, don’t they? Here’s hoping commentary like yours (and of the many others who blog on white privilege) can help with the global pandemic of wpd.

  5. Let’s suppose I admit my evil white, male, hetero, cis, able, western, right-handed, non-peanuts-allergic privilege. What does that help the “POC”? What is the solution to this problem? I want to hear concrete steps to alleviate this situation. Otherwise all this privilege talk is just meant to aggravate people and to create eternal victims.

  6. Zane,
    Given the tenor of your comment, it is hard to believe you are genuine about wanting to alleviate racism. Also, this sounds a lot like putting the responsibility of ‘teaching’ or ‘correcting’ on the very people that have been most disenfranchised by the system. One solution is for people like yourself to take it upon themselves to figure out concrete steps to alleviate racism and inequality and not expect “Others” to do it for you… That being said, there is LOADS of info on how to stand in solidarity with POC, or, as it is often termed, to be an ally. But, if I could give you a concrete step or two, I would say read the book White Privilege, read Peggy McIntosh, read Tim Wise, take a women’s studies class, take a whiteness class, take a critical studies of race class. But, before that, you will need to put down the defensiveness and accusations and stop using phrases like “eternal victims.”

  7. I’m a black, a lesbian and a feminist. I run into this same problem you’re speaking of every day. one a white person lets you know that they are liberal and educated and anti-racists – there is very little chance for dialogue or improvement. In conversations, they tend to get angry if you tell them that what they’ve said is insensitive or that racist language is being used. The immediate response is ‘I don’t have a problem, you do. Get over it.’ Before the conversation is over, I’m usually called an angry militant black. It’s very tiring.

    We (the masses) cannot fix racism until liberal white people admit their ties to privilege. In my world, an argument has been going on for two days on a lesbian message board about this same thing. A major argument has also been going on in the land of blogging on the white feminist blogging network – because a group of black feminists challenged them on blatant racism. In all the fights a large percentage of whites refused to listen or accept responsibility. In all the arguments – they pretended to be the victim and screamed very loudly at the WOc calling their actions racist.

    Sometimes its easier to work with nasty self defined racists than liberal white people who will never admit to having white privileges.

    Sorry about the ramble. I agree with your blog. Thanks for writing it.

  8. I am committed to speaking about privilege in many forms. Until we acknowledge it there can be no positive moves towards equality.
    @Zane since your body is the one existing with privilege it is your responsibility to learn how to mitigate it as best as you can. Please do not go out and get your self a “black friend” Start by listening to the voices that have been marginalized. Read their writings and really think critically about how the isms intersect.

  9. The problem with the whole privilege idea is that it insults people. If you say “Look POC are discriminated in this, that” I’ll be inclined to help you . If you say “All you have done is tainted and semi-stolen” the majority of people will take offense since it’s a direct attack on something they can’t take direct actions. As for this whole “being an ally” stuff most of its is so nebulous and vague that most people just don’t bother. Not to mention I’m getting the idea that most of this ally stuff consists of auto-flagellations and guilt tripping other people. Not to mentions that if you are a POC you still aren’t off the hook since I see more and more privilege categories appearing over time (CIS, hetero, able, western, male,)making it impossible for anyone no to be accused of this or that. In the end the only non privileged person will be a fat Congolese black trans gendered lesbian paralyzed from the neck down.

  10. Thanks, Steady Cat! Great points about the “liberal white stance” being used as a way to shut conversation down rather than open it up.

    I am very interested in the argument you cite… I have not had time to keep up my blog reading lately and have missed this “major argument” you refer to (although I have noted it going on over the past several months between some of the biggie blogs…) I tend to “follow the road less traveled” and don’t read the big feminist blogs near as often as the ‘independents’… I would love to follow up on this argument if you can direct me to the threads… esp as similar arguments keep occurring at the campus where I teach.

    And yes, the racists who deny their racism are often more problematic than those who proudly proclaim it… At least the latter are honest about their stance. That being said though, I think many of us (and I speak as a POWP — person of white privilege) grow up in such a racist society that it can be hard to “see” all those ways in which we contribute to white privilege — I do think many of the ‘white liberals’ and the ‘white feminists’ you refer to are trying to dismantle racism but that the problem is so sedimented, some attempts only reinvent the wheel. Yet, if people take the ‘I don’t have a problem, you do. Get over it’ stance this is a different matter. If others are pointing out what they see as insensitivity or racist language, all of us need to put down our defenses and TALK, ANALYZE, REFLECT… The “get over it” attitude has no place in the unpacking privilege agenda if you ask me…

    Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  11. Zane,
    People being insulted is a reaction to privilege denial.

    Claiming that those privileged can’t take direct action is BS. If you said many CHOOSE not to take direct action, yes, I would agree. Or, in your terms, are “eternal deniers of privilege,” yes, I would agree. Being an ally or actively anti-racist is not “nebulous.” I am wondering if you actually took mine or Renee’s advice regarding steps you could take, or if you merely picked up your weapon again for this latest barrage…

    Regarding your closing points, unpacking privilege is not about accusations. And, yes, there are myriad types of privilege. The point is to do away with all privilege and simultaneously all oppressions so that all bodies count, regardless of whether they are (in your terms) “a fat Congolese black trans gendered lesbian paralyzed from the neck down” body,” or, a white male body.

  12. “The point is to do away with all privilege and simultaneously all oppressions so that all bodies count, regardless of whether they are (in your terms) “a fat Congolese black trans gendered lesbian paralyzed from the neck down” body,” or, a white male body.”

    Hmmmm….now if they were both pilots who should fly the jet home? Using the anologies I read on this site it should be the poc.
    This ideal where no privilege exist is often found in graveyards-unless you count the headstones as a part of being privileged. Privilege and race have nothing in common and calling white people “people of white privilege” is blatant racism.

  13. Henry,

    Could you possibly be referring to the fact Native Americans had unmarked graves after slaving away to build Catholic missions as an example of white privilege? No, of course not, this would have nothing to do with race, must have just been coincidence that whities got the marked graves. Perhaps you are thinking of Jasper, Texas where the local graveyard is segregated by race and the horrendous murder of James Byrd took place in 1998. He was drug to his death behind a pick up truck by 3 white supremacists. Alas, many in Jasper (the white populace) claimed this murder had “nothing to do with race.” If you feel like opening your mind a wee bit on this subject, see the documentary The Two Towns of Jasper.

    And, “Privilege and race have nothing in common”?!? May I ask what planet you are living on?

  14. My comment concerning graveyards has nothing to do with marked or unmarked graves of anyone race or ethnic background. Death is the great equalizer. Do you read race/racism into everything a person says or does.
    Zane is right the language of so called anti-racists is similar to that of the Nazis as well as the communist party under Joseph Stalin.
    That’s right the killers in Jasper are white supremacists and this demonizing of white people as carriers of some pathological privilege falls right into the mentality of those killers. You may recall the murder (this past March)of the UNC student college president. She was white and the 2 killers are pocs! A number of bloggs spoke of the victim as a rich, blond, white girl of privilege-whose great, great, grandparents may have owned slaves! This is the language/bile I see written here as well as on other sites.
    This concept of race and privilege have given neo-racists an un-ending supply of vitrol to bash white people. Of course no one can define it but that makes it even more insiduous. Let’s see I am white, male, heterosexual, had books at home, went to college, got a job, married a wonderful woman, have 2 children-but, somehow this translates to {evil white male}.
    I urge anyone who is not happy with a white male, western society to pack up and move to N.Korea, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan or India (land of the untouchables).
    I do have one question: why are there no Gay Pride marches in the Middle East?

  15. Hi professor-hope you don’t mind if I copy and paste and I will name my source too. A speach by Joseph Goebels-Nazi propaganda chief. The word Jew has been change to the word white:
    The historic evil of Whiteness is responsible for all the world’s ills. The Whites wanted racism, and now they have it. Professor Ignatiev’s prophecy of 30 January 2003 to White Stdudies groups is also being fulfilled: If White people should succeed in plunging the world into capitalism and democracy once again, the result will be not the colonialism of the world and thereby the victory of the White race, but rather the destruction of White people everywhere.
    We are seeing the fulfillment of Ignatiev’s prophecy. The Whites are receiving a penalty that is certainly hard, but more than deserved.
    Every white person is our enemy in this historic struggle, regardless of whether he/she lives in the USA or in Sweden. All whites by virtue of their birth and their race are part of an international conspiracy against people of color. They want to control the world with their Western views, democracy, Christianity and culture. We must implement ways to combat this.
    One of these measures is the institution of White guilt. We wanted to make it visible that all white people are racist through the use of terms such as systemic and institutionalized racism. Using those terms will assure people of color that no white person can escape his/her role in racism, colonialism, sexism, homophobia, lookism and genocide. Those who still claim to be white after they have been re-educated will be dealt with so that the promised heaven of POC justice and equality can begin.
    In the first days this re-education will be the introduction of a T-shirt with the words:” White person of Privilege” of course most White people will deny that they are white. But we know who these lackeys are. Their excuse they give for their provocative conduct is always the same: “Whites are human too. . We never denied that, just as we never denied the humanity of murders, child rapists, thieves and pimps. Even at birth they bear the mark of Whiteness.

  16. Hello Professor,

    It seems you have an infestation of WPD (white privilege deniers) Of course the fact their positions only go to re affirm their privileges and self interest is not something that they have taken a moment to reflect upon.
    Yes most bodies do indeed exist with some form of privilege but that does not justify an individual to deny theirs. I am a WOC and I fully acknowledge that I exist with cis, straight, class and western privilege. This does not mean that I am not marginalized by sex and race. All of it is a part of who I am and deny any part of it is bifurcate my existence. As whole being if any aspect was mising I simply would not be who I am.
    As for those of you that seek to deny privilege because you worked hard to get where you are, what should occur to you is that the reason you have the ability to work hard is because your body existed with privilege in the first place. Do you think you would have been able to get the education that have had you not resided in a western country? I doubt.
    The idea is not to solely focus on one form of privilege( though white privilege is pervasive)it is dismantle the isms through the elimination of reduction of privilege. One cannot believe in an equal society if injustice at a systemic level can be deemed justifiable.

  17. No one denies privilege just the contention that recognizing privilege will bring forth this justice filled society.
    The Old Testament used the term covet; thou shalt not covet they neighbors wife, etc, etc. I think those old guys had something there. To covet something leads to greed, hatred, anger and crime. I can’t think of anything less useful than this self mutilating behavior of admitting that one has more privilege, is heterosexual, lives in a big house or feels marginalized. You can’t reduce privilege because the end result you won’t have any privileges either.

  18. Hello Professor: since your on a college campus why not check out the book: Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by Robert Lifton. He’s a bit dull-being a Freudian but the last 3 chapters on thought reform are execellent.
    I see some of the language of thought reform on this site as well as the anti-racist parent where some of the one of the most complex concepts of human problems (racism)is compressed into repetitive sounds bites (jargon. Lifton describes this jargon as:”the language of nonthought” and these include such terms as progressive, oppressor, privilege, marginalized, middle class mentality and many others. These terms-of course-are never defined by their users because they reflect a sense of narcissistic exclusiveness.
    This is quite evident on the anti-racist parent site where posters appear to compete for such titles as: most oppressed poc, most sensitive parent to kids of color and (my favorites)white women who agonize about what they may/may not have said to a poc.
    If people want to end racism focusing on privilege is the wrong way to go.

  19. I am, apparently, a evil white male. I am the only one to go beyond high school in my family. I have no criminal record. I worked hard to get my education with no grants or scholarships of any sort, except the G.I., bill from serving 4 years in the military. I try to treat others as I would want to be treated. I also was passed over for a promotion and lost my chosen career due to affirmative action (which I could accept if it was for others who had equally qualified records – they did not. I have proof from documents that accidentally was released). I now work in a field where I earn 1/2 of what I would have earned.

    Somehow, I am a person of special privilege – the ole tired evil white male oppressor of women and minorities. God how I wish I was part something else, if only to spare me this. I just get tired of it all.

    1. Dear EWM,
      Regardless of your particular circumstances, your whiteness and your maleness do give you certain societal privileges. This does not make you evil and I don’t ever argue as such. I find it problematic when people deny white privilege exists, but I do not brand white people as evil (I am myself a white person). And you are “part something” else — your class, sexuality, belief, politics, body image, etc also make up who you are. Perhaps you should put down the “poor me, I’m seen as the evil white male oppressor” attitude and work to make society a more just place for everyone — yourself included.

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