This week, Bill O’Reilly, had another standoff with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on “white privilege”. The pugnacious Foxnews political commentator acknowledged that historical discrimination of blacks and other racial minorities in the U.S. have had a lasting effect, but he argued that personal responsibility (i.e. good values), now, is the main determinant of one’s socio-economic ascendance. Jon Stewart, on the other hand, believes that “white privilege” is a major factor in today’s socio-economic condition of black and white Americans. He cited previous racial discrimination, including in O’Reilly’s hometown of Levittown, NY, where black World War II veterans were excluded due to government directives. This, according to Stewart, proves that whites were given a head start, while blacks lived in the ghettos.
I don’t think anyone is disagreeing with the Daily Show’s host argument that whites in the United States have had a head start given past racial preferences. As O’Reilly noted, however, blacks and other minorities, today, don’t face the same obstacles that past generations had to tackle. In today’s America with a black president, billionaire, multi-millionaires, scientists, generals, and many others. This fact doesn’t mean that racism or de facto discrimination is a thing of the past. It simply means that we live in a time when your attitude, work ethic, and personal responsibility determines your economic altitude. White privilege, in my opinion, is just a cop-out. Many rather blame whites for several ills in the black community that are truly self-inflicted. Black authors such as Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, and, recently, Jason L. Riley have eloquently stated that government programs purported to help the black underclass have done more harm than de jure discrimination.
Instead of wasting our time arguing about white privilege, it will be better to focus our attention and energy on finding solutions to improve the lives of poor Americans who suffer from too much government involvement. As Milton Friedman’s argued, minorities have done and continue to do well in areas with less government involvement. Black billionaires and multi-millionaires today, for instance, are mostly self-made businessmen and women thriving in sports/entertainment, where they have the opportunity to showcase their talents compared to other areas of the economy with government created barriers to entry such as occupational licenses and minimum wage laws. Yes, white privilege do exist, but it’s a small factor in determining one’s socio-economic rise in today’s America, where African immigrants are thriving and in someways outperforming native born whites.