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Just as a minor correction: Nobody is telling you that you specifically are the problem. The problem is that as a white male, what is called "western society" was built with you as the presumed default, and that confers to you tons of small benefits that fall into one of two categories:

1) Unfair advantages that allow you certain freedoms other groups don't have, that one could argue no one should have

2) Advantages that everyone should have, but due to being ethnic or female, they don't.

The best example I usually have for this is that when I'm pulled over by a cop for speeding, I'm annoyed to be sure and it's going to be a really bad inconvenience and probably a fair financial burden too. But I don't fear for my life. I'm not panicking on whether or not my vehicle will be searched or if the officer might plant something on me. That's not to say those things can't happen, but it's intrinsically not on my mind at all, even though it could. And those things happen to other groups all the time.

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Doesn't it strike you as odd to suggest that society was built for "white" males when such classification, as a meaningful indicator, didn't even exist until extremely recently? Irish, German, Italian, and many more are all groups today you'd just often just refer to as "white males." In times past? People who were very much second class citizens. And it went well beyond just national origin. Protestant vs Catholic was a huge deal and this also persisted until extremely recently. For instance something lost to history is how monumental JFK's election was because of the fact that he was a Catholic - the Obama of his time. Incidentally the first and last Catholic elected, even though more than 20% of America is Catholic.

Even when you get into things like slavery, Africans were not enslaved because they were black. Slavery was global and of course always began as in group - whites enslaving whites, browns enslaving browns, blacks enslaving blacks, etc. The big reason that "white" on "white" slavery ended was because of a shared religion and Christian church declaring it illegal for any Christian to enslave another Christian (in times before the schisms, such as 'Christian' was reasonably encompassing). The "problem" this posed for those seeking slaves is that tremendous empires were starting to form around the world.

For instance in the ~18th century you're looking at the Qing dynasty in China, the Mughal Empire in South Asia, the Ottoman empire in the Mideast, etc.. The world was rapidly unifying under incredibly powerful empires who were more than capable of protecting their borders and people. But Africa was a major exception. It not only lacked both meaningful unification and technology, but also had a thriving domestic slave trade. This made them a prime target. It had nothing to do with the color of their skin. Had Africans happened to have had a bit less melanin, but the situation remained otherwise identical, it's extremely improbable that things would have changed in any way whatsoever.


If you're not at least mildly afraid of the cops when being pulled over, you're not paying attention. My whiteness (in my opinion) does very little for me in a situation with such a large power imbalance.

“...ethnic or female.”

It’s funny to me that you’re treating white here as the “presumed default.” White people have ethnicities, just like midwestern newscasters have accents.


Those things are on my mind as well, why are you just assuming they aren't?

If you're going to say that Western society was built with white males as the presumed default, you might want to also mention who the builders were.

And as a broader point, it also might be worth considering how Western society stacks up against all other societies to ever exist.


Except that Western civilization as in the minds of it's inhabitants likely wouldn't have existed without the subjugation and exploitation of those other societies, including but not limited to: China, India, the Middle East, most of Africa minus Ethiopia, and even some parts of Europe, and much more recently, South America.

The West has largely won because it won a lot back in the day, and that inertia builds up and continues to favor us.


> The West has largely won because it won a lot back in the day, and that inertia builds up and continues to favor us.

FWIW, Japan went from a feudal society to a world dominating power in the span of like 60 years. China has done something similar in the last 50 years. Whereas countries right next door in SE Asia have not made any similar progress. I'd say that's all pretty contradictory evidence for the hypothesis that the reason the West is doing well now is because it has done well in the past.

Also, your focus on European colonization is extremely Eurocentric and kind of strips non-Europeans of their agency. The rest of the world existed and had stuff going on before the Europeans became sea-faring nations. The Arabs conquered most of the Middle East in the late first millennium and later colonized part of Europe. Then the Turks took their place several centuries later and almost successfully invaded Europe (actually, they successfully invaded Constantinople, which was part of Christendom; present day Turkey used to be Christian territory). The Chinese have been a civilization for something like 2500-3000 years. The Indian subcontinent has an extremely ancient civilization and parts of it were colonized by Muslims well before Europeans even knew it existed.

And, finally, how does this theory of European Colonialism being the most important world event that ever happened explain differences in outcomes between the U.S. and Canada on one hand and, say, Brazil and Mexico on the other? All four countries were colonized by Europeans, after all.


>> The Arabs conquered most of the Middle East in the late first millennium and later colonized part of Europe... Then the Turks took their place several centuries later and almost successfully invaded Europe (actually, they successfully invaded Constantinople, which was part of Christendom; present day Turkey used to be Christian territory).<<

Indeed.

Moreover, the Maghreb, the Levant and Asia Minor (North Africa, East Mediterranean coastal countries and Turkey today) were inarguably "Western" (Roman, Greek, Phoenician and Judean) before the Arab and Turkic invasions.

Bantu peoples were sold as slaves for millennia, until late into the 20th century, from the east coast of Africa by Somalis to Arabs and Indians. Muslim Barbary piracy (from the Tunisian and Moroccan coast) terrorized and devastated European coastal towns for centuries. There are entire extinct populations from the Baltic region who were literally sold down the Volga River to Muslim Turks and on into the Middle East, who were particularly valued for their blond hair and pale skin. There are surviving populations of pale people (whom most Americans would classify as "White") still suffering from the effects of their ancestors having suffered genocide and slavery, some at the hands of slavers who would be considered "People of Color" today.

No. The idea of slavery and genocide being a sin, of being morally wrong, is a recent Western idea that is not even today a universal, global cultural value. If "sins of the Father" is actually a thing, then it spectacularly makes no sense to divide the world into "White" (descendants of slavers and colonizers) and "People of Color" (descendant of slaves and colonized).

While such a division might arguably be a reasonable case to make given specifically US History, attempting to impose this racial world view on other cultures and nations is yet another example of the very American cultural imperialism that these same people decry.


There is no realistic scenario where one civilization does not dominate others.

Macro-history is fundamentally about the rise and fall of civilizations - the undesirable elements of this are consistent, but Western tradition and enlightenment has also given us democracy and science, and put us in a collective position where we are so relatively prosperous that we can look at the past with an inflated sense of shame.


Failing to see how this is responsive to parent’s observation that white privilege is a thing.

Maybe you’re arguing that if the enlightenment never happened we wouldn’t have the set of egalitarian political values that cause us to give a shit about that. But even if that argument were true: the enlightenment did happen and we do care. And you’re not really articulating any reason we shouldn’t.


I was just giving their observation some context.

To address the idea of white privilege directly: - It's increasing racial awareness and conflict. - It's a blunt instrument that doesn't take into account the myriad of circumstances each individual faces (such as financial wealth, mental health and physical height).

To provide a counter example to parent's, I'd rather be a rich ethnic minority unfairly stopped by a cop, than an ethnic majority person living in a trailer park and addicted to meth. The ethnic bigotry in this example isn't excused, but it's not the main concern.

Perhaps, all else being equal, one could argue that 'white privilege' matters.

But all else will never be equal. And the one place where equality really matters, it already exists - the law.

Notions of privilege could at least attempt a full accounting at the individual level, rather than dictating in broad strokes.


Slave labor built this country.

There's an extremely interesting datum that most are not familiar with. In total in the transatlantic slave trade, about 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. Of these, 10.7 million survived the voyage. And of those, about 388,000 thousand went to North America. [1] Up to 60-70k more would make their way North America eventually for a total of up to ~450k - about 4% of the slaves that made their way to the New World.

North America's use of slavery was relatively low compared to many other places in the world. Even within the United States itself it's interesting to compare the states where slaves disproportionately ended up to those where they did not. And the Confederate/Union states works as a pretty solid proxy there.

- Confederate: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas

- Union: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and many others.

Suffice to say, slavery does not seem have had a lasting positive effect for the states that most actively utilized it. Ultimately I think the reason slavery is more of a focus for the United States than other countries is not because of any unusual usage of slavery, but because of an extremely unusual outcome.

For instance Brazil alone ended up taking on about 5 million slaves yet, like much of the south, has little to show for it. The point of this is not to say 'what about other countries' but to emphasize that the relative impact of slavery in the US was smaller than in many other places, yet we achieved vastly more than those places. So to attribute the exceptionalism of the United States to slavery, in any meaningful way, seems driven more by bias than logic.

https://www.theroot.com/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us-179...


No it didn't. When it was legal, most inhabitants of the U.S. had no personal experience with slavery. It was critical to agriculture in the Southern states, but the North was the industrial powerhouse. And the states that constituted the North continue to be the most dominant region in the U.S. to this day.

I don't see how such sweeping statements about the nature of a country are useful.

Slave labor was only one component of practically all great countries/empires. The West was the first to outlaw it.

The US in particular was built upon the hard-earned lessons of the past, including the moral worth of individual liberty.


How is the US in particular built upon the hard-earned lessons of the past. Because it is younger?

This just sounds like more American exceptionalism that most of the world is tired of, and that includes many Americans.


The counterpoint to your second sentence is that most of the world would sacrifice much to migrate to the US.

Most of the world is poor, and would like the chance to earn more money. That's nothing special about the US there. The same applies to most rich countries.

Fine: USA, #1 when compared to developing nations.

Got an answer to my first sentence?


One example - the US Constitution draws from Ancient Greece and Rome, and is a response to the oppression of European monarchies.

Louis XIV: "I am the state." US Constitution: "We the people...secure the Blessings of Liberty"

That's no cosmetic difference.


Sure, that was a big deal in 1776. But there's nothing exceptional about being a liberal democracy today, and there are plenty of countries that are more free than the US.

> Nobody is telling you that you specifically are the problem.

They very much are. I'm guessing you don't live in a coastal city or read the newspaper of record?




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