Sen. Webb says ‘white privilege’ is a myth

It’s pretty difficult to have a rational discussion about race, for the reasons my colleague Jay Bookman has outlined today. Quite frankly, his list of reasons is incomplete: Today’s political and civic climate includes a host of loud mouths who are not interested in a rational conversation about race. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart come to mind.
Nevertheless, I sally forth in the hope that a few reasonable people might come across new information that gives them pause, makes them think, changes their minds. Today, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has a fascinating column in the Wall Street Journal that ought to provide fodder for reasonable conversation. UPDATE: A reader pointed to a link to the column, so here it is. )
The column, which has a rather provocative title, “Diversity and The Myth of White Privilege,” argues for the end of government-sanctioned affirmative action programs. But it’s not a simple-minded argument which pretends that discrimination, especially against blacks, never existed. Instead, Webb points out that broad-based diversity efforts boost “people of color” who never suffered historic discrimination in this country, while excluding whites who have suffered poverty.
I don’t agree with everything Webb says. He exaggerates in places, claiming, for example, that “WASP elites have fallen by the wayside,” a gross exaggeration which ignores the concentration of WASPs among the wealthy and powerful. (George H.W.Bush and sons come to mind.)
Nevertheless, Webb raises valid points:

I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America’s economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.

In an odd historical twist that all Americans see but few can understand, many programs allow recently arrived immigrants to move ahead of similarly situated whites whose families have been in the country for generations. These programs have damaged racial harmony. And the more they have grown, the less they have actually helped African-Americans, the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action as it was originally conceived.

How so?

Lyndon Johnson’s initial program for affirmative action was based on the 13th Amendment and on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which authorized the federal government to take actions in order to eliminate “the badges of slavery.” Affirmative action was designed to recognize the uniquely difficult journey of African-Americans. This policy was justifiable and understandable, even to those who came from white cultural groups that had also suffered in socio-economic terms from the Civil War and its aftermath.

The injustices endured by black Americans at the hands of their own government have no parallel in our history, not only during the period of slavery but also in the Jim Crow era that followed. But the extrapolation of this logic to all “people of color”—especially since 1965, when new immigration laws dramatically altered the demographic makeup of the U.S.—moved affirmative action away from remediation and toward discrimination, this time against whites. It has also lessened the focus on assisting African-Americans, who despite a veneer of successful people at the very top still experience high rates of poverty, drug abuse, incarceration and family breakup.

Those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not suffer discrimination from our government, and in fact have frequently been the beneficiaries of special government programs. The same cannot be said of many hard-working white Americans, including those whose roots in America go back more than 200 years.

I would choose a different remedy than Webb’s. I would argue that affirmative action programs still have a role to play, but they should be class-based and not color-based.

378 comments Add your comment


July 24th, 2010
7:03 am

Whites and other European immigrants were never the beneficiaries of government programs? Stop it! You’re killing me!
1. Scandinavian immigrants were given large tracts of land to farm in our northern states.
2. Italian and Irish immigrants could vote in elections without the benefit of citizenship.
3. Cuban immigrants were given jobs and welfare upon arrival to south Florida.
4. Whites could commit crimes against blacks without the worry of proscecution (see Ms. Sherrod’s father).
5. Whites had freedom to travel in the work place to improve their positions while blacks faced sundown laws.
6. White criminals could not be arrested by black police officers.


July 24th, 2010
7:11 am

I find it interesting that some right-wing wackoes (not conservatives) like to link President Obama to his African ancestry and perceived negative steryotypes (witch doctors,etc). What other president was subject to this? Was Presdent Reagan linked to his Irish heritage and equally repugnant negative steryotypes(IRA terrorism, excessive drinking)?

Regular Tess

July 24th, 2010
7:20 am

I don’t understand what you’re trying to say here about the whole thing.

As a matter of fact you are never very concise. Just like to stir the pot I suppose.


July 24th, 2010
7:20 am

It’s very interesting to hear people talk of hating affirmative action and say that it’s not necessary today. Let me help you try to understand the purpose of my rationale with a casual race discussion with my white manager while I was a business consultant (I’m a black male)…. While sitting at a table of 5 people (2 black men, 3 whites) He stated to me that he thought black men were lazy and looked for hand-outs. First thing came to mind was “this is what he already feel about us in an interview before having spoken to us (black men). Chances of acquiring a job through him as a black male… slim to none. Also, has anyone pointed to the fact that across all socioeconomic classes and salary levels during this recession, blacks have been let go faster than any other race (last hired, first hired). Now that could suggest that blacks are just not as good employees as other races, but I’d be interested to see the facts behind the assumptions.


July 24th, 2010
7:20 am

Even if you accept the premise that whites were all immediately placed ahead of blacks in all things. That simply gurantees a place or ranking in society of 11% not exactly privilege. This is one of the biggest perception difference in the race debate. True in the past, blacks were kept down, but the opposite that whites were raised up is not true its simple math


July 24th, 2010
7:34 am

Enter your comments here


July 24th, 2010
7:36 am

Ms tucker, how about a column on the number and reasons why there are so many “missing” black fathers?


July 24th, 2010
7:39 am

can you pls give some specific examples where Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart are “racist”? and for the record, Breitbart did show the video where ms. sherrod stated she had learned something from her own racism….

Donna P.

July 24th, 2010
7:43 am

Leave it to a Progressive Liberal to discuss race; it usually means that ALL Republicans are racist. How do you explain African-American Republicans? Are they uncle Toms to you Cynthia? You are pathetic just like President Obama about racial issues in America. Get over your blackness. Quite frankly, no one cares what race someone is. In the end, it is about someone’s character not their skin color.


July 24th, 2010
7:44 am

There was a time when affirmative action was needed. 25 years ago, we were still in the wake of the civil rights movement. However, I find it disingenuous that these programs still exist in a country where a person of color has been elected to the highest office in the land. Where people of color occupy government offices from the very top, right on down to the very bottom. Where people of color make up some of the highest paid people in the professional sports world, entertainment world and general business world.

Anyone now arguing for affirmative action is no longer arguing for equality – they are arguing for privilege. If Dr. King was alive today, he’d be at the tip of the spear in speaking out against affirmative action.


July 24th, 2010
7:49 am

How is this for white privilege?
1. Old black women gets shot and killed in her home during a marijuana raid yet our govenor and former U.S. Attorney General hold town hall meetings in white communities for meth users.
2. Black teenager gets locked up consensual sex while blond bank robbers are ogled and given a slap on the wrist.
3. White “barefoot bandit” is idolized, offered movie deals, hero of folk songs, etc. while … oh never mind.

average mr. c

July 24th, 2010
7:52 am

Ha! Fair and equal terms and or landscapes are a myth. always have been always will be. gov. intervention only makes things worse. period.


July 24th, 2010
7:57 am

DJ @ 7:24 am
I had a similar situation where a co-worker told me that blacks make to much about slavery, that slaves were happy, and if anything, slaves “owed” there masters for room and board and for protecting them. I told him that if that were the case, Casey Dugard, the girl was kidnapped at 11 years old, raped and forced to have 2 children before she was discovered after 18 years also “owes” her captive for the same reasons.

barking frog

July 24th, 2010
8:10 am

ghostwriter; excellent example, also she wasn’t forced to do hard manual labor
and her children were not sold. she would have been one of the slaves with a
“good master”.

barking frog

July 24th, 2010
8:29 am

slavery was a government approved, government enforced, government supported’
government protected institution. only black people could be slaves. anyone could
own slaves even free black people. a black woman in texas at one time was the
largest landowner in the state and owned 500 black slaves. Indians could own
slaves and did. Thus the venue for recompense is reparations from the government
that enslaved them not just white people.

Not Racist or Prejudiced

July 24th, 2010
8:51 am

You just won’t admit what people are thinking. It isn’t really that hard to figure out since the average racist isn’t that smart. It is their belief in their superior status, perpetuated by societal ignorance, that makes them racist. Look-up the word so that you understand and properly use the “correct” word. Perhaps you don’t know what you think you know. Do you even understand racism as a system? Ponder on that for a while.


July 24th, 2010
9:22 am

Ronald JC, only people who look at every issue by color, and I think you do, think that whites think the governmnent only takes care of blacks. It is an issue that knows no bounds by color. Racism is never going away because people like you see everything black & white. Just like Sherrod did and through her most recent statements still does. And this President will make damn sure the 2012 election is a powder keg built on race. He knows he will not be able to win on the issues.


July 24th, 2010
9:42 am

Sorry CT- hit the blog and and to hit the road. I thought “no child” was Bush’s way to assimilate with the lower income. Another DC “product” with no real intention of true best practices to ensure the best result possible. We all tend to get stuck on how to structure our way into the best platform for education such as teacher student ratio, more computers, etc. I was using cutesy as ineffective.


July 24th, 2010
10:11 am

Ah, another day, another race-based cut&paste blog entry from CT.


July 24th, 2010
10:15 am

Ah, another day, another whinging post about cut & paste.

Mr Right

July 24th, 2010
10:16 am

Don’t we need affirmative in the NBA ? Those poor white players don’t get the jobs because they are white. It just isn’t right!


July 24th, 2010
10:30 am

We as a people”the black people exspect to much from a people who live and breathe race and color
WHITE people go to bed with race and color on their minds and they awake in the morning with race
and color on their minds. That is all they know they live it it is part of their DNA they can’t help it the mire sight of a black person enrages 75% of WHITE Americans and the other 25% pretend race do not bother them. IMBUED


July 24th, 2010
10:42 am

@jarvis: “Poor people wouldn’t be poor if they weren’t so damned stupid and/or lazy” Really?? You should do some reading on poverty and what it does to a family after generations. Do people rise up out of it? Of course. All of us can point out family history to prove that. Each generation strives to have better than the one before it. The thing you have to remember is that there are just as many examples of people who work, strive, and never get out of it. It’s not so simple as “get a job”. The working poor in this country work far harder than most of us who have time to post on this blog but can’t cross into middle-class. The rich want it that way. Keep them working and making just enough to survive. They don’t want the middle class to grow because then some will try to move up. You should talk to the working poor or read about how differently they view our world. We see opportunity because we’re taught to see it. Many are not, and need our help to see that they can move up out of it. They need education and job training, not just a handout of money.


July 24th, 2010
11:04 am

It really doesn’t matter what opinion you might post here, if it doesn’t fit Tucker’s narrow, selective views, she will attempt to label you as a know-nothing: a rather sophomoric attempt at that.


July 24th, 2010
11:52 am

Cynthia ! Cynthia ! Cynthia !

Well, well, well ………….. I just heard old Roy Barnes will be in South Georgia come Monday and just won’t be able to be here for “Che” Obama’s visit to Hotlanta and the Democrat fund raiser. How sad and how convenient !

HA ! HA ! HA !


July 24th, 2010
12:15 pm


Cedric R10&12

July 24th, 2010
12:19 pm

You think it should be based on class, Cynthia?

The jigs up on dem principles, “sister”.

class: A social stratum whose members share certain economic, social, or cultural characteristics

I say tomato, you say, with your elitist nose in the air, TO-MAH-TOE. It still equates to minorities, blacks and hispanics being the most prevalent on the poverty scale. What will the dems do to help us? Not a g*damn thing. You need us where we are. Without us, you dems have nothing to maintain your political power.





July 24th, 2010
12:46 pm

“Today’s political and civic climate includes a host of loud mouths who are not interested in a rational conversation about race. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart come to mind”.

CT, Are the “loudmouth,s only on the right?
What about, Kieth Olberman, Ed what ever his name is, Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpenton, Jesse Jackson and the hate monger Rev. Wright, who uses Jesus to hide behind as he spews his hate for the white man. All dims need to climb back into their hole and stay there.

You are part of the down fall of printed media, you lie, twist, malign the truth to suit your needs. What you do is no different that what Brietbart did to Sherrod. Which was wrong but the left media does it everyday, there is no integrity in what you do anymore. And keep that “opinion writer” spiel to yourself, we know that is the excuse you hide behind to write your left wing garbage, Diversity is dead along with the NAACP and not far behind the printed news.


July 24th, 2010
12:53 pm

All dims need to climb back into their hole and stay there.

Isn’t it time for you to be swabbing the deck instead of blogging?


July 24th, 2010
1:21 pm

Did anyone actually read the article that Webb wrote? He was questioning affirmative action privileges for non-white immigrants who’s family did nothing to help build this country. He NEVER said anything about taking it away from the descendants of American slaves. He just questions affirmative action for African, Latin American and Asian immigrants who voluntarily came to this country.

And he is correct. It’s a great injustice to expect a 12th or 13th generation American to take a back seat to some newly arrived immigrant solely because of skin color. Why should the son of a rich African dictator or a Latin American oligarch get special privileges that are denied to the great-great-grandson of someone who is buried at Gettysburg?


July 24th, 2010
1:40 pm

Eddie- you don’t know many white folks and perhaps think too highly of yourself thinking other folks really have you on their mind.

wb smith

July 24th, 2010
5:11 pm

For Mr Webb to start down this road tells me he don’t understand the situation, Understand Blue Dogs Democrats, are Republicans with a few ideals. America is fast getting to the point where we cant afford this Stupidity, any longer out of our public officials, and its time for the south to start putting serious people in office. We’re like the the crazy uncle living in the basement. And we cry when other make fun of us. Ms Tucker fight a good fight but she needs help, We as liberal must learn how to engage and win the water cooler wars that’s being fought everyday in this country. That means getting on top of the issues, Not dropping you head every time some knuckle head call you a LIBERAL, learn the issues of the day and get ready to do battle, start showing up at the meeting and making the point that we liberal/progressives will speak truth to lies, truth to partial lies, truth to power.


July 24th, 2010
5:25 pm

A WHITE WOMAN without a college education being seriously considered for the governor of Georgia is a perfect example of “White Priviledge”. CASE CLOSED!

wb smith

July 24th, 2010
5:31 pm

Maria that the case i hear Limbaugh make, Why should Micheal Jordan s kids get special treatment because they’re black. When some poor white kid get overlooked, We see if Micheal Jordan kids are going to school under affirmative action, or is this just another lie. I’m sure you Have no problem with George the dummy getting into Yale, because his dad and granddad went their, Looks like affirmative action for the rich, Or is it all about money. Lets face it the power elite will keep us fighting over scraps as long as we allow it,

Linda Buisson

July 24th, 2010
7:51 pm

Cynthia, thank you for straightening up the Shirley Sherrod story (Times-Picayune, New Orleans, 7/24/10). Good work on the fair, balanced, and true, “Back story makes her message stronger.” No one can live comfortably with hate, yet scapegoating and blame seems to be a part of the human condition. Thanks for helping us grow-up.
Linda Buisson

A "Voice"

July 24th, 2010
11:02 pm

Poor isn’t indicative of just blacks. . . although you would never know it . . . because when blacks like Ms. Tucker speaks about “poor” . . . it is implied that she is only speaking about blacks. Quite honestly, I’m more than a little tired of hearing about the “inner” city poor blacks. There is more done for the “inner” city black children than any other group of children. There is poor in rural areas and not just black. As far a privilege whites . . I am white and I grew up poor . . H-e-l-l-o!


July 25th, 2010
8:04 am

I am 61 and still waiting for my “White Privilege”…

Dave from GT

July 25th, 2010
10:00 am

It is Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Beck to you. I have never heard them once call you Cindy!!!!!…. Cindy.


July 25th, 2010
10:44 am

southerngal. ” I am 61 and still waiting for my “White Privilege”…” If you haven”t recognized you “White Privilege” by now, it is obvious that you wouldn’t recognize it even if GOD handed it to you. Surely – you aren’t that disgusting.


July 25th, 2010
10:57 am

voice. It AIN’T about you. This is not about individuals. It is about a group of people that was forced into poverty because their government passed laws that ensured their poverty. If all you are is “a little tired”, be thankful that you are not a citizen of a country like Iraq. That failed evil government caused another country to come in and try to met out justice. Evil deeds have evil consequences. In life, there are some things that you don’t get “do overs”. You just have to pay the price. Your little tireness is a small price to pay.


July 25th, 2010
11:43 am

Ms. Tucker:

I’m not sure if you are aware of this but the first “legalized” slavery recorded in the Colonies involved a slave by the name of John Casor. The court ruled that his master (Anthony Johnson) did in fact own him for life. Mr. Anthony Johnson was himself black and a former slave.

(You can look it up in Wikipedia and many other sources as your website won’t let me post it here)

In addition, American heritage, vol 441, “Selling Poor Steven” states that 3,775 free blacks owned 12,740 black slaves. Frighteningly, the story also outlines how free black women “owned” their husbands, free blacks sold their children into slavery, and absent free black slave owners “leased” their slaves to plantation owners.

Now, my question to you is, if reparations are ever made, what PERCENTAGE will African-Americans have to kick in ?


July 25th, 2010
12:09 pm

The problem is that America has become so blinded and ignorant that they can’t see through the smokescreen. I witnessed “white privilege” all my life. Our society has become so gullible that if you are accused of anything and you go public by saying “I’m sorry” it makes all good. Get caught been racist pull out your one black friend and say “See, I’m not racist” and everybody believes you. I just saw Nathan Deal’s ad that has him with his two grand kids, so that is going to change my mind about you because you create a “likable” commercial? I run into older white folks all the time that do not say “Excuse Me” to colored people but yet caught them saying it to their white counterparts. America is currently ran over by racism and you can see it everybody of course you will have to be of color or ethnic background to experience it as white people never will!


July 25th, 2010
12:17 pm

Scout, thanks for the input and the tip. As a black American who, on the one hand, thinks that white Americans don’t really understand the long term economic impact of past discrimination, your story is why I don’t believe in “punishing” the innocent with reparations.


July 25th, 2010
12:40 pm

In mentioning the Bush family as part of a white elite, Ms. Tucker is accurate, but why not include the Gore family or the Clintons or the Kennedys? Does the word “elite” not cling to Democrats, too? And, of course, there is such a thing as an African-American elite. Look at the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his Congressman son. Or the Kings. Or…but the point that Ms. Tucker and Senator Webb make is real. There are many people in this country who could use a boost, and many who don’t need a boost, but are getting one, anyway. The President during his election campaign pointed out that affirmative action penalises people who have done nothing wrong. This is true, and his Administration should be in the forefront of attempting to find a way to help disadvantaged people of whatever colour, race, religion or ethnic background have an equal chance for opportunity. This might well involve spelling out what constitutes disadvantage and attempting to help those whose lives have been disadvantaged.

Mr Charlie

July 25th, 2010
1:17 pm

I believe the story of Barack Obama pretty much proves everyone in this country has limitless opportunity. How do you dispute it?


July 25th, 2010
1:35 pm

Scout. Your double talking gives your true color. ‘ I’m not sure if you are aware of this but the first “legalized” slavery recorded in the Colonies involved a slave by the name of John Casor. The court ruled that his master (Anthony Johnson) did in fact own him for life. Mr. Anthony Johnson was himself black and a former slave. away.’ What in the sam hill does this rare case has to do with the systemic racism of America’s history. This is classic doubling talking – take a mole hill and try to turn it into a mountain. “Now, my question to you is, if reparations are ever made, what PERCENTAGE will African-Americans have to kick in ?” Classic double talk – analogous to saying a head ache and a 45 slug in the head is the same.

Mr Charlie

July 25th, 2010
2:10 pm

CT, if we are going to talk about families of white priviledge, how about the Cox family? The ones that have given you a job hanging out in DC to cut a paste a few “articles” each day. That kind of makes you a beneficiary of white priviledge too, ya think?

Mr Charlie

July 25th, 2010
2:15 pm

Avenger, I never owned a slave, nor has a member of my family tree.

So would I pay reparations?

If it can be argued that I should because I benefited from a system that allowed slavery, how about Barack Obama?
Jesse Jackson?
Magic Johnson? Etc, etc. etc,

Since they to have benefited much more that I did from the same system ?


July 25th, 2010
4:16 pm

as in “Forrest Gump,” stupid is as stupid does. wonderful excuses for hating the other, accusing the other of privileges.

just shows how ignorant we are of the social systems we live in and under. the preset way of thinking, believing and acting. how well we accept our part in the greater society we are born into.

the ability to step back and see things from another’s point of view. walk in someone else’s moccasins, so to speak from an American Indian point of view.

i can see there is so much invested, too much invested for most to dare step outside of the box.
and shows how easily 19 arab men can be used to destroy the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

too bad for America. i guess it’s day is over now that the Rich have so completely got the Whites and the Blacks fighting each other for the remaining 20% of the “pie.” While the Rich white Republicans stole it in the name of “STATES RIGHTS.”

the only solution i see is for Secession. these Southerners are so hate filled. Shame i was born a Southerner when all the South seems to stand for is hatred of the Black getting Government help for years of White enforced Slavery. never able to let the bitterness go. afraid of being blamed for being White and that Particular Institution.

once again that small Elite using “race” to steal everything from the poor whites and the poor blacks.

gosh what would the Elite do without that “Peculiar Institution?” how could they con the white into helping scam the whole Country without the black/white fears. i guess we’ll never know, will we?

the Southern Strategy works so well, why even go there, right?


July 25th, 2010
4:30 pm

i do also want to include the Democrats in this scam, thank you very much. and you’ll notice they are mostly RICH Democrats. Rich Democrats who help the Rich Republicans continue on with the “fleecing” we are going through.

after all, bigotry and hatred and the Southern Strategy wouldn’t last if those Rich Democrats didn’t help the Rich Republicans “divide and conquer.” after all, We are talking about MONEY = POWER here.

since i’m casting stones i might as well be fair to all of the “Thieves” involved. Republican just perfected the scam, that’s all.