white

I probably ought to be deeply sympathetic to this this post by Jay Nordlinger. I didn’t come from a background as impoverished as the high-powered lawyer Nordlinger knows, but my circumstances were significantly humbler than almost anyone I know in my line of work. So if I wanted to bristle when people talk about “white privilege,” I could — and sometimes I’m tempted, especially when people who attend Ivy League schools want to lecture me about it. And Nordlinger is right that such privilege is unevenly distributed, and that that is not recognized nearly often enough.

But here’s the thing: I have no doubt that being white has helped me enormously in my academic career. Once I learned to sand off some of the sharper corners of my redneck accent and put on some decent professional clothes, no one could know anything about how I grew up unless I told them. The differences in my social class and background became invisible and inaudible; and that’s a major benefit when you’re, say, applying for jobs. Just ask yourself: Would things have gone the same way for that lawyer Nordlinger met if he had been black? I’m not confident they would have.