On White Privilege and Black Privilege

Courtesy Ta-Nehisi Coates
Courtesy Ta-Nehisi Coates

Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates writes that he received a note from a commenter who apologized for white privilege after reading his memoir, The Beautiful Struggle. Coates said that was unnecessary because money could not buy his parents or the privilege they provided him.


I want to stress that I really appreciate this note. While I wrote thinking mostly about a young black kid who might find himself in the sort of situation I found myself as an adolescent, I also wanted the book to be open and hoped that people who were nothing like me might find something in there. With that said, I want to offer something that may do well to tie up the past week of discussion.

I don't want to speak for any other black person, or any other black writer, but it needs to be understood that my identity isn't founded on the losing end of "white privilege." I understand the use of that term for social scientists and perhaps literature critics. But I generally find it most powerful and most illuminating when linked to an actual specific privilege—not fearing sexual violence, not weighing one's death against the labor of birthing, living in a neighborhood bracketed off by housing covenants, not having to compete for certain jobs etc. In its most general invocation, I'm often repulsed because I think these sorts of questions often break down in the face of actual individuals.

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' entire blog entry at the Atlantic.