Long time ago, while researching Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I came across a phrase “aristocrats without land” to describe the set of behaviors that characterize this disorder. It seems to catch really well the peculiar sense of entitlement without having an actual title.
Now, no matter what do you think about aristocracy, it’s well understood is that with the title came a set of responsibilities and duties. To use the word “privilege” without acknowledging that it entails mutual benefits (both for the privilege giver and privilege recipient) it one of common language abuses. Historically, the givers of privileges were the rulers, and their gift had definitely strings attached, at minimum in form of loyalty. Various abuses of privileges and a lack of a true enforcement of noblesse oblige other than social ostracism do not render the concept void. The concept of privilege without any responsibilities attached is a narcissistic fantasy of having a cake and eating it at the same time. Nietzsche writings about master morality come to my mind, as a great elaboration on the topic. You cannot have a privilege without accepting its burden.
That’s one of the reasons that talking about “white privilege” or “male privilege”, as something that should be denounced or rejected is absurd. Instead of talking about “white privilege” which is basically dusting off an outdated sociological concept, coming from the era from before civil rights movement, the end of segregation laws and the affirmative action, we should maybe talk about “blessing of being white”, but of course those who talk about “white privilege” would rather choke than say it this way. Notwithstanding religious connotation of blessing, it just seems more fitting in this context, because a blessing is just a gift, without an apparent obligation. But even if we agree that something like “white privilege exists”, wouldn’t it be tied to the set of specific obligations, that make a failure for a white person, especially for a white male much more acute and psychologically devastating? Yes, we definitely expect more from white people and more from men, than we do from minorities and from women.
In a world where many seem to shun responsibility and just escape in a world of fantasy to chase away boredom of mature adulthood, encouraging more people to denounce their responsibilities is clearly insane. They should instead embrace their white privilege with all accompanying duties. They should be proud of it, as it makes them more likely to be productive, law-abiding citizens.