Matt Chandler & the myth of white privilege

OwMyPrivilege

Matt Chandler posted the following: http://bit.ly/1oVGHAL.  This is a response.

Before the blood of Michael Brown had cooled on the pavement in Ferguson, a chorus of voices began railing white privilege. While superficially satisfying, the idea of white privilege struck a nerve with many and justifiably so.  When looking at hard data, logic and history, the hypothesis of white privilege pales in comparison to a view encompassing values & culture.

White privilege through white lenses
The entire idea of white lenses affecting perspectives on race smacks of the genetic fallacy – (ie: the fallacy that ideas are true or false because of their source).  In reality, the veracity of a claim must be examined independent of its source.  Whites can and do have correct views on race all the time. So do blacks and every other race. And all of those groups have incorrect views as well.
Matt implicitly acknowledged this when he analyzed the issue of race himself.  His white lenses did not invalidate his views of race.  If we are to arrive at correct conclusions here, we must venture into the scary world of facts (Hey, remember those?).

What about successful blacks?
“As far back as 1969, young black males whose homes included newspapers, magazines, and library cards, and who had also gone on to obtain the same number of years of schooling as young white males, had the same incomes as their white counterparts…In earlier periods, such cultural factors had little weight, suggesting that racial discrimination had more weight in earlier times (Sowell – 174).”  Almost every study of black underachievement lacks controls for habits and attitudes like this – the more one controls for these factors, the more white privilege disappears (http://bit.ly/1uyzY5v).

What about Asians?
Perhaps the best answer to white privilege are those ethnic groups not simply equal to whites on all counts, but outperforming them. If whites are succeeding due to privilege, why would Asians success not only match, but radically outpace white success (Sowell, 226-7)? Culture, values & education explain offer a richer, more nuanced explanation than overt discrimination – a fact both whites & blacks would do well to learn.

The real cause

What Matt is dancing around is the frustration that blacks feel at high poverty & crime rates & stagnant living standards. If those are not caused primarily by racism, what would be? Out-of-wedlock births, single-parent families & drug abuse are high on the list – in short, the primary problems are internal. “While, in the late 20th century, an absolute majority of those black families with no husband present lived in poverty, more than four-fifths of black husband-wife families did not (Sowell – 164).” With figures like these, strengthening black families & marriages has far more promise than any legal or political reforms.

This is not to say that racism does not occur in America (it does) or that whites are immune to such accusations (they’re not), rather that white racism in America is painted as if it is unique. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. From Rwanda to Sarajevo, racism permeates out of human nature. So the absence of racism is not the measure of a good society, but the presence of a serious resistance to it.  Could it be that the reason whites are unaware of their own racism is that they’re not?

But what about Slavery?

What about it?  With very few exceptions, every society in human history had slavery and no one batted an eye. Blacks, whites, arabs – they were all participated to varying degrees (with muslims enslaving more than whites).  There was no conflict until whites were first given rights. And it was whites who fought over slavery, yes, some for it, but more against it, in the end 360,000 Union soldiers dying for the cause (Prager – 132) – *mostly white men*. Perhaps its time to hit this fact home.

In conclusion, the myth of white privilege implodes when put against the backdrop of history, data & Asians.  This is both discouraging & empowering.  Discouraging, in that outsiders like myself & Matt are impotent to repent of imagined sins.  Empowering, in that blacks in America (like many) have far more control over their own destiny than they have been led to believe.

Matt, you care about the plight of blacks, both physically & spiritually. SO DO I. But incorrectly diagnosing these problems risks incalculable harm.
I await your response.

18 comments

  1. I think something you’re overlooking is the force of habit that was ingrained into African American culture and how it has affected things like family. For hundreds of years, slave loyalties, marriages and families were disregarded. African Americans were treated as breeding cattle and traded in and out of family settings. The practice of familial bonds that we had the privilege of, was not their privilege. They had no examples on how to make a marriage or a family work. They only have examples on how to make it fail. One of the main reasons that black marriages fail, and there are generally more children is because of a long tradition we created.
    I also think that you choose “intellectual proof” over “empirical truth.” Obviously, Matt has seen white privilege through his brothers and sisters in Christ. It doesn’t mean that one truth is more significant than another. However, not everyone’s experience is the same. Much of the Northern experience is very different from the Southern experience.
    It doesn’t have to be that you are right and he is wrong. It is much more factual to say that different African Americans have had different experiences. Some have seen a lot of white privilege, some haven’t had to deal with it.
    Blessings on your journey.

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    1. Good comment – however, statistics tell a different story: most black children were raised in two-parent homes *even under slavery*, and the marriage rate has declined very rapidly since the 1960s. In other words, these problems are unique to a post-slavery and even a post-civil rights era.

      I am happy to honor Matt’s experience through life, but he demanded acknowledgement for sin & repentance, and described the problem as systemic. He clearly believes his truth is more true than mine. I believe he is wrong, but that’s irrelevant. As I have pointed out before, the data speaks loudly. I agree that the North, South & West all have different cultures, but I heard of Matt’s post from two *West coast residents.* He made no distinction where this applies, so I will make none.

      I do appreciate your comment – Blessings on your journey as well, brother.

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      1. I’m pulling it from Economic Facts & Fallacies by Sowell (linked on this page – page 164). Looks like he’s pulling it from: Henry A. Walker, “Black-White differences in Marriage and Family Patterns,” Feminism, Children and the New Families – p92 & Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery & Freedom, p 32.

        ps: Ahem. Removing foot from mouth. Blessings on your journey sister 🙂

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      2. Here’s an article that I found from the National Bureau of economic research. When your read it you see that they consider “two parent households” two parent even when the parents have been split by sale onto different plantations. They are at the mercy of their owners as to when they can see their family. If you consider this odd classification, two-thirds of children grew up in a non-single parent household. I don’t know about you but I think two parent means two parent in a house, not two parents living. This I think is where much of FoxNews commentators and misguided politicians including Bachman got their info. Sadly, they change the standard of what makes a two parent household.
        Here’s the link: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CFUQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nber.org%2Fchapters%2Fc6967.pdf&ei=iBMXVIT0FpOVyATEsIHYDA&usg=AFQjCNEPVtnRY0CUnN_kfBNlLZ0WntQy8g&sig2=1meAT7uiXc34y6qwHtkMsA&bvm=bv.75097201,d.aWw

        Let me know if it doesn’t work as it’s a link to a pdf. Blessings on your journey.

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      3. Interesting. The link worked, but I don’t have time to read it now. I knew that black slave families were split up, and that certainly had an effect on those individuals. Perhaps the numbers were revised down and that affects how this data is reported.

        However:
        1) I seriously doubt the underreporting you mentioned accounts for all or even most of the discrepancy – its 40% higher than whites and almost 50% for asians! Those are percentages that are hard to attribute to slavery.
        2) It offers no explanation for why black, single parent homes have skyrocketed since the 70s and are currently at 65% (http://bit.ly/V6fiW6). A fascinating sidenote to that link: the percentage of two-parent homes in that link goes: Asians (17%), Whites (25%), Hispanic (40%) & Black (65%). That is the *exact* same order with regard to income levels (Asians first, Black last).
        3) I made no reference to Bachmann or Foxnews, primarily because I believe neither are particularly helpful here. It is helpful to remember, though, that ideas aren’t false because bachmann or foxnews believe it. They’re not true either.

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      4. Too true on the last part. Merely worth mentioning considering those are the sources currently talking about it more than others. I do think it’s a complex issue and there isn’t one reason. I do think that past cultural influences do have an affect. I think the reasons are quite complex and varied as I stated to begin with. I think trying to limit oneself to one reason is a false idea.

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  2. I agree that limiting oneself to one reason is false, but I mentioned in the post that I was dealing with the *primary* reason or reasons that blacks are struggling…Think of it like lung cancer: sure, genes *could* cause lung cancer, but if you smoke, are you really going to attribute your lung cancer to genetics? Sometimes, these things are so plainly obvious that saying “well there’s more than one cause” is just a smoke screen from that one cause.

    Another angle: if cause x is 90% of the reason blacks are failing and cause y is 10%, then it would make sense to put 90% of resources towards fixing x & 10% towards fixing y. To the extent that racism is holding blacks back (and I believe it is < 10% of the reason), I believe the attention given to racism is completely disproportionate to the causes of problems in black communities. The overarching data supports me on this, even if the anecdotes do not always (which is to be expected with any perspective).

    I've enjoyed our exchange. Where's your blog? I might have to check it out 🙂

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      1. Interesting. Reminds me vaguely of the tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell – because it deals with innovators on the fringe & connectors & salesmen that spread new ideas. Never thought of those types of interactions among animals too, but I guess they could happen.

        Have some thoughts on your post on pacifism – hopefully I’ll get to it later this week…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What I find numbing about this post is that like most blogs, especially Christian blogs…You admit, “Yes, there is racism, but…” This type of mentality excuses you from it…You throw numbers at a theory, but if someone is telling you that they’re LIVING through it, isn’t it important that you hear them? So many White Christians live in a world where they don’t have to encounter Black people, so they make judgements based on numbers, because numbers don’t lie, right? Have you ever considered the SOURCE of these numbers? Have you been to Ferguson? Have you been to any rallies gathering with your Black brothers and sisters? Have you been to housing projects to try and assess the situation? You, no doubt write this from the comfort of your own cozy home and as you present statistics and FACTS, you’re fine with racism existing…but let’s squash this idea of White Privilege, right? You’re exercising it right now.

    If you are not actively against racism, you are indeed a passive racist.

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    1. “You admit, “Yes, there is racism, but…” This type of mentality excuses you from it”
      If I’m innocent of racism, I should be excused from it. Asking me to do otherwise is asking me to lie. So we need to reach for facts (hard data) and see whether it holds up.

      “You throw numbers at a theory, but if someone is telling you that they’re LIVING through it, isn’t it important that you hear them?”
      That’s very important to me, and I am listening, quite carefully in fact. Not only to their words, but also their behavior – which is why statistics play a more significant role.

      “So many White Christians live in a world where they don’t have to encounter Black people, so they make judgements based on numbers, because numbers don’t lie, right? Have you ever considered the SOURCE of these numbers?”
      Not true of me – I’ve lived in many minority community & even mentored a black kid in the public schools in my area last year. Loved that kid to death, but there’s only so much you can do from outside his family.

      Its not that numbers can’t be wrong – of course they can, but several of those stats are widely published and accepted (asian success is well-known and basically uncontested). I’d actually really appreciate it if you did the homework & proved me wrong and would gladly publish a retraction here for any incorrect statistics.

      The source of those numbers is less relevant than whether or not they are true (the genetic fallacy – its in the post).

      “Have you been to housing projects to try and assess the situation?”
      I’ve lived in some rough areas – there were projects right behind my house. Used to buy gatorade

      “You, no doubt write this from the comfort of your own cozy home and as you present statistics and FACTS, you’re fine with racism existing”
      You know me, then? lol.

      “but let’s squash this idea of White Privilege, right? You’re exercising it right now.”
      No – it doesn’t exist, otherwise asians wouldn’t succeed more than whites. Did you read the post? Did you notice it was a white guy I was responding to? Why is he not exercising white privilege but I am? Could it be that you’re not actually objecting to white privilege or even white racism but my values? Seems to explain why you react so negatively to me & not to another, arguably more privileged, white guy (Matt Chandler).

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      1. I don’t mean to respond to you negatively and no I don’t know you…rhetorical question. I actually would love to be in a place where conversations like this would end in action and not aggression or snarky comments, but alas here we are, right. My mind is turning flips right now as I want to say so much, but you will no doubt (as you’ve already done) reject everything I’m saying.

        You strike me as a man of logic…not completely devoid of human emotion, but NUMBERS…that’s your game. That’s your angle.

        You discredit me by saying “do your homework,”….”then I’ll retract my statement” as if to say that everything I’m saying is not true.

        You’re exercising your privilege now by your ability to quantify your experience in the Black community. If it isn’t White Privilege then what is it?

        I’m telling you that I LIVE it…I see it daily. I’m made aware of my skin color DAILY, while you, no doubt can wake up and just BE. So, this theory, this notion of WHITE PRIVILEGE gets under your skin because it makes you uncomfortable to know that you’re indirectly responsible for something…so you find numbers to throw at it…

        As a man of God, if a Black brother or sister is telling you…”Hey, we’re living through this…we’re dying because of this…”, “Our communities are not equipped with adequate places of employment and schools, so this is what’s happening…”, you hit them with numbers and tell them to educate themselves, then you’ll retract? What is that? If it’s not privilege then we’ll just call it arrogance…not white or black, just good old fashioned arrogance.

        The fact that people of color are being gunned down and choked in the streets, save the character profile, and their killers, White men are being exonerated…is it a coincidence?
        But you…you can quantify your very interactions with Black people…I’m proud of you though…Not many White Christian men can say that…Actually, in the area where I live, there is a church that follows Chandler’s sermons and they adopt Black families…little black boys and girls and take pictures with them, they take trips to Haiti and other parts of Africa and shed their white light on these countries for a couple of weeks…I guess that’s good though.

        I’m sorry, man…if you don’t want to see something, you’ll find every piece of evidence that will support your claim, but I’m telling you that I live it.

        Privilege is going to a predominately White Institution with white friends and they’re just STUDENTS, never having been questioned about how they got in, but ME, my admission SURELY had to come with an athletic scholarship or because of affirmative action…again, that might be ignorance.

        I don’t mean to come off as negative or aggressive but I am by no means uneducated simply because I cannot provide you with numbers. I do not know Chandler…I haven’t listened to his sermon, I’m commenting directly to your blog post.

        You may always have this stance on White Privilege, but I ask that you think about, meditate on and pray about your Black brothers and sisters who suffer injustices instead of finding other minority groups who suffer as well…that doesn’t solve the problem, you’re just throwing a problem AT a problem.

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  4. You keep accusing me of not listening to blacks. That is false, I am listening to a number of them: Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, even recently, Charles Barkley had a few comments on these issues specifically. Why do those not count? Because they disagree with you? And Matt Chandler is a white guy.

    Think of it this way: imagine a doctor who is trying to diagnose an illness. Its impossible to administer the correct treatment if the diagnosis is incorrect. Treating cancer with medication for heart disease doesn’t just ignore the root cause, it makes things worse. We disagree on the root illness, which is why I wrote the post in the first place. Until such an issue is settled, the response and the “fixes” we need to implement risk doing more harm than good (many stories here too).

    Look, I’m willing to listen to your story, but far too often the listening only goes one way. You say you’re living through this. What sort of grievances do you have? Not to downplay your story, but I have lived in countries I feel racism is a bigger problem than America. If it makes you feel any better, people constantly remind me I’m white. You’ve done it several times on this thread, but you’re not alone.

    I didn’t accuse you of ever being uneducated. Truth is that many people more educated, intelligent and well-intentioned than either of us have made these same mistakes. I ask for you to try to find problems with the data because I know how fallible these things can be and you may have insight I don’t.

    I do have emotions – however, not only have my emotions often misled me, they’ve also conflicted. The numbers can be misleading too, but they’ve let me down far less often AND they are far more meaningful to others than my feelings. (not to mention you cited the stat that most white people don’t have black friends…that’s a number too 🙂

    Keep talking, I really am interested in what you have to say, even if I don’t always agree – the interaction is beneficial. You seem like a well-intentioned person who is straining to communicate frustration (a feeling I share in this discussion). And let me know if you’re ever in the northwest, I’ll buy you a drink or something…

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  5. I just discovered your blog and this is the best critique that I’ve read of Matt Chandler’s insistence on perpetuating the “white privilege” myth as the primary explanation for the dire state of the black community as a whole. I was actually searching for someone who had dealt with Matt’s poor exegesis (if you can call it exegesis) of the text that he has used in perpetuating this false narrative when I ran across your blog. Matt is notorious for proof texting (see the entire second half of his book, “The Explicit Gospel”), which he does in classic fashion on this subject. I was going to write my own blog and go through the exegetical problems with how he abuses the text but I was hoping this had already been done to save me the time and effort. This is the most troubling aspect of Matt’s narrative because it demeans the word of God and call’s into question the legitimacy of evangelicalism as a whole and reformed theology as a subset (many would question whether Matt/Acts 29 are actually reformed, but that’s another subject). If you know of any blog/site that has already done this effectively, I would appreciate a link. Blessings and thank you for your blog.

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    1. Your compliments are much appreciated. I regret the lack of attention this blog has received recently – perhaps its time to pick it up.

      I can’t speak to chandler’s exegesis in general as I’m not very familiar with his work. But I do think he’s clearly wrong here.

      To be honest, I think most people are afraid to be accused of racism themselves so any counter arguments to things like white privilege are left unsaid. That’s probably why you can’t find anyone else calling him out. I don’t care if others call me racist; I know I’m not, that’s enough for me.

      I find the rise of the religious left in evangelical circles very concerning to say the least and I believe matt is at least partially trying to pacify them. But that’s another story for another time.

      God bless!

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