UW Honors Announcements

October 22, 2020

Philosophy Society Talk | Power and Privilege: How the Exercise of White Privilege Manifests Racial Injustice

Join the philosophy society for a talk by UW philosophy graduate student Cody Dout on power and privilege from a racial standpoint. Below is the abstract for the talk, and all of the philosophy society’s social media accounts and details can be found on the event poster attached. We’ll be meeting on October 23rd at 5:00 via zoom. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

White privilege has mostly been described as a source of power that grants access to more opportunities and resources.  Implicit in this conception is the notion that white privilege grants its benefactors special abilities and skills that descendants of American slavery are less likely to have due to a corresponding lack of access.  This has resulted in largely white workforces counseling black children, caring for black health, or teaching black children with harmful outcomes that greatly resemble life under explicitly racist structures, often with outcomes that are not much different from life under explicitly racist structures.  Most experts insist these results are not the result of individual racism but rather institutional forces that are out of the hands of well-intentioned individuals.  I argue the common explanations for the unjust outcomes of white administration and the outcomes themselves reveal that white privilege does not imbue whites with superior skills.  On the contrary, the power associated with white privilege allows whites to “circumvent the pain” of failure and the subsequent lessons.  This hinders development of the skills and knowledge necessary to correctly assess and administer institutions that serve black people in light of the complexities of navigating a space governed by racist institutions and people.  As a result of the power differential between black and white people, black people are left under the control well-meaning, incompetent people whose power precludes the success of any efforts at black self-determination.  Until black people stop cooperating with white administration of essential services and political movements integral to black life, unjust outcomes will endure.