Imagine yourself playing a game of Monopoly. The rules have been changed. Certain players can collect money when they pass Go. They can buy property and build houses and hotels. Other players cannot collect money when they pass Go. They are only allowed to own certain properties. They can only build houses on them.Let's take this analogy seriously. Begin at the beginning. Why use Monopoly as the basis for the argument, rather than stud poker or three-card monte or Candy Land? Why write of such things as buying, and building, and contracting, and ownership? Might the use of such institutions have conferred evolutionary advantages that contributed to the well-being of people using them, and been foundational to a civilization that became attractive to people who inherited different institutions and traditions. (And how is it that a game conceived as socialist propaganda becomes a metaphor for competitive capitalism that inspires refinements to keep players engaged and involved?) "Rigged" has an ex post resonance with people who came to the game late, but think of a system as emergent and adaptive, and the legacy takes on a different cast.
The results are not surprising. The system has been rigged.
But halfway through the game, the players change the rules so that everyone has the same opportunities and challenges. The game continues from this point on. Some players had to stop playing, so they passed on their legacy to the next generation. The new players continue to treat each other according to the rules. No player does anything wrong to any other player, but the individual actions of the players matter very little. Even though the discriminatory practices have ended, the historical consequences are still present.
This analogy can be very helpful in understanding white privilege. At the founding of the United States, the system was rigged. Only white men who owned property were allowed to vote, hold public office and serve on juries. Native Americans, women and slaves could do nothing of the sort.
Thankfully, those laws have been changed and the system is more equal. But in the Monopoly game and in real life, playing by the rules did not change the outcome. Working harder and knowing the rules better did not change the outcome.But historical realities are emergent. Note the evolution of Monopoly from socialist tract into real estate trading game, and I dare you to find, in any mid-twentieth-century edition of the game, a line in the instructions specifying that fines and payments dictated by Chance and Community Chest go in the center of the board to be gathered by the next player to land by exact count on Free Parking. Perhaps the good professor is over-analyzing.
The rules of the game define the system, giving certain players benefits and advantages. Privilege refers to these advantages. Privilege is the current expression of historical realities.
The Monopoly players with privilege could choose not to exercise it or they could choose to exercise it for those without privilege. The moral judgment God makes will be based upon how we steward that which we have received.Really? If by the sweat of your brow shall ye eat, then rendering unto free parking that which is the bank's might be Sin Itself. Put in secular terms, the problem with a rule is not in the privileges it confers per se, but whether adherence to the rule confers evolutionary advantages to adherents, and whether those advantages can be shared by adherents and by new adopters. If not, it's a bad rule.