In February 2011, I wrote an essay titled White Privilege – Guilty As Charged, which is reproduced below. Closely linked to this “White Privilege” is the concept of Noblesse Oblige, which the dictionary defines as “The obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth.” White Privilege and Noblesse Oblige cannot be separated by honorable men. Privilege and Obligation go together.
Some would argue that Noblesse Oblige does not apply to them because “Noblesse” means “Nobility: Noble birth or condition,” and they are not “nobility” in the strictest sense of the word. That is just a vain attempt to escape the responsibility that goes with privilege. Are we to believe that because Noblesse Oblige has no legal standing that we have no obligation to do more than is required? Of course not. Noblesse Oblige is at the very core of what it means to be a Southern gentleman or a Southern lady.
John F. Kennedy said, “For of those whom much is given, much is required.” which is really just a rephrasing of the words of Jesus: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”(Luke 12:48)
Lest this discussion get sidetracked into racial issues, this applies every bit as much to “American Privilege.” For all her faults and failings, those of us fortunate enough to live in America – especially in the South – have been blessed beyond measure. We have unsurpassed wealth and opportunity and a level of freedom seen in few other places. Such opportunity can be seized or it can be squandered. Education and opportunity to excel are freely available to all.
We have an “obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior.” Are we making good on that obligation? Do we truly appreciate the blessings that have been bestowed upon us? Are we doing all we can to pass those same blessings on to the next generation? If not, it’s time to get started.
White Privilege – Guilty As Charged
Stephen Clay McGehee
First published February 17, 2011
One cannot be a vocal advocate of Southern heritage and culture without encountering the topic of race on a regular basis. It shouldn’t be that way but it is, so it must be confronted head-on.
I have been reading recently about the concept of White Privilege – what our accusers define as an unearned, unmerited advantage that Whites have over other races. To that I answer, “Guilty As Charged.”
Let’s look at this White Privilege that gives me an “unfair” advantage over others:
I have the privilege of being raised by both my mother and my father in a stable home where drugs, alcohol, and crime never intruded.
I have the privilege of being raised by parents who understood the value of education and insisted that I and my siblings take learning seriously.
I have the privilege of being taught at an early age that making sacrifices today in order to have something better tomorrow is one of the keys to progress.
I have the privilege of having grandparents who taught my parents these same values – and generation upon generation before them.
I have the privilege of learning about the Western European culture – the music, the literature, the science, the art – that has enriched the lives of all who care to take advantage of that culture; freely bestowed on all who care for the finer things of mankind.
I have the privilege of having a strong work ethic instilled in me from a young age.
I have the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and taught about the wholly undeserved love of a God who would sacrifice His only Son to pay for my sins.
All these privileges were given to me, completely undeserved and unearned. They were given to me by the generations that came before me because they put the best interest of their children above all else. If other races or other groups of people choose to live for their own immediate gratification with little thought for the fate of their descendants, then that is their choice. It is my fondest hope – and expectation – that one day my grandchildren, when accused of White Privilege, will proudly proclaim “Guilty As Charged”.