(National Review) The term “white privilege,” coined by feminist activist Peggy McIntosh in the 1980s, refers to advantages that white people, on average, have in American society. The goal of activists and educators who use the phrase is to educate Americans about how whites are born with benefits not afforded to people of minority ethnic backgrounds. Can you turn on the television and see people of your race widely represented? Do you tend to see racism only as individual acts of meanness, not as signs of systematic dominance over your group? Do you never worry about being followed or harassed when shopping? Those are signs of white privilege, according to McIntosh.
But a recent paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General suggests that the idea of white privilege may have an unexpected drawback: It can reduce the empathy among some for white people who are struggling with poverty. The paper finds that social liberals — people who have socially liberal views on the major political issues — are actually less likely to empathize with a poor white person’s plight after being given a reading on white privilege.