by Walter E. Williams:
Language and Thought
Seventeenth-century poet and intellect John Milton predicted, “When language in common use in any country becomes irregular and depraved, it is followed by their ruin and degradation.” Gore Vidal, his 20th-century intellectual successor, elaborated saying: “As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate.” Sloppy language permits people to get away with speaking and doing all manner of destructive nonsense without being challenged.
Let’s look at the concept of “white privilege,” the notion that white people have benefited in American history relative to, and at the expense of, “people of color.” It appears to be utter nonsense to suggest that poor and destitute Appalachian whites have white privilege. How can one tell if a person has white privilege? One imagines that the academic elite, who coined the term, refer to whites of a certain socioeconomic status such as living in the suburbs with the privilege of high-income amenities. But here is a question: Do Nigerians in the U.S. have white privilege? As reported by the New York Post this summer, 17% of all Nigerians in this country hold master’s degrees, 4% hold a doctorate and 37% hold a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey. By contrast, 19% of whites have a bachelor’s degree, 8% have master’s degrees and 1% have doctorates.
What about slavery? Colleges teach our young people that the U.S. became rich on the backs of free black labor. That is utter nonsense. Slavery does not have a very good record of producing wealth. Think about it. Slavery was all over the South and outlawed in most of the North. I doubt that anyone would claim that the antebellum South was rich, and the slave-starved North was poor. The truth is just the opposite. In fact, the poorest states and regions of our country were places where slavery flourished: Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, while the richest states and regions were those where slavery was outlawed: Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.