In the interview, Stephen Dubner was asking Noah about what his mother called ‘the black tax’, meaning that as a black man, he would “… have to work harder than a white person just to get back to zero.” In part of Noah’s reply he says:
…you know, a lot of the time when you hear people having conversations about white privilege, male privilege and so on, I think sometimes what gets lost is that with the word “privilege” comes the connotation of having a good time. You know, people go, “What privilege? I may be a white man but I’m poor. I may be a white man but I’m suffering.” And that is completely true. And sometimes I go, “Maybe in the labelling, it’s almost like it could have gone the other way and it’s like, is it a black disadvantage? Or is it a female disadvantage?”
Such an astute realisation. That ‘white privilege’ can lead people to question what they personally consider to be a privilege, regardless of skin colour, rather than focusing on the specific disadvantages that the term is trying to address. ‘Black disadvantage’ however, makes you acknowledge the instant deficit that all black people are in, in comparison to any white person.
I don’t know, perhaps it’s a tiny detail, and it’s just me being backward on my white privileged interpretation of the term, or overthinking semantics again, but while the words were still ringing in my ears I came across this incredibly emotional and eye opening video that I think illustrates what Noah is getting at:
Now, if you’re white, and even more specifically a white parent with white kids, I wager that this video is almost unbelievably shocking and something that you would never have imagined happening. This is the black tax that Noah’s mother meant. The deficit that black people have to work up from, just to get back to zero. In this context, it’s impossible not to agree that there is a white privilege.