Thursday, July 30, 2015

White Advantage/Privilege? Or White Achievement?

Educated, “white,” males who were engaged in commerce of one sort or another, declared independence of the American colonies from England and its monarch, King George III.  White males led the Revolutionary War using force to make those words of independence a reality. The same stereotypical white males drafted what has become one of the most important, impactful documents in human history: the United States Constitution. Those pages were brought to life by white males in executing the concepts of the Constitution bringing forth what today is arguably one of the greatest nations in the history of the world. The United States of America has shown to the world that a democratic, capitalist country can peacefully agree to meaningful changes in leadership, even with bitter philosophical differences of the parties. It is among the most free – in speech, assembly, opportunity and employment, movement, religion, political rights, ownership of property, enterprise and commerce, human rights of life, liberty and the  pursuit of happiness, and equal rights under the law – and most prosperous country in history.

Now, let’s take it to an even higher level. Following is a made-up (by me) list of among the greatest achievements during human existence (when the major accomplisher is known). One of the very great ones, of course, is the forging of the American political system, with the rule of written law, equality under the law, private property, and a government of the people (“self government”).  Human rights and human prosperity have bloomed under it.

Among the greatest achievements during human existence:

Harnessing of Electricity. Electricity is a natural resource which was something interesting but mostly useless until the white male English scientist William Gilbert (or Gilberd) published his seminal work of experiments on electricity and  magnetism and coined the very term electricus which later evolved into “electricity.” His findings established the groundwork for the white male German, Johannes Kepler’s laws of planetary motion which was a foundation for white male Englishman, Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity. Nearly two hundred years later white male Benjamin Franklin showed that lightning and static electricity were the same. Other white males invented batteries  (Italian, Alessandro Volta), the first effective arc lamp (Sir Humphry Davy, English) and other inspirations of  white male Frenchmen, Italians, Germans and Brits whose names are familiar:  André-Marie Ampère, Georg Ohm, Michael Faraday and in 1837 white male American Thomas Davenport invented the direct current electric motor, the basis of most electrical appliances today. Inventor of an effective incandescent light bulb along with an entire integrated system: white man Thomas Alva Edison, who is also responsible for moving pictures and recorded music. 

Transportation. Ships with sails have been used since at least the fifth century B. C. and in all likelihood much earlier, so the color and gender of those innovators are not known. About trains: The first use of rails was in the 1767 by a company in Shropshire, England, owned by English Quakers. The first reciprocating steam engine to power a wheel was invented by a Scottish inventor, James Watt. He patented in 1784 the first design for a carriage propelled by steam which an employee of his built later that year. The automobile was invented in Germany by white male Karl Benz in 1885. The first of which was powered by a single-cylinder internal combustion four-stroke engine designed by white German Nikolaus Otto. The first flying machines with controls were invented by the American Wright (white) brothers.

Communications. Telegraph was suggested first in Scots Magazine (1753) then German von Sommering, Spanish Campillo built models until in 1823  Englishman Francis Ronalds first made a working electrostatic telegraph over eight miles of wire;  then Russians and Englishmen made improvements until Samuel Morse invented and patented (1837) an electric telegraph with his assistant, Alfred Vail, developing Morse Code to go with it. Telephone. The first device to replicate the human voice over wire was invented by American Alexander Graham Bell who patented it in 1876; his mother and wife were deaf and he had long experimented with hearing devices. Bell was Scottish but ended up in Boston via Canada. In 1864 Scot James Maxwell wrote that electromagnetic waves could travel through air. Pouncing on that, white male Italian, American, German and English inventors built working models, first used with Morse code between ships and land, then one-way developed into two-way, then telephony, tele-video (television), navigation (including by satellite), radar, and the digital data transmission of today. Most if not all conceived by white males, many American.

Development of computers. Wilhelm Schickard, a white German polymath, designed a calculating machine in 1623 which combined a mechanized form of Napier's rods with the world's first mechanical adding machine built into the base. In 1642, while still a teenager, Blaise Pascal (white Frenchman) started some pioneering work on calculating machines and after three years of effort and myriad prototypes, invented a mechanical calculator. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (white German) invented the Stepped Reckoner calculating machine around 1672. However, Leibniz’s invention did not have a method to carry numbers. Leibniz also conceived the binary numeral system, key to all of today’s binary computers. Around 1830, Charles Babbage, another English polymath, originated the concept of a programming a computer. In 1936 a white gay British genius, Alan Turing, presented a paper describing a computer and thus became the father of computer science. Its commercialization initially came from England with the Ferranti  Mark I (parent company was founded in 1882 by white Englishman, Sebastian Pietro Innocenzo Adhemar Ziani de Ferranti) and the U. S. with UNIVAC I for the U. S. Census Bureau. Then IBM took control with its 650 mainframe in 1954. Later came Digital Equipment (Ken Olson, white male founder) making mini-computers. They were followed by microcomputers based on Intel semiconductors (Intel, started by three white males, was the inventor of silicon microprocessors), with IBM’s hardware and Microsoft’s software (two white male founders); Apple Computer (also two white male founders) began around then also. So called personal computers in essence merged with smart cellular phones continuing to miniaturize up to and including the Apple watch. Today, of course, computers and computing devices permeate every aspect of life all over the world. 

The concept for the Internet came from the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) white males: Tim Berners-Lee, Bob Kahn, Vint Cerf. Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape, the first major Web browser company which essentially launched the Internet (”dot com”) industry and has revolutionized the world in countless ways was white.

Cell phones as we know them started in the United States by engineers from Bell Laboratories (where in 1956 John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William Shockley, all white males, received the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the first transistors, and home to myriad ground-breaking technologies of radio astronomy, lasers, charge-coupled device (CCD) semiconductor sensors, DNA prototyping machines, UNIX operating system, the C and C++ programming languages, TDMA and CDMA digital cellular telephone technologies ) then a division of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company stemming all the way back to Alexander Graham Bell. They were then  attempting an automobile-to-automobile communication system, with the first service commencing in St. Louis, Missouri, June 1946, as AT&T’s Mobile Telephone Service. The system used Motorola radiotelephones. Motorola was started in 1928 when two white Catholic brothers bought a bankrupt battery company in Chicago.
Capitalism (and free enterprise) has been – very arguably – proven to be the most fair allocator of capital, employer of workers, arbiter of taste in consumer products of any economic system yet devised in the world; the United States was implicitly a “capitalist country.” The American financial system early on enabled vast amounts of excess capital to be deployed into starting new companies, resulting in entirely new industries. This includes the early “trusts” dreamed up by Samuel C. T. Dodd, of Standard Oil, a distributed banking system, venture capital and private equity partnership models as well as hedge funds. Like it or not,  most U. S. companies have been founded by white males, many of whom had invented products that formed the basis for their companies. A few are: Thomas Alva Edison (General Electric); Charles Goodyear (vulcanization); Alexander Graham Bell (AT & T); Eli Whitney (the cotton engine – “gin”); Henry Ford’s assembly line; RCA (David Sarnoff); Willis Carrier (air conditioning); More recently, to toss off a few more white male names that have rewarded the world: Walt Disney, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, mentioned above, Larry Ellison (Oracle), Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Ph.D., then students at Stanford University (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Jimmy Wales who, together with Larry Sanger, founded Wikipedia, from where some of the general information in this essay emanated. A few white males who didn’t necessarily invent products but who were simply entrepreneurial: The Big Four of railroads, Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins, Crocker (Central Pacific R.R.); John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil); J. P. Morgan (JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley), Sam Walton of Wal-Mart, and Howard Schultz (Starbucks). Inventions by mistake of white male Americans were pacemakers and the lithium-iodide battery to power them by Wilson Greatbatch; an American pharmacist, John Stith Pemberton, who invented Coca-Cola; Thomas Adams, trying unsuccessfully to replace rubber for tires with a natural gum, chicle, chewed it, later adding flavor and thence creating Chiclets and the chewing gum industry.

The spread of capitalism and economic, political and social freedoms, as exemplified by the United States, has enriched the world. From the 1981 to 2010, abject poverty – those living on just over dollar a day dropped from half the citizens in the developing world to 21 percent in 2010 – in part by dollars flowing from U. S. purchases from free trade, and free enterprise in every remote area where allowed by their political systems. While “poverty” is an arbitrary political term The World Bank recently reported on October 9, 2015, that the share of the world population living in extreme poverty had fallen to 14.5% in 2011 from 36% in 1990. The number of people in the world living on less than $1.25 a day has fallen to 1,011 million in 2013 from 1,926 million in 1991.

While certainly not every innovation since Adam has been by white males, by far the vast majority have been conceived and implemented by white males and since the establishment of the United States of America, American companies have been conceived, established, financed, managed and innovated mostly by white males. In many cases, the white males started with little, faced great odds, and kept going in spite of obstacles, and succeeded. While tens of thousands of others took the same path, they failed, many losing everything they owned, and were never heard of again.  

Of course the original demographic of the United States was predominantly white (and Christian). In 2013 it was: White (non Hispanic) 62.6%; Hispanic or Latino 17.1%; African-American  13.2%; Asian 5.3%; American Indian & Alaska Native 1.2%; Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander 0.2%. With the Civilian Labor Force being 79.4% white, according to government statistics. Given the superiority in numbers, it should be no surprise that white people have accomplished so much. Foreigners have always  flooded our country: From the British Isles (including the Scots and Irish), Germany, Africa, Netherlands, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Poland. Generally each group faced bitter denunciation and rejection, with many brought over in captivity from Africa as slaves and others as near slave indentured servants.  More recently Asian country immigrants including China, India, South Korea, Viet Nam, Philippines have been legally allowed in.  The United States was – is truly – a melting pot, with opportunity offered to all.
Now I’ve argued that white male Americans have been responsible for much of the innovation and prosperity since the formation of the United States, raising all boats (most all of the poorest in the United States and many of the poorest in most countries have reaped advantages of white achievement and have cell phones, electricity and bicycles – the first verified claim to making one was by white, German civil servant Baron Karl von Drais); has causing assimilation of most immigrants into the U. S. who began as loathed minorities greeted with discrimination. They assimilated and choose to fit in as they choose. (“Pursuit of happiness.”)            

There should now be little doubt about the vast amount achievement by white males, but would it all  have taken place anyway without white males who were in power?  Is white advantage/privilege (WAP)  implicitly “unfair” and would the world would be a better, more moral place without it? If not, if WAP has been beneficial to the world, why are there blatant attempts to debase it? No doubt “diversity” feels good, but which is better for humanity? And are the two, white achievement and WAP mutually exclusive?  So given all this, what actually is the new notion of  WAP?”

There is argument that whites have more freedom to move around, speak freely, buy stuff, work wherever they want. These seems to beg the question that non-whites cannot do all this, which is untrue, or that minorities can’t do them as much, which is impossible to measure, “enough” being subjective. WAP includes a high, “unwarranted” opinion of one's own worth, greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely at home, work and school.  According to Samantha Vice ("How Do I Live in This Strange Place?" Journal of Social Philosophy, September 7, 2010), The concept of white privilege also implies the privileged right to assume the universality of one's own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal. American, in other words, being in the white majority. Turns out that in being the majority means the assumption of normality, usual, and average.  Others are not normal, usual or average. Lawrence Blum in 2008 argued in "'White Privilege': A Mild Critique," Theory and Research in Education, that many social privileges are interconnected with being white, requiring a complex and careful analysis to identify whiteness' contributions to privilege. This means that the notion of whiteness is not inclusive of all white people. Critics of white privilege also note that there is a problem with the interpretation of people of color. That is, it fails to acknowledge the diversity of people of color and ethnicity within these groups, but apparently white is white.  Or something. All this seems to presume that having privilege is bad, that diversity is good and other such unprovable pablum. Or simply that none of this makes sense.

I think the concept of WAP encourages certain non-whites not to assimilate, deciding that the white majority has to change to satisfy and incorporate the religion, nationality, mores and dress of minority groups. The federal government has passed labor laws to label as discrimination the desire to hire persons reflecting the majority. In applying for jobs, a person might not get an offer if he or she speaks “African American Vernacular English” or perhaps “Indian English” that are sometimes difficult to easily understand, or wears baggy, saggy trousers or a burqa. If the candidate is black, Indian or Muslim he or she can sue. If the job seeker is white, that is that.  White privilege?

As Winston S. Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” And Jawaharlal Nehru said, You don't change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall. And the old saw, “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

I argue that WAP is little more than an invention by left-leaning and Democrat Party ideologues seeking more power for themselves by using their minority factions in attempting to eliminate the achievement of the white (male) majority and substituting guilt for achievement or negating achievement entirely.  It is about power.

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