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Denying white privilege exists is like denying being tall helps you make it to the NBA

Posted on 23 October 2015

This is adapted from a comment in a Facebook thread about white privilege.

So let’s look at the NBA. It is not easy to get to the NBA. Lots of people from around the world try to get to the NBA and fail. Only the most dedicated, most skilled players, the ones who sacrifice a lot, will join that elite group. Most people do not have what it takes.

But the people who make it to the NBA almost all have another thing in common. They are at least six feet tall.

In fact, only 24 people under 6 feet have ever made it to the NBA.

If you are under 6 feet, you are probably not going to make it to the NBA, no matter how much drive you have.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. It’s just that there are people who have a natural advantage over you: they are taller. It’s not their fault they were born taller. And being tall does not guarantee them access to the NBA. The vast majority of people over six feet never play in the NBA.

But still: being six feet tall or more helps you get into the NBA.

People over six feet have an advantage over people under six feet. They didn’t invent the rules of the game, they may not be able to change the rules, but they benefit from them.

That is white privilege. You can’t just sit back and be successful because you were born white. But being white gives you a natural advantage over those who aren’t because those are the rules of the game we’re playing.

There are countless statistics indicating the existence of white privilege. The number of white people vs non-white people in high-level leadership positions, elite schools, and jails point to a disparity of outcomes. Put a white person and a non-white person in the same socio-economic space to start and, generally speaking, the white person is more likely to advance, for a whole variety of near-invisible cultural reasons which you can educate yourself about with just a bit of googling.

If you are white and deny the existence white privilege, imagine having this conversation with your average 6’7″ NBA player:

YOU: “Man, sometimes I wish I had been born taller, maybe I could have played in the NBA.”

THEM: “What are you talking about? You think just because I’m tall this was easy for me?”

YOU: “No, I just mean… you being tall helps. I’m short- it’s a bit of a disadvantage…”

THEM: “I got up every day of my life in high school and college to run laps. I gave up evenings. I gave up weekends. I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 23”

YOU: “No, no, it’s not that – it’s just – I mean, I could have done that, but I’m 5’6″. I wouldn’t have made it…”

THEM: “Look at Muggsy Bogues. He was 5’3″ and he played 15 seasons.”

YOU: “I know, I know, but he’s an exception. Being tall helps.”

THEM: “My parents looked after themselves! They were healthy… they made sure I got good nutrition. You’re going to hold it against me that my parents were both tall and looked after me so I would be tall?”

YOU: “I’m not saying that.”

THEM: “I saw a homeless guy the other day. 6’5″. Being tall really helped him, huh? Looks like being tall is a REAL advantage in life. I prefer to judge people on their skill, not their genetics.”

 

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