The left’s campaign against so-called “white privilege,” although misguided, rests in part on an important truth: Throughout much of America’s history, governments and many private individuals horribly mistreated various ethnic minorities. The most glaring example is slavery; other examples include policies stripping rights-respecting American Indians of their property, myriad racist laws many states enforced into the 1960s, and overtly racist immigration policies (e.g., against the Chinese).

A black man living in the South in 1850 certainly could claim that white people had “privileges” that black people didn’t: Whites had the legal “privileges” of (among other things) enslaving him, selling his children, brutalizing him, even murdering him.

But when today’s leftists speak of “white privilege,” their goal is not to abolish overtly racist laws—those were abolished in part by Lincoln and his supporters in the Civil War and virtually in full within a century of the Civil War. Nor is the left’s goal to eradicate private bigotry—which today is big news precisely because it is rare (e.g., Donald Sterling).

What, then, do today’s leftists mean by “white privilege,” and what do they hope to accomplish by campaigning against it? “White privilege” in the modern leftist sense means essentially four things: . . .

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