Some places have a famous feature, like LA’s Hollywood Sign or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Owsley County, Kentucky is known for something too: child poverty. Sixty two percent of its kids live below the poverty line–more than anywhere else in the state. They also face a lower life expectancy and a higher risk of getting cancer. If you had to describe these children, what adjective comes to mind? I can tell you which one Timothy Kane uses:
Kane is Associate Director of George Washington University’s Multicultural Student Services Center; according to him, Christians and white people “experience life in an easier way.” Kane says that’s due to “white privilege” and how “Christians receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.” I’m sure Owsley’s residents would be surprised to hear that: they’re over 98 percent white and predominantly Christian, but the perks they enjoy aren’t particularly obvious.
What’s more, white privilege hasn’t prevented whites without a college degree from having a shorter average lifespan than either African Americans or Latinos. It also hasn’t protected whites from interracial violence, with the annual number of black criminals murdering white victims being more than twice as large as the number of white criminals who murder black victims. Nor did it stop the Supreme Court from upholding college admission policies that discriminate against whites and Asians.
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The evidence for Christian privilege isn’t too strong either. Christianity is frequently mocked in popular culture: last February, The View host Joy Behar described Vice President Mike Pence’s faith as a “mental illness” (no advertisers left in response). What’s more, there’s a long history of taxpayers subsidizing anti-Christian art, from a portrayal of Christ in a jar of urine to an image of the Virgin Mary made out of pornography and elephant dung. That tradition continues with “Jerry Springer, The Opera,” a publicly funded play that features Jesus defecating in a diaper. Funding for similar depictions of Mohammed is, shall we say, less forthcoming. Granted, American Christians rarely have to die for their faith; it’s a privilege their foreign brethren often don’t enjoy.
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In 2015, twelve Christians were drowned by Muslim migrants off the coast of Italy. That incident wasn’t unique: a Christian convert in Sweden was stabbed on the same day he planned to get baptized. Some Swedish pastors have complained that threats against their congregants have been have ignored, despite a 2015 European Parliament report that found “Christian refugees routinely suffer religiously motivated persecution.” Persecution is far worse in many parts of the Islamic world, of course, where Christians live in constant fear of death or slavery.
I suspect being an associate director at George Washington University probably guarantees some “unmerited perks” and “an easier” time in life. The mere fact of having white skin or believing in Christ? Nope. Instead of worrying about white or Christian privilege, Timothy Kane should focus on his own.