One of the most important themes in recent thinking about racial justice in the United States has been a shift in emphasis away from the traditional issue of racial discrimination, toward an exploration of the various forms of privilege that dominant groups enjoy. Many of the privileges that whites have been encouraged to explore, however, do not stem directly from their racial identity, but rather from the fact that they belong the majority demographic group. Describing these benefits as a “privilege” is often intended to suggest that there is something objectionable or unjust about them. On closer examination, that claim turns out to be extremely controversial. This paper examines some of the major arguments that have been made by egalitarian philosophers on this question, before concluding with a few take-away lessons for issues of pedagogy and racial justice.

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