Tucker Carlson talks to author and commenter Michael Eric Dyson about white privilege in an interview on his FOX News Channel show on Thursday night. Carlson said he does not believe in collective guilt and noted that Dyson and himself live in an upper-class neighborhood.
TUCKER CARLSON: What I don't believe in is collective guilt. And that is why I'm confused by the phrase "white privilege."
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, white privilege doesn't suggest guilt, it suggests responsibility and accountability. The same accountability that America talks to about people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, and addressing their situations, their communities, as being responsible for doing what they are doing. I don't believe in collective guilt but I do believe in collective responsibility.
CARLSON: Responsibility and guilt are synonyms in this case. Let's be specific. Privilege. I'm privileged, and I wouldn't deny that -- and I am white -- because I have a good-paying job. But you're privileged too. We live near each other, nice neighborhood, you're rich, you went to an Ivy League school, like me. And so, you are way more privileged than most white Americans. So why would they owe you something?
Dyson acknowledged it is possible for black people to have privilege. "Jackie Robinson was more privileged than white people," as a baseball star, Dyson said, but he still had to use a separate water fountain. Carlson said that was in the 1950s.
"Privilege is contingent upon the context in which it is defined. Individual cases could have an imbalance. People of color could be way more privileged, as you talked about, that the average, say, white person," Dyson said.
"But remember, during Jim Crow, Jackie Robinson was more privileged than most white people in terms of having the ability to making a good living on a job, but he was still denied access to a water fountain. His kids still couldn't go to the same school. So, I am saying to you that your argument seems to be rather vulnerable to rebuff because it doesn't mean economic accumulation can prevent you from experiencing what are essentially racial inequalities. The amount of money you have doesn't do that."
"Yeah, and In 1955 I think that was much truer than it is now."
Carlson asked, considering Dyson's situation as a black man with privilege, how can an unemployed white person in middle America have white privilege:
TUCKER CARLSON: If I live in eastern Kentucky and I am unemployed, why am I more privileged than you? And why am I in any way, as you put it, responsible for problems with people I've never met on the other side of the country?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Look, we know that larger forces provide people opportunities or disadvantages. Many people say, let me restrict it even further. Some people say, I came to this country 20 years ago, I came to this country 30 years ago, I wasn't advantaged directly by a system of enslavement that prevailed in America.
But if you came to this country as an immigrant and you are a white immigrant and you inherit certain privileges associated with people who are already here, that means that that privilege is given to you regardless of the fact that you indirectly benefited from it and you did not directly contribute to inequality. The constitution was written a long time ago, so, was the Declaration of Independence. But those ancient documents continue to inform people's lives and shape their aspirations.