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Professor coins term ‘white priority,’ says white people think they’re better than others

A philosophy professor argues that white people enjoy a “sense” of importance, calling it “white priority,” a term the scholar coined to summarize her claim that people with white skin feel superior to others.

“White priority concerns a white person’s felt conviction about herself (however egregious or misplaced, and often unconscious) that no matter the quantifiable, statistical details of her life, she is not on the very bottom run of society’s ladder,” writes Professor Shannon Sullivan.

Sullivan, department chair of the philosophy department at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, made the comments in a recent scholarly article in “Critical Philosophy of Race.”

The piece takes issue with the term “white privilege,” with Sullivan writing that it doesn’t quite hit the mark in describing the “advantages of whiteness.” But “white priority” describes a white person’s “sense of coming before someone else,” noted Sullivan, who is white.

“As a poor, struggling white person, I might not be financially privileged or very high up in social circles and many people might disparage me, but at least I’m not the lowest of the low. I come before someone else: people of color and black people in particular,” Sullivan wrote.

The article, headlined “White Priority,” was published in a special issue of “Critical Philosophy of Race” dedicated to “Race after Obama.” A listing of Sullivan’s academic papers shows she’s written on whiteness multiple times throughout her career.

Sullivan did not respond to The College Fix’s request for comment. An automatic reply said she’ll have “irregular access” to her email account until Aug. 10.

In “White Priority,” Sullivan argued that the word privilege suggests one’s lived an easy life and it doesn’t quite fit for white people who’ve faced hardships. White privilege is “the right term to describe middle-class and affluent white people’s particular racial advantages,” but she argued that white priority applies to all white people no matter their financial standing.

This nuance is important, she wrote, because “life after Obama is a time for greater nimbleness and dexterity as we think about race and its intersections with class.” She argued there was a “white backlash” against President Barack Obama during his tenure in the Oval Office, an alleged backlash that stemmed from what individuals saw as his “extremism.” This extremism wasn’t based on Obama’s policies but rather that a black man was president, Sullivan wrote.

“It is as if a black intruder broke in and was allowed to stay, and we could say this almost literally given the white imaginary understanding of blackness as inherently criminal,” Sullivan stated.

As for proof that white priority exists, Sullivan stated she does not exactly have any, noting “white priority is not something that can be empirically verified or disproven.”

MORE: Conference teaches K-12 educators how to combat ‘whiteness in schools’

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke is a staff reporter for The College Fix with a specialty on investigative and enterprise reporting. He has also held editorial positions at The Commercial Review daily newspaper in Portland, Indiana, as well as at The Washington Examiner, Red Alert Politics and St. Louis Public Radio. Rubbelke graduated from Saint Louis University, where he majored in political science and sociology.

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