Walter Williams’ absurd argument and what it says about the RTD

Illustration by Iain Duffus
Illustration by Iain Duffus

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a column by Walter Williams titled “White privilege and other fables” on their website Oct. 14. Less than a week later the column was deleted and replaced with a message from the RTD apologizing for publishing the column and justifying their publication and subsequent removal of the column.

In their statement, the RTD says if they were given the opportunity to do it over, they wouldn’t have published the article in the first place. They also say they “aspire to something higher.” While it’s admirable the RTD was able to recognize and take credit for their mistake and attempt to make things right, both of these revelations should’ve been in their minds prior to publishing the article.

The most criticized aspect of Williams article is where he discusses campus sexual assault and rape — a topic all women are tired of hearing men try to explain.

He questions decisions college aged women make by comparing the situation to a hypothetical one in which Williams leaves his wallet on top of his car and goes about the rest of his day. He says while he has the right to do so, it isn’t a wise decision and he most likely will not find his wallet still sitting on top of his car when he returns.

Comparing a traumatic sexual assault or rape situation to that of an inanimate object is not only ridiculous, it’s demeaning. Williams was able to diminish an entire nation-wide epidemic down to the inconvenience of losing your wallet.

Then he says it’s as equally unwise for college women to “get stoned, use foul language and dance suggestively.” It’s deplorable to claim women are asking to be assaulted by taking part in normal young adult activities both genders participate in.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college. To blame that statistic on the victims rather than the predators is shameful. Anyone, including Williams, who sees sexual assault as a result of a woman’s actions is ignorant and misogynistic.

Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University, wrote an offensive, damaging and appalling editorial “debunking” concepts he claims colleges create, such as White privilege.

Williams is a Black man and has every right to express how he views his experience in this world. To claim, however, White privilege is a myth in itself disregards the experience of other people of color.

In another article written by Williams titled “White Privilege,” he suggests the concept is “devious indoctrination” occurring in schools. He uses words like “propaganda,” “lunacy” and “fools” to describe the idea of White privilege and people who believe in it.

He makes the argument in his article published in the RTD that his daughter is at an advantage as well, whether this be because of his success, their socioeconomic status or some other factor, he doesn’t specify. While this might be the case for Williams and his family, it isn’t the case for all people of color in this country whose institutions are catered towards White people.

There are several ways in which we see the consequences of White privilege but perhaps the most important is segregation of our schools. The Washington Post reported last year the number of K-12 schools consisting mainly of poor Black and Hispanic students grew from 9 to 16 percent from 2001 to 2014. According to the Government Accountability Office, these high-poverty schools are less likely to provide all the necessary math and science classes, depriving minority students of the same educational opportunities as students at low-poverty schools.

As for the RTD, I consider them irredeemable. They claim the article “fell short” of their editorial standards, but why didn’t it fall short when it was being finalized to be published? It’s an editor’s job to ensure the content upholds the publication’s standards and I don’t think the RTD was being lazy, rather, I think they were compliant to Williams and his column.

I understand the importance of publishing articles that express a wide range of opinion, but that wasn’t the case here. Williams’ article did nothing but make false claims offending the majority of readers and he did so on the basis of his own knowledge. It was a rant with no evidence of truth and as Richmond’s largest news publication, Williams should have no place in the RTD.


Katie Bashista

Opinions Editor

1 Comment

  1. “…campus sexual assault and rape — a topic all women are tired of hearing men try to explain.”

    You don’t represent all women any more than Walter Williams represents all black men.

    And if you believe a black person can get it wrong about white privilege, maybe we can put aside this and related forms of tribalism — really, racism and sexism made respectable — when discussing, say, campus sexual assault and rape.

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