There is a storm brewing. I know it is a day or two more removed from the one year anniversary of super storm Sandy, but don’t be frightened I am talking about racial tension. Recently Buzzfeed posted 17 Deplorable Examples of White Privilege and folks are up in arms. Of course not folks I know, but as the greatest American of my generation, all folks are in fact my folks by way of proxy and because of my duty to the Red White and Blue I must do some damage control. here is he link to Buzzfeed post
Let’s talk about privilege – a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste. The definition is very straight-forward. Let me give you three examples of privileges:
Proof that White privilege Exists, & Can be Used for good
White privilege does exist, and some people have used it to speak for those who have no voice, to raise social awareness to the many ills infecting the world at this time. There were many white who helped freed blacks escape the south. There were many whites who put their lives on the line for others of a different race. I think before I go any further we should not forget their sacrifices and efforts without which I perhaps or many would not be here able to enjoy what rights I do.
But let’s Keep it Fucking Real
White privilege didn’t vanish about the late 60’s. We should be clear that:
- White privilege exists. Let me give you some blatant examples that it exists
Examples of Privilege
EXAMPLE #1: According to statistics,Black Americans receive almost 60% longer prison sentences than white Americans who committed the same crime. This would fall under a special advantage that white offenders have that black offenders do not have.
EXAMPLE #2: According to statistics, 1 Black Man Is Killed Every 28 Hours by Police or Vigilantes. This would be considered an immunity that White men have – getting stopped by the police doesn’t necessarily mean you die.
EXAMPLE #3: You can walk the streets in Blackface in 2013, post pictures of yourself in Blackface on Facebook, Twitter, and say you didn’t think it would be offensive. In other words you can enjoy portraying centuries old stereotype for fun. Worst case scenario you have to issue an apology. That would be considered a permission in my book.
- Like with everything in life, in order for any social privilege to exist there must be ‘things’ in place that allow it to continue existing in time. This may mean that many of us (white black yellow, red, blue, green, ultraviolet) can be supporting these privileges without even knowing we are, especially since many of these were written into institutions that were built long before we were born.. This also means that there are many who knowingly support measures to ensure these privileges continue.
So far, I think that I have made a fair case, that white privilege does exist. It has been used historically as a catalyst for much change in this country There are entrenched complex institutional practices that keep it going.
One cannot ignore some statistics, however there is another side to things that needs to be addressed.
The Other Side of the Discussion of Privilege
I believe that when the founders of the country got together and laid down the legal, economic and societal foundations of what would become the United States of America they didn’t consider natives and blacks as people. They didn’t also have the image of a non-wealthy Caucasian in mind.
“The founders of the American republic had pretty much the same view about the rabble. […] they determined that “power must be in the hands of the wealthy of the nation, the more responsible set of men. Those who have sympathy for property owners and their rights”, and of course for slave owners at the time. In general, men who understand that a fundamental task of government is “to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority”. Those are quotes from James Madison, the main framer – this was in the Constitutional Convention, which is much more revealing than the Federalist Papers which people read. The Federalist Papers were basically a propaganda effort to try to get the public to go along with the system. “
This add to the complexity of privilege. I have taken this from Allan G Johnson:
Privilege is not a personal characteristic or possession that makes someone “feel privileged.” It is an unearned advantage attached to a particular social characteristic, in this case being identified as white. Being white doesn’t guarantee anyone happiness or a good life, only a better chance at a good life than someone identified as being of colour.
I think it’s important to realize that in terms of an unearned advantage, not everyone gets to benefit or use that privilege. If you are a poor white person from West Virginia/ Appalachia working in a coal mine getting some lung related disease I doubt you will believe white privilege even exists or you have any benefit from being white. if you are a white student and a black student from your class got the scholarship to the University you wanted to go to I doubt you will feel that there is such a thing as white privilege.
I do believe that there is a class component to privilege. Talking about class in the USA is frowned upon. But there is a very specific role that class plays in the use and administration of privilege. Take a look at this I took from the a Chomsky interview: The unmentionable five-letter word aka class.
Statistics about things like quality of life, infant mortality, life expectancy, etc. are usually broken down by race. It always turns out that blacks have horrible statistics as compared with whites. But an interesting study was done by Vicente Navarro, a professor at Johns Hopkins who works on public health issues. He decided to reanalyze the statistics, separating out the factors of race and class. For example, he looked at white workers and black workers versus white executives and black executives. He discovered that much of the difference between blacks and whites was actually a class difference. If you look at poor white workers and white executives, the gap between them is enormous.
I would like to remind you that racism was a tool to support an economic system. So it shouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine that there is a class component to the use, administration, and policing of privilege.
There is a lot more to be said this is a very complex issue. However how can we still move forward. That’s what this is all about moving forward. I feel that as long as there are amazing disparities in the distribution of wealth, there will be a group of people that will benefit unfairly and some that will suffer unfairly. The way we practice capitalism in this country reminds me of Cervantes or rather Don Quixote’s Windmills in that depending on the person they could raise you up to heavenly heights or they could hammer you down further into the ground.
I think we have to realize that the language to talk about privilege is a convoluted one. It took me a long time of reading to actually get an idea of what is meant by privilege and I feel there is much for me to learn. However I do feel we have to look at actions – they speak louder than words after all. If we are truly equal before the law there shouldn’t be such disparities in prison sentence terms for the same crime. I think we need to focus on actions like this.
Final Note: I can and will write more about this topic if you would like to. I want to explore the grey areas of it and expose its complexity to the light. However that will depend on your guys. leave a comment or a like. There’s a new article, 7 hours old, that deal with the Pentagon training manual saying that white males have unfair advantages. I feel this is going to stir up a lot of emotion and arguments.
let the shit storm begin