Tuesday, April 29, 2008

give good audio-visual

I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.


(props to aislinn dewey)

20 comments:

  1. Mr. Macon,
    Do you believe that whites should give up what you call "white priviledge?"
    SH

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  2. Yes, Mr. SH, I do think that whites should give them up--not that, in the case of most of their privileges, that actually means giving up anything material or tangible. A privilege is something that only works as such because someone doesn't have it. I think everyone should have the right to most of the privileges that whites can enjoy. If everyone did have that right, those perks would no longer be "privileges."

    I do recognize, though, that getting whites to give up their privileges is a hard sell, even if what they're really being asked, in regards to most of their privileges, is that they help in the work toward a society where everyone else has a right to them too. Even when they're being asked, that is, to "give up" nothing. Nothing, that is, but the time and effort it would take to ensure that all can enjoy those things that whites currently enjoy.

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  3. Please be more specific. What are 3 examples of ways in which a white person can give time and effort to help work toward a society where everyone has equal privileges.

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  4. Thanks for dropping by, anonymous. The first thing to do is read this blog! and recommend it to your white folks! (insert smiling emoticon, etc.)

    Here's a list from my saturday book review (a summary of steps whites can take, as described in Robert Jensen's handy little handbook-for-white-folks, The Heart of Whiteness):

    * “The first step for whites is simple: to acknowledge that we are white people living in a white-supremacist society.”

    * The second step is to realize that America doesn’t have problems with people of color; those people are considered a problem because white people think so. White people are the problem, then, and they need to acknowledge that. [At least, first, to themselves.]

    * “As we struggle with how to confront systems of power and privilege, we should go toward that which most frightens us.” [Talk to people of color, for one thing, even if they scare you. I don't recommend, though, drilling them about matters of race.]

    * Work “to equalize resources for all students and end de facto educational apartheid.” [Surely there are ways to get involved with your local public school board.]

    * Find “a place in organizations run by non-white people, fitting ourselves into the agendas that they have set.”

    * Seek “ways to connect across racial lines in a society that for many of us is still largely segregated in housing and social patterns.”

    * Go forward “with passion and a sense of commitment in what one is fighting for, while at the same time being realistic about just how much one really understands a complex world.”

    There are other ways--write letters to the editor supporting defendants in racist legal cases; videotape the police as they treat differently raced traffic violators differently; call our your friends and acquaintances for racist jokes; ask that all-white things of all kinds be labeled such, and that they be more diverse; point out that white colleagues are thinking about, and treating differently, non-white colleagues.

    I could go on, but I must go on, to other things. These steps each counteract various white privileges, and all do so with a big one, the white privilege of not having to do anything to counteract racism.

    Does that help?

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  5. M. Macon,
    Then oyu must agree that the problem isn't "White priviledge," but the lack of rights among other people. "White priviledge" aint the problem. Keeping other oppressed and not allowing everyone to have the same rights nd priviledges is the problem.
    That has been defined for decades, centuries maybe. Why complicate it?
    SH

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  6. Yes, it does help somewhat. I did read this list earlier. I think most people reading your blog already talk to people of color, and don't tolerate racial jokes. I suppose I'd like to hear even more specifically you'd suggest doing to "connect across racial lines". And give an example of an organization run by non-white people that the average person can join. I think people are willing to listen to what you say but need more concrete examples of how to make a difference.

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  7. Hi anonymous, thanks for the follow-up. I know that in discussions of race, ordinary white folks need to be taken by the hand and guided toward that palace of wisdom, and I'll think about a post like that--a list of organizations they might join, for instance. The NAACP? A black church? A local mentoring organization? A local school board in a non-white district? Their own city council? A court system that offers guardian ad litem services?

    http://www.guardianadlitem.org/

    OTOH, I do want to give ordinary white folks some credit for imagination and resourcefulness, and those trying to encourage and guide them do have to let go of their hands sooner or later.

    SH, I'd like to answer your question with a question--why simplify things? White folks do that all the time, and POC find it really frustrating.

    One of the best things white people can do to work effectively against the oppression you acknowledge is to understand themselves, including the myriad ways white privilege works, at both the micro and macro levels. Marching forth like a White Savior without such self-awareness can be annoying, at best.

    White privilege may not be THE problem (though many would say it is), but white oblivion to it is one of the biggest problems.

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  8. White people simply things. Damn, and I always thought we were guilty of complicating things.
    Nope, white priviledge aint the problem or their oblivion to it. The problem is oppression of rights and their oblivion to it.
    It much easier to define that and get white people to see that than to fuck around talking about white priviledge. The folks around here who grew up dirt poor and worked their asses off to gain some measure of financial security would have a hard time digesting the idea that they somehow have some level of priviledgr in this world. Same goes for the people who are selling their stuff right now to pay for gas to get to work at their low paying jobs that they took after their high paying jobs were shipped off to Mexico and India. Tell them about their "priviledge."

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  9. SH, you're right that trying to convince such white folks would be a hard sell, as I've acknowledged before. But then, are they the ones who would spend much if any time reading blogs like mine? In other words, are those the white folks I'd like to have read this blog?

    Short answer--no. That's because they're not the ones who wield the more powerful forms of white privilege. They don't, that is, run and control institutions where white privilege affects the lives of non-whites.

    Just as blackness or Indian-ness are not monolithic, homogeneous entities, neither is whiteness. I don't feel a need, though, in discussing common white tendencies to qualify everything thing I say by adding, "Now remember, I'm not talking about ALL white folks here!" That should be a given by now.

    I wish we were discussing this in a room with non-white people in it. I doubt they'd agree that getting whites to understand their own privileges is a wasteful bit of "fucking around." And if you think that's what it is, what in the world keeps you coming back here?

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  10. I find getting whites (I'm black) to recognize the existence of white privilege extremely challenging. When i point them to the famous McIntosh list I usually get responses of "Well, I've been discriminated against!"

    "I don't fit ALL of those"

    "I don't believe in white privilege"

    It gets very tiresome trying to teach white people not only about life as minority, but about their culture as well.

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  11. @sagacioushillbilly:

    Then oyu must agree that the problem isn't "White priviledge," but the lack of rights among other people. "White priviledge" aint the problem. Keeping other oppressed and not allowing everyone to have the same rights nd priviledges is the problem.
    That has been defined for decades, centuries maybe. Why complicate it?


    White privilege is the same problem as denying privileges to non-whites. Micheal Kimmel writes:

    One way to understand how privilege works - and how it is kept invisible - is to look at the way we think about inequality. We always think about inequality from the perspective of the one who is hurt by the inequality, not the one who is helped. Take, for example, wage inequality based on gender. We're used to hearing that women make about seventy-one cents for every dollar made by a man. In that statistic women's wages are calculated as a function of men's wages; men's wages are the standard (the $1) against which women's wages are calculated. In this way, the discrimination against women is visible - doing the same job, they earn less, just because they are women.

    But what if we changed the statistics? What if we expressed men's wages as a function of women's wages? What if we said that for every dollar earned by a woman, men make $1.34? Then it wouldn't be the discrimination that was visible - it would be the privilege. Just for being a male, a male worker received an additional thirty-four cents. This is what sociologist R. W. Connell calls the "masculinity dividend" - the unearned benefits that accrue to men, just for being men.

    One could easily apply this to race, class, and sexuality.


    I would like to add that expressing women's wages in terms of men's wages is thinking of inequality from the perspective of the one who is helped. In terms of race, white people are the standard, and white people think that non-whites should become more like whites to achieve equality. However, from a non-white perspective, whites need to give up their white privilege and become more like non-whites to achieve equality. For zero-sum situations like a finite number of available job positions and homes, equality means that whites will have less access to jobs and housing compared white people's current access.

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  12. Ah yes, Kimmel's metaphor of a "breeze at my back," thanks for reminding me of that, Restructure!

    You're clearly right that equality would mean whites giving up some of what they have. As I think McIntosh says in her foundational article, it also means that some of the white privileges are simply things everyone should have--extending those "privileges" as "rights" to everyone wouldn't mean whites would have to give them up.

    So I suppose the need for whites to give up something toward increased equity depends on which privileges we're talking about.

    I'm actually just as concerned with what would happen after whites admit to such privileges, were that ever to happen. If most whites did come to realize the general phenomenon, why would they want to give up their racial privilege? I don't think that appealing to their basic, humane morality would be enough inducement. . .

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  13. I'm actually just as concerned with what would happen after whites admit to such privileges, were that ever to happen. If most whites did come to realize the general phenomenon, why would they want to give up their racial privilege? I don't think that appealing to their basic, humane morality would be enough inducement. . .

    Yes, that's one of the problems being discussed within antiracist dialogues. For example, Carmen van Kerckhove asks, Why Should White People Fight Racism?:

    If we're going to get people on board with fighting racism, we need to appeal to their enlightened self-interest in some way. But how? If we define -- as many activists do -- racism as a system that benefits whites at the expense of people of color, then how do we convince those reaping the benefits to change the system?

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  14. Right Restructure, thanks for adding that. I think one way to do it--to convince white folks to work against their whiteness--is to convince them that in addition to being "good" for them, it's also bad for them.

    So far, though, points made in that regard (in Thandeka's Learning to Be White, for instance) seem too abstract for the practical purpose of changing hearts and minds.

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  15. Diana Barry BlytheJune 3, 2009 at 11:59 AM

    "I do recognize, though, that getting whites to give up their privileges is a hard sell...." -- Macon D,

    First there must be a recognition that there is a problem/privilege. That's the real hard sell.

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  16. Good point, Diane. I think the list (by Robert Jensen) that I provided above in the fourth comment provides some concrete methods for trying to do that.

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  17. Diana Barry BlytheJune 3, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    "I'm actually just as concerned with what would happen after whites admit to such privileges, were that ever to happen. If most whites did come to realize the general phenomenon, why would they want to give up their racial privilege?" - Macon D.

    Macon, D., once it's acknowledged, it's on the table for discussion.

    That means, if you KNOW you're getting something that everyone should have but you're hogging it, it seems there can be active ways to fight that mentality.

    As I've mentioned before, the biggest hurdle is acknowledging the wrong because it tends to be indefinable and de facto.

    We would be in a mental fight.

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  18. My first realization of whiteness, was being bussed to an all-black school for kindergarten and 1st grade. I was never told of my differences so, as a child, I didn't care who my friends were. But looking back I remember how it felt to be one of maybe 2-3 white kids in my class. One of the things I remember vividly is the way my teacher (also white) treated me differently. I was expected to make good grades and to be well-behaved. I was praised highly in front of everyone. I was chosen to be "helper" more often. I was given the lead in a play starring a little white girl named Goldilocks. When this white folk singer came to play his guitar and sing to us, I was the only kid who was singled out and serenaded. And it's not that I wasn't bright for my age or that I didn't deserve to be praised or thought well of - it's that they didn't do the same thing for my classmates and I remember that to this day. I remember the way I felt weird around my friends after I was given privilege. Like there was some unsaid understanding that I was "special" and that my classmates were not. I don't know if WP realize that they do this or how early they start it. But it's just disgraceful to me. I didn't FEEL special - I felt embarrassed.

    In an ideal world, whites would give up White Privilege, but something could work right now is if whites would just show POC the same privilege, the same levels of respect and esteem as consistently as they do each other.

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  19. Coming late to the party (so to speak). I thought that all of the points in the video were valid and as a white person am trying very hard to acknowledge my privilege. One disagreement I have with the video is the image of a woman accompanying "I can go shopping fairly assured I won't be followed or harassed". This is exclusively a white male privilege and is not extended to females of any race. Interesting example of intersections of privilege

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