Has Black Friday arrived in America? If so, are you prepared?
Actually, if you're a "white" American, there's a good chance that you're less prepared than other Americans. Emotionally that, is. And mentally. Maybe even physically.
As is so often the case, Tim Wise has explained well this common symptom of learning to be white:
Racism and white privilege/supremacy generates a mindset of entitlement among those in the dominant group. This entitlement mentality can prove dangerous, whenever the expectations of a member of the group are frustrated. Principally this is because such persons develop very weak coping skills as a result of never having to overcome the obstacles that oppressed folks deal with every day and MUST conquer in order to survive.
So, as a result, it is the privileged (the beneficiaries of racism, and also, it should be pointed out, the class system) who are ill-prepared for setback: the loss of a job, stocks taking a nose-dive (who were the folks jumping out the windows in the great depression–not poor folks and folks of color, but rich whites who couldn’t handle being broke!) Likewise, if you look at the various personal pathologies that tend to be disproportionate in the white community (and upper middle class for that matter), they are interesting in that they all are about control–controlling one’s anxiety, emotional pain, or controlling and dominating others–like suicide, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-injury/mutilation, serial killing and mass murder (as opposed to just regular one-on-one homicide), sexual sadism killings, etc.
Not knowing how the world works is dangerous. White privilege and racism allow the dominant group to live in a bubble of unreality. Most days that’s no big deal I suppose. But every now and then reality intrudes on you and if you haven’t been expecting it, the trauma is magnified. So, when 9/11 happened, millions of whites were running around saying “why do they hate us?” because whites have never had to see our nation the way others do–we’ve been able to live in la-la land.
But folks of color didn’t say this, because those without privilege HAVE to know what others think about them. Not to do so is to be in perpetual danger. So whites flipped out, and by virtue of being unprepared, pushed for a policy response (war) that folks of color were HIGHLY skeptical of from the beginning. But whites, enthralled by our sense of righteousness (itself a manifestation of privilege), pushed forward, convinced that the war in Iraq would go swimmingly. How’s that working out?
In other words, racism and privilege generate mentalities and policies that are dysfunctional, even deadly for whites as with folks of color. Folks of color are the first victims, to be sure, and the worst. But as someone else said, what goes around. . .
Privilege creates a false sense of security. Being the dominant group can set you up for a fall, can prevent you from building up the coping skills needed to deal with setback, because so often those skills are ones you just don't need.
Until you do, that is.
[This quotation is adapted from two sources: a comment Tim Wise wrote at Resist Racism, and one of his books, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son. Lyrics for Steely Dan's song "Black Friday"]