White Privilege

Discussion in 'Politics' started by dbphoenix, Aug 23, 2014.

  1. dbphoenix


    A half century ago, after covering datelines like Birmingham, Alabama and Oxford, Mississippi and men like Dr. Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers, I came to Washington as the CBS News White House Correspondent to report on the Johnson administration. Some of the successes from the front lines in the civil rights struggle I had covered as a field reporter were just being codified into groundbreaking legislation -- the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. If you had asked me then what America would look like in 50 years, namely now in our present time, there were two vision I would never have believed. I never would have dreamed that we would elect an African American president. That seemed a leap forward that would take at least a century. On the other hand, I didn't think we would see voting rights rolled back, de facto school resegregation in much of the nation, and scenes like we saw this week of an almost all-white police force in a majority African-American town facing off against peaceful marchers in military-style gear and heavy weaponry... But both President Obama and Ferguson, Missouri are the realities of race in 21st Century America.

    I have wondered the last few days what Dr. King and his fellow leaders would have made of a nation of such seeming contradictions. I would never have the audacity to attempt to speak for Dr. King, but I think he would challenge us by saying something like, "you have achieved much but you only focused on half of my message."

    The way the civil rights movement largely lives in our national consciousness is that it was all about race. But that is only part of the story. It was as much about the powerful and the powerless. The rich and the poor. Those who have opportunity and those of whom the circumstances of birth allowed for very little reason for hope. In short, it is about true equality of opportunity for ALL Americans, or as close as is humanly possible to come to that.

    I would respectfully suggest that we focus at looking at Ferguson, Missouri through a broader prism of civil rights. We don't really know everything that took place during that tragic and fateful encounter between a young, unarmed black man and the police. Indeed that is part of the frustration. There needs to be a full and impartial investigation with deliberate speed. Yes, you have to see the scenes from Ferguson in the lens of race. The pictures and video capture well the differences in skin color between those marching and those holding the guns. But that is not the only divide. If somehow there was a camera that could capture life stories, you would see other lines of partition between those who hold the power in Ferguson and many of those marching. You would see divisions along economic lines, educational opportunities, access to health care, and so many others. We can and should debate policy in this country but we should not debate the facts of so much inequality. So debate the role of unions, but don't debate that many workers are suffering with low pay and poor working conditions. Debate the role of charter schools and the Common Core, but do not debate whether there is inequality in our education system. Debate how to best deal with our immigration problems, but do not debate that millions of men, women, and children are living in the shadows amongst us.

    Addressing these economic and social ills, which disproportionately affect communities of color, must be just as much a part of Dr. King's legacy as racial equality. We remember and laud the march on Washington and the "I Have a Dream" speech, but at the time of Dr. King's assassination, he was leading what was known as the "Poor Person's Campaign." He described it as "the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity." (Emphasis mine).

    Dr. King was vague about how he would have the country accomplish this. And whatever proposed solutions from that time would likely be dated today. That's not the point. Ultimately civil rights is not a black-and-white issue, literally or figuratively. It's about liberty and justice for all. With Ferguson, there are worthy discussions about race in America, and whether the police are too militarized. Yet we must see that even these important topics fit into a larger narrative. This nation has perilous fault lines between its citizens. Race is part of the story, but so too are questions of economic and social justice. Dr. King saw these divisions and worried about them. We must as well, if we care, really care, about what is to become of our country.

    Dan Rather
    #51     Aug 27, 2014
  2. dbphoenix


    White privilege is a protection racket, the ultimate head start. The "liberal meritocracy" benefits from it too

    I spent 12 years of my life in St. Louis. I went to college there. Got married. Landed my first teaching job. Bought my first house. Between door-knocking for candidates and causes, driving around on ice cold nights in a homeless shelter van, and breaking bread in people’s homes and churches and synagogues, I came to know the metropolis well. I came to love and admire its many communities — including Ferguson: so tenacious, so full of hardworking families trying to stay afloat, trying to dismantle racial apartheid and make a better life for their children.

    But each time I tried to write about Ferguson, I could only stare into the blank screen, dumbfounded. It wasn’t the killing of Michael Brown that left me speechless: tragically, the murder of black men by police is common. It wasn’t the riots that stumped me: Ferguson residents are rightfully fed up with being treated as second-class citizens. It wasn’t even the ludicrous spectacle of a hyper-militarized police response. I’ve been following that story for years.

    No, what dumbfounded me was the outpouring of white anger and resentment. As police, pundits, politicians and their supporters sought control over the narrative of events in Ferguson, they drew from the deep well of moral panic and race hatred that in many ways define our contemporary political landscape. I am not talking about the moronic counter-protests by the Klan, or the impending race war hallucinated by capital-R Racists. I am talking about the insidious language of white privilege — the civil, polite, unconscious adoption by white people of racially normative viewpoints that give us comfort and help explain the world on our terms.

    For those of us born with white skin, white privilege is the air we breathe; we don’t even have to think about it. It is like the fish that never notices the water in which it swims. It is a glorious gift we have given to ourselves through the social order we have constructed, from top to bottom and bottom to top. It is the pillage of continents, the enslavement of people, the hatred of dark-skinned “others,” all somehow magically laundered by our commitments to democracy, self-reliance, individualism and the “post-racial, color-blind society.” It is our abject unwillingness to confront our history, to correct the deficits of our memory, to lean against the amnesia of a white story told.

    Meanwhile, white privilege is a grand protection racket. It has always paid substantial dividends, both in the short term and over generations, by restricting access to a valuable commodity — white skin. The wage we extract from racial difference keeps us committed to its perpetuation, even if we don’t know (or refuse to believe) that we are so committed. White privilege is a legacy, an inheritance, an account on which we can draw over and over and over again for any advantage, however small. It is the accumulation of racially protected, white-defended land, property, education, goods, institutions, mobility, rights and freedom. It is the ultimate head start. Rarely do we even know that we are drawing on these protected accounts, so ubiquitous and profound is the fund. Wave after wave of immigrants has had to learn this lesson, adopting white privilege and anti-black racism to fit properly into their new country.

    But take away the air, and we gasp — we don’t know how to breathe in any other medium. In a paroxysm of fear and pain, we hyperventilate, clutching for a lifeline. Put millions of white people into the same scenario, and you get a great moral panic. In earlier times, the moral panic over race flowed from the raiments of a slave-based republic: the Democratic Party, the Confederacy, the Klan, sundown towns, lynchings and chain gangs. Today this moral panic is exemplified by the Tea Party, the GOP, right-wing media, gun toters at Wal-Mart and “patriots” like Cliven Bundy. And chain gangs. Race itself might have no basis in science, no purchase in differentiating humans genetically, but it is nevertheless a powerful cultural force. Race is the house of many rooms, built by white people for “the world and all those who dwell therein” (Psalms 24:1).

    White privilege requires constant vigilance at the borders of identity, constant policing of difference. The frantic call among right-wing pundits to “secure the borders” by erecting walls has its psychic corollary in the maintenance of white supremacy. How could we possibly have a black president? Who are these strange people crossing our borders? How could anyone profess any other belief besides Christianity? Why do my tax dollars go to support those people (meaning dark-skinned residents of inner cities, not corporations and lobbyists and the military)? Meanwhile, we cling to the myth of the post-racial society, where suddenly, somehow we will be judged solely on the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. In this way, “not seeing race” becomes the peculiar privilege of white people who, perhaps unbeknownst to them, see race everywhere always.

    #52     Aug 27, 2014
  3. dbphoenix


    White liberals try to blame “the South” or the ignorance of white working-class people for the persistence of racism. But there is plenty of ignorance to go around among white folks in all walks of life. In the 1950s, race-liberal politicians in the urban North proposed separate swimming days as a way to stave off white citizens’ fears of race mixing in public pools. In the 1960s, white liberals frequently upheld Dr. King as a civil rights hero while denigrating Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party. Racism knows no class boundaries, and benefits all whites, if not equally. Indeed, it can be particularly virulent among white elites, who have long used race as a way to divide and weaken working-class people, from Carnegie’s deployment of black laborers as strikebreakers to Lee Atwater’s Willie Horton strategy to the Koch brothers’ latest campaigns.

    Pinpointing the South as the source of the problem is equally chimerical. The majority of hyper-segregated cities in the U.S. are in Northern states, and redlining and “white flight” proved as extensive in the North as in Dixie. To be sure, the Old Confederacy lingers like an undigested morsel, a failed state within our national borders, and will do so until we pull down the statues of traitors like Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Canny white politicians in the 1960s counted on race as an electoral motivator to take over the Republican Party via the so-called Southern Strategy. But the power of anti-black racism is not and never has been relegated to one region of the country — after all, great race-baiters like Nixon, Goldwater and Reagan hailed from Western states, while the South produced its share of courageous politicians.

    Today’s GOP is the party of angry white men, not of the South. And racism is not confined to the GOP, however expert the party has become at exploiting race as an electoral dynamo. Rather, racism has long comprised a core pillar of the republic — as close as anything to the beating heart of our body politic.

    In many ways, white privilege is more insidious than white supremacy. Both depend at root on the white power structure, but draw from that well in different ways. Advocates of white supremacy make no bones about their views, and approach the world with a modicum of clarity as to where they stand. They constitute the corporate lobby for whiteness as a racial political and economic interest. White privilege, on the other hand, rests on an edifice of special stupidity — a passive condition that literally stupefies the subject, inuring him or her against critical insight. It enables white people to assume the mantle of “color blindness” so as to perform the perfect legerdemain: making claims that do not seem to be explicitly about race, but are in fact about little else.

    Thus, white privilege need not be overtly racist, and in fact is most potent when expressed through coded language cleansed of racial terms. It comes out into the world in phrases that seem reasonable to us white folk, but that obscure the immense freight of racism they carry — phrases like: “I’m not racist, but”; “my ancestors didn’t own slaves so I am not responsible”; “I didn’t get any breaks, I worked for everything I have”; and “what are they complaining about, things are so much better now.” Instead of “black neighborhood,” we say “high crime,” “dangerous” or “investment risk.” Instead of young black male, we say “thug” and “gangster.” White privilege leads us to repeat nostrums like “hey, Africans had slaves too”; “Republicans aren’t racists because the Democrats were the party of slavery”; and “what about black-on-black crime.” Such phrases are so utterly denuded of historical context as to be meaningless, yet they are repeated ad nauseam by right-wing bloggers and pundits.

    White privilege enables us to pontificate on, and justify, the murder by police of black men who wear hoodies, smoke pot, sell “loosies,” shoplift or resist arrest. It enables us to ignore (or not even be capable of seeing) the glaring contradictions and double-standards that pervade the criminal justice system, from arrest to prosecution to sentencing — and even to media reporting on crime. White cokeheads get a slap on the wrist and some community service, while black crack users do 20 years at Joliet. George Zimmerman was standing his ground when he killed a black minor, while Marissa Alexander’s three warning shots against her abuser got her 20 years. White shoplifters after Hurricane Katrina are “survivors,” while black shoplifters are “looters.” White men who resist arrest typically get tackled or tasered. Black men resist arrest at their ultimate peril. Such double standards wrap white privilege in the comforting cloak of civility and reason, or what passes as such in our current non-conversation on race.

    Still, at the deepest level, white privilege is an excruciatingly laborious fiction to uphold. It is exhausting, a heavy psychic penalty, a debenture drawn off the scales of justice. It makes us neurotic, fearful, angry, depressed and mean. It requires us to fully absorb the phantasm of race and to map moral and economic worth across gradations of skin color. Of course, black people suffer orders of magnitude greater trauma, physical pain and mental torment under the sign of white power. Nevertheless, it is the sickness at the heart of our body politic, and it floods our personal and social relations with an anxious bile. We white folk don’t know the source of this angst because we can’t see it. Most black people have no difficulty seeing it; whiteness envelops our bodies in a haze, and privilege flows from our lips like bitter honey.

    In the end, I am convinced that white privilege blinds white people to our real interests, separates us from our best allies, and denies us grander aspirations. It hollows out life and hinders love. Most important, it victimizes people of color and forecloses opportunities for a greater common good. The fire this time is small. Some day it might burn large and bright — a hundred Fergusons, or a thousand. There is only so much give in our social fabric. People need to be heard, one way or another. It is time to reckon our privileges and to listen, to unplug from the Matrix of white supremacy. Time to breathe a different air.

    Joseph Heathcott
    #53     Aug 27, 2014
  4. Dan Rather. Seriously?

    Let me translate his typically pompous and patronizing observations. The democrats, the media and Hollywood have managed to drag the country down to the point that they elected an unqualified radical soley because he was black and not obviously crazy. Unfortuntately, he has been so incompetent that even the media can't hide it any longer. As a result it is necessary to rile up blacks and clueless liberals to get them to vote in the upcoming elections. This Ferguson thing is not perfect, but it will have to do.
    #54     Aug 27, 2014
    WeToddDid2 likes this.
  5. Tsing Tao

    Tsing Tao

    More utter horseshit. The GOP exploits racism to get ahead in elections? Really? Man, you are fucking deluded!
    #55     Aug 27, 2014
  6. This is an example of why I think government support for "higher education" should end. Normal people just do not come up with ideas like this Heathcott. They have to be indoctrinated for years and years.

    The question is why would hardworking taxpaayers want their taxes flushed away to support the teaching of this kind of nonsense?
    #56     Aug 27, 2014
  7. Lucrum


    #57     Aug 27, 2014
  8. Maybe it's really "Asian privilege" in America. Anybody ever hear of that?

    On Bill O'Reilly's show this week, he highlighted the following....

    1. $69,000+, Average Annual Earnings for Asians

    2. $57,00+, Average Annual Earnings for Caucasions

    3. $33,000+, Average Annual Earnings for Blacks.

    Asians have an 88% HS graduation rate
    Whites have 86% graduation rate
    Blacks have 69% graduation rate

    (I'm sure the differential gets even greater if included "went on to get college degree".... the differential would get even greater again if measured "GRE Scores".)

    There's a correlation here. Can you see it?

    I'm really glad to see this. It never has been "whitey getting over on the blacks", in spite of what the race baiters pontificate.


    In my house, it was #1, homework, #2, chores (taking out trash, picking up dog poop, mowing the lawn, cleaning my room, etc.) Then and only then, #3... sports, hanging out, play. And I was held accountable... by my report card. Let that slip, and #3 got curtailed.

    What was wrong with that? Why isn't it the same today? (Rhetorical question, I get it... and "no", I'm not Asian.)
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
    #58     Aug 27, 2014
    WeToddDid2 and DHOHHI like this.



    And all kids have an opportunity to succeed .... it's a choice

    #59     Aug 27, 2014
    WeToddDid2 likes this.
  10. Yes, they do. Property owners are FORCED to pay a lot in taxes to support education. We spend >$10,000/year/student trying educate them*. But it's mostly for naught if the kids don't make the effort to do the work.... THEN, the education establishment makes excuses for them and protests, "more money is the solution". :(

    *Actually, most of the money goes to teachers'/admins' salaries, benefits, and pensions.. thanks to greedy teacher's unions... but that's a different story.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
    #60     Aug 27, 2014