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Explaining White Privilege to the Deniers and the Haters

Explaining White Privilege (Or, Your Defense Mechanism is Showing) 

Sigh.

I guess I should have expected it, seeing as how it's nothing new. I write a piece on racism and white privilege (namely, the recently viral This is Your Nation on White Privilege), lots of folks read it, many of them like it, and others e-mail me in fits of apoplexy, or post scathing critiques on message boards in which they invite me to die, to perform various sexual acts upon myself that I feel confident are impossible, or, best of all, to "go live in the ghetto," whereupon I will come to "truly appreciate the animals" for whom I have so much affection (the phrase they use for me and that affection, of course, sounds a bit different, and I'll leave it to your imagination to conjure the quip yourself).

Though I have no desire to debate the points made in the original piece, I would like to address some of the more glaring, and yet reasonable, misunderstandings that many seem to have about the subject of white privilege. That many white folks don't take well to the term is an understatement, and quite understandable. For those of us in the dominant group, the notion that we may receive certain advantages generally not received by others is a jarring, sometimes maddening concept. And if we don't understand what the term means, and what those who use it mean as they deploy it, our misunderstandings can generate anger and heat, where really, none is called for. So let me take this opportunity to explain what I mean by white privilege.

Of course, the original piece only mentioned examples of white privilege that were directly implicated in the current presidential campaign. It made no claims beyond that. Yet many who wrote to me took issue with the notion that there was such a thing, arguing, for instance that there are lots of poor white people who have no privilege, and many folks of color who are wealthy, who do. But what this argument misses is that race and class privilege are not the same thing.

Though we are used to thinking of privilege as a mere monetary issue, it is more than that. Yes, there are rich black and brown folks, but even they are subject to racial profiling and stereotyping (especially because those who encounter them often don't know they're rich and so view them as decidedly not), as well as bias in mortgage lending, and unequal treatment in schools. So, for instance, even the children of well-off black families are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than the children of poor whites, and this is true despite the fact that there is no statistically significant difference in the rates of serious school rule infractions between white kids or black kids that could justify the disparity (according to fourteen different studies examined by Russ Skiba at Indiana University).

As for poor whites, though they certainly are suffering economically, this doesn't mean they lack racial privilege. I grew up in a very modest apartment, and economically was far from privileged. Yet I received better treatment in school (placement in advanced track classes even when I wasn't a good student), better treatment by law enforcement officers, and indeed more job opportunities because of connections I was able to take advantage of, that were pretty much unavailable to the folks of color I knew growing up. Likewise, low income whites everywhere are able to clean up, go to a job interview and be seen as just another white person, whereas a person of color, even who isn't low-income, has to wonder whether or not they might trip some negative stereotype about their group when they go for an interview or sit in the classroom answering questions from the teacher. Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but even low-income whites are more likely to own their own home than middle income black families, thanks to past advantages in housing and asset accumulation, which has allowed those whites to receive a small piece of property from their families.

The point is, privilege is as much a psychological matter as a material one. Whites have the luxury of not having to worry that our race is going to mark us negatively when looking for work, going to school, shopping, looking for a place to live, or driving for that matter: things that folks of color can't take for granted.

Let me share an analogy to make the point.

Taking things out of the racial context for a minute: imagine persons who are able bodied, as opposed to those with disabilities. If I were to say that able-bodied persons have certain advantages, certain privileges if you will, which disabled persons do not, who would argue the point? I imagine that no one would. It's too obvious, right? To be disabled is to face numerous obstacles. And although many persons with disabilities overcome those obstacles, this fact doesn't take away from the fact that they exist. Likewise, that persons with disabilities can and do overcome obstacles every day, doesn't deny that those of us who are able-bodied have an edge. We have one less thing to think and worry about as we enter a building, go to a workplace, or just try and navigate the contours of daily life. The fact that there are lots of able-bodied people who are poor, and some disabled folks who are rich, doesn't alter the general rule: on balance, it pays to be able-bodied.

That's all I'm saying about white privilege: on balance, it pays to be a member of the dominant racial group. It doesn't mean that a white person will get everything they want in life, or win every competition, but it does mean that there are general advantages that we receive.

So, for instance, studies have found that job applicants with white sounding names are 50% more likely to receive a call-back for a job interview than applicants with black-sounding names, even when all job-related qualifications and credentials are the same.

Other studies have found that white men with a criminal record are more likely to get a call-back for an interview than black male job applicants who don't have one, even when all requisite qualifications, demeanor and communication styles are the same.

Others have found that white women are far more likely than black women to be hired for work through temporary agencies, even when the black women have more experience and are more qualified.

Evidence from housing markets has found that there are about two million cases of race-based discrimination against people of color every year in the United States. That's not just bad for folks of color; the flipside is that there are, as a result, millions more places I can live as a white person.

Or consider criminal justice. Although data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that whites are equally or more likely than blacks or Latinos to use drugs, it is people of color (blacks and Latinos mostly) who comprise about 90 percent of the persons incarcerated for a drug possession offense. Despite the fact that white men are more likely to be caught with drugs in our car (on those occasions when we are searched), black men remain about four times more likely than white men to be searched in the first place, according to Justice Department findings. That's privilege for the dominant group.

That's the point: privilege is the flipside of discrimination. If people of color face discrimination, in housing, employment and elsewhere, then the rest of us are receiving a de facto subsidy, a privilege, an advantage in those realms of daily life. There can be no down without an up, in other words.

None of this means that white folks don't face challenges. Of course we do, and some of them (based on class, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or other factors) are systemic and institutionalized. But on balance, we can take for granted that we will receive a leg-up on those persons of color with whom we share a nation.

And no, affirmative action doesn't change any of this.

Despite white fears to the contrary, even with affirmative action in place (which, contrary to popular belief does not allow quotas or formal set-asides except in those rare cases where blatant discrimination has been proven) whites hold about ninety percent of all the management level jobs in this country, receive about ninety-four percent of government contract dollars, and hold ninety percent of tenured faculty positions on college campuses. And in spite of affirmative action programs, whites are more likely than members of any other racial group to be admitted to their college of first choice.* And according to a study released last year, for every student of color who received even the slightest consideration from an affirmative action program in college, there are two whites who failed to meet normal qualification requirements at the same school, but who got in anyway because of parental influence, alumni status or because other favors were done.

Furthermore, although white students often think that so-called minority scholarships are a substantial drain on financial aid resources that would otherwise be available to them, nothing could be further from the truth. According to a national study by the General Accounting Office, less than four percent of scholarship money in the U.S. is represented by awards that consider race as a factor at all, while only 0.25 percent (that's one quarter of one percent for the math challenged) of all undergrad scholarship dollars come from awards that are restricted to persons of color alone. What's more, the idea that large numbers of students of color receive the benefits of race-based scholarships is lunacy of the highest order. In truth, only 3.5 percent of college students of color receive any scholarship even partly based on race, suggesting that such programs remain a pathetically small piece of the financial aid picture in this country, irrespective of what a gaggle of reactionary white folks might believe.**

In other words, despite the notion that somehow we have attained an equal opportunity, or color-blind society, the fact is, we are far from an equitable nation. People of color continue to face obstacles based solely on color, and whites continue to reap benefits from the same. None of this makes whites bad people, and none of it means we should feel guilty or beat ourselves up. But it does mean we need to figure out how we're going to be accountable for our unearned advantages. One way is by fighting for a society in which those privileges will no longer exist, and in which we will be able to stand on our own two feet, without the artificial crutch of racial advantage to prop us up. We need to commit to fighting for racial equity and challenging injustice at every turn, not only because it harms others, but because it diminishes us as well (even as it pays dividends), and because it squanders the promise of fairness and equity to which we claim to adhere as Americans.

It's about responsibility, not guilt. And if one can't see the difference between those two things, there is little that this or any other article can probably do. Perhaps starting with a dictionary would be better.

*U.S Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, Good for Business: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital. (Washington DC: Bureau of National Affairs, March 1995); Fred L. Pincus, Reverse Discrimination: Dismantling the Myth. (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003), 18; Roberta J. Hill, "Far More Than Frybread," in Race in the College Classroom: Pedagogy and Politics, ed. Bonnie TuSmith and Maureen T. Reddy. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press), 169; Sylvia Hurtado and Christine Navia, "Reconciling College Access and the Affirmative Action Debate," in Affirmative Action's Testament of Hope, ed. Mildred Garcia (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1997), 115.
**U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994. "Information on Minority Targeted Scholarships," B251634. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January; Stephen L. Carter, "Color-Blind and Color-Active," 1992. The Recorder. January 3.

 

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Stats

In response, my point is that decades ago, blacks didn't hold any upper management positions at all, so I choose to see that there is progress. I don't think it helps the cause to be solely fixated on the negative because I believe what we focus on grows bigger. I know it isn't yet ideal, but minorities have only had a few generations in which to catch up. The fact that they are catching up means that this country's racism is starting to lose ground. I work somewhere where our CEO is a gay man with two adopted (black) kids and the next in the line of command is a black woman, and the next down is a white lesbian. Our company is a pretty good mix. I know that it is nowhere near this ideal in other companies (I have also worked in the old "boys club" work environments where women and minorities clearly could not get ahead), but it does show that it is possible. I don't quite understand the concept that we cannot use optimism rather than pessimism to propel us forward toward a goal. That's my only point. It feels invalidating of the progress we have made and those of us who are not part of the old guard when not only is it ignored, but outright denied. I feel, can't we stop and acknowledge that a black man is in a historic position politically before we point out the work that still needs to be done? I'm not motivated by anger and the half-empty glass.

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But That's A Very White Liberal Way of Looking

Of course there's been progress, not only with race but as you rightly identify gay rights, women's rights, rights of the poor, etc. Then again, it's not all a rosy picture. The post-1970s adjustment to a neo-liberal economy has slammed the poor, especially blacks. The current fallout of the housing crisis and the recession has also been a crisis that slams the poor but has been an especially racist crisis, since a good portion of the housing crisis was black, Latino and other non-white families beginning to break into the middle class but forced into sub-prime loans thanks to racism in lending.

The problem with thinking that there has been progress and taking that as the starting point for discussion, though, is that it in and of itself is an expression of white privilege. As Malcolm X put it, if you stab someone in the leg with a ten inch knife then pull five inches out, it is easy for YOU to claim that there has been progress, but for them the wound is still real. Only those for whom the completion of the progress won't matter can say, "Well, there has been progress", as if that mattered to the person who is in jail or denied a loan or denied a job opportunity or is put in a remedial class or a failing school because that progress is not yet complete.

It is a good thing that there have been real changes since the 50s. I agree with you that, if our advocacy focuses only on problems without giving a historical analysis of how those problems are solved, we won't generate interest. Michael Albert, I think, has made the point compellingly that most of the people we're looking at targeting now have some awareness of the problems they face and of the institutional issues. What I think has happened is that there's no hope, no faith that institutions can be reformed or (my preference) altered and replaced revolutionarily. This is why in White Like Me, Tim included a chapter on that very hope and why it was indeed possible for whites and blacks to confront racism and chip away at it.

I'm a half-glass full thinker too, but the problem is that Tim is facing active denial that there is even a glass to evaluate. In a lot of Americans' eyes, the glass of the average black man and woman is filled to the brim, and some Americans even think a black man's glass is just a LITTLE bigger than their own. They have no idea or indeed actively deny that racism is a real issue that, despite progress having been made, actively impedes blacks in addition to whatever other disadvantages (class, sex, handicap or disability, etc.) they may have and helps offset the advantages of even those who are lucky enough to be rich. And in that backdrop in particular, talking about the progress made tends to have a lulling effect on white audiences: They get less mad, less engaged with the problem, and think it'll resolve itself. All the programming kicks in. When the problem is focused on, when people's defenses are batted aside and laid bare, when they are finally forced to admit that there is a problem, THEN at that point where they stare into the abyss it is important to point out why they must fight and why that fight can be successful. But as long as we have people even denying a problem exists, our activism first has to be oriented to raising awareness of that problem and battling apologists and denial.

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Agreed

Thanks for that response. Now that's a concept I CAN get my head around, that people like Tim do recognize progress but don't want the people who deny racism exists in this country to get complacent. I have my doubts that he is a "half glass full thinker", but at least that's a theory I can get on board with. But then, I still take issue with some of the points in the original "Nation on White Privilege" post, because the first points were so obvious and so clear that those denying white privilege would have to take note. I mean, there's a reason people on here keep citing the guns and underaged pregnancy examples. It's because they are the most obviously valid. Anyone would have to acknowlege that double standard if they thought about it. I wish Tim could have stuck with those excellent points and cut it off after them. But then he starts writing about Obama on Bill O'Reilly versus the Sarah Palin interview, and the white privilege double standard is not evident there at all. Those partisan attitudes have been set in stone for eons, regardless of color. So these latter points, rather than provide the "pow" of the first points, actually serve to undo any clarity that was initially made for the doubters, and give the desired ammunition to those who wish to deny that white privilege exists.

Anyway, thanks for a considerate and succintly stated response. Frederic, you should be the one writing viral e-mails! Your rational rather than emotional way of writing could really reach people who would normally not remain open to something they don't agree with.

 

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It's About What Sticks

It's impossible to not recognize progress; the country simply is not what it was in the 50s and 60s. The barest look at history will tell us that. The problem is that we whites are socialized to look at the fact that Jim Crow isn't around and say, "Well, there's no more racism, we're done". But just like the end of slavery only scratched the surface of the problem with American racism, the end of Jim Crow still is far from the end of racism.

I can't speak for Tim, so just read the end of White Like Me or his numerous articles where he talks about the value of the fight against racism. But I AM a half glass full thinker, an optimist, yet I don't confuse optimism with denial. For me, optimism means faith that we can improve from where we are and perspective about where we are, not denying the bad.

The other points are quite valid too, ME. And I think they're actually more important than the other ones BECAUSE they're more contentious. We're used to looking at those problems and thinking "Oh, that's just partisan politics" or maybe if we're a little more enlightened "Oh, that's classism". But there is also a racial specter there and talking about it is important, just as many commenters noted additional sexist dimensions that may not have been our instinctive response. Remember that blacks are much more likely to see racism where we see classism or politics. I think that it makes sense for us to see why.

Again: Yes, those partisan standards are around, that's true. Politics will have slimy things going on independent of race. But it is amazing what McCain is able to get away with because of race. Last night's SNL intro (available at NBC.com) brilliantly satirized how deceptive and dishonest McCain's ads have been, so much so that even Karl Rove has said that the ads don't match the truth test. This is really a qualitatively new level of political mudslinging, and a good portion of that has to do with race. Moreover, the point in politics isn't what slime you throw, but what slime sticks. And so much slime that would not only fail to stick but would seem totally absurd were Obama white is successful because he's black. The Michelle Obama example is a perfect one. So's the Reverend Wright example: People take Wright's comments to mean white hating and anti-Semitism because that is the racial script we read no matter what Wright may say. Yes, both sides go after each other's churches typically, but even liberal folks are hyper-critical of Wright.

I blog and write constantly. Hopefully I'll get published at some point - I submit to Z, so we'll see. Thanks for the encouragement.

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White on White Interrogation

It is essential that Tim Wise write what he does. It is essential that whites look within themselves and thereby absolve the rest of us who are of color from saving there souls. See Martin Luther King, among others. In my 30 some odd years of life as a Black woman, I have steadily and been readily confronted by whites on issues of racism and injustice from the blatantly obvious to the nuanced. And what really gets me is that the most liberal of whites, because somewhere along the way they decided to maybe eschew their racist upbringings and that was that, and now, hey, they're liberals and they don't see race! I note in the cases of persons I know that this epiphany is not necessarily grounded in deep and historically contexted reflection, and as a result, there are a lot well meaning white people out there who haven't a clue. This not a colorblind society, in fact there isn't one that exists in Western world. Race matters, because as Wise so concisely laid out, race can be directly apportioned to instances and trends of discrimination and privilege.

That's why it is importat that Wises' essay is grounded in statistical fact. There are concrete issues that Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Natives face that many of the most well meaning whites are completely unaware of and if or when confronted by these truths their first instinct would be to deny their existence. In short, whites are due for an existentialist crisis.

Whites need to take responsibility for themselves and confront the privilege they've reaped in this country at the expense of the humanity of so many non-white people, rather than always alighting on the perceived weaknesses of the rest of us to explain why the sh#t in this country is so f#cked up.

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paradox

First of all, I'm a new audience member. Secondly, I am just a few months into using my voice for change. It may help to know I am a 35 year old white woman. That seems to help people when engaging in the scary, uncomfortable territory of White Privilege.

All that said, this will jump around. Bear with me.

In response to another comment - one who said issues of Privilege are not so pervasive as you claim them to be:

The roots of White Privilege run so deep as to influence absolutely everything that any white person experiences every day. Denial, whether full of vitriole or perfectly calm, is only the result of getting too close to someone's comfort zone. It is perfectly natural.

Honestly, we are all surrounded by at least one layer of ignorance about the world around us. I'll be the first in line to admit I wish I just knew everything, and understood it all, so that I never felt guilty or was proven wrong again. This conversation is always going to be tremendously humbling for everyone involved. It is time to accept that.

Those who deny can simply turn their backs and return to their live of Privilege. If they are meant to open their minds and hearts to this evolution, it will simply approach them in another form.

I am listening to your White Like Me presentation on YouTube right now and I have to offer you gratitude for taking one more step back...to point out that racism, prejudice, cultural incompetency, and issues of Privilege would not exist if the concept of the "other" was not originally defined by whites.

We know from the way that economic injustice works in the world that it does not take a majority population to maintain injustice - oppression can easily remain in any scenario even if there is only one person oppressing and millions being oppressed.

We are living in a complacent bubble, having been lulled into believing we are not independently able to affect change (socially, racially, economically, etc) - that we have to rely on a power outside ourselves to initiate it and then take control of it for us. We believe we are not the experts on our own lives.

This happened to many of us starting in childhood with our own parents, guardians, and caregivers. This reflects social practices in the context of privilege - you want your family to fit into the majority, to be accepted by the rest of society and not be considered part of the "other"? Here's how you do it!

Ready to leap?

If you don't believe me and are an adult, ask your grandparents. Or ask your parents. Baby boomers were raised by this generation - how they learned to parent, where they got support. If they are white, they got it from neighborhood groups, their parents, their church. They got it from their clan. If, along the way, someone or something showed them another way to do things, they knew it was wrong because it was not the way their parents taught them, so they rejected it - sweetly and gently, but rejected it nonetheless.

Okay, how about a bigger leap?

To make it plain, millions of children (now adults in their 40s-70s) were raised by parents who relied on the Catholic church for support and those children ended up being primarily influenced by priests - millions of them to the detriment of the rest of their lives because of regular sexual victimization. Truth be told, other faith practices are damned lucky that we have only concentrated on the Catholics so far. This is a tool for control, a popular tool for oppression.

There are many and varied tools for oppression in this world and, if you are a survivor of childhood abuse and a white person, you have that much more reason to clench and hold on tight to anything that helps you feel more in control as an adult.

Nowadays, many more parents are splitting off from how they were raised and are trying something new - tossing out the broken in exchange for taking some risks to give their children a better life. Much of the old guard parenting came from higher up - from government and church-based advise.

That is part of the lulling process and only one example of how Privilege is so invasive as to eventually bleed into areas seemingly far removed from the color of our skin.

It truly is only a matter of time before change happens. As for myself, I'm convinced that even Obama will not be the absolute agent of change. Symbolically, however, he is perfect. He is entering a world that has existed for more than two hundred years and nothing I have heard is convincing me that he will be able to change all of it. That said, out of the two parties (and until the day we have 18 - or whatever - more to seriously choose from like more advanced parts of the world) his is the one I believe in more in the context of the change we need - change to move further into the conversation on privilege and race.

At the end of this political story, I believe it will not be the government but the people who will be staging the uprising, taking care of each other's needs because the "other" (gov't, in this case) is too tied up in their own red tape.

So you see, as one person responding to Tim's post, I brings examples of how White Privilege has affected my life in a variety of ways: parenting, abuse, ancestral lineage, education, domestic and world politics, economic injustice, and on. The one thread that binds it all is the human experience. As long as we see Privilege as an issue seperate from others, it will continue to bleed.

 

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Not Millions. Tens of Thousands.

"To make it plain, millions of children (now adults in their 40s-70s) were raised by parents who relied on the Catholic church for support and those children ended up being primarily influenced by priests - millions of them to the detriment of the rest of their lives because of regular sexual victimization."

Ummmm, MILLIONS? I am intimately connected to victims of molestation from within the church, but I've never heard the figure be plausibly suggested to be millions. The John Jay report, probably the most critical of the reports on the topic, suggests (according to the Wiki), that "... accusations [were made] against 4,392 priests in the USA, about 4% of all priests." That'd mean even if all abused 10 children AND the real situation is ten times as large as reported, that'd be 439,200 in the USA, not "millions". The hyperbole on this issue is really extreme. In the interest of full disclosure: I'm Buddhist and am critical of Catholic Church doctrine on many issues, and their treatment of the molestation issue has been shameful. But it really discredits you when you inflate the problem by orders of magnitude.

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Reflections

Mr. Christie,

First of all I am grateful you called me on my exaggeration of the numbers. It gave me an opportunity to check out the John Jay report as well as other sources of related information online.   And for the record, I chose to leave my original statement in response to Tim's post rather than being more statistically accurate.  

Sometimes reporting actual numbers minimizes the scope of the problem - particularly in this case where the statistics (specifically child sexual abuse and not restricted to the church) are, in some populations, actually increasing exponentially.  I am not about to minimize the issue in the case of child sexual abuse.  Next time, perhaps, I will use the stats in a different context so that the point is not so easily lost.

If you have been paying attention to current trend of child predators around the world, you know that it is going to leave the land of the tens of thousands and skip well into the millions in a hurry.  This problem has become viral. 

Your response gives me the opportunity to focus more attention on the issue of child sexual abuse by clergy as well as on the related issue I was originally commenting about, White Privilege.

You have chosen to take my inflation of the numbers and judge the rest of my message based on that one element.  In your opinion, that one overstatement discredits everything else.   

I am also intimately connected to victims of molestation from within faith communities - Catholic, Protestant, Sikh, doesn't seem to matter - but while I am only connected with one person who has reported the abuse, I am connected to far more who have kept silent.  In this context, especially in view of the statistics on general reports of childhood sexual abuse worldwide, I do not consider my inflation of the problem a detriment to the overall issue.  Heck, it got your attention.  

Incidentally, I noticed you discredited my message one sentence after you identified yourself as Buddhist. 

Just in case you missed it in my passionate, original blurt, I suppose I was less concerned with how I sounded when misrepresenting the "smaller" population of reported victims than I was in making the point that child sexual abuse is one of a myriad of ways that people exercise their White Privilege. 

Again, my gratitude.

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Research Is Essential

"Incidentally, I noticed you discredited my message one sentence after you identified yourself as Buddhist. "

The point of doing so was to demonstrate that my response had nothing to do with

"but while I am only connected with one person who has reported the abuse, I am connected to far more who have kept silent."

I know quite a few victims of rape, more than I expected I would (and a large portion of my female friends) but to extrapolate from my experience to conclude that the problem must be larger than it appears is bad science

"In this context, especially in view of the statistics on general reports of childhood sexual abuse worldwide, I do not consider my inflation of the problem a detriment to the overall issue. Heck, it got your attention."

Bill O'Reilly gets my attention, that doesn't mean his tactics work to convince me. Exaggerating a problem by several orders of magnitude is always bad and discredits you.

"Sometimes reporting actual numbers minimizes the scope of the problem"

There is no way that reporting the actual scope of the problem can minimize the scope of the problem. Had I said that the problem wasn't SERIOUS because there were only tens of thousands of cases of abuse, THAT would be minimizing the scope of the problem.

"particularly in this case where the statistics (specifically child sexual abuse and not restricted to the church) are, in some populations, actually increasing exponentially. "

Do you have ANY evidence to make that claim? Because in fact crime in general is dropping, sex crimes included, so this would be a fairly extraordinary claim.

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white privilege

This is the first time I have really considered this subject, and I would like to thank Mr Wise and all those who responded to his article for such an enlightening and thought-provoking review of what constitutes privilege,race,and abuse of power.

I am doing my best to get that number above 37%-

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Defense Mechanism

I really appreciate both the examples and statistics in both articles. I would have liked to hear more on the psychological and sociological implications.

One of the most widely talked about issue on the topic of race is the manifestation of defense mechanisms for white people around the topic. As Beverly Tatum says, we're all breathing the smog of privilege, and, as a result, our racial assumptions as white people cause a shift in our outlook of viewing the world as "fair" and "just." I would simply add that for white people, the paradigm shift from racial assumptions of equality to the truth of privilege and oppression strikes far deeper that simply a "topic" to post upon. In reality the shift itself strikes so deep that the very core of its truth shakes the foundation of reality for many (I would venture to say "all" based on the psychological research I've done) white people engaging in the journey. Better and more concisely said: Race impacts ALL parts of our lives.

What then of defense mechanisms?

 "The roots of education are bitter but the fruit is sweet," says Aristotle. In a similar vein I believe that in conjunction with knew knowledge and exposure of the topic should also come a new knowledge of ourselves in the world. Owning the privilege we have as white people may become the next step after recognizing its roots embedded in white culture. However, the possibility of this ownership could be an avoidance of our feelings of guilt in operating in this system.

The bottom line becomes how true we white people are to ourselves about the privilege placed upon us and exactly how our defense mechanisms manifest whether by guilt, rejection, and/or admonishment. The hope, for me, comes from the realization that we never truly had a choice, yet now the choice is ours. In this realization a deeper journey of how race impacts our lives (in all aspects) is made.

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Trying to build the bridge away from the back slapping..

AK...if you have the balls...Forward this to your Bcc: list...

My heritage is that my mom is first generation Japanese immigrant and my father is 2nd and 3rd generation German and Irish immigrants.  I've seen horrible racism that my mom endured as a single mother during the Vietnam era.  It's not a good thing, for sure.  For that reason, my mother did not want me to learn Japanese and turned her back on her family...to try to give us a better chance.  I adamantly identify racism and do my best to turn the views to more constructive discussions...this is my attempt:

Tim Wise makes some points about some views about the white privilege, but it seems he thinks those who highlight the worst of our culture are the same people who drive the ideals of our culture.

He jumps all over the place...just one example...that kid's MySpace page page was immediately taken down once it was made widely public.  No one condoned his statements.  The kid is 18 or 19 years old.  He got his girlfriend pregnant and is sticking around to marry her under family support.  That's the culture that is being underscored, not the facts about other cultures and how they deal with teenage pregancies.  Just in our own backyard I know there are cultural differences on how Oakland teenagers versus San Jose teenagers deal with their issues.


Having a baby eariler that one can to support the family should not be, and is not, condoned by American Culture.  If you do have a child, step up, shut up and be the parent that you need to be.  She was engaged PRIOR to all of the publicity.
I can go point by point, but it's shouldn't be necessary...

In my opinion the guy who wrote the article is plain racist.  I checked his essay archive and the theme is almost identical for every one of them.  The dude's got issues with white guys. ( http://www.lipmagazine.org/~timwise/essayarchive.html ) Even if he feels guilty that white privilege exists.  He inaccurately supposes the privilege is white, but rather it's the culture of US or "Americans" as is the colloquial term.  He identifies it in some of his essays but doesn't apply the same standards or looks at other countries, from the essays I read (admittedly only a few from of his body of work).  In Asia, Europe, Africa, etc. the privilege exists to the predominant CULTURE in power.   It is this same human nature that give the "ugly Americans" it fame - when we stick out in foreign places.  Dress anyone differently and you'll get similar responses for the most part, in my opinion.  It's the culture that is attacked not the color of skin.

I've travelled some and I use my experiences and observations that in other places the white privilege is not apparent when the culture happens to be predominantly another race.

Tim Wise's rationale is flawed. 

By the way, I am proud to be an American.  It is Americans, of all races, who have given their lives, more so than any group of people in the history of the world, for the freedom of other people.  We just happen to be mostly "white" at this time.  That might change over time but I hope we will still try our best to identify right from wrong.

The world is a tough place.  Blaming white guys is just as bad as blaming "black", "brown", "yellow", or "red" people.  Expose the bad people of any race, but remember mistakes will be made and one can work towards and hope for contrition and atonement, if necessary. 

The one comment element of all the major religions, can be summed by what most in the USA know as the Golden Rule.

Comment Bubble Tip

I'd be lying

if I said I knew what your point was with that entire post, as it was not very clear to me except that you don't agree with the concept of white privilege, I think. That said, I take issue with the specific point you talk about in Tim Wise's original piece.

You write: "Having a baby earlier than one can to support the family should not be, and is not, condoned by American Culture"

But this is simply untrue. Large swaths of the American people are very sympathetic to Ms. Palin's "family situation" in a way that they would not be were Ms. Palin (or her daughter, or her future son-in-law) not white. If Obama's daugther were impregnated by a black 17 year old who talked about how much he liked guns, Obama would be deemed unfit for public office. The fact that Palin was not forced to withdraw is testament to her white privilege.

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my bad...here's my point....

It's about culture and not the skin color. 

Can we agree that it is easy to find inequities on how liberal AND conservative politicians are treated.  From each side, they have their examples.  So what?

Inequities exist.  Sorry about that. 

Can I suppose the goal is to find the best candidate for our country in this next election? 

Pointing to race privilege merely tries to strong arm one to vote for the obvious solution, but it is not so obvious once the veil of this facade is lifted.

Tim Wise, in my opinion, is trying to influence the election by interjecting guilt into the voting process.  

I like Senator Obama, but I'm very leary of him now that I've seen him backtrack on public promises.  Gov. Clinton did that when he was elected president and it was not a good thing in the long term for our country.  Political expediency is a slippery slope that can lead to a mob mentality.

I like Senator McCain, but I don't know to what end he will "reach across the aisle" but since he endured his POW horrors, I believe he has the country's best interest at heart and I believe that is a good thing.

We'll see.

Re: that dumb-ass ignorant MySpace son-in-law-to-be...I believe he was confronted and toed the line.  I'd hold it against him if he runs for national office. Public contrition would be nice once the election passes. I'd be hard pressed to hire him, too.  But, he's just a kid still and he'll pay for that evil ignorance for a long time, in my opinion. I hope he learns from this experience, but it's not Gov. Palin who I blame or hold accountable for that stuff.  It is noteworthy that from where I sit, it's not much different than what I see here written about Republicans.

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"It's about culture and not

"It's about culture and not the skin color."

No, it's not. How in God's name could it be about "culture" when someone looks at a resume or a loan proposal and isn't even SEEING the person in question face to face? Do you think that the resumes came with a copy of "We Shall Overcome" or something? "Culture" is a nice liberal term that covers up real problems. There is clearly a difference between a group of people forced into urban ghettos by active policies that identify them as a racially defined group then deny them loans, employment, fair treatment in the criminal justice system, education, etc. and people enjoying different foods for dinner. The former is culture. The latter is racism. It is RACISM at work when whites move out of neighborhoods when blacks reach anything resembling their statistical proportion in the society.

"Can we agree that it is easy to find inequities on how liberal AND conservative politicians are treated. From each side, they have their examples. So what?

Inequities exist. Sorry about that. "

No, we can't just "agree" on that. Yes, clearly politics are nasty on both sides. But even putting aside race, Republicans simply clearly go above and beyond the call of duty in spreading vicious accusations and nasty politics. Even supports of the party admit that. If you really need to belabor the point, contrast O'Reilly with NPR or the Daily Show or even Al Franken and Michael Moore. The fact that the right keeps having to point to a tiny few noteworthy people, like Franken and Moore, while I can namedrop dozens of prominent names who are routinely vicious and bring down political discourse (Karl Rove, O'Reilly, Scarborough, Coulter, Horowitz, etc. etc.) shows the point.

Tim has said that there are racial explanations for many differences in treatment in the election. You have neither denied the differences in treatment that he points to nor have you even bothered replying to the hypothesis, yet you want us to reject Tim's point. Do your homework first, please.

"Can I suppose the goal is to find the best candidate for our country in this next election? "

No, it's not. That's not Tim's goal; he was trying to point out how even in an election where we are inches from electing a black man, white privilege is still quite real. The point was about white privilege, not the election.

Further, American elections have very little to do with finding the best candidate for the "country", if you mean the people living in the geographic confines of the entity called the "USA", and everything to do with trying to find the best leader to ratify elite agendas while pacifying the poor. How can we know that? Again: Majorities have wanted things like socialized health care for decades, yet those things are called "politically impossible". Read: Rich people don't want them.

"Tim Wise, in my opinion, is trying to influence the election by interjecting guilt into the voting process."

Great. Have any evidence for that claim? And if the guilt SHOULD be there but simply isn't because most people have denial mechanisms, isn't it GOOD to do so? Make an argument, please.

"Pointing to race privilege merely tries to strong arm one to vote for the obvious solution, but it is not so obvious once the veil of this facade is lifted."

That's hard to believe considering that this supposed veil has yet to come up yet you keep pointing to it and yelling. The Emperor has no clothes, Tai. Racism exists, it affects national elections, and denying this claim is frankly absurd for anyone who pays attention to politics, yet you keep doing it.

"I like Senator Obama, but I'm very leary of him now that I've seen him backtrack on public promises. Gov. Clinton did that when he was elected president and it was not a good thing in the long term for our country. Political expediency is a slippery slope that can lead to a mob mentality."

So you'd rather vote for the guy who is PROMISING to get us closer to a nuclear war, to enact disastrous economic policies? And what promises have you seen him backtrack on? And are you honestly alleging that McCain is the height of honesty, when he has said (as the Colbert Report pointed out) within a few HOURS of each other that the fundamentals of the economy are both "strong" and "at risk"?

The problem with your position, Tai, is that elections are comparative affairs, not absolute affairs. When you vote for Obama, you say that you like him the best out of all the candidates available.

If you don't like Obama, vote for a better candidate, like the Greens.

"I like Senator McCain, but I don't know to what end he will "reach across the aisle" but since he endured his POW horrors, I believe he has the country's best interest at heart and I believe that is a good thing."

What exactly DO you like about McCain? His desires to repeat pretty much everything about the last 8 years? His cruel jokes? His inability to do even the most basic background checks on his running mate, so that he is running with a Vice President who is connected to Alaskan separatists?

"Re: that dumb-ass ignorant MySpace son-in-law-to-be...I believe he was confronted and toed the line. I'd hold it against him if he runs for national office. Public contrition would be nice once the election passes. I'd be hard pressed to hire him, too. But, he's just a kid still and he'll pay for that evil ignorance for a long time, in my opinion. I hope he learns from this experience, but it's not Gov. Palin who I blame or hold accountable for that stuff. It is noteworthy that from where I sit, it's not much different than what I see here written about Republicans."

In that entire paragraph, not once did you answer THE POINT. Let's repeat this again.

Even when people look at this kid and think that his behavior is problematic, which they are not actually doing nearly as often as you claim, they NEVER [for Ben's sake: I imagine there are literally a few thousand people who have done this, so "never" is strong; about as strong as "Ben never makes a good point" - I'm sure he's done so once in a restaurant or something] view his behavior as showing a problematic nature of his racial community. Bristol is not being called an arbiter of social decay and a sign of the inferiority of her "culture" because she got knocked up at her age. Black and Latino men and women don't get that treatment. Reply to that point or don't bother.

Comment Bubble Tip

Have a friend read what you write before you hit submit

Ok, so Obama isn't trustworthy because he backtracked on taking public financing. OK, I'll give you that. But to try and say that makes him Clinton (economic surplus guy, you remember that right?) lacks anything but you not liking him because something about him reminds you of a successful American president.

But McCain is a good guy because he choose to get shot down and held as a POW. That's the reason he has the countries best intrest at heart.

Uhm, you do know how stupid that sounds? Here's a tip for you. McCain was a POW because he got caught. Not because he was brave or was trying to make the world safe. No, he got shot down and caught. That isn't a qualification for president.

Do you love America? Have you been a POW? If you havent, then I don't think you really mean it when you say you love this country. <--THATS WHAT YOU SOUND LIKE.

Stop confusing personal suffering for evidence of one's true motive. I for one think BOTH candidates want the very best for us and all of the American people. For you to question one man's motive, while saying being a POW proves another is disgusting and pretty damn un-American. We're you one of those people more concerned about a flag lapel pin than the issues? It sounds like it.

 

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The Opposite

Actually, I would say quite the opposite: Obama and McCain's commitments are to a tiny corporate elite whose interests are opposed to the majority of Americans'. That is why neither of them will take positions remotely RESEMBLING what the average American believes. Obama, for example, seems to believe that Vietnam was a mistake, not an imperialist action that was fundamentally wrong, like most Americans believe.

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Think Again

"Tim Wise makes some points about some views about the white privilege, but it seems he thinks those who highlight the worst of our culture are the same people who drive the ideals of our culture."

Actually, Tai, Tim isn't identifying ANYONE in particular. He is instead identify institutional outcomes. So there are institutional factors that come together to make it so blacks don't get as many jobs, or don't get promoted as often, or get fired more quickly, or get put into remedial classes, and institutional factors that cause whites to get more benefits, more sensitive treatment, etc.

Let's put it this way. If someone argued against segregation or apartheid, do you think that a good argument against them would be "Stop identifying the worst ideals of our culture?" No, that's ridiculous. Because they're not talking about ideals, they're talking about laws and practices that can be changed socially.

"He jumps all over the place...just one example...that kid's MySpace page page was immediately taken down once it was made widely public. No one condoned his statements. The kid is 18 or 19 years old."

Of COURSE he "jumps all over the place". Tim is trying to paint a picture by making multiple examples. Apparently by doing so he has made you think that the problem is in fact SMALLER than he claims, because he has so many examples. The inversions of logic are staggering.

Further, I find it hard to believe you actually read the essay. Because Tim wasn't saying people CONDONED this kid's behavior. Rather, their reaction to Bristol's boyfriend is not the panic it would be were he black and proudly talking about how much he likes to beat the crap out of people, like those rappers we all know white Americans are in no way afraid of, right Tai?

The fact that the page was taken down is also a total non sequitur.

"He got his girlfriend pregnant and is sticking around to marry her under family support."

So he got his girlfriend pregnant because he made an idiotic decision to NOT listen to the "culture" around him and abstain, or use a condom, or get birth control pills, or an IUD, or any of the other options available to him, never mind an abortion. Kudos to him for "sticking around", but a lot of black and Latino fathers "stick around" and it doesn't cause anyone to let up on criticisms of them, even when those fathers are not gun nuts who loudly proclaim their violent tendencies.

"Just in our own backyard I know there are cultural differences on how Oakland teenagers versus San Jose teenagers deal with their issues."

Yeah, and there's one HUGE difference: Namely, white folks deal with it differently from black folks. Because that is surely a cultural gap. But you have gone beyond denying the importance of race to denying that there's anything beyond micro-regional variations of culture, like all that culture is is different flavors of microbrew beer.

"Having a baby eariler that one can to support the family should not be, and is not, condoned by American Culture. If you do have a child, step up, shut up and be the parent that you need to be. She was engaged PRIOR to all of the publicity.
I can go point by point, but it's shouldn't be necessary..."

Actually, it is necessary, since for now you are 0 for 1 in terms of replying to Tim's argument.

"In my opinion the guy who wrote the article is plain racist. I checked his essay archive and the theme is almost identical for every one of them. The dude's got issues with white guys."

Weird that he himself is white, huh Tai? Must be one of dem self-hating whites (and a Jew too!)

But, actually, Tim doesn't mind that he's white. Tim doesn't mind who he is. What Tim minds is what society forces us to be. It's such a startling difference that, again, I find it amazing that you actually read the essays.

"He inaccurately supposes the privilege is white, but rather it's the culture of US or "Americans" as is the colloquial term. "

Uh, no, Tai, it IS white privilege. You are making a hypothesis: All of the thousands of pages of data making a strong case for institutional racism is flawed because it fails to take into account that they're Americans. This hypothesis is so empty on the face of it that it astounds me you could even propose it. Read the post again, Tai: Whites and blacks, both Americans, both in the same country, face starkly different life paths and opportunities. Even whites and blacks in the same income brackets have different access to resources. Whites and blacks with the same scores on standardized tests are placed in different classes, whites more often in honors and AP classes and blacks in standard and remedial tracks. Whites with the same job histories, credit scores, collateral, etc. as blacks get better loans more frequently. Whites with the same resumes get called back more often than blacks. People with white-sounding NAMES get called back more often than people with black-sounding names. And so forth. Down the line, there is absolutely no basis to assume that it's American privilege we're looking at, because all these black (and Asian and Native American and Arab and Latino) AMERICANS get treated differently from these white AMERICANS. This is basic social science research. You seem to not have done an ounce of it, yet you want to circulate a reply to Tim's work? Just another example of how Internet discourse dumbs down discussion.

"In Asia, Europe, Africa, etc. the privilege exists to the predominant CULTURE in power."

This is true. And in Asia, Europe, Africa, etc. people have said this is bad and should be changed. Nelson Mandela, for example, would probably find you insisting that Americans have a dominant culture with privilege deeply irrelevant and indeed offensive in response to his argument that apartheid was real, squashed black aspirations and should have been be stopped.

But here's the thing, Tai: The culture that is dominant here is white. So your response is a non sequitur.

Finally, you move onto the Golden Rule. Sounds nice, Tai, but here's what you're doing at the end of the day: Denying, with precisely two arguments, an essay with dozens of individual points that claims to be demonstrating a serious national problem that has dire impacts for Americans and the globe. You would think you would treat others as you would like to be treated by giving just a tad bit more thought to what you read and how to reply to it.

Comment Bubble Tip

I took the cue and here's my reply...

A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigotry

"Actually, Tai, Tim isn't identifying ANYONE in particular. He is instead identify institutional outcomes. So there are institutional factors that come together to make it so blacks don't get as many jobs, or don't get promoted as often, or get fired more quickly, or get put into remedial classes, and institutional factors that cause whites to get more benefits, more sensitive treatment, etc."

As long as you include some of the "institutions" (loosely used) where blacks are discredited because they are educated and assimilate into American Culture. I can't believe what I have seen from the far left re: Condoleezza Rice or to a lesser extent Colin Powell.  Just as I am appalled by this far right bigot son-in-law-to-be. Sometimes the institutions to which your refer are closer to you than you think.  But I still think we have made much progress as a culture to address racism, and I use the Asian equation as a starting point to discuss as well as Blacks, et al.

"Let's put it this way. If someone argued against segregation or apartheid, do you think that a good argument against them would be "Stop identifying the worst ideals of our culture?" No, that's ridiculous. Because they're not talking about ideals, they're talking about laws and practices that can be changed socially."

Believe me, I understand segregation, but not to the extent that existed in South Africa or even Southeast USA.  The Japanese were "segregated" much more than most during WWII.  I worry about mob mentality as a rule.   But our American culture is not Apartheid. Asians were all but officially segregated during my youth during the Vietnam era.  

We need to find a way to get to the issues, and not use guilt to try to sway some to vote against Senator McCain.  

"Further, I find it hard to believe you actually read the essay. Because Tim wasn't saying people CONDONED this kid's behavior. Rather, their reaction to Bristol's boyfriend is not the panic it would be were he black and proudly talking about how much he likes to beat the crap out of people, like those rappers we all know white Americans are in no way afraid of, right Tai?"

Huh?  Let me quote Tim Wise..." ... still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug."  That implies condoning his action to me.  You presuppose the "panic" erroneously.  Actually, to some, his spiritual counselor was just as offensive and was dealt with without panic, Frederic.

"The fact that the page was taken down is also a total non sequitur."

Not to me, it shows me that this type of view is not "condoned"

To forgive, excuse or overlook (something); To allow, accept or permit (something); en.wiktionary.org/wiki/condone

"but a lot of black and Latino fathers "stick around" and it doesn't cause anyone to let up on criticisms of them"

you try to make a point, but "black and Latinos fathers" have different cultures in general AND the discourse of lyrics (for example only, since you interjected Rap music) today do not lend to a discussion of responsibility.

"Yeah, and there's one HUGE difference: Namely, white folks deal with it differently from black folks. Because that is surely a cultural gap. But you have gone beyond denying the importance of race to denying that there's anything beyond micro-regional variations of culture, like all that culture is is different flavors of microbrew beer."

My point is that generalizing on whites is in itself the flaw.  During the Civil war our nation had nearly 1 million casualities in total population of less than 27 million to a slave population of under 3.7 million.  Some white guys died in a war fighting, in part to rid a system where slavery was part of their culture. ( http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/censusbin/census/cen.pl )

"Uh, no, Tai, it IS white privilege. You are making a hypothesis: All of the thousands of pages of data making a strong case for institutional racism is flawed because it fails to take into account that they're Americans. This hypothesis is so empty on the face of it that it astounds me you could even propose it. ..."   EXCEPT when the data on Asian population is used.  Nice try.   I understand your point, I think, but I'm not denying racism.  I'm trying to point out that assimilating to the dominate culture, tends to pave an easier road.  One I have chosen not to take for myself, ironically.  

"But here's the thing, Tai: The culture that is dominant here is white. So your response is a non sequitur."

??  White culture?  please, Frederic, you are confused....try again.

"Finally, you move onto the Golden Rule. Sounds nice, Tai, but here's what you're doing at the end of the day: Denying, with precisely two arguments, an essay with dozens of individual points that claims to be demonstrating a serious national problem that has dire impacts for Americans and the globe. You would think you would treat others as you would like to be treated by giving just a tad bit more thought to what you read and how to reply to it."

You are right on the time and that it was a draft response, but this one I've laid out line by line. 

I read the essay, I just disagree with its veiled purpose.

Frederic, it seems plain to me that Tim Wise's essay was meant to lay guilt and sway some to vote irrationally.  

Also, in my opinion, you dance dangerously close to the definition of a bigot.

Comment Bubble Tip

Tai, You Haven't Even TRIED To Reply

"A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own."

So therefore someone condemning murder or murderers must be a bigot.

"As long as you include some of the "institutions" (loosely used) where blacks are discredited because they are educated and assimilate into American Culture."

No, actually, you don't have to include any of those institutions to make that point; in fact, the institutional mistreatment is even more stark when examining the treatment of the white poor and uneducated versus the black poor and uneducated. Middle-class and rich blacks at least have a little wealth to get out of problems.

In any respect, this isn't an argument. What's your point?

"I can't believe what I have seen from the far left re: Condoleezza Rice or to a lesser extent Colin Powell. Just as I am appalled by this far right bigot son-in-law-to-be."

Both are war criminals.

But I don't say that because they're black. I say that because they're war criminals. And, in fact, partially due to their race, they are fairly minor culprits compared to, say, Bush, Cheney, Bill Clinton, etc.

Notice what happened with Colin Powell. This is a black man who the nation simply loved, who everyone embraced, who was implicitly different from all the rest. Yet the MOMENT he resisted white folks, even a little, he got canned. I don't know how much more obvious it can get.

"you try to make a point, but "black and Latinos fathers" have different cultures in general AND the discourse of lyrics (for example only, since you interjected Rap music) today do not lend to a discussion of responsibility."

This is, simply put, a racist statement.

Because white kids in the suburbs swarm out and buy these supposed rap and hip-hop lyrics that tell them to knock 'em up and leave em, yet you don't think that these kids somehow have that "culture" because of it. Because you seem to believe that white kids can sort out the messages they're taught more than blacks, despite all the evidence to the contrary (say, the numerous school shootings that are dispro white, or the fact that white children are approached LESS often to do drugs yet are more likely to do so).

Because you seem to think that black kids listening to rap music abandon their families and don't have basic responsibility, instead of imagining that maybe the disproportionate imprisonment of black and Latina/o males or other problems facing their communities in particular aggravate this issue.

Because you can't point to a rap lyric that actually says "Impregnate women then leave them", just say that rap lyrics promote "irresponsibility".

Because you seem to think that rap and hip hop contain no messages of hope, no stories of desperate poverty, no political criticism, no satire, no social commentary.

Because you seem to think that rap and hip-hop are the only black and Latina/o cultural musical traditions, that jazz, blues, rock and roll, salsa, Latin music, R&B and soul don't exist.

Because you don't find any problem with teeny-pop lyrics that similarly don't promote responsibility. And really, what kind of music DOES promote responsibility? Christian music?

Because you assume that black and Latino fathers have a different "culture" that leads them to abandon their children when you have no evidence to propose this.

Because you even think that black and Latino fathers do so at a rate much higher than white communities.

The fact is that births out of wedlock in general have gone down, that black and Latino communities are actually not that much more likely to have children out of wedlock, and the fact that they do cannot possibly be separated from the fact that black and Latino fathers are disproportionately likely to be taken to jail thanks to a racist criminal justice system.

"Sometimes the institutions to which your refer are closer to you than you think. But I still think we have made much progress as a culture to address racism, and I use the Asian equation as a starting point to discuss as well as Blacks, et al."

But you can't use the Asian equation as a starting point to discuss the black situation, ever, because Asians are not analogous to blacks. Their situations are not the same, their treatment is not the same, their placement in the racial hierarchy is not the same, and they don't face the same difficulties. In any respect, using the Asian equation proves MY point, not yours: Asians make less money than whites despite having more merit on average.

I'm PART of some of these institutions, Tai. I go to UC Davis. UC Davis has had nasty little racial secrets in its closet since its formation, like the racial covenants that formed a lot of the early suburbs in the area. I pay taxes to a racist criminal justice system, racist schools, etc. That doesn't make them not racist. It just means I'm complicit in the problem and thus must speak out. What do you do to deal with this complicity, Tai?

"Believe me, I understand segregation, but not to the extent that existed in South Africa or even Southeast USA. The Japanese were "segregated" much more than most during WWII. I worry about mob mentality as a rule. But our American culture is not Apartheid. Asians were all but officially segregated during my youth during the Vietnam era."

Our American culture has specific institutional practices across numerous domains that have the effect of elevating whites to superior political and economic statuses and positions and non-whites to inferior ones. Yes, it's not apartheid or Jim Crow. But the analogy matters. In any respect, you're not replying to my ARGUMENT, which is that if someone identifies institutional practices (laws, behaviors of corporations, behaviors of police departments, behaviors of prosecutors and judges, economic and fiscal policy set by the Fed, etc.) that are either racist in intent or outcome, then altering those is necessary to combat racism, and doing so says nothing about the "ideals of our culture" or some garbage. You seem to admit this point, so let's move on.

"We need to find a way to get to the issues, and not use guilt to try to sway some to vote against Senator McCain."

Your hypothesis is that Tim is trying to get people to vote against McCain.

Weird, he didn't tell anyone to vote for Obama in that piece, did he? Or against McCain?

So maybe it was subtext. Even weirder, though, in a piece where he DID tell people not to vote for McCain (the piece on Hillary supporters - "Your Whiteness is Showing"), he implied that people should vote for a GREEN instead of McCain...

Oh, right, and Tim's been doing anti-racism for decades.

Your hypothesis fails.

White privilege needs to be addressed and discussed directly. The first step in that process is for people to admit that it exists and that it is serious. You refuse to do so, Tai. This very post you're replying to is filled with dozens of arguments drawn from studies, social science, statistics, etc. to illustrate the real, quantifiable power of white privilege. You don't reply to any of it. Tim doesn't even MENTION the election this time. You just refuse to talk about racism.

"Huh? Let me quote Tim Wise..." ... still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug." That implies condoning his action to me. You presuppose the "panic" erroneously. Actually, to some, his spiritual counselor was just as offensive and was dealt with without panic, Frederic."

And in fact many whites did do just that. But notice the second part of the argument: "rather than a thug". Very few call him a thug, or think that he's DANGEROUS. Even YOU don't do so! No one would give him that benefit of the doubt were he black. We make excuses for our little angels, even when a large portion of white college students say publically that they look forward to RIOTS as part of their college experience. That is white kids saying out loud that they are going to break the law and commit violence. What do you think the white response is to black riots, Tai?

The spiritual counselor? You mean, the spiritual counselor for the WHITE KID, which wouldn't trigger race at all because it's for a WHITE KID?

Let's repeat this again so you can reply to it: Were Bristol's boyfriend black, talking about how he loved guns and violence, race would be in the room and whites would assume he was dangerous and probably a gangster. Do you agree with that statement, yes or no?

"My point is that generalizing on whites is in itself the flaw. During the Civil war our nation had nearly 1 million casualities in total population of less than 27 million to a slave population of under 3.7 million. Some white guys died in a war fighting, in part to rid a system where slavery was part of their culture. ( http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/censusbin/census/cen.pl )"

And before those guys did that, racist draft riots in New York killed many blacks and immigrants. Oh, and by the way, the war wasn't officially about slavery till near the very end. It was about "the Union". Even this pretext was so unpopular that Lincoln barely won and was barely able to finish the job. Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but blacks fought too, Tai. Not to mention that it was white people who owned the slaves and white people who fought to keep them slaves.

But, see, Tai, I'm not talking about the 1860s. I'm not talking about slavery or the Civil War. I'm talking about NOW. My hypothesis was simple: There are real differences between the behavior of black and white communities that goes beyond "culture" and is about the social construction of "race". Your one argument against this position is that whites fought in the Civil War. A more irrelevant red herring I could not imagine.

"EXCEPT when the data on Asian population is used. Nice try."

Tai, how in GOD'S NAME could ANY data on the Asian population mean a damn thing when comparing black and white populations?!

My claim was that blacks are treated worse than whites despite merit. Every Asian in the country could be a billionaire and it wouldn't undermine my point.

But, actually, you're wrong. Again. Asians are simply NOT doing as well as whites, again irrespective of merit. Just read, please: http://www.sodahead.com/question/68313/?page=1#post_2323688 . To quote:

"
The primary argument put forth on behalf of the model minority myth is that APA income in the U.S. is higher than the average for other people of color and even whites. As such, it is suggested, racial discrimination must be long gone. But data showing Asians doing better than whites is family and household data, not per capita income data. This is important because APA households and families tend to have more family members (thus, slightly higher incomes have to cover more persons), and more earners per family (thus, it takes more folks working so as to earn only slightly more than whites, with fewer income earners). The average Asian household size, for example, is 3.3 persons, compared to only 2.5 per household for whites. Likewise, Asian American families are more likely than white families to have two income earners, and nearly twice as likely to have three earners. So while Asian household and family income is higher than that for whites, the median income per person is lower for Asians: as much as $2000 less annually."

And:

"On average, APAs with a college degree earn 11 percent less than comparable whites, and APAs with a high school diploma earn, on average, 26 percent less than their white counterparts. When Asian American men have qualifications comparable to white men, they still receive fewer high-ranking positions than those same white men. APA male engineers and scientists are 20 percent less likely than white men to move into management positions in their respective companies, despite no differences in ambition or desire for such positions."

Vietnamese populations in particular closely emulate black populations in terms of welfare receipt. Weird, they also have rap and gangs. It's as if culture were caused by external factors like race and capital...

"I understand your point, I think, but I'm not denying racism. I'm trying to point out that assimilating to the dominate culture, tends to pave an easier road. One I have chosen not to take for myself, ironically."

And I am saying you are just goddamn WRONG. Because blacks who HAVE conformed to the same culture, who behave exactly as whites do, get treated worse. Blacks with superior merit get inferior treatment. Basically, all you're saying is that it pays to be white in a racist society. Great. Change the society. Nelson Mandela did, Gandhi did, it's time for us to do.

"?? White culture? please, Frederic, you are confused....try again."

You don't reply to that, just say I'm confused. The dominant culture in America is the culture of the statistical majority: White people. Do you have a response to this claim? Or are you just going to say I'm confused?

"You are right on the time and that it was a draft response, but this one I've laid out line by line.

I read the essay, I just disagree with its veiled purpose.

Frederic, it seems plain to me that Tim Wise's essay was meant to lay guilt and sway some to vote irrationally.

Also, in my opinion, you dance dangerously close to the definition of a bigot."

It is an amazing inversion of logic when someone who is denying what blacks say about their own life experience (that they face racism and difficulties) can present himself as the enlightened one and the one arguing against institutional racism is the bigot.

Suffice it to say that you have not made a SINGLE solitary argument that proves that whites don't have massive advantages, or that blacks don't face institutional racism that sharply constricts their life opportunities. You haven't even TRIED to reply to anyone here. Please show more respect by actually engaging with the issue people are addressing.

 

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Colin and Condoleeza

Tai says: "As long as you include some of the "institutions" (loosely used) where blacks are discredited because they are educated and assimilate into American Culture. I can't believe what I have seen from the far left re: Condoleezza Rice or to a lesser extent Colin Powell."

Wow. I think you miss why they are looked down upon (at least by me). It has nothing to do with getting educated and assimilating into American Culture. Even the presumption that what they assimilated into is "American Culture" is insulting. I don't identify with that culture, and I'm American. Plenty of blacks are educated and "assimilated" in the way you mean, and they are not frowned upon. Oprah has "assimilated", and she's loved. Bryant Gumbel is extremely "assimilated" and he's not hated. Many actors are "assimilated" to "white culture", if you want to stick to that script. I don't give a damn about Condoleeza Rice's education and the way she speaks or dresses or any of that periphery stuff (to me). I have a problem with people like Condoleeza Rice because she is actively involved in a party and administration that has policies that hurt the black community and underprivileged Americans as a whole. To me as a woman, it is the same reaction I have to Sarah Palin who, as mayor of Wasilla, supported the policy that women would have to pay for their own rape kits. It's so inherently cannibalistic and self-loathing, especially as blacks or women, I have no respect for them. Condoleeza further doesn't have my respect because she has been instrumental in sending kids off to war to die for a lie.

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Huh?

I guess I missed something. Tim doesn't have an "issue with white guys" as a people, he has an issue with the structure of "whiteness" and the history of it, and he said this and elaborated on it several times. You would know this if you were truly familiar with his essays and speeches.

I think you're missing the point...badly. No one suggested that his Myspace page statements were "condoned", but it's a societal truism that if a black boy posted that he was a "fuckin' nigga" that liked to "shoot shit", RACE would be in the "room", so to speak. Race was NOT in the "room" when this boy's Myspace page was made public. And it was NOT in the "room" when Bristol's pregnancy was revealed. Bristol's "privilege" is that her mistakes have NOT been attributed to her race, and THAT is "white privilege". What are you talking about? You've admitted you've only read a "few" of his essays, yet you state so definitively what Tim "does" and "does not" do. How do you know that he hasn't mentioned the EXACT things that you speak of in the essays that you didn't read?

Honestly, if you are going to critique someones views on race relations (in which they have been studying and writing about the topic for YEARS) than you can at least make sure you are familiar with at least MOST of their work, especially before claiming (once again...definitively) that he has an "issue with white guys", is "plain racist", and has flawed rationale. Sheesh....

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I was one on the viral email and posted a response ...

Although your views are a bit more rationale here than your essay, in my opinion, it seems that comparison with other cultures, and not races, would be more appropriate. 

It still seems like you are blaming the white guy, in my opinion.

But you do seem to address a basic element of many animals, who are pack or colony organized, and not just the "white privileged" American.

We tend to gather and support those who are like ourselves.

Is it a bad thing?  Go venture, without support, to a in a foreign, unorganized or organized, society and you'll soon find you are attracted to those that are like you (language, skin color or brand of demin jeans) - if only to find a restroom.  Let me know how you do.

Widen your view of who you are and you'll find similarities regardless of the color of your skin, again, in my opinion.

 

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Generic.

Tai: Your comments remind me of a lot of people who want to insist that racism is forever or that we just need to be multicultural or what not. You're just not responding to the facts.

Let's make an analogy. Let's say someone said, "Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. He should be replaced and the people of the country should be allowed self-determination without interference of dictators or outside powers." Would you find it compelling for someone to say, "Look, people will always want power. You're just blaming Saddam." No. That'd be idiotic.

White privilege is not some abstract idea of racism. Tim is not saying that we should embrace some utopian world where no one ever hates each other for arbitrary reasons. Rather, he's identifying a specific fact: The institution of white privilege and institutional racism in this country.

Just as it'd be idiotic to say that Saddam can't be replaced because dictators are a part of human history, it is idiotic to say that white privilege can't be ended because people like to be around people similar to them.

Then there's the fact that your thesis sucks. Sure, people do have one tendency: To be around those like them. But think about your friends and family. Do you like them for how they're like you, or for the unique people they are? And if you admire someone, a hero or idol, do you admire those people for what they SHARE with you, or do you admire some courage or strength you don't have or don't have to the same degree? So in actuality, people can embrace diversity, difference and individuality just as much as they can embrace conformity.

White people have two choices: They can choose to fight the privilege that oppresses us all, or they can stand silent (or even going the reactionary forces). If they choose the latter, they SHOULD be blamed. Because they're making the wrong choice.

Just as a question: Who do YOU think is responsible for institutional racism in this country?

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Racism and Disability

Hi, Tim. I read your essay with some interest, having read your previous one and deciding to... just keep reading!I find it hard to understand white people who DON'T notice their privilege; but then, I don't understand middle class folks who don't notice their class privilege (gave up on the ruling class ages ago).

But only recently -- the last few years -- have I ever confronted the disability issue, as I moved out of the "temporarily abled" caste into the one I'm living in now. This experience triggers the following observation.

"If I were to say that able-bodied persons have certain advantages, certain privileges if you will, which disabled persons do not, who would argue the point?"

Agreeing with a theory and being aware of it in practice are anything alike. I think a lot of reasonable, well-meaning people would agree that racism exists in this country -- and yet not notice any of the reporting between Obama and Palin you so astutely pointed out were racist.

Just from personal observation: anyone who knows me will be told I'm deaf in the right ear. That does not stop them from sitting to my right, talking quietly and away from me when passengers in my car, or continuing to talk when I've told them I can't understand anyone in a noisy place unless they talk very close to my left ear. I can't go up or down steps, but it takes awhile before people really understand that if we take stairs (including building evacuation)if they stay with me they will spend approximately 15 minutes per floor -- and then only if there's a railing. Almost everyone I know has steps up to their house or apartment -- but most of them do not have railings and never thought to do so before they watched me several times almost fall off the stairs. My friends are very decent people. But they haven't internalized what it means not to be ablebodied.

These are just obvious things; there are a lot of others. The point is not that I face obstacles, but that my greatest obstacles are people who don't see them and won't imagine how to eliminate them. For some years I had an unsighted friend -- blindness is an obvious disability, right? It never occurred to most people to ask if she would like guidance, or what kind; or to pick up children's toys if she were coming over, or... well you know. That sort of thing.

So thanks for what you wrote -- I'm posting on LJ that everyone in the country should read it and pass it on. I just want to suggest that, in fact, a clarification between what people think they believe and what they show through actions is where the disconnect usually comes.

Of course, you're apparently responding to some blatantly racist comments, not just the ones disagreeing with specifics. In that case -- run right over them!

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Unfortunately...

C.E.: The point of that analogy (and similar analogies that not all rich folks are necessarily happy or healthy, and that not all children are less politically informed than adults, and so forth) was to establish the theory. Tim and other white anti-racists get people who are totally unwilling to admit even the IDEA that maybe one or two rich black folks (or even millions) doesn't necessarily prove racism isn't real. It's sad, but this post wasn't even to say that racism was present in the political campaign, but rather that racism and white privilege exist PERIOD.

A very moving and well-argued point about disabilities and how that might be an instructive analogy for race.

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The Fundamentals of Privilege

Firstly, hats off to Tim Wise for being brave enough (and smart enough) to identify and define what privilege is in a real world sense. As an educated black woman, I don't feel that Wise gives me a free pass to be a "victim" as some whites have claimed. I understand the reality of white privilege, but have never allowed it to deter me from my goals. In fact, I believe myself to be BETTER than those who operate under such privilege.

To be honest, I believe that most whites are well-meaning and truly feel that the United States of today isn't the same country of their fathers and grandfathers. In many cases, this is true. However, the institutionalized mindset still exists, and THAT is what must change. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of "the content of our character", and this is the standard ALL should be judged upon--not race, religion, orientation or gender. Sadly, we haven't reached that point yet. The negative connotations attached to non-whiteness are indeed tangible barriers--but NOT AN EXCUSE. Blacks know we must be exceptional in order to be viewed less-stereotypically--and in many cases, we are still viewed through a narrow lens.

Of course articles such as this bring out the defense mechanism in whites. No one wants to be considered "a racist"--which is not what is being said here. Whiteness is given the freedom of individuality; blackness is not. A great example was given of Bristol Palin's boyfriend who wrote he liked to "shoot sh*t". If that had been written by a young black male, people would construe that as yet another example of "black male pathology" rather than a case of youthful high spirits. More often than not, whites don't THINK about things in this way because they don't have to. When one is perceived as an individual rather than A RACE, one doesn't have to. Negative behaviours by one member of the group does not encompass the entire group. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris (the Columbine killers) do not represent ALL young white teenage boys.

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This Is Your Country On Political Correctness

For those who still can't grasp the concept of political correctness, or who are looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

Political correctness is when some white guy named Tim Wise (whose career is based on writing and speaking about American racism) presumes to speak for black people and writes an article about "white privilege" at a historical time in our nation when, for the first time, a black man is a major party candidate for the office of President of the United States. Political correctness is when well-intentioned people send the article to all of their friends on the internet without questioning the facts and examining the claims made in the article.

Political correctness is when you can get away with verbally attacking a 17-year old white girl who is pregnant out of wedlock, and turn it into a divisive argument about race, instead of addressing how the system keeps the black community down by replacing fathers with welfare checks, giving economic advantages to households without fathers, and not providing good education and safe neighborhoods.

Political correctness is when you can ridicule a republican woman's education because she didn't attend Ivy League schools, but ignore prominent democrats' less than stellar performance in college (Al Gore, for example was a "C" student at Harvard, flunked out of divinity school, and dropped out of law school, yet was still the VP under Clinton).

Political correctness is when your successful, accomplished wife—who is the epitome of the American dream, who came from a middle class family and has two degrees (from Princeton and Harvard), whose family income is over a million dollars a year—says "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country" and you call her patriotic.

Political correctness is stoking racist sentiment about verbal attacks on community organizers, instead of doing something about the issues that make "community organizers" necessary such as substandard schools, poverty, high crime rates, etc. Political correctness is being able to convince white people who don't even know what you stand for beyond the vague concepts of "hope" and "change" to vote for you because suddenly your presence on the ticket has given them an opportunity to soothe their white guilt, or just to vote for a black man, any black man, because he's black.

Political correctness is when you remove Muslim women wearing headscarves from sitting behind you in a rally, so that you can pander to those who erroneously think you're a Muslim.

Political correctness is when you say nothing when your running mate makes racist comments about Indians, saying “You cannot go to a 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian Accent", or about blacks by describing you as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Political correctness is saying that you are for equality for all, yet you constantly equivocate on the issue of same-sex marriage, and hire a running mate who voted in favor of the federal ban on same-sex marriage.

Political correctness is being able to have a mentor and pastor for 20 years who explained the loss of innocent men, women and children on 9/11 as "America's chickens coming home to roost" and said that blacks should sing "God Damn America." Political correctness is being able to get away with being friends with an admitted convicted terrorist, to be involved in shady real estate deals with a corrupt convicted criminal, and to be friends with a scholar/author who called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." To quote Obama himself "If you remain friends with people up to no good, you are bound to become like them. If you think you're above their influence, you are just fooling yourself. So, choose wisely."

Political correctness is deriding Palin's interjection of her religion into politics, but praising Pelosi when she states that Obama is "a leader that God has blessed us with at this time" or when Obama tells an evangelical crowd that "we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."

Political correctness is when a black candidate is able to sail by throughout the nomination process with immunity from political attacks from fawning journalists who were either star-struck or too afraid of being called a racist, while the white candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton, was subjected to the most intense scrutiny by the media and given hard-hitting questions.

Political correctness is when a black millionaire senator and author who graduated from one of the most prestigious colleges in the world, who just held a $28,500 per plate dinner with friends Barbra Streisand and George Clooney during the worst financial crisis since the Depression, is presumed to be "just a regular guy" (he says "I'm a homeboy") while Hillary Clinton, who similarly came from middle class roots, is considered to be an elitist Washington insider snob. Political correctness is when a black candidate is given a pass by the media when he tells the nation on live tv that he is in St. Louis, when he is in fact in Kansas City. Or when he said his uncle helped liberate Auschwitz when no US troops were there at the time. Or when he stated that he had been to "57" states with "one more left to go." Or when he stated that Hugo Chavez came into power in Venezuela as a result of Bush's policies (Chavez came to power during Clinton's term). Or when he stated that 10,000 people had died in the tornado in Kansas in May, when the death toll was 12. When a white candidate makes those same types of mistakes, they are shown over and over and turned into t-shirts and bumper stickers. And finally, political correctness is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 40 percent of the time (including voting to fund the Iraq war, supporting Bush's faith-based initiatives, voting with Bush to give the telecoms immunity from prosecution and continue wiretapping US citizens), when he's been part of a do-nothing US Senate with the lowest approval rating ever for only four years (half of which he's spent campaigning) when he can't pin down exactly what that whole "change" thing means, which, ya know, is REALLY too vague and ill-defined much like the concept of political correctness, which seems to be here to say. Political correctness is, in short, the problem.

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White Privilege Strikes Again!

"Political correctness is when some white guy named Tim Wise (whose career is based on writing and speaking about American racism) presumes to speak for black people and writes an article about "white privilege" at a historical time in our nation when, for the first time, a black man is a major party candidate for the office of President of the United States. Political correctness is when well-intentioned people send the article to all of their friends on the internet without questioning the facts and examining the claims made in the article."

White privilege is when someone can argue that a writer is "speaking" for an ethnic group when the majority of those who self-identify as being in those ethnic groups in the comments section of the writer's blog overwhelmingly identify positively with the writer's arguments.

White privilege is being able to declare that one black President officially closes the door on four centuries of racism and have that perception become law among a majority of the population.

"Political correctness is when you can get away with verbally attacking a 17-year old white girl who is pregnant out of wedlock, and turn it into a divisive argument about race, instead of addressing how the system keeps the black community down by replacing fathers with welfare checks, giving economic advantages to households without fathers, and not providing good education and safe neighborhoods."

White privilege is being able to get away with not understanding the difference between criticizing a person and noting that the reason the person is not being criticized is because of the color of their skin, not the content of their character.

White privilege is being able to say that the "system" keeps blacks down primarily by giving welfare checks instead of noting how the "system" has actually been destroying those welfare checks, and thinking that the poverty of the black community has to do with families that have no fathers as if the lack of fathers explained the plight of middle-class black families with no divorce rates or as if the absence of those fathers could be explained without reference to a racist criminal justice system. It is to be able to honestly think that the problem is single mothers, failing to recognize that white Southern Baptists with one of the highest divorce rates in the nation do not suffer the same way blacks do.

"Political correctness is when you can ridicule a republican woman's education because she didn't attend Ivy League schools, but ignore prominent democrats' less than stellar performance in college (Al Gore, for example was a "C" student at Harvard, flunked out of divinity school, and dropped out of law school, yet was still the VP under Clinton)."

White privilege is to be able to point to ridiculous non sequiturs,as if mentioning Al Gore in a comparison of Palin/McCain with Obama/Biden was on the same street as the ballpark of being relevant.

White privilege is to be able to say that the lack of criticism of a white man says that white privilege isn't real and not be laughed out of the room for torturous self-contradiction.

"Political correctness is saying that you are for equality for all, yet you constantly equivocate on the issue of same-sex marriage, and hire a running mate who voted in favor of the federal ban on same-sex marriage."

White privilege is to think that a candidate's hypocrisy or weakness on the issue of gay rights has anything to do with a discussion about white privilege and to demand that interlocutors with such idiocy remain polite."

"Political correctness is when your successful, accomplished wife—who is the epitome of the American dream, who came from a middle class family and has two degrees (from Princeton and Harvard), whose family income is over a million dollars a year—says "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country" and you call her patriotic."

White privilege is to be get away with being unable to understand why a black American despite material privileges may not be proud of a country that overwhelmingly oppresses her people, still deprives her of equal opportunity with those in her echelon, castigates her husband and her for things that they excuse among their own community, and is one of the leading sources of military conflict on the globe. White privilege is to be able to insist that everyone else has to be hyper-patriotic or else they are not even to be allowed to enter polite political discourse.

"Political correctness is being able to convince white people who don't even know what you stand for beyond the vague concepts of "hope" and "change" to vote for you because suddenly your presence on the ticket has given them an opportunity to soothe their white guilt, or just to vote for a black man, any black man, because he's black."

White privilege is to be able to think that a constitutional lawyer with an entire book of policy proposals and 60 pages worth of statement material available on his website is somehow being vague and only talking about "hope" and "change" and not be immediately revealed as ignorant because it is likely that your audience thinks the same thing.

"Political correctness is when you remove Muslim women wearing headscarves from sitting behind you in a rally, so that you can pander to those who erroneously think you're a Muslim."

White privilege is the force that makes candidates who simply have a Muslim-sounding name loudly insist that their ethnicity does not make them a terrorist, whereas those who were involved in criminal wars of imperialism against Asians are considered heroes for participating in one of the most destructive conflicts of the 20th century.

"Political correctness is deriding Palin's interjection of her religion into politics, but praising Pelosi when she states that Obama is "a leader that God has blessed us with at this time" or when Obama tells an evangelical crowd that "we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."

White privilege is a force that makes every politician on all sides of the political spectrum have to pander to the prejudices and religion of the white majority simply to be taken seriously.

"Political correctness is being able to have a mentor and pastor for 20 years who explained the loss of innocent men, women and children on 9/11 as "America's chickens coming home to roost" and said that blacks should sing "God Damn America.""

White privilege is being able to continue, despite months of opportunity to research, that such a comment is blaming the victims instead of recognizing the simple truism that making the world angry and funding terrorists can lead to harmful blowback. White privilege is to be able to castigate such a preacher in public and have all of the nation, liberal and conservative alike, united in condemnation, whereas to bring up the monstrous positions of conservative churches attended by the opposing candidates is considered to be intolerant or insensitive or even classist attacks on the white poor.

"Political correctness is being able to get away with being friends with an admitted convicted terrorist, to be involved in shady real estate deals with a corrupt convicted criminal, and to be friends with a scholar/author who called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

White American privilege is the ability to get away with year in, year out, supporting the bombing of other nations, the highest of international war crimes, with condemnation from the entire planet, and not be hung under the rules set down at Nuremberg.

"Political correctness is when a black candidate is able to sail by throughout the nomination process with immunity from political attacks from fawning journalists who were either star-struck or too afraid of being called a racist, while the white candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton, was subjected to the most intense scrutiny by the media and given hard-hitting questions."

White privilege is to be able to think that despite the fact that numerous voters admitted to voting for an opposing candidate only because of the race of the man they were voting AGAINST that the candidate in question somehow has an ADVANTAGE because of his race.

"Political correctness is when a black millionaire senator and author who graduated from one of the most prestigious colleges in the world, who just held a $28,500 per plate dinner with friends Barbra Streisand and George Clooney during the worst financial crisis since the Depression, is presumed to be "just a regular guy" (he says "I'm a homeboy") while Hillary Clinton, who similarly came from middle class roots, is considered to be an elitist Washington insider snob."

White privilege is to be able to simply declare that because one looks to be working class, one is working class, while those who actually propose policies that help the working class must be snobs.

Most centrally, white privilege is being able to spew such idiocies in a public forum and have such blatant trolling be taken seriously and replied to without engaging with a single argument of the article the person claims to be replying to.

And, most deeply, white privilege is the ability to deny the invisible knapsack on one's shoulder that is actually quite opaque to everyone else. It is the ability to think that a nation that still has those alive who remember an era when another race was legally kept as second-class citizens is one with no racial scars. It is the ability, in short, to remain ignorant and uninformed while being taken seriously.

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Thank you

Thanks Frederic, for your well-thought-out response. I think your whole argument is null and void since I am black and thus unable to avail myself of white privilege. However I get the feeling that you are white yourself and although you mean well, everything doesn't come down to race...there are a lot of factors that make people respond to each other differently: class, age, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, political correctness and, yes, race. I think the point that you may have missed is that my response was a parody of Tim's. I know you and Tim mean well, but it's not always about race.

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Try Again...

Andrew Walker:

"Thanks Frederic, for your well-thought-out response. I think your whole argument is null and void since I am black and thus unable to avail myself of white privilege. "

While you might be the newest fool on the block. Forgive those of us who are suspect of your claims that you are black. It's not that I don't believe you-- it's just that it wouldn't be the first time that a white person has sat behind a computer and spewed out some particularly hateful stuff and felt it necessary as a rhetorical device to add but I'm black as if though that in any way makes your obnoxious and profoundly stupid comments any more acceptable or less simple-minded.

"However I get the feeling that you are white yourself and although you mean well, everything doesn't come down to race...there are a lot of factors that make people respond to each other differently: class, age, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, political correctness and, yes, race."

You haven't indicated anything that he did wrong and since you added that race is one of the things that causes people to respond differently to one another (which is kind of the point of his post and most of the discussion going on here.) Shows that you at least have the basic ability to comprehend information.

"I think the point that you may have missed is that my response was a parody of Tim's. I know you and Tim mean well, but it's not always about race."

I think that the point you may have missed or is it that you don't care? You show up to a site where people are talking about race which I noticed is the last thing you listed as one of those reasons. (Not suggesting that your list should have been in another order) but it at least shows subconsciously or perhaps not.. but it is an indication that you think that the one thing we should not be talking about is race. I have a suggestion for you or anyone else who feels compelled that race is not the issue. Please go preach that gospel to those sinners who hang out on known hate sites.

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Dear Lee

My African heritage is not a "claim" and I could care less what you "suspect." I guess you think that a black man can't POSSIBLY disagree with your views, or disagree with Obama—which I find to be insulting and yeah a little racist.

For clarification, I put "race" last on my list for emphasis, since my point was that there were OTHER factors besides race ("white privilege") that are at play in Tim Wise's analysis of this presidential election. Doesn't mean I think the last thing you should be talking about is race, or that race is not an issue. Race is a BIG issue, but when you talk about it you shouldn't create an argument where none or little exists.

I won't bother explaining any more, since you dismissed me as a fool, and my comments as obnoxious, profoundly stupid, simple minded.

"Please go preach that gospel to those sinners who hang out on known hate sites."

I guess what you are saying is that THIS site is an "unknown" hate site, as opposed to the known ones? Because the few responses that I have received to my original posts have been pretty hateful, including yours. I don't know why people like you feel the need to spew hurtful comments at people when disagreeing. Just remember that there are real people that you are communicating with.

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Could Be Trolling?

"My African heritage is not a "claim" and I could care less what you "suspect.""

Ummm, yes, yes it is. Any statement that can be falsified is a claim, and unfortunately we have no evidence to confirm or deny. This is why in general on the Internet it's best to steer clear from arguments that rely on one's identity. But the very fact that almost everyone thought you were white I think is quite indicative.

"I guess you think that a black man can't POSSIBLY disagree with your views, or disagree with Obama—which I find to be insulting and yeah a little racist."

No, that's entirely possible. I'm perfectly aware that, for example, Larry Elder and Sowell disagree with me on Obama and much else, and use phrases like political correctness. But it is only a tiny minority of the community that would argue as you have done and a vast portion of the white community who would. All this would be fine if your arguments were good, but they're simply not.

"Race is a BIG issue, but when you talk about it you shouldn't create an argument where none or little exists."

Clearly, no one should say things that are false. The problem is that you went into ridiculous claims to the other extreme.

"I guess what you are saying is that THIS site is an "unknown" hate site, as opposed to the known ones? Because the few responses that I have received to my original posts have been pretty hateful, including yours."

Yes, questioning that a person on the Internet may not be whom they claim and expressing a reply with no obscenities is "hateful".

Andrew, I don't know if you are black or white, but your skin is quite incredibly thin. I'd hate to see what'd happen at 4Chan or indeed pretty much any forum but here...

In any respect, you're wrong, Andrew. And after posting a piece that you had to know would be incendiary, you bow out while accusing those who criticize you of hatefulness. It's trollish behavior, IMHO. I responded paragraph by paragraph to your points and continue to do so, you reply with single paragraph non sequiturs.

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Right...

Which arguments, exactly, Andrew? Putting aside skepticism as to your self-declared racial group, it doesn't even matter. Just like how a black man "passing" as white can get the benefit of white racial privilege, so too can you reap an ancillary benefit: Sounding white (as you certainly did) and posting on a generally liberal forum where opinions are protected (in a manner that usually protects those who are not used to having their opinions dismissed off hand but whose egos are far more sensitive, i..e whites) gave you the veneers of white privilege that I noted and that I am sure you would agree clearly exist. But in any respect, I made numerous claims that pointed to various elements and undermined your argument, and you can't just come along after the fact and say "Nyaah nyaah nyaah, I'm not white" and expect to be taken seriously.

I am indeed a white male. But now it's your turn to have ignorance about your interlocutor exposed, because I'm an anarchist first, an anti-capitalist second and an anti-racist third. I have been on the opposing side of this argument. At one point in my life, I thought that race-neutral economic policies combined with the past history of racism explained all disparities between black and white communities. Tim presented a clear case that this was false, but that doesn't change that my first commitments have always been to libertarian anti-statism and revolution followed very closely by economic activism and creating revolutionary new institutions. So, in fact, you're talking to someone who couldn't agree more (and, incidentally, so too does Tim, who has anti-capitalist motivations): Race, state, gender and capital are all powerful forces, and if I had to say any factor was weakest I'd say it was race even if only because race has had the most successful activism against it. That doesn't deny the fact that, sorry, racism and white privilege matter in this election, and if your point wasn't to say otherwise then you could not have expressed your point in a more confusing or appalling way.

I was perfectly aware that your comment was a parody, my comment was a parody of your piece in turn. But let's analyze the likely impact of that parody. In response to a piece about white privilege that raises whites' hackles and causes people to deny white privilege, a piece that talks about political correctness as if it mattered one iota is going to have the effect not of making whites laugh and respond positively but rather of soothing them and making them think that, hey, this is all PC BS, everything's fine, race is dead and buried. For that reason alone, I don't trust your motives, considering how obvious it is when one has ANY kind of awareness about what the terms "political correctness" and "white privilege" mean vis-a-vis each other (they're antitheses in political parlance, so that to say that one matters is to deny the other exists, very strange for someone who supposedly thinks race is real...)

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Possibility?

"I think your whole argument is null and void since I am black and thus unable to avail myself of white privilege...."

 Well how about this: are you unable to avail yourself from self-hatred?

 

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correct? hmmm


Poor Andrew, are you struggling with the disability, uhm, I can't remember the name of it, but, you know . . . it's the one where you can't come up with an original idea OR slant OR thought?  My condolences; it must be hard. And hey, if your team gets in your problem will be solved-- you'll never have to have an original thought again because it will just be more and more and more of the same and if anything you can use your creative writing skills to make up excuses for the decline of our country. What a comforting thought.  PS  Sarah Palin taught me how to respond in such a snide, sophomoric  tone.  Cool, huh?

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Poor Ann

It's called parody, Ann. Look it up. And believe it or not, my "team" is Obama/Biden; my commentary is more about how Tim Wise takes his favorite and most financially lucrative topic ("white privilege") and tries to make it fit into areas that just don't work. So I was kind of doing the same thing within the same framework, and although some of my arguments may not work either, I hope it illustrates that there is a lot of intellectual "reaching" going on with Tim's. And speaking of original thoughts, why don't you just go ahead and take ownership of your "snide, sophomoric tone" instead of trying to hide behind someone you find distasteful.

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Nice Try...

"my commentary is more about how Tim Wise takes his favorite and most financially lucrative topic ("white privilege") and tries to make it fit into areas that just don't work."

Then go ahead and make the arguments, but the arguments you made didn't reply to an iota of Tim's reasoning (simply pointed to different examples, like two ships passing in the night) and danced dangerously close to being quite offensive.

"So I was kind of doing the same thing within the same framework, and although some of my arguments may not work either, I hope it illustrates that there is a lot of intellectual "reaching" going on with Tim's."

None of them did, really. What has struck me as fairly clear is that most of the black folks here perceive white privilege and race very clearly in Tim's points while self-identified white folks are far more likely to simply not get it. That's an interesting meta-comment, and given how quick white folks are to dismiss ANYTHING that sounds like a claim of racism (note that this is not a racial claim and it doesnt contain an onus of inferiority and certainly not ESSENTIAL inferiority), I tend to question whether or not whites are thinking clearly when they make arguments in this vein. Don't know your racial background, but I'm gonna guess white simply by the usage of "political correctness". There's really no such thing, it's a mythical chimera white guys beat on to be reactionary (BTW, I am white...)

Tim's points, like I've mentioned repeatedly, sometimes point to a white privilege factor where there is also a gender, class or partisan factor. But all of the advantages he cites make a clear point. None of the examples you cited made a clear point: Were my response not in the format it was, I would have noted how none of them were actually due to any "political correctness" but rather numerous other non-racial factors, and in combination in no way disproved the claim that McCain had a leg up and Obama a leg down because of race.

Let's put it this way: Do you think race is a factor that is hurting Obama? Pretty much everyone buys that, even if they only believe that it's because some Obama supporters bring race up and scare away whites (an idiotic position but clearly admitting that race is playing a role). If that's the case, then you simply have to concede at the very beginning that white privilege is occurring, because every loss for Obama was a victory for Hillary or other candidates in the primaries and is a victory for McCain in the national election.

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Race in America

Dear Tim,

 Please see my redroom page.  I read your piece elsewhere, but because of my complete political addition of late had not checked into redroom in weeks..... I haven't even had time to read all the responses to your piece or its follow up.

Note:  it is nearly impossible, as you have seen, to talk about race in this country.  My posts on the subject on blogcritics engendered a whole host of virulent responses, my favorite being that my speaking about race was just a cover for my wishing to talk about the Jewish question.  Sigh.

We must keep on, no matter what.  In spite of resistance.  And in spite of people telling us we can't.

Lisa Solod Warren.

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Thank you!

I grew up in an upper middle class suburb in Ohio.  One night when I was in High School, a black friend of mine who owned a BMW was stopped by the police because they assumed he had stolen the vehicle.  Somehow showing his registration was not enough for the police officer and the whole thing had to be settled at the police station along with this kids parents.  This was in the 1990's, so we are not talking about the pre civil rights era.  Many of us were totally shocked but it was a real reminder of the incredible racism that is very much alive today.

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Is And Isn't

Tim: Obviously I love this piece given my comments ;) . I did just have a realization, though.

Oftentimes, I think that it's important when whites are starting to grapple with the idea of white privilege and racism to note what is neither but might sound like it.

For example: I realized that when I express to supporters of Obama, black or white, or to blacks in general, that I don't think Obama is sufficiently progressive and preferred Edwards and Kucinich, or those of us who argued that voting for Hillary due to her domestic program was slightly better than Obama's superiority in foreign affairs, and when folks like Paul Street and Michael Albert do so as well, they are almost never called racist. People differ sometimes, loudly (as is appropriate), but rarely is the fact that someone who is clearly an anti-racist preferred two white guys considered to be an example of racism. I think this shows how sober the black community is about what it does and doesn't call racism. Clearly, thinking that one candidate is a worse, more corporate candidate who does less for blacks than another is not racism. But, just as clearly, voting for the white woman because race matters to a person is racist. Maybe as long as you're clarifying what white privilege/racism IS, it might be good to note clear examples of what it is NOT?

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Thanks

I was led to this site by your original blog on white privilege, and have enjoyed this one, too. As a recovering racist (my father, may he RIP, was a cop in the south, and called black men "spooks" and "porch monkeys"), and a woman who'd been pretty excited about the possibility of having a female president (FINALLY), I at first had a little trouble really getting behind Obama, even though I definitely didn't like McCain or his ideas. And I had to admit to myself finally that the reason I didn't feel I could trust him was his race. Looking past his color, and learning more about his positions, listening to him speak, learning about his background and education (and knowledge of the constitution, which is a big plus for me, being rather fond of that document and its amendments, like that first one that's pretty important) all convinced me that he really is not just the best candidate, but a GREAT candidate, and now I'm excited to support him.

I'm equally excited to have discovered your blog, because you're making the arguments that really need to be made to erode the pernicious racism that I'm sure is at the heart of the small gap between Obama and McCain in the polls. Considering the two candidates and their positions and the state things, there's no reason BUT race to explain why McCain has so much support. So, thank you.

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Article on white privilege

Thanks for the brilliant article re white privilege!

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White privilege in public and private schools

Hear, hear, and bravo for your clear articulation of this important issue.  My advocacy has been limited to school children and their parents.  I've long found that open acknowledgement of bias nets huge resistance and hostility.  I'm sorry to hear that some readers have demeaned themselves by stooping to threats and crude inuendo when they lacked the facts needed for mutually informative discussion.  These are a few anecdotes I'd like to share:

An African American man lurches along the pavement on a Palo Alto street.  The social worker in the car with me refers to his public drunkenness in the middle of the day.  As we drive past, he proceeds up the sidewalk to a convalescent hospital.  He is dressed in clean, pressed clothing.  Would anyone have assumed he was drunk if he were white?  Or simply jump to an alternate conclusion about a neuro motor impairment?

A Hispanic American child comes to school without a backpack, a week after the teacher has sent a note home asking the parents to provide one.  The student isn't doing well, and he's having trouble making friends in this new school.  The teacher would like to report the parents to protective services for educational neglect.  No, he doesn't arrive late, Yes, he does have appropriate clothing and jacket, No, the teacher has not referred him to the school program that provides supplies and backpacks to those who need them or offered this to the parents.

 A rumor is going around that three popular high school girls are involved with drugs.  One is white, one has a Spanish surname, one is of mixed Caucasian and African american heritage.  All three have been hired to work in a prestigious summer program at this preparatory school.  The dean asks some of their friends for the source of the rumor, and a white student is discovered to be the source.  The rumor's source was not hired to work in the summer program, and feels left out socially in contrast to the three - after reporting that drug dealers are likely to gun down people on campus because the three girls know who they are, the source is hired for the summer program.  The mixed race student is suspended and dropped from the summer program.  The allegations are not substantiated, and no other student drug abuse is investigated.

An African American psychotherapist, age 40, arrives for his interview with the dean of a small private graduate school.  He is dressed impeccably and arrives a few minutes early for the appointment.  The dean offers him the position of gardener without asking his name.  When asked if he was expecting someone else, the unembarrassed dean said that he was just hoping to fill the gardener position without advertising for it.

It's not that I think you don't know.  I appreciate the objectivity that your writing brings to this topic.  I simply wanted to share some additional examples.  A sense of belonging is a profound gift for everyone in a group, providing resiliency, validation and support.  As human beings, as a country and a community, how can we withhold this from our own neighbors, especially from children?  Each of the above incidents detracts from the humanity of the biased observer, while hurting people who had done nothing to earn it. 

May we grow in our humanity and embrace the humanity of each other.

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Tim

You give me hope. Keep on pushin' ... Can't stop now ... Move up a little higher ... Some way, somehow

 I think you can feel Curtis Mayfield there.

Gary

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Hmmm

So what does it mean when a black man tells a white man that the most important lesson he learned in life was learned in the USMC during his first tour - that not every black man is his friend, and not every white man is his enemy? A good lesson for us all to learn whether we wear one pigment shade or another.

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Not That Much

I don't think it means that much, frankly. Actually, EVERY white man, or at least the category "white men and women", is the enemy of every black man and women, at the level wherein one gets advantages and one gets disadvantages and the two are in a zero sum game.

Maybe this analogy would be illustrative. Poor people, especially by virtue of being around each other, clearly fight. And maybe they have rich friends or at least rich folks who don't actively victimize them. But someone looking at that and arguing that, hey, poor and rich don't have opposed class interests would be idiotic.

Further, the structural forces that make a large portion of minority communities go battle others who in the taxonomy of their home countries are much more like them than others are part of the white privilege game, so to speak. So when black soldiers fought Filipinos, Flipinos would point out that they were both black, and black morale in that war was very low. It's imperially the same phenomenon as when Indians fought other Indians on the behest of the British.

Of course a black Sudanese who wants to blow up another major American landmark is the enemy of black Americans and the friend of some white or close-to-white Persians and converted white Muslim extremists, but that's not really illustrative, I think.

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In regards to your statement

In regards to your statement on white priviledge. Given that it is a 'psychological' problem, what can be done about it in the public policy area (government?)

Often times, I frequently witness accusations of racism toward certain people i.e. liberals, white liberals etc - not that their attitudes automatically innoculates them from rebuttals, but I'm at a lose to understand the underpinnings of those complaints. And it's unfortunate too. Many many well intention people who are just as interested in progressive change are shunned away by accusations and dismissals of 'you just don't get it.' without any substantive explainations.

Politically, this will silence the 'white liberals' like it has in Washington DC. There's an unspoken agreement between the 'white liberals' and the black leadership that no white person should talk about the murder rate, the problems in our schools - that's a 50% drop out rate -both black and white. That's just not done amongst polite blacks and white liberals and in the mean time - teenagers are dropping like flies because -the blacks have let the white let it be know - it's not your issue.

Hence, we'll see more and more of this quiet concern from the white liberals because they do get it right in the face. And it gets very old....fast.

 

 

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But People DON'T Get It

Riley: White privilege is not only a psychological problem. IMHO, it's actually FAR more deeply an institutional problem. After all, when people say "Look, racism is just a psychological problem", they beg the sociological question: Where the hell did this mass swath of society get the identical psychological problem? Well, they had to have gotten it from teachings, and those teachings had to resonate strongly enough with the rest of society that they continued to hold them and not be dismissed automatically from their communities. So there we immediately see INSTITUTIONS, but then people begin to back off, since we're getting to scary areas. So white privilege is codified by past history and the financial resources given by that, the old boy's network of informal powerful contacts, employment, housing, legislation, the media, etc. White people become invisibly accustomed to having it, but that is only because it's being given by these institutions in the first place. It'd be bizarre for blacks, for example, to act privileged as a group.

"Often times, I frequently witness accusations of racism toward certain people i.e. liberals, white liberals etc - not that their attitudes automatically innoculates them from rebuttals, but I'm at a lose to understand the underpinnings of those complaints. And it's unfortunate too. Many many well intention people who are just as interested in progressive change are shunned away by accusations and dismissals of 'you just don't get it.' without any substantive explainations."

So then you need to call them out. When an Imus or a O'Reilly calls someone racist, it's because they have no rational recourse left and want to muddy the waters. The unfortunate thing is that among a portion of viewers the tactic will work. If you're talking about white anti-racists, I can only speak to my experience, but what I've found is that some progressive, well-meaning but fundamentally naive people repeatedly spout racist arguments, simply don't listen to the responses given by blacks (while nodding the whole time) and continue with their ignorance whole cloth. By that time, blacks are emotionally frustrated, irritated at having to explain their own life experience to someone who is intellectually dismissing that lfie experience as real, and rationally considering that this guy isn't going to hear it. When a white guy gets into the conversation, saying the same things the black and Latino people were just a few seconds ago, suddenly there is an impact, but even then the impact is not always understanding. Sometimes, the progressive person begins to be actively racist.

I can't tell you the amount of times I, talking to MARXISTS and so forth, have had to argue about the importance of racism above and beyond class. One guy in particular is insistent that the government made us talk about racism through the CIA and the Rockefeller Foundation so that we alienate the white working class! He says we should abandon all this talk about race so we can appeal to the white working class majority. This is a noxious position, but it comes from someone who claims to be progressive and certainly talks the talk elsewhere.

White liberals routinely ARE racist, in ways that they, actually, DO simply not get. For example: White liberals often don't understand the deep, savage, tragic irony of naming a de facto segregated high school in the inner city Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Politically, this will silence the 'white liberals' like it has in Washington DC. There's an unspoken agreement between the 'white liberals' and the black leadership that no white person should talk about the murder rate, the problems in our schools - that's a 50% drop out rate -both black and white. That's just not done amongst polite blacks and white liberals and in the mean time - teenagers are dropping like flies because -the blacks have let the white let it be know - it's not your issue."

But even this expression is racist, because it implies that blacks in Washington, D.C. a) have a consistent behavior pattern outside of cultural, institutional and social influences and b) that it is BLACKS who have forced this outcome even when this is a highly contentious description of the problem and blacks don't have the political clout to do that. Suffice it to say that Washington, D.C. politics are very complex, and there are numerous reasons why the murder rate and the dropout rate are so massive.

For example, let's say that the black community asks, as it has, the white community to do the things that would repay black communities for what they've been through, let them get back on their feet, and thereby reduce crime and dropout rates by reducing poverty and urbanization. When the white community doesn't respond, Riley, what WOULD you expect them to do? Of COURSE they're going to say, "This is our problem, we need to deal with it", because the white community has already refused to help. What you're saying is that the actions of a progressive minority undermines this picture, but it simply doesn't. The majority made their decision, Riley. (To be fair: I think the majority are actually progressive, but they are usually silent, and so they made their decision to be silent and not help, which is just as bad). This is a massive part of the picture, and leaving it out shows that you don't get it.

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Explaining white privilege

The flaw in the white privilege argument is the fact that Asian students outperform whites & have higher graduation rates (same in NZ & Australia). They then go on to high paying jobs. How can this happen if the system is so racist?