Thursday, April 12, 2012

We All Shine On - Privilege 100

Earlier I wrote a post on the basics of Privilege. Let's call it "Intro to Privilege." But the last couple days I found myself having to break it down into even smaller tidbits. And it kind of reminded me of what John Lennon was doing in the 70's, taking this really radical and revolutionary concepts and turning them into bumper stickers phrases in these immensely catchy songs. I'm no Lennon - or Ringo for that matter, but I hope you find something useful in this smorgasbord, this Prep class...

- Being white in America comes with privileges, but being white is not a privilege. Nor is it a burden.

- Whites tend to think the solution to race is forgiveness and put the onus on People of Color. The solution is equity and respect.

- Privilege allows us to be dismissive and silence other voices in the public forum while patting ourselves on the back for being brave enough to "tell the truth", which is only a truth according to our privileged perspective.

- People of color need to speak truth-to-power without being accused of being divisive or trouble-making. The trouble-making and the division is happening to them, and it's not of their accord, and it's not their fault.

- The constant lie is, "If only Blacks would stop talking about being black, racism would end... If only Mexicans would stop speaking in accents... If only Muslims would stop flaunting their Muslimness... If only women would stop yapping about their ladybits..."

- Privilege allows us to tell others that they shouldn't bring up their differences, as those differences only divide us. Only in Privilege Land can difference be a negative thing.

- The best that can be said about the claim that color-blindness is a goal is that it's like claiming that we must strive for ignorance.

- It's usually white people who claim color-blindness because it's easier for us than having to acknowledge the problems of racism in the US. Just as it's often men who declare that women complain too much about their burdens, and middle and upper class who consider the poor to be undeserving.

- White people, like myself, have the privilege of being taken seriously simply because we were born White and male. Yet our roles as neighbors and citizens necessitate that we take the words and perspectives of others who are not like us seriously.

- When you say "color-blind", what I hear is, "I accept you on MY terms, rather than for who you are."

- The better position would be to listen to what people of color say and not presume that it means they hate you or that you have to lose your culture.

- We cannot presume to love our neighbors if we're not willing to walk in their shoes for a bit.

- I come from a mixed-race family, I grew up in multi-cultural/multinational/multi-racial neighborhoods, schools, and churches, but I always assumed that I was right and that Euro-American culture is indisputably best. Not because I was raised to be racist or was an arse. But it's part of how this country and its racist genes work their way into our schools, education, social conventions, etc.


  1. Excellent commentary!

  2. 1. Agreed in part. Being white is not a privelege. And neither is anything else I can label myself. I would also agree that it isn't a burden but i feel you might be suggesting that being not white is a burden...

    2. I agree that the solution is respect and fairness.

    3. Disagree of if your suggesting that people don't have right to speak. Just because someone has had different experiences doesn't mean they won't understand some one else.

    4. Agreed as long as everyone else is allowed to as well.

    5. Unsure if I disagree or agree. What i believe is that whatever you are (man, woman, lesbian, tg, ts, black, white) is part of who you are. But don't let it define who you are.

    6. Unsure if I agree or disagree again. Differences are important. That is what makes us all unique. But it is the harping on the differences to the point where we can't find common ground that gets to be annoying.

    7. Disagree. color blindness means to me that I am not judging someone based on their appearance but by who they are.

    8. Unsure. Never heard that one before. As a white person, I don't feel 'color blindness' is easier, especially when we live in a society that constantly shows that racism lives. Because of that it would much easier to fall into that dichotomy. Just to believe and listen to the stereotypes. I rather not

    9.Disagree. There are plenty of white males I wouldn't take seriously. And as white female I'm almost never taken seriously. But that could be because I'm short and look hispanic, who knows?

    10. Disagree about the color blindness, but I do agree with you about the motto. It isn't a good one. Mine is 'You accept me for who I am and I will accept you for who you are.'

    11. Agreed in part

    12. Agreed.

    13. Disagreed. Like you I grew up in a mixed family. But unlike you I never believed that being white was right. Maybe it isn't as spread out as it used to be. Of course, I could just be living in my own little fantasy world. But in my defensive believe that we need to live what we believe.

    1. First of all, thanks for taking the time to read and respond to all of these little statements, Allandriana. You've helped to expose why using such pithy statements don't really get to the heart of the matter but may be conflicting and in fact contradicting what I at least intend.

      I won't be able to address all of your points right now, but a couple:

      1. I was trying to shoot down the idea of the White Man's Burden, that the White Man has a distinct natural ability or place to enable and civilize other races/ethnicities.

      3, Everybody has a right to speak, but not every word spoken should be taken as a rule-of-fact, especially if the one (specifically the Privileged - and that could be White/Male/Hetero, etc) is identifying his/her perspective as the only viable one, or the "truthful" one. I could see why this could be misinterpreted, though. Even the privileged need a place to speak their frustrations/perspectives in disclosure and without fear - but doing so often comes with the price of silencing others who do not share that perspective.

      5. I don't know anybody in real life who defines himself or herself by their identity. That's an outward objectification of people that are different than us. That's been my conclusion. And if they are, then so what? I identify as an Evangelical and I don't allow others to tell me that I am or am not. I define what that means in the context of social and historical conventions for what an Evangelical means. And if some people are uncomfortable with this, that's on them. The same with being black, or Muslim, or Jewish, or White, or whatever.

      According to the researchers from Northwestern, Stanford and Tufts, taking a colorblind approach with young children — such as instructing them to “focus on what makes us similar” rather than dealing constructively with difference and challenging bias directly — actually reduces the likelihood that those young people will recognize discriminatory behavior when it occurs, or seek to do something about it.

      9. You're right there, of course. And I approached other privileges (such as Male Privilege, which allows males like myself to be dismissive of female voices) in an earlier blog (link at the top of this post). I was talking in very, very general topics. And I can give plenty of examples of that. I know, or know of, several People of Color who don't trust White Men as a rule of thumb - and I don't blame them in the least. But for those who have power, the cops, the civics leaders, the industry people, they tend to listen to and value the voices of Whites and particularly White Males over darker-skinned people and women.

  3. Thanks Jason -- this does help in the conversation about privilege. Your comments about forgiveness vs equity and respect are right on. One thing that could help this is some of the studies that show that color blind attempts result in greater racism not less. In fact Michelle Alexander documents in her book "The New Jim Crow" that colorblindness is the new mechanism spurring on racism in the U.S. It is now impossible to challenge in court the results of police and prosecutor bias in their discretionary powers in arresting and prosecuting black people. --

    1. As widespread as it is, huh? Never thought about that. Ok, her book goes to the top of the pile...


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