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19 September 2008 @ 03:04 pm
White Privilege  
What is white privilege?

I once had a great talk with my friend Renee about the various privilege cards in our decks, and how we have a responsibility to pocket those suckers when we can. If we pull them out, we should be using them to affect positive change for those without the privilege card. Example: being a white protester at an apartheid protest, as in: this doesn't negatively impact my person, and it is still wrong. Example: men marching for women's suffrage (see also the Men's League for Women's Suffrage).

When sarmonster and you and I protest as US citizens against policies targeting non-citizens and immigrants, we're affecting positive change with our privilege cards because, though we have a privilege that those being persecuted lack, we're not turning the other way and saying, "Not my problem." What's happening on the Olympic Peninsula right now is infringing on the privacy of citizens who have nothing to worry about - but that's exactly when it's important to stand up.

Next time you think "This isn't my problem", do a sanity check: are you using one of your privilege cards? They come in many forms: race, age, sex, sexuality, literacy, education, money, access to the internet, citizenship...

It's really hard to be conscious of the privileges we're born to. I use mine all the time, completely bone-headed and ignorant of what I'm doing.
 
 
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: "Pull Me Under" - Dream Theater
 
 
 
Khalliskhallis on September 19th, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
I agree with much of your post, regarding the value of protesting that which does not impact you directly. I once wrote a post along very similar lines.

I do, however, take some exception to the notion of 'white privilege' - let me see if I can coherently explain why. (As I do disagree, this is by nature somewhat confrontational - I apologize if I come across as hostile or combative; neither are my intent.)

I think of white privilege much as I think of catholic guilt.

Both strike me as systems built with the implication of pervasive sin - that every included individual is by default and by definition guilty, and therefore is compelled to spend their lives seeking atonement.

This seems unhealthy, to me. Worse - if you are willing to surrender the judgment of the wrong you have supposedly done, and the atonement you therefore owe for it, to a third party with both a motive and an agenda - then it becomes terribly manipulative. Getting people to believe they have all done something gravely wrong by existing, and then selling them the cure, is a hell of a powerful scam.

I believe I've got a personal responsibility not to be an asshole, and as a libertarian, I've got a fierce urge not to dominate or rule anybody. I'm not the Man, and I'm not keeping anybody down. Therefore, I accept no projected guilt for being born who and what I am. Fairness and diversity works both ways - I believe there to be no inherent superiority or inferiority in being white, just as I believe there to be no inherent superiority or inferiority in being black. I don't think black people have any specific obligations because they're black - why would I think differently of white people?

I see honor and rightness in being colorblind. That doesn't mean heaping a burden of guilt and self-loathing upon one side to try to match the burden of injustices perpetrated upon the other. It doesn't mean defining a quota of how many of each should be represented at any given occasion, and forcing people out and forcing people in as necessary to force fit. All of the above are basing actions upon the triviality of skin color, and that is in my opinion only aggravating a problem that already exists.

In my opinion, society simply should not care.
The law, more importantly, simply should not care.

Believing the above as I do, the notion of being specifically consciously aware of the social ramifications of the color of your skin, and basing your behavior upon fulfilling the role you feel people of your skin color should conform to, strikes me as actively racist. I don't want to see black people judging and defining themselves and their identity based foremost upon what they think a black person ought to do here - I want them to do what they think is right, as a person. Logically, therefore, I have to believe the same for whites.

And so, I shake my head at the notion of white privilege. If it exists, it shouldn't. If you treat me differently for being white, you shouldn't - that's not my fault, and I don't accept the guilt for you doing it. Obsessing over it would only serve to make me think in terms of race, and I think that is in itself a mistake, because I strive to be blind to it.

All of the above is merely my opinion. I hope it provokes thought and conversation, rather than affront or hostility. I offer it only in the spirit of standing up for what I believe is right, just and fair; it's not intended as an attack.


Edited at 2008-09-19 11:51 pm (UTC)
Kburgunder on September 19th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)
This was beautifully worded, in my opinion, and I definitely see and acknowledge where you're coming from. After I posted this, this thought passed through my mind: that the various privileges are incredibly passive, and in order to deny them, we have to actually make an active effort. I left it at that, as I was heading home from work, and wandered off in my head to some Linear A symbols I've been working on and how they correspond to a paradigm Ilsa has been building over the last many months. Which is neither here nor there...

But if I'd taken my thought a bit further, perhaps it would've lead to some of the thoughts you have on it.

I abhor the concept of original sin.

So you've given me much to think about.

Thank you, love :)

Edited at 2008-09-19 11:59 pm (UTC)
Kburgunder on September 20th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
p.s. Give me a thoughtful, passionate person I disagree with over a sycophant any fucking day! :)
Kburgunder on September 20th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
p.p.s. I'm going to play chess with a friend of mine tonight, and that always makes me miss you. In fact, do you remember the guy that we played with at New Year's Eve that one year? That's who I'm meeting up with.
Deirdreevillinn on September 20th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
I always get a little giddy when I see your icon and then a lot of words.

I think you are spot on here. But you can remove, completely, the notion of guilt and atonement and still be purposeful in our consciousness.

And I believe that is where it gets tricky.

I believe that we can both recognize that we have certain "privileges" *and* remain conscientious about the world around us without carrying the burden of guilt or unreasonable responsibility. Its hard to do, though, and most people are incompetent at life. When you are mindful of the fact that you reap benefits that others are denied it can become taxing to keep perspective. And when one loses perspective on this particular issue, they either seem to become burdened with guilt or start enacting the prejudice at hand.

Another thing that complicates our perspective is that many of us simply don't have any. Most of the people I know have lived in communities that reflected them racially and socio-economically, and beyond some awareness of gender inequalities or some limited awareness of racial inequalities, they simply don't have perspective on these things. Of course, having perspective would, in most cases, lead to an inflated sense of guilt, so we're back at the beginning again. But, there is also some liberation from that when one is truly, fundamentally aware of the issues, because they can understand that taking on guilt doesn't actually do anything worthwhile for anyone.

Also, I just got done with a 10 hour shift at work, during which I ate about 15 crackers and two cheese sticks, so I'm not even totally sure I'm writing in English right now.
sculptruth on September 20th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)
I see what you're saying, and I agree with more than a lot of it as the way things should be. I don't want to be [mis]judged more than anyone else, because I know on the surface I don't reflect my race accurately, nor my background. How would anyone know who I am with a snap judgement? They can't, and they shouldn't.

Having said that, I also see that unfortunately in the eyes of others, race/class/gender cards do very much exist. Whichever side of the coin our positions fall, we can either hold back others, or be held back by them. What I've gleaned from burgunder is that we can turn them around to affect the world positively, and I couldn't agree more.
Sarah: Igot1sarmonster on September 19th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
Mike asked which black running mate the GOP had lined up in case Hillary had got elected.

Being born in America with English as a first language is the one that really stuns me the more I see of people who weren't.

Thanks for posting this, it helps me appreciate that I do have a head start. Anyone from a different perspective seeing me whining about 'not making it' would put it down to laziness or lack of motivation.
animaeruption on September 20th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC)
I'd need to pick at what you are saying in conversation more to completely understand what you are saying. My first reaction is to say that what you are saying is that you want everyone on an even playing ground.

I don't want that.

I like that there is struggle. It churns the world better.

However... I approach the whole situation more along the lines of "don't be an unnecessary asshole".

Interesting topic and choice of words. "priveledge card" New batch files of thought have begun. I look forward to when they have finished.

Thanks!
sculptruth on September 20th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry-- what's happening on the Olympic Peninsula?

I answered my question. :)

Edited at 2008-09-20 05:28 pm (UTC)
Kburgunder on September 20th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
sarmonster is reporting the details as they occur from the Olympic Peninsula:

First Mention
Second Mention
Today's Protest
Kburgunder on September 20th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
Ah, then consider this response general education for anyone else with the same question :)
junoimeldajunoimelda on September 21st, 2008 05:08 am (UTC)
Goddamn LJ ate my long, thoughtful comment. I will do the digest version instead:

White people should not feel guilty or responsible, but we have the ability to respond and we should when possible. Response = unlearning stereotypes, working for justice and against bigotry, learning about other races and cultures, history, etc.

"white privilege" implies that we have something that we should not. Instead, I believe the reverse is true: everyone should have the privilege to be judged fairly, to not be stared at or feared or profiled or looked down upon based on skin color, gender, etc.

In my time at YouthCare I encountered some kids of color who distrusted white people. This distrust is there for a good reason! our society is steeped in racism, however subtle it may be sometimes, and there are/have been plenty of whites who are asshats. So, rather than respond to these kids with defensiveness, I just behaved as an example of a White Person who Doesn't Suck. Many minorities in this country have good reason to be angry. One way to respond in a helpful/non-racist manner is to understand and accept this, to NOT take it as a personal affront or a reason for guilt.

To respond to Khallis: As far as the law goes, color blindness is very important. I think it's wrong to pretend we're all the same because we are not! African Americans, White Americans, etc. all have cultural differences. Embrace it! Enjoy it. The important thing is to be equally open-minded and open-hearted towards a wide variety of people. I would be bored silly in a monocultural society.

OK, LJ ate my comment 2 times!!! copy, paste, and post. hope this works. :/