Understanding White Privilege

Jo Ann Hardesty

In order to have a real conversation regarding race participants must first understand how white privilege plays out in our day to day society. This awareness is critical to a real conversation that discusses individual responsibility for creating the world we want to live in.

Some are already poised over their keyboard to disregard this fact, so I might as well dive in.

But slavery ended over 200 years ago, why can't black people just get over it?

-cause slavery was replaced with over a hundred years of Jim Crow Laws, and KKK and court battles with governments, unions, education institutions, etc. in an effort to maintain the status quo.
-cause all the seats of power in education, government, unions, etc. were held by white men who wanted to maintain the status quo.
-cause our fathers, uncles, sisters etc. fought bravely during WWII in totally segregated units and came home to the same Jim Crow Laws they faced in the military.
-cause when the federal government created the Federal Housing Administration the legislation gave extra credit to vets who purchased homes in all white communities, perceived as on their way up, where as vets lost points and received less money for houses in communities with more than 2 black families, which was seen as on its way down.
-cause the education system continues to fail our kids and it is a direct pipeline to the prisons
-cause the state would rather spend limited resources to lock up kids of color rather than educate them.

None of you are personally responsible for creating this reality however we all have a responsibility to right the wrong that we encounter in our world. The benefits received from white privilege is undeniable. Yes all white people are not successful but it does not mitigate the privilege.

Despite these barriers many black people are successful. That is a testament to our resiliency as a people.

What will you do?

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Thanks, Jo Ann...

    What will I do? I will work as hard as I can to recognize and re-construct the power relationships that have always favored white people.

    As a white person, I had parents who had little difficulty getting jobs (one of the few times my mother's job was threatened was when she hired the first African American person in the company's history -- and this was in the 1980's). These jobs resulted in me being able to get a great education. This great education resulted in a series of stable jobs for myself. I worked hard to be sure, but if my parents had faced discrimination and had little job stability, I would not be where I am today. It's about a cycle, a history, not the bootstraps of one individual.

  • (Show?)

    Jo Ann, your post reminds me of a passage from Hendrik Hertzberg's column in last week's New Yorker.

    Competitions among grievances do not ennoble, and both Clinton and Obama strove to avoid one; but it does not belittle the oppressions of gender to suggest that in America the oppressions of race have cut deeper. Clinton’s supporters would sometimes note that the Constitution did not extend the vote to women until a half century after it extended it to men of color. But there is no gender equivalent of the nightmare of disenfranchisement, lynching, apartheid, and peonage that followed Reconstruction, to say nothing of “the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil” that preceded it. Nor has any feminist leader shared the fate of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Clinton spoke on Saturday of “women in their eighties and nineties, born before women could vote.” But Barack Obama is only in his forties, and he was born before the Voting Rights Act redeemed the broken promise of the Fifteenth Amendment.

    Clinton was right to say that from now on it will be “unremarkable to think that a woman can be the President of the United States”—and that, in large measure, is her doing. But the Speaker of the House is a woman; and there are, at the moment, sixteen women in the Senate and eight in the nation’s governors’ offices, the pools from which Presidential candidates are usually drawn. There are two African-American governors, only one of whom was elected to that office. There is one African-American senator—and seven months from now that one may have a different job.

    It's not a response to your question, because I don't have a good response, but I thought it was relevant.

  • (Show?)

    I should add, lest anyone mistake my intention in posting that quote, that I don't think women are treated equally by society, either. And while there are more women in offices of leadership, with regard to the Big Office in the West Wing, I think women have a higher hurdle than men. If we were truly color and gender blind, we'd see something on the order of 50 female senators and 25 female governors. And wouldn't think to remark on it. But we'd also see something like a dozen black senators and six or seven black governors (some of whom might also be women).

    I think what Hertzberg is pointing to is that while we've made some movement toward redressing the crimes of privilege bestowed on white men, the numbers tell us the tale of the tape. We're a long way from done.

  • amber (unverified)
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    Yesterday's events in Monmouth and hearing "I don't see color" one more time from a well-meaning white guy got me on my soap box and I just popped over here after publishing the entry below in my own blog. Thanks for opening the conversation here, Jo Ann.

    I just spent yesterday at the Oregon State Democratic Convention. Chance was running for a spot in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. Although she didn't win a spot, she made the finalists list out of a huge field of worthy candidates. That was great.

    What was even better was that the Democratic Party of Oregon set some diversity goals for the slate of delegates, and the goals were met. It's a small step, but an essential piece of reform that makes me happy to be part of the Democratic party again. I can't tell you how many organizations I've seen where the white middle class leadership complains about how much they'd like to have a more diverse organization, but just don't know how.

    Coming from a long line of do-gooder liberals, my people are fond of saying, "I don't see color," or "Your sexual orientation doesn't matter to me." Um, yeah. I hate this. And the nicest white anglo-saxon folks are shouting it the loudest. They are honestly trying to make room at the table for people who are different and that's the best they can do.

    OK, so think about it. If you don't see color, you don't see what happens to those who are judged by it. If you don't care about my partner's gender, how can you really be my ally? It matters to the people who hate me for it, and it should matter to you. People who say they don't see differences are people who don't suffer for theirs.

    Not seeing color, or gender difference, or class, or religion or 'sexual orientation' is a neon sign on your forehead saying you intend to keep your privilege. Talking about race isn't racist. Ignoring race is.

    When organizations don't specifically require diversity in their leadership, it's an affirmative action plan for members of the dominant culture. Those of us who are straight middle class WASPs, or who pass for it, will need to let go of our indignation when we're passed over for privilege we've taken for granted.

    And guilt is not helpful. Action is. When you have an opportunity to speak up for inclusion, take it. If you don't see 'qualified' candidates in leadership positions, look harder. If you are in a leadership position, mentor candidates who represent minority populations. The loss of privilege you may feel will be far outweighed by the advantages we'll all reap from having representation at the table. We have big problems to solve, and we'll need everyone's ideas to solve them.

  • (Show?)

    Slavery didn't end after the Civil War, unfortunately--the stain remained all the way to WWII, as documented brilliantly by Douglas Blackmon in "Slavery by Another Name." Essentially, local law enforcement simply arrested African Amerian men, charged them fines they knew the men could not pay, and almost literally sold them to businesses (like mines and factories) to be used as captive labor. If that's not slavery I don't know what it is, and it captured tens of thousands of men in this way. Unfortunately for many white folks who would like to say "my family and I had nothing to do with slavery," their family histories may actually include the very thing during a time when they themselves were actually alive.

    Nice piece.

  • estarkie (unverified)
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    One small thing I have been trying to do.

    I have been working in the south on consulting for redevelopment. One of the very real problems in helping neighborhoods is the way that bank appraisals are done. They look backward and rely on comparables, or what properties in the area have been valued at in the past. The problem for neighborhoods taking pro-active measures to plan for the future is that appraisal guidelines will not allow the loans to families that can afford them to fix their homes, even though the families can afford the loans, and even though the planning undertaken might help to assure an upward rather than downward spiral in values.

    While this is not specifically racial in its application, this appraisal custom virtually guarantees that poor black neighborhoods in places like Montgomery, or Memphis, will be unable to reverse the trends and rebuild their communities. In Montgomery, I had a meeting with state legislators and community leaders where i called this de facto redlining, and pointed out that when the site is suburban (with the only comps being of farmland) and the expected occupants white this appraisal format is not applied. In Memphis, affordable housing groups could not get loans sufficient to even fix houses in the area where I was working, even though their costs were significantly lower due to volunteers participating in construction.

    The problem is that the denial of opportunity has now been obscured in an apparently neutral methodology that is, in its effect, not neutral at all. I also made the same points in Memphis to an audience of citizens, developers and community activists. As far as I know nothing has changed in either place. One of my fond hopes is that in a new administration, perhaps issues like this can be allowed a hearing and maybe get some action, because changing this could potentially make a very big difference. It is the kind of thing that a caring community can work on to heal some of the glaring disparities in quality of life.

  • LT (unverified)
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    As someone who campaigned and voted to make Jim Hill the first Democrat and first black state rep. from our district (but didn't vote for Jackie Winters who became the first black woman to serve in that position), I didn't do that based on color. I did it based on their politics, and having known them for years.

    Some people will always see color (remember when there were people asking Obama if he were "black enough" and he responded with a crack about being black enough to have trouble getting a cab in some cities?). And there are those who will be in favor of a black or white candidate over someone who looks Hispanic because "at least we know you were born in this country" (true story from the mid-1980s about the first Hispanic elected state rep. in our district).

    There are also people who look at the "content of their character"---the individual, not the skin color. That should be the ideal.

  • (Show?)

    Some are already poised over their keyboard to disregard this fact, so I might as well dive in.

    But slavery ended over 200 years ago, why can't black people just get over it?

    So Ms. Bowman, do you actually imagine that the regular readers of this blog will lead with that line of thinking?

    Also, to your last point, do you really believe that the state, whomever that may be, actually prefers locking up children of color rather than educating them while holding some other view of children with of no discernable color?

    All sorts of isms do exist, and do tilt the playing field to the disadvantage of the various Grievance Groups. The fact is indisputable. So-o-o-o-o-o.....

    I'd be interested to hear how you imagine this dialogue progressing through this post and future posts, beyond you lecturing, while the rest of us benighted folks acknowledging our collective guilt, and promise to try to do better.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)
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    Point No. 1: In the litany of infamy Ms. Bowman recites, all but the last two items were history about 40 years ago. They lasted longer than slavery, but we haven't had Jim Crow, an all-white power structure, a segregated military, or a discriminatory FHA scheme since the 1960's.

    Point No. 2: The education system is failing young African-Americans. What does Ms. Bowman (or anyone else posting) propose as a CONCRETE way to remedy this problem?

    Point No. 3: Is Ms. Bowman suggesting that young African-American criminals shouldn't be put in jail? I hope not, for the sake of all our communities, black and white and in between. If there are discriminatory sentencing rules (e.g. crack cocaine vs. the "regular" stuff), they should be equalized, but I suggest that the equalization be more in the direction of jail time for everyone rather than no one. One of the major reasons our national crime rate has dropped so dramatically in the past 20 years is that more of the people who would be committing the crimes are in jail instead of out.

    Point No. 4: Barack Obama gives us, finally, a chance to vote for an African-American presidential candidate that is not either a dangerous demagogue, a hypocrite, a fool, a clown, or all of the above (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Alan Keyes, please step to the front). Perhaps there would still be an African-American woman in the U.S. Senate if Carol Moseley Braun hadn't turned out to be a corrupt nitwit. Tom Bradley's defeat in the 1982 California Gubernatorial race was a case of racism defeating an otherwise qualified candidate, but that was 26 years ago. Harvey Gantt's defeat at the hands of Jesse Helms in 1990 rankles, but that was North Carolina, 18 years ago. Let's see what happens in November 2008 before we start throwing those stones again.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    OK, I DID read your post poised over my keyboard. I have to state that with the exception again of your victimhood mentality, that some very important points are brought up.

    For context, I was raised in SC as the son of a military officer. I realize and understand that I had lots and lots of positional privelge. I also have seen and understand institutional racism; from chronically under-funded public inner city schools (NYC, Atlanta, Chicago and LA come to mind) to the most undersireable manufacturing jobs being historically staffed with black employees.

    How do I go about making things better? Like LT I deal with people based upon the content of their character; as individuals rather than their visual characteristics, their religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation. It makes for a much more interesting interaction and outcome.

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Ms. Bowman may I suggest that we ask about the barriers that keep people of all types down.There is a study on public transportation titled TCRP 49 published by the National Academies in it the authors note "The lack of personal mobility has economic, social and human costs, such as higher unemployment, reduced tax revenue, greater welfare and medical costs and limited social potential". Going to the specifics of ethnicity they note that "Nearly 40% of central city Africa-American hoseholds were without access to an automobile, compared to fewer than one of five white central city households."

    In Portland a great deal of effort has been put out to develop Trimet and it is primarily focused on servicing the downtown core.

    Five miles from MLK Jr. Blvd and Killingsworth is the Rivergate Industrial Park and probably many excellent opportunities for jobs for many people in North Portland. Unfortunately given the lack of transportation services between the two areas Rivergate might as well be on the moon.

    Here's a bit more AC Transit in the Bay area needed to save some funds. To do so they reduced services and saved $4.8 million. Unfortunately the lost services costs the community 10 times that, or $48.1 million. Imagine what the lack of transportation services costs the people of North Portland.

    Of course it is against the law or very difficult to own a private transportation company in Portland, or most any other city in America.

    A few years ago I wrote to almost every politician in the city and local area about this problem. I received no answer. Not even a courtesy thank you. Frankly I don't think they give a damn.

    The Libertarian Guy

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Jo Ann: I have no trouble agreeing with you that racial discrimination, including state violence, is a serious problem. "White privilege", however, is a term that is likely to provoke those whites who are also getting screwed by the power structure, even if they are doing marginally better than people of color.

    It appears to me that the civil rights battles of the past were (partially) successful because there was a growing acknowledgement by whites that black people had been treated despicably and systematically by U.S. society. That hundreds of years of this treatment cannot have been overcome by the advances in race relations since the sixties is a clear argument that I continue to make.

    So, please explain to me why "white privilege" is preferable to "black discrimination". Won't the same principles apply, and won't the same actions be required?

  • (Show?)

    UPO, the moral and practical equivalents of what defeated Harvey Gantt are in full circulation this year. If Obama overcomes them, that will be good, but it won't mean that the forces behind them are gone so we can just be "color blind." We are a very long way on anti-black racism from the degree of marginalization that the anti-Catholic positions of John McCain's buddy Pastor Hagee have, relative to the anti-Catholic KKK of the 1920s, which here in Oregon tried to abolish parochial schools. (And even at that, the fact that McCain would elevate Hagee shows that snake not quite dead).

    Differences in formal sentencing guidelines in relatively race-typed equivalent crimes certainly need to be tackled. But increasingly, and especially in Oregon, the issue is not the formal sentencing rules, but the cumulative exercise of "discretion" by police and prosecutors along the way. Start with racial profiling or less systematic differentiation in car stops or other street-level interventions. Let's say a group of kids get stopped for underage drinking (as happened to me & some friends in high school). Do the cops dump out the stuff and let them go, as we were, partly because we happened to be drinking across the town line, though the car was parked in our town? Or that plus the parents get called? Do the kids get brought down to the station, but not charged, just having the parents called instead? Or say it's two different groups and small amounts of pot -- is the discretion equally exercised? Or something more serious -- who more likely gets sympathy as "a good kid ["from a good family" code words] and ends up facing lesser charges or having an opportunity to expunge a record? Or say it's even more serious but borderline Measure 11 -- who gets charged more often on which side of the borderline? More generally, who gets offered the more generous plea-bargain offers, the most common form of arrest resolution in the system?

    These are not purely race matters, nor just anti-black. Latinos and Asian/Asian-Americans and Indians fall foul of it too, and so do poor whites -- access to legal representation makes a difference that's class-based, with the racial pattern substantially rooted in race disproportions among classes.

    There are other kinds of examples in other sections of life.

    Kristin makes an important point that I'd like to put more abstractly -- the long-term patterns Jo Ann points out have given whites life-chance advantages whose effects persist for several generations at least. That gets somewhat murkier within the working classes, in the sense of lots of disadvantaged whites too, but it often sharpens the conflicts and attempts to preserve a relatively minimal skin-privilege because the competition is so fierce and the scale of chances so restricted. In the busing crisis in Boston when I was in high school, the working class white communities who felt threatened certainly resented white suburban liberals, their anger whipped up further by white suburban conservative talk radio hosts (long predating Reagan era Limbaughism) -- but though they made protest caravans to the main judge's house in the suburbs, it was the black kids whose buses got stoned and it was a black man who was stabbed in front of the state house and the memorial to black civil war soldiers by a sharp flagpole bearing the American flag.

    Jeff, the problem with what Hertzberg is doing is that the oppressions and repressions are asymmetrical and overlapping. How do you compare the violence of lynching (and of slavery-era whippings) to the violence of rape, and the long-time acceptance of domestic violence and rape within marriage as beyond the law? The coverture doctrine in Anglo-American law that kept women as legal minors and only gradually eroded over 150 years or so isn't exactly slavery, but isn't nothing either -- the constitutional right of women to sit on juries was only established in the same era as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in fact that law has been crucial to ability to enforce things like employment non-discrimination -- it wasn't until about 1970 that it became illegal to restrict jobs to male or female applicants and advertise them that way.

    And of course African-American and other "women of color" women are women as well as members of racial/ethnic minorities, the "liberty" of wealthy white men to rape and otherwise abuse women in dominated communities, under slavery and in many later situations, was in fact a key tool of domination.

    <hr/>

    What am I going to do? Well, one thing I want to do is find out more about the politics of school transfers in Portland and how that affects the politics relating to specific high schools, most prominently Jefferson but also Benson and Madison and maybe others, as well as their feeders. If you read certain articles in the press you get one impression about the degree of community support for the subdivision of Jefferson into smaller schools; other sources make it look more controversial within the community. It does seem that there are arguments for making the high schools more neighborhood-based being advanced as a way both to save Jefferson and maybe others from closure, and to take a different kind of crack at the failures of Portland Public Schools to serve minority kids adequately. But I don't know nearly enough about it to have an informed opinion.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
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    Amber wrote "talking about race isn't racist. Ignoring race is".

    This confuses me. I am white. I have worked with, and for, people that are white and people that are not. When I was in management, I hired based entirely on whether or not someone was qualified for the job, not based on the color of their skin. I've always thought that that fact--the fact that I don't even consider someone's skin color when I'm dealing with them, but rather their attitude, skills, abilites, and how they treat me--that that fact meant I WASN'T racist. But now it sounds like I'm being told that unless I bring a person's race as a factor into my life, my decisions, my relationships, that I'm RACIST?! I don't get it. Either I'm misunderstanding something or I need someone to present this argument another way for me, please.

    And JoAnn, what do you want me, as a white person, to do beyond acknowledging that non-whites traditionally have received the short end of the stick and confronting racism when/where I see it? For the record, I was raised in a area of the country where blacks were hung and called horrible things and I've been smacked more than once for standing up and telling people to knock it off. So, what else would you like to see me do, if not simply treat everyone based on their abilities and actions and not on their race as I have been?

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    And JoAnn, what do you want me, as a white person, to do beyond acknowledging that non-whites traditionally have received the short end of the stick and confronting racism when/where I see it?

    What Joann and those of her ilk want is to control the discussion of race by perpetuating the myth of white privilege as a way to foster guilt in gullible minds. We can’t have a “real” conversation about race until accepting her premise, however illogical it is on even casual examination which others have already noted.

    Challenge the notion of white privilege and see how quickly your opinions are dismissed as racist. The conversation reverts to another lecture from those with a stake in victimhood.

    We are all responsible for our own actions, not those of our ancestors or those in the past with whom we might share a skin color. The goal is equality for all people today.

  • (Show?)

    The Civil War did not end "over 200 years ago".

    Even leaving aside all the negative stuff that succeeded it, the official end of slavery was not as long ago as some of us think. A person born as a slave in 1855 could have been a slave for ten years. If that person lived to be 100, they might well have spent ten years with a descendant born in 1945. I think it was Leonard Pitts who once mentioned having had a relative who had been a slave living in his family when he was a child.

    For those of us used to thinking of the Civil War as ancient history, realizing that puts things in a little different perspective--at least it did for me.

  • (Show?)

    "Also, to your last point, do you really believe that the state, whomever that may be, actually prefers locking up children of color rather than educating them while holding some other view of children with of no discernable color?"

    I do.

  • (Show?)

    Racism is alive and well in this "turn of the millennium", but it is hardly the kind of phantom institutional nonsense Ms. Boman complains about. Indeed, institutions today - especially anything governmental - have diversity goals written into their charters and plenty of other places. The words all look very pretty when you look at them printed on paper.

    Where racism exists these days is in the recesses of all our souls. As Barack Obama so eloquently stated in his speech on the subject, blacks revert to angry racist framing when they talk about whites around the barbershop, and whites - especially lower class whites - fall into racist patterns when they lash out at special programs to help underrepresented communities (for instance, special loans to black entrepreneurs), in the mistaken belief that economic progress is a zero sum game.

    What I would argue, and what I see Barack Obama as doing when he talks about the outbursts of a white grandmother he loves and a black preacher who was in many ways a father figure, is to treat racism not as a mark of utter irredeemable evil, but as a moral trap every human being can all fall into.

    And once you see it this way, you see the way to actually combat racism is not sanctimonious moralizing by people living in their own worldviews of tribal identity, but rather to transcend it. To, in Barack Obama's words, "turn the page".

    Trust me, Barack Obama is more than aware of the racists in West Virginia. Yet there was never one word from his mouth or his campaign about it. Instead, he reached out to these people, finding what he had in common with them: faith and promises to help working class people so damaged by Republicans. And while he didn't reach them all, he reached many he would not have had he followed the same old script of outrage - regardless its being justified.

    Ms. Bowman seems intent on fighting fire with fire. Her posts on BlueOregon reveal the emotions of someone deeply hurt by whites expressing racism, and much like a soldier experiencing PTSD, she now sees it everywhere. As an Iraq veteran dives under the table at the sound of thunder or gets the shakes seeing a woman wearing a hijab, so she sees a racist conspiracy in a takeout restaurant accidentally burning her food.

    Could I fall into easy sanctimony about her broad brush framing of whites, as it seems some here have done. But I reject that. Instead, I intend to follow the approach of the next President of the United States, and instead fight fire with water.

    Ms. Bowman, I suppose through my activism in the Democratic party, I'm a tiny part of the American power structure (though as a liberal, I'd call it the good part of the power structure, rather than the white part). Still, I intend to do my best to make sure that all American children have the support needed to reach their dreams, regardless of skin color or any other triviality. This extends to examining how to remove the benefits of wealth inherited from racist, or slave based sources.

    It's all I can do.

  • (Show?)

    Just what is “white privilege”?

    Is it the fact that the history of slavery, forced segregation and discrimination has served to disadvantage black people in this country so that even if all race-based discrimination were to disappear today the effects of those things would inevitably still linger for generations?

    Is it the fact that white people have the luxury of ignoring a lot of unpleasant reality about ongoing discrimination that people of color don’t get to ignore?

    Or is it the notion that white people substantially benefit from today’s discrimination against people of color?

    It’s my experience that people use the term to mean any or all of those things.

    Despite the fact that it seems to be canon among authors as disparate as Shelby Steele, Tim Wise, Nathan McCall and Jo Ann Bowman--all of whom I have appreciated as sources of insight--I will argue that white people generally do not benefit from discrimination against people of color and, in fact, the opposite is more likely to be true.

    Do my educational and employment opportunities hinge on systematically denying educational and employment opportunities to any other set of people or do those things hinge on how much we value education and how effective our economy is and not on whether or not there are a few more people in the candidate pool?

    Do I enjoy the privilege of providing subsidies with my tax dollars to people who would be much happier to have a fair chance to support themselves instead? Is it a joy for me to live around more people than I otherwise would who suffer the ills of chronic poverty and hopelessness?

    Am I better off because Jo Ann can’t count on unburned dinners, fair calculations by cab drivers or cheerful retail service to the same extent that I can?

    The problem with the terminology “white privilege” is that it implies that, fundamentally, white people have something that they should not have and will have to give that something up to make things right. The truth is that we will all be much better off when everyone is afforded basic respect, freedom and opportunity.

  • (Show?)

    Mel Harmon,

    Applying uniform standards in hiring decisions is not racist.

    But after the hiring decisions, and similar sorts of decisions -- on which, by the way, you will often find persons of color the most desirous of objective measures -- comes a different kind of treating people equally and similarly, which involves a degree of respect for their individuality, an effort to recognize things that matter to them, ane work with those things. Identities of various forms form part of that. I've had friends with Irish surnames for whom that heritage was a huge part of how they saw themselves and understood what they were doing. For me to have ignored that would have been disrespectful, would have kept me from knowing and understanding them, probably would have created conflict. I had a college housemate with an Irish surname who identified primarily with his Jewish mother. You might meet two persons with similar parentage, one of whom identifies as bi-racial, the other as African American or black, in either case probably a deeply meaningful choice. If you were not paying attention to that, you'd not be dealing with the person's full individuality, and would be apt to fall into trouble.

    (My impression from what you wrote, Mel, would be that you probably operate on that sort of basis in your continuing relationships -- my observations are sort of floating away from an intitial response specifically to you at this point.)

    About 15 years ago when I was teaching First Year Greek and Roman Humanities at Reed's fine college, a year-long course which functions as both a sort of boot-camp for seminar-style "conference" learning and intensive engagement with critical reading and writing, (I also taught a bit of African, African-American and comparative slavery courses, on the side), I had in my Humanities conferences two African-American students from Alaska. I.e. in choosing to come to very white Reed in very white Portland they were not choosing entirely new experiences.

    Both were good students. One was a bit more critical of the Eurocentrism of the course curriculum, but dealt with it. He made clear that his African-American identity was something that mattered to him and that he sometimes wanted to talk about (and about things like my being a white guy teaching black history). He was on track to be a psychology major.

    The other young woman started out wanting nothing to do with any of that. She was trying resolutely to be post-racial. She was on track to be a Classics major. However, after about a semester and a half, she'd had some experiences in Portland that made her start to think that her post-racial color-blind ambitions had been naive; she was struggling with that and with impulses toward cynicism. I thinking finding people with whom to talk about it was hard for her; I sometimes was a sounding board, though probably less than an ideal one.

    For me to have tried to be "color-blind" with either of those students would have been not to treat them equally with other students who were wrestling with different issues in their own individual paths from adolescence into adulthood and in the formation of both their characters and more systematic critical thinking minds, whether it was the guy who was a transfer from a community college in California and thus a bit older, or the advisee who came in to talk about a possibly suicidal housemate to whom he'd promised anonymity and was wrestling with the ethical obligations of that promise vs. the risk to the housemate's life, or later on a Latina student who was very bright and quite at ease about handling her ethnicity at Reed, but had a genuine, documented dyslexia which caused her a great deal of anguish at certain points about the legitimacy of seeking accommodations (e.g. writing one long paper about a very hard book rather than two shorter ones about two easier ones, in once case we worked out). Her identity as a Latina mattered to her -- she's gone on to be a sophisticated historian who operates critically within Latino/a Studies and U.S. history both -- at that juncture, her identity as a bright student and budding intellectual with a learning disability probably mattered more (though the question of whether she might not get a fair shake due to her ethnicity did lurk as a question adding to the complexities she faced).

    But then there's another level, in which the treat-everyone-with-equal-respect-as-individuals ideal (which I will use in place of "color blind" because I think it's the heart of what most people of good will really mean if they say "color blind" anyway) runs up against some other issues: 1) not everyone acts or even tries to act that way; 2) there are persistent social-structural inequalities produced by long histories of inclusion, exclusion, violence and exploitation that don't go away even in 40 or 50 years, from which white people do more or less benefit even if, like me, their immigrant ancestors all came after 1875; and 3) there are people who use the rhetoric of "color blindness" to deny the persistence of structural inequalities that interact with unsystematic, fragemented persistent racist forms of consciousness and cultural expression, although that's become enormously protean and kaleidoscopic.

    I believe that white people need to have consciousness of race in order to be able to tackle structural features of society that reproduce racial inequality. In my current field of public health, "health disparities" among ethnic groups is a live topic of potent interest, in part because some of the greatest opportunities for improving the overall health of the public, as our population perspective says we should, lie in reducing and ultimately ending those disparities.

    This can pose all kinds of problems and complications -- statistical generalizations about disparate patterns of disease between African-Americans and whites (for example) that are suspected to involve different distributions of genetic risk factors in some cases, may be a preliminary diagnostic guide, but may not apply in the same way to someone whose ancestry is "bi-racial" though their cultural identity is black. But dealing with other forms of health disparity that are complexly intertwined with the sociology of race and class inequalities requires paying attention to the category of race, in order to understand the dimensions and dynamics in particular areas and communities of a very real and well-documented phenomenon. Color-blindness would reduce the overall public health in racially and class discriminatory ways.

    So I think white people need to take on a kind of double consciousness of our own (to crib a famous phrase from W. E. B. DuBois about (roughly) being black and being American) -- we need to be one way in our interpersonal relationships in treating everyone with a common courtesy kind of general respect when we don't know people (including equal standards in matters like hiring), and with a common attitude of respect for their individuality when we do. I think that over time that doesn't result so much in color blindness as in comfort with a wider range of ways of being in the world, some of which may or may not be influenced by "color."

    But at the same time we have to be aware of how things are not all hunky-dory on the race and ethnicity front in social structure and in culture, and that a "color-blind" pretense that they are will not make it true, though it might make it easier for us to evade facing the problems.

    On this score, btw, "the content of one's character" includes how one treats inequality and faces issues of justice and injustice, in my book.

  • (Show?)

    A person born as a slave in 1855 could have been a slave for ten years. If that person lived to be 100, they might well have spent ten years with a descendant born in 1945. I think it was Leonard Pitts who once mentioned having had a relative who had been a slave living in his family when he was a child.

    And the inverse is true too. Overt racism may have been largely driven underground now, but the attitudes are alive and well throughout this country.

    And let's not forget that the largest Klan chapter in the country was once in Oregon -- and there was a time when the Klan controlled the Oregon governor's office.

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    ...and that was in the 20th century.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Humans and those who aren't human. Those are the individuals I work and interact with. Some humans are caucasian, some are hispanic, some are negro, some are asian, many have family backgrounds - the humans that is - that span two or more 'races'. These are the people - the human ones - who we need to work with and live with.

    If we refuse to work and live with our fellow humans, we will all perish.

    In my years of working with and living with other humans, I see cause for hope and cause for dispair. I have my fingers crossed that we will all eventually learn to live together....

    Please keep in mind that I did not say that we all had to love each other, I just said that we all had to live together... that would be without slitting each other's throughts......

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    What will I do? The first thing I did was not have "a people." Of course I see color, and I hear accents and I don't give a damn. But my people? They're white and northern European and as far as resilient goes, they've been ass-kickers and so what?

    If one creates a culture, say Jim Crow, one reaps the outcomes - schools fail black children? I've been to school and so have you, those people tried to teach me and I was willing or I wasn't and I got to that school from someplace else - like home and neighborhood. I took most of my "stuff" to school, I didn't get it there.

    If a person wants to do well in a competitive environment they have to bring willingness and hope and that doesn't start with mandated anythings, it starts at home and neighborhood so what you're talking about accomplishing is cultural change and people don't like that - change.

    If a culture encourages or tolerates behavior that is conducive to failure it will continue to fail, outside the exceptions who don't buy into the norms. Cultures are not formed quickly or without cause and neither are they quickly changed or without serious cause. The culture I'm speaking of is not somehow black, it is the disadvantaged who see no hope in their case and the wild success of others with advantage.

    If this sounds like an exercise in blaming the victim, it is not, it is a recognition of ills done, but it is also a recognition that now is what must be addressed. There certainly must be opportunities to succeed, but there also must be willingness to do so and that cannot be addressed by talking to me about my privilege as a white. (BTW, I had a very good education, parents who respected such and I work like a pig for my nickle)

  • edison (unverified)
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    "As Husserl would put it, had I had the same access to the consciousness of the other as I have to my own, the other would cease being an other and instead become a part of myself." That's from a paper called Self and other: The limits of narrative understanding by Dan Zahavi Danish National Research Foundation: Center for Subjectivity Research University of Copenhagen

    The comments so accurately illustrate the limits of narrative understanding.

    Jo Ann: Excellent post! Thank you.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
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    Ms Bowman,

    I'm sorry to say, but after reading three out of three of your posts, you seem to have a pretty serious chip on your shoulder. Your three posts have all dealt with race. Okay, no problem. But all three pretty egregiously question non-blacks in rather stereotypical and simplistic ways.

    You assume that because you are black you are treated more rudely at a hotel/bus/restaurant than a white person. You make a totally irrational argument that black people will be "sacrificed" during the presidential campaign.

    And now this... you ascribe that pretty darn progressive readers of BlueOregon will naturally wonder what race hubbub is about because "slavery ended 200 years ago". Please. This is total bullshit, and it is unjustified and unfair for you to characterize readers of this blog in this infantile way.

    What will I do? Stop reading your silly articles, that's what.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    Tom Bradley's defeat in the 1982 California Gubernatorial race was a case of racism defeating an otherwise qualified candidate, but that was 26 years ago. Harvey Gantt's defeat at the hands of Jesse Helms in 1990 rankles, but that was North Carolina, 18 years ago.

    And Corker's defeat of the better-qualified Harold Ford in Tennessee, due to the "call me" ad? The ONLY close or open-seat Senate race of the year where the Republican won? That was TWO years ago. Ancient history, I know.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    Jo Ann: I have no trouble agreeing with you that racial discrimination, including state violence, is a serious problem. "White privilege", however, is a term that is likely to provoke those whites who are also getting screwed by the power structure, even if they are doing marginally better than people of color.

    I second this one. It's not as though anyone pays attention to 90% of the whites, either. Or the Asians, Native Americans, etc., for that matter.

    It's true that the oppressor class is overwhelmingly white, but the bottom of the heap is very well diversified. Telling an unemployed logger from douglas County that he's "privileged" might not be helpful.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Barack Obama's speech on Fathers' Day might be pertinent to this thread.

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    OK, I see how this concept of dialogue exists in the mind of Ms. Bowman. She puts up a post, calls for dialogue on her terms, and then does not engage in said dialogue (at least so far).

    Ms. Bowman, FYI, dialogue requires your participation.

    Otherwise it's just you preaching to the benighted......

    Be advised that most liberals and progressives reject the concept of blindly accepting premises and arguments without careful deconstruction and debate.

    I'll be with Peter Bray unless and until you find it useful to defend your points on the comment thread that you generated.

    See ya.........

  • (Show?)

    "There certainly must be opportunities to succeed, but there also must be willingness to do so"

    Chuck, I'm afraid that the assumption that there is no such willingness is exactly blaming the victim. There is a huge amount of such willingness in minority communities. The whole point of Jim Crow was to prevent the energy being put into building up from succeeding.

    Your comments were on your family. I can find you loads and loads of black or Hispanic or Native families that can tell the same story.

    Jo Ann Bowman herself is no slouch, though I know nothing of her family history.

    A great deal of white historical "ethnic uplift" was accomplished through political patronage, closed and racially exclusive trade apprenticeship in the craft unions.

    There is also in these remarks a lurking double standard, that blacks and other people of color have to put their communities entirely and perfectly in order, according to someone's unspecified and shifting target standards, before their claims deserve any attention.

    The same standard is not applied to white working class and poor communities.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    I don't believe I put the onus for change on any specific group; the creation of the conditions for the erection of those cultures falls on all of us as does a correction of it. Jo Ann stops with accusations, I take the arguement farther. You focus on the final closing of willingness and ignore the link of willingness and hope at the beginning. Willingness and hope are linked, people are willing to do the work if there is hope it will pay off in some respect. This is the fight that accusations of this sort does't address, accusations of this sort perpetuate the mindset that hope does not exist.

    There are perfectly good reasons to see more hope on the basis of racism, etc now than at any time. The plutocratic mindset of the power structure is a definite road block, for all. Jo Ann wants to get bogged down in a fight that is largely won and ignore that fight that is being lost.

    As for the lurking bullshit: "The culture I'm speaking of is not somehow black, it is the disadvantaged who see no hope in their case and the wild success of others with advantage."

    You have on several occasions fallaciously imputed racism to me, let me be very clear - you are an ass who mangles what I write to get there. I have no idea what it is that prompts your dishonest behavior, but I'll call you out on it.

  • (Show?)

    "You have on several occasions fallaciously imputed racism to me, let me be very clear - you are an ass who mangles what I write to get there. I have no idea what it is that prompts your dishonest behavior, but I'll call you out on it."

    Man, the honeymoon sure ended quickly for ol' Chris, didn't it?

  • (Show?)

    This thread is a perfect illustration of a dynamic that Marcus Mabry discussed in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. Mabry described Obama's success while asking, "How black is too black?"

    As he put it, "Social observers say a common hallmark of African-Americans who have achieved the greatest success, whether in business, entertainment or politics - Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson and Mr. Obama - is that they do not convey a sense of black grievance."

    Mabry cited a blunter statement from Manhattan Institute's John McWhorter on this point: “White people are weary of the kinds of black people who are dedicated to indicting whites as racists. So, to be ‘too black’ is to carry an air about you that whites have something to answer for.”

    So - does that mean some here find Jo Ann's style "too black"? Since I know that most everyone here really does share a common commitment to racial and economic justice, I'd hope we could get beyond the ad hominen attacks and agree that poverty and racism are different but intertwined phenomena.

    john powell of the Kirwan Institute is one of the country's most innovative thinkers and organizers on developing strategies to deal with the effects of concentrated poverty, which affect people of color disproportionately. His recent work on developing Communities of Opportunity is especially relevant to discussions here about race, poverty and gentrification.

  • Aaron V. (unverified)
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    Knowing Jo Ann and knowing the atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, I don't think she's being "too black" as much as being too "East Coast" - that is, too direct and not willing to go through the passive-aggressive hamster wheel that is discourse in this area of the country.

    And it's the same "problem" that Randy Leonard has...trying to move the immovable object in Portland that manifests itself in various ways - and white privilege is part of it, whether it's trying to get money out of the Pearl to help other sections of the city or keeping the cops in line, a specific section of people (who are usually, but not exclusively, white) will not want to budge an inch.

  • Aaron V. (unverified)
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    Knowing Jo Ann and knowing the atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, I don't think she's being "too black" as much as being too "East Coast" - that is, too direct and not willing to go through the passive-aggressive hamster wheel that is discourse in this area of the country.

    And it's the same "problem" that Randy Leonard has...trying to move the immovable object in Portland that manifests itself in various ways - and white privilege is part of it, whether it's trying to get money out of the Pearl to help other sections of the city or keeping the cops in line, a specific section of people (who are usually, but not exclusively, white) will not want to budge an inch.

  • (Show?)

    TJ, it's not like I haven't had more than my share of words here over the past some months. The things I've said to which Chuck objects were all said in comments.

    Chuck thinks them unfair, which they may be, in two senses: 1) I don't know him except through blog posts, and maybe if I knew him better I'd read some of the things he writes differently (I like a lot of what he writes); and 2) perhaps relatedly, I may be misreading him.

    Misreading always has two sides, the reader's and the writer's.

    As to dishonesty, if it means deliberate misrepresentation, or stating an interpretation of what he's written that I don't actually hold, I reject the charge.

    <hr/>

    Chuck, the "victim" in blaming the victim isn't racially specific either. I accept that you specifically reject the idea that the "culture of despair" among the "disadvantaged" is not a racial culture, black or otherwise.

    I apologize for not giving the sentence you cite explicit recognition to make clear that I understood it.

    I don't think I've ever accused you of personal racism. The other context where this has come up is around anti-immigration and anti-illegal immigration politics and whether there is racism and ethnocentrism in those movements. I may have unfairly projected on you your denials that racism is a personal motive in you illegal immigration views a denial that it's a factor in the movement. If you don't make such a denial, I apologize for the projection.

    Let me state clearly that I don't think you are "a racist," nor racist except in ways that none of us can avoid because of the culture, including me. I think those cultural aspects do exist though you may disagree.

    Actually my perception of you from the totality of stuff you've written is that you oppose racism as thinker, try to avoid it in your own actions, and probably stand up against it in interpersonal situations where you see it going on.

    In saying that I think aspects of what you argue do "blame the victim," I wasn't accusing you of racism.

    You're making a version of a "culture of poverty" argument, a phrase that goes back to the anthropologist Oscar Lewis in ethnography he did about a village in rural Mexico, but since has been applied to all kinds of communities and faced related criticisms. Its popularity waxes and wanes.

    Fifteen years ago the "underclass theory" version of it was all the rage. It has been applied specifically to black communities, in the "underclass" context mostly was. Again, I accept that you were making the point as applying to disadvantage, at least potentially, across whatever racial or ethnic categories we use.

    "Culture of poverty" arguments typically aren't racist, in the sense of racism that treats purported group characteristics as inherent and unchangeable. Since the mid-19th century such putative inherent group characteristics often have been attributed to "biology" or "genetics" among intellectuals and those they influence.

    Exactly because culture can change, as is one of your central points, culture of poverty arguments often have been advanced against racialism and racists.

    (There can be racist culture of poverty arguments in that sense of racism. E.g. the slavery-apologist southern historian Ulrich B. Phillips believed black people to be inherently inferior to whites, and also that their culture and poverty both were tied to that inherent inferiority. Clearly that's not your view.)

    Prominent anti-racist black intellectuals, and not just on the right, have made versions of culture of poverty arguments. They include E. Franklin Frazier, largely before the phrase was coined, but the form of the argument was similar -- he influenced Daniel Patrick Moynihan. They include William Julius Wilson, whose book title The Declining Significance of Race resembles something you say, I think, & who was for a long time and may still be active in Democratic Socialists of America. They include Orlando Patterson and others. In a way W. E. B. DuBois' "talented tenth" idea in his early sociological work on Philadelphia in the 1890s is a version -- he later repudiated that idea.

    Which is to say that you have good company, and also that in being critical, I wasn't assuming, imputing or criticizing racism. I understand the distinction between culture and race descriptively and analytically (although I think race is a cultural and sociological phenomenon).

    Lewis' version of "culture of poverty" refers to poverty, i.e. economics, yours to disadvantage. In what you wrote, disadvantage probably is partly economic, because I know you think in class terms a lot, & clearly can be political/legal, insofar as you refer to Jim Crow. (BTW you might consider that reference to Jim Crow as a reason I might have thought your remarks had more of a black focus than you intended.)

    In your version, such matters are mediated by crushed hope, which you treat as the defining characteristic of the culture to which you refer, I believe.

    If I've made is sufficiently clear that I wasn't and am not accusing you of being racist, and don't believe you are a racist, that you're willing to discuss further, and if I haven't gone wrong in reading you above, I'll come back and write about how culture of poverty arguments IMO tend to fall into blaming the victim, and some other problems they pose. If I have gone wrong, please help me understand better so I don't misattribute things to you.

  • (Show?)

    "TJ, it's not like I haven't had more than my share of words here over the past some months. The things I've said to which Chuck objects were all said in comments."

    No argument, certainly. It just seems very recent that the comments were full of "Great choice! Chris is my favorite commenter" type entries. It's only in the last week or so that I've seen anyone start taking shots at you.

    Don't mind me, I'm just munching popcorn over here...

  • (Show?)

    Chuck, to clarify the result of bad editing of revision:

    "I may have unfairly projected on you your denials that racism is a personal motive in you illegal immigration views a denial that it's a factor in the movement. If you don't make such a denial, I apologize for the projection."

    should be

    I may have unfairly projected your denials that racism/ethnocentrism is a personal motive in your illegal immigration views into a denial that it's a factor in the movement (a denial others make, but that doesn't mean you do.) If you don't make such a denial about the movement, I apologize for the projection.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    I impute no motives to people that they don't make, there certainly are racists in any environment and racists and xenophobes have a lot to do with illegal immigration. This is a repeat of the last time you threw this crap at me. I don't (as I've said before)answer for any damn body except me or those I indicate approval of, by name.

    If you'd like to kick me for my approval of Jeff Merkley you are welcome to, but don't kick me for approving of all politicians because I approve of Merkley.

    As for the culture of poverty that is a simplistic model, it is a hell of a lot more complicated than that. But a failing culture does exist. When a group creates its own music, slang (language), myths, and behavioral norms it meets the definition of culture. I will not do chicken and egg on this, conditions obtained to create this culture and this culture created its own conditions and perpetuated others. If we wish to break the cycle of incarceration, ignorance, substance abuse, domestic abuse, etc, etc we have to change the culture it exists in and the external conditions which encourage or dictate it. If you wish to change the conditions you must come at them from every direction. That is my essential disagreement with Jo Ann, every damn direction not her one dimensional BS. I want to fight the now fight.

    Education is sometimes bruited about as a cure, you can put the best teachers with the best books in the best buildings and not trump the daily life lesson, it takes much more than that on a much wider basis. For cripes sake we've got 250 years of creation to undo.

  • Israel Bayer (unverified)
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    Laws still exist and are enforced every day on Portland's streets that target segments of our population - those of color and those who are poor - mostly homeless

    The sidewalk laws, park exclusions, camping, and programs like the Service Coordination Team targets individuals who are either overwhelmingly homeless and/or people of color. Until recently the Drug Free Zones also fell into this category.

    While we may not have Jim Crow laws by strict definition, we still have laws that result in the same end game. And it plays out on America's streets everyday. In some cities to a much more deadly beat...

  • (Show?)

    The term white privilege is a loaded term that accurately reflects how people enter conversations on race based on their own race. Why start from the privilege that was bestowed simply because you were born white?

    Why? Because that is where and when the person of color can determine if you have participated in any internal dialog around the issue. They know whether you have ever considered what would be different in your own life if you had been born with a darker hue.

    Acknowledging white privilege does not minimize how hard you work in school, on the job or in your community. It simply understands that there were factors at play that stacked the deck in your favor and gave you an advantage.

    Clearly the concept makes some liberals nervous as Chuck, Pat, Harry, Steve, Buck Res & others have stated over and over. I'm okay with that. I don't see my role to make them comfortable, in fact, its the opposite.

    Only with a share analysis of the impact that racism and racist policy has on all members of the community can we work together to correct this injustice. Yes, I suppose I could pretty up my language so that Chuck, Pat, Harry, Steve, Buck Res. aren't offended but isn't that what white privilege is all about.

    People who know me know that I work well with people of all races, incomes and skill sets. I spend my days helping people find their voice so they can advocate for the things they believe in.

    I talk with progressive white allies regularly who want to have an honest conversation about race but they cannot find people of color willing to dig into that place to participate in a conversation like that.

    Why, fear. Fear of being identify as the angry black woman, fear of being told she has a chip on her shoulder, fear of making people uncomfortable.

    Well, I'm old enough where those fears don't impact my voice. I will continue to share my perspective for those who know we can and should do so better and are willing to have the hard conversations that gets to real solutions.

    As Dr Phil says, "You have to acknowledge a problem exist before you can change it".

  • Pat Malach (unverified)
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    You don't know anything about how people were raised, what there life story is or the circumstances that have led them to where they are now, but you rail about their WHITE privilege.

    Jo Ann, you assume things about people based on the color of their skin. You are a racist.

  • (Show?)

    Clearly the concept makes some liberals nervous as Chuck, Pat, Harry, Steve, Buck Res & others have stated over and over. I'm okay with that. I don't see my role to make them comfortable, in fact, its the opposite.

    Only with a share analysis of the impact that racism and racist policy has on all members of the community can we work together to correct this injustice. Yes, I suppose I could pretty up my language so that Chuck, Pat, Harry, Steve, Buck Res. aren't offended but isn't that what white privilege is all about.

    So the bottom line here is not at all about race, but about whether progress can be achieved through mutual respect and the exchange of ideas or whether the only way forward is for you to school me, while I humbly accept your given wisdom without question.

    Is that a fair encapsulation of your point of view? If not, how have I gone astray in my analysis?

    <hr/>
  • (Show?)

    Jo Ann, I was with you right until you individualized your analysis in comments like this one:

    Acknowledging white privilege does not minimize how hard you work in school, on the job or in your community. It simply understands that there were factors at play that stacked the deck in your favor and gave you an advantage.

    Whites have enjoyed a position of privilege in the US since a bunch of aristocrats wrote that 3/5s of a man thing into the constitution. Way upthread I quoted from Hertzberg, who put some numbers to the continued dominance of white men in positions of power in the US. I don't think anyone who has commented here would dispute that.

    It's when you personalize the analysis that you go wrong. In the aggregate, whites have an advantage. But in the particular, many don't. I do research of the Child Welfare system in Oregon, and the kids we see come into the system almost uniformly don't have any decks stacked in their favor. They have enormous barriers to overcome--and in most cases, these put them in huge disadvantages throughout their childhood and early adulthood. This being Oregon, they're mostly white.

    Race is a problem of society. When you point fingers at individuals, you particularize the discussion and lose a great deal of your authority. The honesty you call for becomes lost in accusations. You can set the discussion, but if you want people to "dig into that place," you have to be willing to acknowledge that you can't know what "that place" feels like from their side.

    If we are going to have the serious discussion we desperately need to have, it can only start from the place of honoring where we as individuals start from. The second we start boxing each other up and label ourselves, the discussion is over.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    If Jo Ann were just another BO ranter, like the rest of us, or just another person espousing ignorant, bigoted views online, that would be fine. But with her postings at BO we’ve been given a glimpse into the mind of someone who finagled an appointment to the Racial Profiling Committee, thus giving her a platform that directly effects Portland Police Bureau policy.

    In that position she has displayed the same intransigent, unrealistic views shown here, refusing to reconsider her assumptions by disregarding evidence questioning the supposed practice of racial profiling.

    That someone with her slanted views, hectoring attitude, and complete lack of objectivity has a voice in public safety should scare every thinking person out there.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    The fact that many whites face difficult circumstances and are treated poorly does not mean there is no "white privilege." This is all about relativity. When one group faces unfair institutionalized barriers to success, those not of that group gain a relative advantage. It's a simple mathematical relationship. Jo Ann suggests it is serious and longstanding enough that those of good conscience should do something to even the playing field.

    When more whites are feeling the pressure of decreased economic opportunity in our post-industrial, imperial kleptocracy, this is a difficult message to get through to the general public. That is not Jo Ann's audience here, though. Has the right wing noise machine succeeded in selling the idea that affirmative action has made African Americans the real privileged class in America?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    One of the issues Jo Ann raises is the balance between spending on education and incarceration:

    -cause the education system continues to fail our kids and it is a direct pipeline to the prisons -cause the state would rather spend limited resources to lock up kids of color rather than educate them.

    If you do not understand the problems African Americans face in our schools, read some Jonathan Kozol. Good schools cost money, and most African American children attend schools that are extremely underfunded, because most education funding is based on local tax base, and most minority communities are relatively poor. It is simple fact that a huge proportion of African Americans are in prison, and that the voting public [dominated by whites] are more willing to support tough penalties that lead to high rates of incarceration and huge budgets for prisons. Those voters are much less likely to support state or federal funding for schools that have a weak tax base.

    It's easy to dismiss this as something other than racism, but I believe that would be a mistake. The atrocious conditions in many schools with majority African American students are well known. The over-representation of minorities in prison is well known. If the general public cared about African American children and families as they care about children and families in general, the general public would demand change. It is clearly a deplorable, unjust, wretched situation about which little is even contemplated being done. Indeed, the corrections-industrial complex has growing influence and is often a key supporter of new get-tough-on-crime legislation.

    Ironically, just as demonization of a minority [communists, Islamists] can be pretext for erosion of civil liberties, dehumanization of an underclass can lead to a social brutalism that entraps poor and disadvantaged people of all colors and classes.

    And then . . . they came for me . . .

  • Aaron V. (unverified)
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    Responding to Tom Civiletti: of course, most white people don't have an easy life. There's an interlocking web of privilege that's not easy to quantify, unless you're a whiz at sociology.

    White privilege is probably one of the strongest, in that race is an easily identifiable suspect class with a long history of de facto (and often, de jure) supremacy.

    Unless you're, say, a Bush, you don't get flat-out privilege because you're white, but you will get benefits of the doubt in certain situations. (That goes the same for the interactions of all kinds of societal privilege.)

    When two white people are in competition or confrontation, other privileges come to the fore.

  • (Show?)

    This is all about relativity. When one group faces unfair institutionalized barriers to success, those not of that group gain a relative advantage.

    Yes, but therein also lies the problem with the notion of "white privilege" as we've been using it here. I think that for most white people in Oregon at this point, the advantage is only relative. When the "advantage" that accrues to any given white person is personally insignificant to them it's hard to get them to focus on the tremendous disadvantage to a large proportion of black people by using the framing "white privilege".

    For example, say 100 qualified people are competing for a job, five of them are black and the white person hiring for the job is a flaming racist who will never hire a black person. That's a horrific disadvantage for the five black people. The advantage to any given white person, however, is miniscule. They are still competing with 94 other qualified people for the job. It's perfectly predictable and understandable that they find their "privilege" a meaningless construct. I think that's a reasonably good analogy to the position most white people here find themselves in almost all the time. That's the point I made in my last comment and I still haven't heard a good argument that white people in Oregon actually see a net gain from the discrimination faced by black people.

    Of course, "privilege" works differently when a group of people are being directly exploited as in the institution of slavery or paying artificially low wages to undocumented immigrants. The people with the "privilege" there though are the slave owners and the factory owners, not "white people". White wage earners are disadvantaged by those circumstances too. They are perfectly right in not feeling "privileged" just because they are not being exploited to nearly the extent that a slave or a person working for half of minimum wage is being exploited.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    That's so true, Doretta. It's difficult, when success is so hard to come by, to realize that your chances were made a little better by someone else's unfair exclusion. It is not something people enjoy considering.

    Since there are so few African Americans in Oregon, there will not as much "white privilege" operating locally, but we do not live entirely in a vacuum. Many people operate in different places for some of their lives. And, of course, racism is one reason there are few African Americans in Oregon, especially outside Portland and Salem.

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    If we are going to have the serious discussion we desperately need to have, it can only start from the place of honoring where we as individuals start from. The second we start boxing each other up and label ourselves, the discussion is over.

    Funny, my experience of discussions of race on BlueOregon are of the majority here retreating to their own boxes as quickly as possible, flinging labels as they go in the hope that they will seal the mouths of whatever person of color or particularly contrary white person is making them uncomfortable.

    So far in this discussion Jo Ann has been called a racist and has been accused of espousing ignorant and bigoted views.

    Exactly what did she say to provoke those extreme reactions?

    I think Jo Ann is wrong. I don't think that what's preventing us from having a real conversation regarding race is our lack of understanding of white privilege. I think that what's missing in our ability to have a real conversation about race is our inability to let go of our defensiveness and listen to what other people are trying to tell us about their experience and feelings.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Jo Ann said, "Clearly the concept ["white privilege"] makes some liberals nervous as Chuck, Pat, Harry, Steve, Buck Res & others have stated over and over."

    Yikes! I hoped that you'd be able to discriminate between my questions, "...please explain to me why 'white privilege' is preferable to 'black discrimination'. Won't the same principles apply, and won't the same actions be required?", and the clearly racist rants of some others.

    Why you would assume that we are not allies on this issue is a mystery to me. And your failure to address my questions is further mystifying.

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    It's difficult, when success is so hard to come by, to realize that your chances were made a little better by someone else's unfair exclusion. It is not something people enjoy considering.

    It's not just that people don't enjoy considering it. It's that the advantage is genuinely not significant to them.

    Since there are so few African Americans in Oregon, there will not as much "white privilege" operating locally, but we do not live entirely in a vacuum. Many people operate in different places for some of their lives. And, of course, racism is one reason there are few African Americans in Oregon, especially outside Portland and Salem.

    You haven't heard me claiming that racism doesn't exist or is insignificant. Racism presents a very significant disadvantage to people of color but that doesn't mean it provides a significant benefit to white people. (Most of life, and in particular most of economics, not being a zero sum game.) My point vis a vis "white privilege" is that I think it is simply not true that racism provides a net benefit to white people in Oregon--or anywhere in America. I think we would all gain significantly if racism were eliminated. Furthermore, I think we may be shooting ourselves in the foot when we imply that the elimination of racism would cause white people to lose something valuable.

    Here's the currently most compelling example for me of the potential cost of racism to white people. What if Scalzi has described the determining factor in the Presidential elecion in November?

    This will keep happening. Fox News will keep finding ways to remind its viewers that the Obamas are black (and possibly Muslim), Michelle Malkin will continue to make excuses for Fox News’ dog-whistling racism that expose the fact that she’s about as familiar with logical thinking as a rainbow trout is with knitting, and eventually some portion of the Fox News audience will get to the ballot box in November convinced that they’re not really racists, they just know that there’s something about that Obama boy they just don’t like. This is how it will go. Let’s not pretend it’s not part of equation, this election year.

    If you've paid any attention to John McCain lately, you'll understand just how big a loss to all of us in this country that would be.

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    Thank goodness Jo Ann is on the Racial Profiling Committee.

    Chapter 6, In Which Buckman Resident Describes Him- or Herself, Projectively:

    ...slanted views, hectoring attitude, and complete lack of objectivity...

    At the Coaltion for a Livable Future's Equity Summit, which had a major focus on ethno-racial inequities in the metro region, I posed a question (on an anonymous notecard) to the keynote speaker about how to deal with the simultaneous need to engage with the interactions of race and class, and the needs of communities of color to be able to negotiate particular interests that they have. Given 30 seconds to respond before the session had to end, her one sentence answer was that it took making sure that people from the communities and grounded in them had places at the negotiating table that weren't token and weren't marginalized.

    Jeff, respectfully I have to disagree with you, at least when it comes to white managerial & professional class and wealth-owning class individuals (including academics, and maybe some kinds of higher-skilled job technical and clerical workers as well). Personally I think we need to have an understanding of our family backgrounds and narratives that is conscious of historical structural advantages -- not absolute, but what some sociologists would call life chances -- in both ethno-racial and class terms.

    In my family background, although all of my ancestors arrived in the U.S. well after the Civil War, I can identify pretty clearly a number of points where great-grandparents, grandparents, and their families "got ahead" by virtue of either being white (e.g. my first U.S.-born generation German-American grandfather from Chicago who was able to parlay playing segregated minor league baseball in Vicksburg into playing semi-pro ball for the Continental Bank of Illinois & from there work his way into accounting and banking with a combination of hard work and strategic resumé inflation at points of geographic movement in segregation-era Florida), or early 20th century managerial preferences for "old immigrant" heritage (English, Scottish, German, Scandinavian, & more ambivalently due to Catholicism, Irish) over Eastern and Southern European immigrants, esp. Catholic and Jewish, even within "whiteness," a shifting category. While personality/character and culture had definite roles, it's quite clear that I have benefitted from a cumulation over time of structurally stacked "life chance" distributions.

    Things get murkier within the working classes (and among farmers pushed or moving out of farming either up or down), where various individuals have had various things stacked against them in complicated ways.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    doretta wrote:

    Most of life, and in particular most of economics, not being a zero sum game.

    I believe this concept is overextended to excuse much inequity. It is good for individuals to believe they can prosper through diligence and hard work. It is simply incorrect to conclude that the world works that way on a macro-economic level. For most people at most times, zero-sum is much closer to reality than not.

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    Jeff, respectfully I have to disagree with you, at least when it comes to white managerial & professional class and wealth-owning class individuals (including academics, and maybe some kinds of higher-skilled job technical and clerical workers as well). Personally I think we need to have an understanding of our family backgrounds and narratives that is conscious of historical structural advantages -- not absolute, but what some sociologists would call life chances -- in both ethno-racial and class terms.

    Chris, we don't disagree on this point--but nowhere do I hear Jo Ann make this point. I didn't disagree with anything in the original post, which is a fair description of the history and legacy of American racism.

    Where I disagree was in the comment she made later:

    Acknowledging white privilege does not minimize how hard you work in school, on the job or in your community. It simply understands that there were factors at play that stacked the deck in your favor and gave you an advantage.

    "White privilege" as Jo Ann earlier described it (and wher I find it useful) is a societal advantage. It may or may not be available to indviduals. One of the worst legacies of racism is that it reduced people to categories beyond their individual humanity. We have to recognize that "white" is also label and a category and is useful in the aggregate but very dangerous in the particular.

    I do think we agree here, because your reference to "life chances" is where I'd put emphasis. There are undeniably people in every racial group in America who find themselves with few or no life chances. Race is one factor but it's certainly not the only one.

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    I believe this concept is overextended to excuse much inequity. It is good for individuals to believe they can prosper through diligence and hard work. It is simply incorrect to conclude that the world works that way on a macro-economic level. For most people at most times, zero-sum is much closer to reality than not.

    I've read that several times now and I still don't see any relevance to any comments that I've made. I have not argued that all it takes to succeed is diligence and hard work.

    If you disagree with my point, make me an even moderately convincing argument that I derive a net benefit from racism.

    It's obvious that if racism disappeared tomorrow, people of color would be better off in many significant ways. I argue that I would be better off too. The fact that my gains would be relatively smaller does not make them losses.

    With respect to economics and zero sum: If the houses in the next neighborhood over gain in value because racism has disappeared will that make my house lose value? If my neighbor gets a loan and founds a successful business because racism disappears does that reduce my chance of getting a loan and founding a successful business?

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    Harry,

    White privilege is about not having to think, be or do anything to obtain a benefit that has nothing to do with who you are. Black discrimination is an intentional act to exclude a people based on their race.

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    doretta,

    as a new contributor, I've been a bit surprise that this liberal site draws such a narrow perspective of the world. I don't have that luxury. I appreciate you disagreeing with me. I've had many superficial conversations that don't require people to take concrete actions to change the status quo. If the problem is not acknowledged, we can not get to the solution. Can we create a community that was imagined during the civil rights movement? I don't know. Barack Obama's success gives me hope. Working to stop racial profiling drains my soul.

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    I want to just take a moment here and thank everyone for having a conversation that has largely been polite and thoughtful and focused on the subject at hand. Thanks, folks.

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    Doretta,

    Your comments are very interesting, but I think that they speak more to the perception of privilege among whites than to whether privilege exists or not. Also I think that your own view that your life would be improved if racial inequality and racism disappeared raises complicated issues about how people in different situations view quality of life.

    Your argument about the small quantity of gain in overall competition for individual whites by anti-black discriminiaion, or to put it the other way around, the small loss of competitiveness if the pool were made fully equal, cuts two ways I think. Insofar as you are right that whites don't gain or lose much, that may explain white reactions along the lines of "what are those people making such a big deal about"? But if the deck is systematically stacked against that small minority so that their chances are reduced by a great deal, from the point of view of those facing the great reduction of chances, indeed the whole class of whites is privileged not to face the same issue. Moreover, if it really isn't going to make things that much more competitive for whites if everyone is given a fair shot, refusal of whites to make sure everyone does get that fair shot starts to look pretty mean-spirited, doesn't it?

    However, I also think your basic heuristic is misleading in a couple of ways. One is that people aren't evenly distributed by race around the country. Take the common observation during the Democratic primaries that Barack Obama tended to do well either in states with very small black populations, or states with very large ones in which they formed and even larger part of the Democratic (usually minority) Party, i.e. in high proportion black southern states. The dynamics in the first kind of state (including Oregon) suggest a perception, at least in presidential voting, in line with your suggestion that whites have relatively little to gain or lose by discrimination or its ending. In such places, for a lot of whites (& esp. Democrats perhaps) race, or blackness anyway, just doesn't enter that much into the things that white people perceive as affecting their chances. In the R majority southern states, the minority of whites voting D probably have come to a rather different place about race. Meanwhile for the "racial backlash" Republicans who used to be, or whose parents used to be, "Solid South" segregationist Democrats, the issue of a "proper order" involving black deference, subservience and economic exploitation having been disrupted really did represent a loss of privileges and a threat of loss of more. The hundreds and thousands of local southern black elected officials displaced whites, and disrupted patronage from white officials to white clients. In states perennially at the bottom of the list for say public spending on education, even partial shifting of resources away from white schools to the massively underfunded black ones would actually matter (patron-client politics is strongest when there's not enough to go around, and also encourages creation of out-groups). Creation of private "segregation academies" for whites who could afford it, tied to declining support for public systems left to blacks and to whites who couldn't afford it, represents a loss to the whites "left behind" racially, both in material terms and in the psychological "wages of whiteness" as David Roediger has put it regarding what white workers got out of job segregation in the 19th century.

    Then consider the states where Clinton was held to have an advantage and often won -- places where the Democratic Party either was majority or competitive, usually outside of the South(east), and where there were substantial numbers of black Democrats but even more white ones, and where likewise the black proportion of the working classes tends to be pretty high, much higher than the overall national proportion you cited (due to all those very, very white states). In these areas, the potential proportional stakes of gains or loss you lay out would be very different, say if the white/black ratio is 2:1 or 4:1, rather than 19:1 as you were positing.

    And again, from a black statistical point of view, most black people live either in south(east)ern states or in states more like the category in which Hillary tended to do well, so their experience of whites & whiteness & white attitudes to access & competition to resources on the whole will reflect those places that aren't very much like your heuristic model.

    And, of course, in my heuristic here, I'm leaving out latino/as, Asian-Americans and Native Americans, although Jo Ann wrote about "people of color" more broadly, and there are big chunks of the country as well as many more specific places where the meanings of whiteness are defined not just in relation to black people but to other non-white racial groups as well.

    Secondly, your heuristic also ignores a couple of psychological aspects. One is lack of sense of proportion. Just as most Americans think that foreign aid comprises from 10% to 20% of the national budget, when really it's 2% or less (and much less if you leave Israel & Egypt out of the picture), so I don't think we can assume that most white people make the kind of calculations you lay out about the underlying reality of changing average chances created by the inclusion or exclusion of black people (which even on national average start to become more problematic I think if we include all racial minorities, btw, even without the geographical concentration factors). And then there is the different kind of psychological benefit that whites have derived historically, within an ethnic context in which ethnicities we would lump together as "white" now actually were fragmented and distinct and hierarchized, to the effect of "well I (our community) may be down, but at least I/we aren't black." That's not as overtly coherent and openly voiced and ideology as it used to be, but I think it still persists in more fragmented ways, in unconscious or un-selfconscious presumptions in small scale social interactions. It may also be more open in some recent white immigrant communities. And also in a different way in white tendencies to want to differentiate "good" blacks (or other people of color) from "bad" ones, in effect inviting those offered the "good" label to join in the "well, at least I'm not ... ," whether it be on the basis of "middle class" status, or sometimes Caribbean or African immigrant communities.

    And then, too, there's reaction against affirmative action, which I think works in a couple of ways. At the very top of access points to upper-middle class to wealthy status, the psychology you suggest inverts itself.

    Rationally, per your logic, if Harvard is only taking 10% of applicants, and 1% of all, out of that 10% (i.e. leaving 9%), are black, and an even smaller number of those might not have got in if they were white, while others would have, and so much of what happens among Harvard applicants is hugely arbitrary anyway, that great numbers of those rejected are perfectly and fully qualified and might have been admitted another year, whites who don't get in should understand that if none of that 1% of all applicants who are admitted and are black had been admitted, the increase to their individual chances would be minuscule. And perhaps many do. But often the focus tends to become on comparisons like 10% of white applicants are admitted, but 20% (or whatever it is) of black applicants are admitted, and that's not fair. What this ignores, of course, is how the pool of black applicants is disproportionately small due to other forces of inequality that have narrowed it prior to even the application process. But the psychology of the situation is that it becomes very easy for a white person to think "I would have been the one who got that place" no matter how unlikely, and for that "would have" to slide over into "should have," which involves a sense of privilege -- and to focus on that rather than say the white alumni legacy admittees and their probably more robust preferences.

    In working class situations it's somewhat different, in part because lots of white workers experience disadvantages too, and question why one kind of disadvantage should count more than another, in part because in some relatively high status jobs, like police or firefighters, there can be "objective" tests at stake with some legacy of strict ranking. But it's also because there's been a deterioration of opportunities for everyone, so competition is fiercer, and going along with that, decline of older "politics is who you know" forms of access, whether through ethnic political patronage or family-legacy & ethnic skilled trade apprenticeship access, or the preference of the older industrial-era personnel departments to hire family and friends of extant workers, plus the entrenchment of "last hired, first fired" as a principle of "fairness" during the Depression. And the decline of those systems and overall well-paid working class jobs represents real losses, including real losses of relative racial privileges, which can produce a counter-sentiment that the old ways were right, partly justified by black deficiency narratives.

    <hr/>

    And then there are two other much more straightforward senses in which there is fairly systematic white privilege: cumulative material history, and easier acceptance in many social situations that a white person belongs there, relative to a black person.

    The systematic economic exploitation of black people, through enslavement, through job segregation, restriction from higher paid jobs, wage and salary discrimination for the same work, through redlining leading to overcrowding and rack-renting in nothern cities, through refusal of mortgages and discriminatory interests rates, through loss of rural land to usurious lending, through disadvantageous share=cropping negotiated under threat of extra-legal violence, has systematically left the quantity of wealth per capita in black hands several orders of magnitude lower than that in white hands. And that increment of exploitation has provided sources of investment at interest that compounded has expanded the gap from what it would have been. Now it is also true that such wealth is maldistributed among whites, and that the benefits of various forms of exploitation against various parts of the population have concentrated in a relatively small number of hands. But it also is true that the structures of patronage and restricted access and pay inequality have meant that to the extent that some of that wealth has recirculated downward, it has tended in a systematic fashion to favor whites. And most whites have tended to benefit to some extent.

    A sad thing here, as William Finnegan has documented in a very interesting book on New Haven, Connecticut, is that the the timing of the shift away from the mass industrial economy of ca. 1890-1970 cut the feet out from under many black people just as the relative opening of opportunity after World War II was enabling more and more black families to pursue courses that looked a good deal like the stereotypical immigrant "success" story, at least for a while. If those opportunities had opened a couple of decades sooner, or that economy had lasted a couple of decades longer, we might be having this discussion against a rather different social and distributional backdrop.

    The final rather systematic kind of white privilege has to do with the "right" to be in places and with situational power. This is what racial profiling is about. This is what shootings of members of racial minorities by cops is about. But it also takes other forms that get less attention. When I was in grad school, the residential colleges at Yale had gotten rather fortress-like, and it was well-known that black students were much more likely to be stopped by Yale police than white students on suspicion that they didn't belong there. When at an anti-apartheid protest at the inauguration of Benno Schmidt as Yale president, involving numbers of students in verbal confrontation police, it was a black student who was singled out for arrest, and it was too many of his white student "comrades" who kept on with the protest and didn't stick with him in jail solidarity.

    White people in the U.S. get to assume our worlds are "normal" and other things are departures, to a great degree. This is less so than in the 1960s, perhaps, in terms of media representations. But recently I introduced my daughter to Rocky & Bullwinkle on DVD, and was surprised at both the frequency of racial caricatures and that I had forgotten them, because there are others from that time that I remember, e.g. a Mr. Magoo episode involving a "witchdoctor." (In Rocky & Bullwinkle they mostly involved representations of Africans in Africa, and repeatedly in one of the intro sequences to "Peabody's Improbable History," with Mr. Peabody, the very funny Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. caricature dog, and his boy Sherman). It's a problem for me to know how to deal with, as a parent. What to do about the horrible racist caricatures of Indians in Disney's Peter Pan? Ultimately talk about it, I guess. Or the even more fleeting scene in "Singin' in the Rain" when Gene Kelly and his sidekick are walking through a movie lot past a number of sets, and a guy in blackface doing a cannibal dance around a big pot & fire stops and says high in a white Brooklyn accent ... all things moments of micro-culture that suffuse our mental worlds like mist, that I could choose to ignore if I wanted at no cost (except perhaps a very subtle moral one that I could also wave away). And I wonder about it's effects on me. Maybe I turned out o.k. But maybe I don't notice things that I might otherwise -- it took me a long time get just how gross, not just grotesque, but ugly and vile and gross, the Cleveland Indians' mascot is.

    What is assumed about me, until I prove otherwise, and what is assumed about black men very similar to me? Who has to be better to be treated as equal?

    In grad school I had two African-American colleagues as fellow African history grad students, along with several white women and another white guy from Florida, in a three year cohort. Both of the black men were brilliant, in different ways, tremendous GRE scores, great college grades. One had grown up on the campus of a small liberal arts college in Ohio, where his father had been chaplain after having been an Army chaplain for years. This guy was completely ungrounded in either black urban culture or southern black culture, and was conscious and self-conscious about it. He couldn't do code-switching if his life depended on it. The other guy (who was doing a joint J.D./Ph.D. program) was the son of a New York City sanitation worker, and had a speech impediment as a child. He got special teaching to deal with that, in the course of which he was also taught to speak "white-sounding" English, which he felt sure had made things possible or easier for him as he made his way through Bronx Science High to Harvard to U. Michigan for an M.A. to Yale. In a way, this is almost British, where class is marked by accent, except that in the U.S., it's racialized class.

    One last idea about this. Many years ago, when I came out to attend Reed College from Massachusetts (by dint of an outside scholarship, some parental money, some work-study aid, and what seemed like lots of loans at the time but looks piddling now), my parents had an issue about my coming so far, but not about Portland, or Reed. I fit right in, Reed fit their own University of Chicago ideals, if I wasn't going to go there.

    When I returned to teach at Reed for a number of years 10-15 years later, I was involved in various kinds of discussions and debates about ethnic and racial diversity at the school. The thinking unfortunately was mostly about why the school didn't do better mostly from the point of view of finding excuses, rather than figuring out how to overcome problems -- since than that seems to have changed a bit. It bugged me, because Reed has a very strong science program, and sends an almost unique proportion of its graduates to graduate school. And I realized after reading an article that if Reed could attract and graduate just 4 African-American students who went on to do Ph.D.s in the natural sciences each year, it could leverage its strengths to provide a full 1% of the entire pipeline of black Ph.D.s in the country at that time (which was about 400/year), just from that one little college. And I thought it was a damned shame that no one seemed to look on those strengths as a recruiting tool.

    But one of the things that was known about the difficulties was this: when middle class black parents from places on the east coast or the midwest or California, cities with much larger black populations, thought about sending their kids to Reed, they would call friends and friends of friends in Portland. And some of them would be turned off by how white Portland was, which my parents didn't have to worry about. And some might here complaints about the Eurocentricity of the Reed curriculum (which was true enough, even in relation to the U.S. generally). And some of them rejected Reed because of its druggy reputation, which could threaten the safety and future of their children from several different angles, in ways that were just a whole lot less risky for that part of the white Reed student body who experimented or indulged in that way.

    I've gone on way, way too long, and not even got to some kinds of things. But the facts of white privilege in so many macro and micro ways just seem obvious to me, perhaps partly because as a historian I see the past not just as past but as cumulating and shaping into the present and the future, and because I've studied so many iterations of change and continuity that the continuities stand out for me. So this becomes one of those conversations that at times make me despair of finding common ground, because it seems as if to even be really admitted to the conversation I'd have to aver things and accept assumptions that I just don't think are true. And if it can make me feel that way, even if part of it is just the alienation of an academic from "normal" discourse, how much harder would it be for many people who face racial discriminations and legacies I never do?

    And again, at the end of the day, I chose to think about this stuff. I could have chosen not to, and to be righteously resentful if asked to do so. And that's a privilege not open to "people of color."

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    I meant pipeline of black natural science Ph.D.s., overall is bigger, though many black college grads who could become academics choose professional school instead.

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    To Chris:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. It is clear from your post you have spent significant time thinking about this. I appreciate your willingness to look deeply into your history and surroundings on this topic. You appear thoughtful, grateful and willing to put yourself in another's shoes. Thanks again!

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    Jo Ann, you're certainly welcome. I'm sorry it took me so far down the thread to pull this together. I am grateful, in various ways; one here and now is that you and Karol Collymore have been trying to use this venue and the shaking things up of Barack Obama's presumptive nomination to get conversations going. I'm sure it's not easy at times & gives rise to thoughts like, why bother?

    I hope some of us white folks with posting privileges find ways to start those conversations sometimes, because of course yet another of the privileges, of a sort, is sitting back and either waiting for people of color to raise things, and then commenting based on that fact, & with the person who raises it in the rhetorical cross-hairs, or if they (you) don't raise them, well, that just means there isn't a problem, doesn't it?

    Some of that's just inevitable in any situation of inequality and unfairness, I guess. If the people affected don't raise it, it will tend not to get raised or noticed: "power conceded nothing without a demand," per Frederick Douglass, or "the squeaky wheel gets the grease."

    But this has been going on long enough that it shouldn't all be down to you at this point. My father was grateful to the Civil Rights movement, that it helped him get out of the legacy of his extremely bigoted childhood home near Chicago, not just against blacks and Mexicans (who already were in Chicago in large numbers by the 1940s) but against Jews and Catholics, and Italians and Poles and Czechoslovakians and Slovenians and Hungarians and all the other myriad central and eastern European ethnicities in the Chicago area. I'm grateful that he & my mother passed on to me much easier struggles, in terms of family. It's fifty years on now.

    Anyway, I will try to keep my eye on the ball and have it in my repertoire. There's something percolating in the back of my mind about different possibilities created by Obama's rise that I'll try to put up in the next few days.

    Thanks again for the various work you do, including here.

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    Moreover, if it really isn't going to make things that much more competitive for whites if everyone is given a fair shot, refusal of whites to make sure everyone does get that fair shot starts to look pretty mean-spirited, doesn't it?

    In my opinion, there is a significant component of mean-spirt involved. Combine that with even more ignorance and the species tendency to divide people into "us" and "not us" and there we are. Your objection there is that surely white people are not so low as to be racist even though it doesn't benefit them? All I can say is that if you have a need to think better of white people than that, I don't share it. I'm more interested in getting to the reality of the situation whatever that is.

    But if the deck is systematically stacked against that small minority so that their chances are reduced by a great deal, from the point of view of those facing the great reduction of chances, indeed the whole class of whites is privileged not to face the same issue.

    Of course. I've said here before that the concept of "white privilege" has its place. I've pointed it out a time or two myself. (And gotten blasted for it. Were you around for the Cesar Chavez discussions?) It's obvious that white people have the luxury of ignorance and we're darned good at exercising it. However, I think the notion that white people in this country in general benefit from racism also represents a certain amount of ignorance. I am asking you to look at it from a different perspective.

    I think your analysis of the Obama results is right. We do have that legacy from the south and slavery that lives on. The concept of white privilege is a part of that. And yes, that's why the concept resonates less here and why we turn out tens of thousands of supporters to hear Barack Obama speak. Let me reiterate that. The idea that white people benefit materially from racism is a leftover from the slave-holding south and reflects the mentality of the slave-holding south.

    I contend that slavery is a poor basis for an economy and that the attitudes that were developed around slavery are a poor basis for a society or an economy.

    Yes, when slavery was dismantled there were significant dislocations and some people lost materially. Many more felt a loss they didn't really experience because of the social structure that had been created to justify and support slavery.

    But the psychology of the situation is that it becomes very easy for a white person to think "I would have been the one who got that place" no matter how unlikely, and for that "would have" to slide over into "should have," which involves a sense of privilege -- and to focus on that rather than say the white alumni legacy admittees and their probably more robust preferences.

    Yes, and we would want to use the idea of "white privilege" to reinforce that misapprehension on their part because....?

    You carried on there for a long time carefully explaining the disadvantages that people of color suffer in this country. That's a perfectly good description of how a lot of things work but it does not speak to my point. I get it. I've acknowledged it repeatedly. I get the luxury of being white. I'm in no way arguing those disadvantages aren't real. The disavantages faced by people of color are real and horrific.

    If you're despairing of finding common ground with me, I think your despair is misplaced.

    Back to my actual point I'll ask one more specific question--my previous ones remaining yet unanswered. How do I as a white person benefit if another person gets pulled over for DWB? From my perspective, every minute an officer spends pulling over an innocent person because he is black is a minute that officer does not have to spend dealing with people who are breaking the law.

    Again, my point is that we assume that because racism hurts people of color that it must help white people. I think that's a fundamentally faulty assumption.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    doretta wrote:

    Again, my point is that we assume that because racism hurts people of color that it must help white people. I think that's a fundamentally faulty assumption.

    I think your assumption that opportunity lost to people of color because of racism disappears into the ether is faulty. It seems that you are substituting perception for reality.

  • (Show?)

    Doretta,

    My despair, or not quite that perhaps, is at the talking past one another. Things you have said about what you think I think make no sense to me. It appears that something similar runs the other way. I don't have time to work this out now, will try to come back to it, but please be assured that I don't regard you as in any sense a person of bad will, perhaps that's unnecessary, but my sense of poor communication is such that I want to be clear at least on that point.

  • Ralph (unverified)
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    Regarding white privilege:

    Senator Obama said earlier today that I haven't been paying attention to his campaign.

    Actually, I have.

    And it's clear from Senator Obama's campaign that he is not willing to tackle the white power structure - whether in the form of the corporate power structure or many of the super-rich - who are taking advantage of 100 million low income Americans who are suffering in poverty or near poverty.

    Senator Obama is opposed to single payer national health insurance.

    Why?

    Because he favors the health insurance giants over the millions of Americans in poverty or near poverty who are uninsured or under-insured. Eighteen thousand Americans die every year because they cannot afford health insurance, according to the Institute of Medicine.

    Senator Obama wants to expand the military budget which is loaded with waste, fraud and abuse - instead of cutting it and investing the long ignored peace dividend in the inner cities with good jobs and public works - including schools, clinics, and libraries.

    Why?

    Because he fears and favors those thousands of lobbyists in charge of enlarging the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against.

    Senator Obama says he favors a living wage. But he doesn't say he would immediately increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour, which is the equivalent of the 1968 minimum wage adjusted for inflation - because by doing so he would offend the big corporations who exploit labor in places like Wal-Mart and fast food chains. (The minimum wage needs to be increased immediately, not phased in over a number of years, as Senator Obama would have it.)

    So Senator Obama, let's get specific.

    We're looking for deeds, not, as Shakespeare put it, words, words, mere words.

    Your public career, which I have also been paying attention to, is long on words, and short on action when it comes to consumer protection, cracking down on corporate crime, curbing the violence of toxic environmental racism, and extending clean, affordable public transit, among other issues.

    For the purposes of the here and now, three things:

    One, why don't you support single payer national health insurance, which is supported by a majority of doctors and the American people?

    Two, why do you favor expanding the military budget which is replete with waste, fraud and abuse?

    And three, why don't you come out and support an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10 an hour?

    When can we expect the authenticity of hope and change?

  • (Show?)

    I think your assumption that opportunity lost to people of color because of racism disappears into the ether is faulty. It seems that you are substituting perception for reality.

    And I think it is you who are substituting perception for reality. Now how do we test that?

    I have made arguments supporting my position and what I've gotten back is incorrect assumptions about what I think and statements like the ones above that are statements of your belief, not support for your position. Why is that?

    I've tried to give examples that are as concrete and specific as possible to get us out of the "ether" but I'm not getting any answers to my questions. I'm not even getting any attempts to answer my questions.

    I'll ask again, can one of you who think I am wrong tell me how I benefit when a young black man is pulled over for DWB?

    You might be right and I might be wrong. I'm open to being convinced. That's not likely to happen unless someone chooses to address the actual points I've raised.

  • Joe Smith (unverified)
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    Well, I've just been sucked in again to a Blue Oregon dialog, and have blown the better part of an afternoon. Sheesh. But, for once, I feel truly the better for it. Or at least, encouraged by the quality of the exchange, and more important, with greater personal awareness and understanding of the complexities of the subject. (Which is not because I don't think about that subject on my own; I think about it a lot!

    This is gonna be a bit long:

    First, a brief impediment I've come up against over going on 60 years in engaging in meaningful dialog about racism is encapsulated in this comment from Jo Ann:

    "The term white privilege is a loaded term that accurately reflects how people enter conversations on race based on their own race. Why start from the privilege that was bestowed simply because you were born white? Why? Because that is where and when the person of color can determine if you have participated in any internal dialog around the issue. They know whether you have ever considered what would be different in your own life if you had been born with a darker hue."

    Herein lies a dual assumption: that she knows what/how I have thought about something, and, that she knows I've no idea of what/how she thinks about something, simply because she knows where my ancestors came from. Not helpful, and at least for me, really wrong. I first began serious thought about what it would be like to be non-Caucasian at least by the third or fourth grade (which I can specifically date by a story I'm going to tell), and while I don't for one moment think my personal experience of being the object of racial bias comes close to that experienced by Americans of color (and particularly, black Americans) those experiences deepened my awareness of and caring about the inequality of opportunity and treatment of people of color. (I grew up in Hawaii, attended a school where Caucasians were in a decided minority, and where more than once I was physically at risk simply because I was a "haole".)

    Next, I think Chris (for whose thoughtful comments I'm particularly grateful) has missed Doretta's central point (for which I'm even more grateful): "My point vis a vis "white privilege" is that I think it is simply not true that racism provides a net benefit to white people in Oregon--or anywhere in America. I think we would all gain significantly if racism were eliminated. Furthermore, I think we may be shooting ourselves in the foot when we imply that the elimination of racism would cause white people to lose something valuable.

    She doesn't seem to me to be arguing that there are no individual losses when there are individual benefits granted due to race, as in the Harvard example, or that many pink people don't perceive a loss when non-pink people are given equal opportunities, but that over all, and over time, pink folk don't lose when black folk gain; to the contrary, the end result is a total overall gain. When more people are given a full chance to make the pie, the pie gets bigger, and there's more to eat for everyone.

    My first story: I spent my pre-teen years on a farm in a small (one grocery store, one gas station, and later, one tavern) town in Utah. There were no people of other races in our town, so I had no opportunity to form attitudes based on personal contact. (The first personal contact I can recall having with a black person came during our move to Hawaii, shortly after I turned 12!) But I had one by extension: my dad had been head of the Speech and Drama Department at the U of U, which gave him control over Kingsbury Hall, the University's theater. He invited Marion Anderson to perform there, inspired in part by her experience with the DAR and Eleanor Roosevelt(the invitation raised some local eyebrows; she filled the hall). When I was in the third or fourth grade he told me about it: how, just before it was time for her to take the stage she was visiting with Mr. Stenerson, the theater custodian, in Swedish,, and how when it came time, she took center stage, took complete control of the audience, and totally captivated them for nearly two hours. He also told me that she wasn't allowed to stay at the Hotel Utah (the premier hotel in Salt Lake), but he was able to get her lodgings at the Newhouse, respectable but not the premier. I had two very strong reactions, which directed, I think, my attitudes toward racial discrimination for the rest of my life: first, how fundamentally wrong -- even evil -- it was that she wasn't welcome in the best place in town, and second, how much America was losing when they didn't get to partake of her artistry. (I also thought about how few of the audience could have participated in her conversation with Mr. Stenerson.) (Ten years later my second purchase of a record album, which in those days meant several 10 inch 72's, was of her music.) That seems to me to encapsulate the point Doretta makes.

    Second story: From 1963 to 1966 my wife Suzanne and I lived in a cooperative apartment near Dupont Circle in D.C., and Suzie volunteered for what was called a "Settlement House" providing service to the Adams Morgan neighborhood. (Note: folks didn't call it a neighborhood then; it was an "area.") Her charge: den mother or whatever the right term was for the "Brownies," the little girls not yet old enough to be Girl Scouts.

    Adams Morgan was bordered by the back side of N.W. 16th on the east, 14th on the west, Florida on the south, and Columbia on the north (if my memory serves right; the point is that it was an irregularly shaped area of about a third of a square mile). The population on 16th -- both sides of the street -- and on the north side of Columbia was exclusively "white." Adams Morgan was exclusively black. (That's why I day "the back side of 16th;" there were alleyways and side streets immediately starting behind the east-facing lots on 16th, which was where "Adams Morgan" began.)

    If one stands on the corner of NW 16th and Columbia, and look south, one sees the Washington Monument, rising behind the White House, a couple of miles away but very much dominating the view. Suzie took her kids to the Monument one day, and it was the first time any of them had ever seen it -- or had even been aware that it existed.

    That experience crystallized some thoughts for me: I knew and know that one of the most important ingredients in what humans accomplish is what they aspire to. In turn, what we aspire to is hugely shaped by what we observe what people with whom we relate are accomplishing. And I knew that none of those little girls, or their brothers, saw folks who lived in their neighborhood get dressed every day for the kinds of jobs contributors to Blue Oregon probably take for granted. Most likely none of them had moms or dads or uncles or aunts or even neighbors who'd attended college, and probably had many who hadn't finished high school. They had never even venture onto the white neighborhood on 16th, just 50 years away. So where I, growing up in Centerville Utah would never have had it even occur to me that I couldn't aspire to be anything or go anywhere I set my mind to, those children would too easily just take it for granted -- really never even think about it! -- that there were a whole lot of jobs, and a whole lot of places, which were beyond their reach. And it became a huge imperative for me to do something about that.

    Third story: when Jefferson (my son) was attending U of O, I asked him to lay out a year to perform some community service. One of the things that led to was a "Summer Camp" held at a school in N.E. D.C., where he started out as a "Counselor" and because he'd had a lot of camp-type experience quickly wound up as activity director for the whole program. (He integrated both the program and the neighborhood.) He was talking with a bright lad of 15 or so one day, about what they wanted to become, and the lad said to Jeff, "If I was white I'd want to be President." I suspect no one had told him that because of his color he couldn't be president, just as no one had likely told those little kids in Adams Morgan that they couldn't be so many things -- but somehow, they "knew." And by "knowing," would not aspire. And by not aspiring, would not attain.

    Last story: several years ago the company I was consulting for hired an executive from Fred Meyer to a top management position, moving him from Portland to Salt Lake. He wanted an assistant; the job was posted, resumes were invited and submitted, and surprise surprise, he hired a man he'd known at both Fred Meyer, and at his church, in Portland. Sound like a classic "old boy network" story? Does to me, but I know for a fact there was no racist motive; he just hired someone he'd had a chance to see in action, in whom he already had confidence, and who'd require a minimum of training.

    There was nothing evil about this. Indeed, it may have been the very best thing for the company. But the guy who got the job had to be in the network; what if he wasn't, at least in part because his ancestors 140 years ago had been slaves, and for most of the intervening time, HAD been kept out of the "network" due to the color of their skin?

    I look forward to the day when there truly need not be any consideration of a person's color in deciding what opportunities are or are not offered. When having a pink or brown or black skin is looked upon like having blond or brown or red hair among pink folks is looked upon today. (Actually, I don't expect to live that long, but I'm counting on our getting ever closer.) But to reach that we have to acknowledge and address the effects of our history. We have to recognize that racial inequality is like a spinning whirlpool that cannot be removed by splashing in any one place. It must be disturbed all the way around: people must be given opportunities because of their ancestry so those kids in Adams Morgan will know they can aspire; those kids must be provided the knowledge and skills so those aspirations can be reached; and yes, people "of color" must accept the ultimate responsibility for stepping up. But "not thinking about race" isn't going to cut it, for a long time yet.

    The high level of the discussion on this blog is surely an encouraging sign. Joe

  • (Show?)

    Things you have said about what you think I think make no sense to me.

    I can't deny there's a disconnect because I can't even find anyplace where I said anything about what I think you think. The only comment I can find that might be reasonably be interpreted in that way was my paragraph in response to the following comment by you:

    Moreover, if it really isn't going to make things that much more competitive for whites if everyone is given a fair shot, refusal of whites to make sure everyone does get that fair shot starts to look pretty mean-spirited, doesn't it?

    My intention was not to say what I think you think, but to prod you to think about why you thought that comment was pertinent to the discussion--people's motives for being racist being immaterial to the question of whether or not racism provides a net benefit to white people.

    I tried just a bit of irony in my answer and obviously failed miserably. Sorry.

    I often explain things badly. In this case though I think my thesis is simple enough that even I couldn't screw it up so badly as to make it as obscure as people are finding it. I've concluded that the problem is that I've violated people's assumptions and habitual ways of thinking about this subject. Hey, when I can do that to a Reedie I have to consider it an accomplishment. (Have I mentioned that my spouse is a Reedie?)

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Really interesting posts.

    With regard to Joe Smith's (Dad's) story (exchange went: "Jeff, what do you want to do when you grow up?" I answered, and he said "If I was white, I'd want to be president.") One correction: The young man who made the comment wasn't 15. As memory serves, he was 11. And his name was Larry. And he was both one of the better athletes and kinder kids in the program. (Pretty uncommon combo at that age in more than one community).

    He wasn't complaining. He wasn't challenging. He was matter-of-factly, even good naturedly, musing about his future and sharing his clear view that at least one significant option wasn't available to him. The comment hit me like bricks. And until this election I was less sure that my assurances to him held as much accuracy as they held hopefulness. Let's all cross fingers, work very hard, and continue to work after the election, because the world won't be fixed....but it'll be a bit better.

  • Joe Smith (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Well, there's an interesting typo. Or is it a Freudian slip? "50 years away" was supposed to read "50 yards away." But who knows, maybe I got it right the first time. Sorry about all the italics; they were supposed to end after my quote of Doretta; I'm still not very dexterous with Kari's bolding and italicing system. Joe

  • (Show?)

    Jo Ann,

    Thanks for staying open enough to engage in dialog here. I know there's a cost there that you should not have to pay--as there is in your profiling work. I hope you will ultimately find it worthwhile.

  • (Show?)

    Doretta,

    All I can say is that if you have a need to think better of white people than that, I don't share it. I'm more interested in getting to the reality of the situation whatever that is.

    Doretta, that's irony for sure, but more than irony. There's an implication that I'm not interested in getting to the reality of the situation. Actually getting at the reality of the situation has been an absorbing feature of my entire adult life, for a considerable time close to the center of my intellectual and professional and political work.

    It's obvious that white people have the luxury of ignorance and we're darned good at exercising it. However, I think the notion that white people in this country in general benefit from racism also represents a certain amount of ignorance. I am asking you to look at it from a different perspective.

    Part of what's at stake is the relationship between "the luxury of ignorance" and "the privilege of ignoring."

    With due respect, my rather firmly held view (not just notion) that white people in this country do benefit from racism is not based on ignorance. If you want me to go into why I say it's not, I will.

    But of course I may still be mistaken, even if not out of ignorance.

    However, I think we are talking past one another because we understand the phrase "benefit from racism" differently. And I think there are two dimensions of our differences, having to do with how we think about the meaning or meanings of "benefit," and how we are defining which racism is relevant.

    Also, there is an even prior talking past one another I think, involving what it is we actually are discussing. IMO you are actually not asking me to look at "it" from a different perspective. You are asking me to look at a different question, or a different "it."

    The question of privilege is distinct from the question of benefit. This is so generally in my view, but also more especially as you define benefit to exclude short-term psychological benefits or perceived benefits.

    There are lots of privileges which are not inherently beneficial. Indeed it has often been a central concern of those with great privilege to raise their children so as to counteract potential harmful effects of privilege. Thomas Jefferson thought slave-holding had a demoralizing effect on the children of slave-owners; abolitionists vociferously agreed, extending the argument to adults.

    And there are situations in which whole privileged groups or classes have been harmed by their privilege, or lost opportunities to benefit more from something else than they did from that privilege. Yet there still was privilege, and in the opportunity cost case, still could be benefit.

    You may well be right that for most white Americans racism and white privilege have both become something of that sort. That might in turn be the basis for strategies to persuade people to reject the privilege, and what is more difficult IMO, to work out how to move that from the personal and psychological to the social and cultural.

    I'm not sorry you've asked me to look at benefit as well as privilege. It's quite interesting, as are your arguments. To think about the relationship between the two may be fruitful in thinking about things to do to press change ahead beneficially. And fwiw you are provoking me along some new lines of thought, which I count a favor & for which I thank you.

    It is far too late and I will have to come back to this tomorrow. And yes, I still haven't directly answered your questions. But I shall, whether persuasively to you I'm lsss sure.

  • Walter Ring (unverified)
    (Show?)

    [Racist screed deleted. -editor.]

  • (Show?)

    Chris,

    It was my intention to poke a little but not to imply that you aren't interested in the reality. That's obviously not the case. Your "mean spirit" comment just seemed to me to be coming out of left field. (No pun intended.) If my somewhat provocative style offends you I'll tone it down as I appreciate your engaging in the conversation.

    On benefit vs. privilege: I began my comments on this topic by noting that in my experience "white privilege" is used to mean at least three different things.

    The "benefit" construction was the one I said I thought was wrong and that's the point I've been discussing.

    The "privilege of ignoring" rests on much solider ground, to my mind. That's something I've pointed out here myself in the past explicitly under the label "white privilege". I do think that gets conflated with a much larger idea of benefit in people's minds. I agree with you that they are two different things. A substantial part of my point is that they are two different things and it is problematic that they share the same label.

    I wasn't thinking of you or anyone else in particular when I made my comment about ignorance. I do, however, think that we all have blind spots and habitual ways of thinking that can lead to us missing things that are right in front of our noses--even on subjects we are passionately interested in and have studied for years. Sometimes especially on those sorts of subjects.

    To think about the relationship between the two may be fruitful in thinking about things to do to press change ahead beneficially.

    That's precisely my interest.

    Jo Ann commented about her surprise at a liberal site with such a narrow perspective of the world. I've been hit more than once lately with just how far we haven't come--the slugged-in-the-solar-plexus-and-having-a-hard-time-breathing kind of hit. The conventional wisdom isn't getting me where I want to go. I'm trying to figure out why that is.

  • (Show?)

    Hi Walt,

    If your words are met to silence me then your thinking or lack there has failed. It has the opposite effect. I will continue to share my views, don't like it, get over it!

  • (Show?)

    doretta,

    Don't miss understand my distress in working on the racial profiling committee. I am there because I need to be their to force necessary changes. The things that hurt my soul are the total unawareness of the problem by those who don't face this injustice. I will continue to do what I must.

    Even on BO many can not empathize because it is not their experience

  • (Show?)

    Jo Ann, white privilege exists; it is there as an outcropping of a historical progression from slavery, liberation without equality for well over 100 years, civil rights improvements, to expansion of the middle class into unprivileged communities. The point is that the situation is improving and will continue to improve because the culture of America is improving.

    There is one serious current problem. You say "the education system continues to fail our kids and it is a direct pipeline to the prisons."

    On the education part of that statement, what you are pointing to is an outcropping of the defects in our culture. Sure our schools can't be described as perfect, and yes, they don't prevent drop outs.

    But it's the culture that is responsible for the drop outs. That culture includes the remaining vestages of white privilege but covers far, far more, namely giving that privilege as an excuse for not going on to getting that education. That culture erroneously informs drop outs that "staying in" is "being like whitey" and that learning is either not necessary or not desirable.

    On the prison side of your statement, it is obvious that dropping out can mean self-consignment to poverty and self-abnegation. But none of that would necessarily lead directly to prison. Those who have character and who engage in a culture of learning and competing will not end up in prison. Even so, the fact is that the overwhelming majority among the drop out class do not end up in prison.

    Jo Ann, you say "I need to be there to force necessary changes." And you most certainly ought to be working on the education component of being there.

  • (Show?)

    Doretta,

    I am not sure if it makes sense to respond to you here any more, if you are even reading the thread at this point. I'm sorry I didn't get to it sooner. If you are still reading I could reply here; another option would be that I could start a new thread, but I hesitate to do that bringing you in without consulting you about it.

  • (Show?)

    Chris,

    Feel free to start another thread if you have something to say.

    I'm more or less buried in work at the moment but if history is any indication I'll probably respond to your post instead of doing something I really ought to be doing instead.

  • Lashawn (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I am glad this discussion is happening it is very important.

    One of the themes I hear from several people here is that racism is not about the "individual" it is about the society. While it is true that racism is a systemic and institutional problem in the U.S., the system is comprised of individuals.

    There was also a post from someone who said that they thought the term "black discrimination" as opposed to "white privilege" should be used. However, that is the crux of the problem. To use the term "black discrimination" is not only more comfortable for white people, it is a focus on the victim as opposed to the problem. Has anyone ever solved a problem in their life by ignoring the problem? Why not just tell rape victims that they the issue they have is not the rapist, they are not victims of rape, but instead, what they suffered was "women's domination"? See how that takes the focus and ownership away?

    Part of the reason racism can exist at the systemic level is because the dominant or privileged group has the privilege to remove themselves from the equation. Meaning that racism is not something that is done to black people or people of color. Instead, racism is something that happens to them in a vacuum and no thing or person is responsible. Until and unless people recognize that you must acknowledge a problem in order to address it. It is not the victims who have the problem, nor do they need lectures and classes on how to be victimized. But when the offenders, by their privileged status, have the ability to not only disregard that they are part of the problem (whether overtly or covertly or with complacency), but to place the problem squarely on the shoulders of those who are oppressed by it, then there will never be an end to racism.

    Women who have faced discrimination based on gender understand this, people with disabilities understand this; it's just sad that many people cannot see the correlation when the discussion is about race. Not only that, WHEN the discussion is about racism/race, if the person making the claim is from the oppressed class of people, it is, in most cases automatically dismissed as crazy ranting or not relevant or the fault of the oppressed person. As if oppressed people are somehow mentally challenged and cannot possibly be able to express a truthful account of their experiences. Nor do they deserve to, simply because the topic is not pleasant to the dominant group.

    If we are going to have an honest dialogue about race, we have to first recognize that the oppressed and the oppressors do not see eye to eye. We must first begin interpret and improve the communication of the topic in order to begin to dissect and solve it. Thank you for reading my opinion.

  • Lashawn (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I am glad this discussion is happening it is very important.

    One of the themes I hear from several people here is that racism is not about the "individual" it is about the society. While it is true that racism is a systemic and institutional problem in the U.S., the system is comprised of individuals.

    There was also a post from someone who said that they thought the term "black discrimination" as opposed to "white privilege" should be used. However, that is the crux of the problem. To use the term "black discrimination" is not only more comfortable for white people, it is a focus on the victim as opposed to the problem. Has anyone ever solved a problem in their life by ignoring the problem? Why not just tell rape victims that they the issue they have is not the rapist, they are not victims of rape, but instead, what they suffered was "women's domination"? See how that takes the focus and ownership away?

    Part of the reason racism can exist at the systemic level is because the dominant or privileged group has the privilege to remove themselves from the equation. Meaning that racism is not something that is done to black people or people of color. Instead, racism is something that happens to them in a vacuum and no thing or person is responsible. Until and unless people recognize that you must acknowledge a problem in order to address it. It is not the victims who have the problem, nor do they need lectures and classes on how to be victimized. But when the offenders, by their privileged status, have the ability to not only disregard that they are part of the problem (whether overtly or covertly or with complacency), but to place the problem squarely on the shoulders of those who are oppressed by it, then there will never be an end to racism.

    Women who have faced discrimination based on gender understand this, people with disabilities understand this; it's just sad that many people cannot see the correlation when the discussion is about race. Not only that, WHEN the discussion is about racism/race, if the person making the claim is from the oppressed class of people, it is, in most cases automatically dismissed as crazy ranting or not relevant or the fault of the oppressed person. As if oppressed people are somehow mentally challenged and cannot possibly be able to express a truthful account of their experiences. Nor do they deserve to, simply because the topic is not pleasant to the dominant group.

    <h2>If we are going to have an honest dialogue about race, we have to first recognize that the oppressed and the oppressors do not see eye to eye. We must first begin interpret and improve the communication of the topic in order to begin to dissect and solve it. Thank you for reading my opinion.</h2>

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