Join 3,430 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


i can has privilij?
April 17, 2008 1:13 PM   Subscribe

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack as illustrated by lolcats. Also, White Liberal Bingo.
posted by streetdreams (197 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
there is no way that "knapsack" has a K in it in Lolcat. That said, these are amusing but I think lolcats are funny generally.
posted by jessamyn at 1:16 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


(this is very funny)
posted by gnutron at 1:18 PM on April 17, 2008


Eh. I got an imagined chuckle or two.
posted by cashman at 1:21 PM on April 17, 2008


I ALMOST posted this before the Army guy from Monty Python appeared in my head and said "No, no, it's entirely too silly!"

My favorite is the privilege one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:23 PM on April 17, 2008


I so almost posted this yesterday. If you're not as familiar with lolcats, make sure to click on the link about the "invisible (something)" category. It makes a lot more sense in that context.

It's cute, but not as clever as I initially hoped it could be.
posted by lunit at 1:24 PM on April 17, 2008


Funny stuff, in a detached, ironic way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:26 PM on April 17, 2008


The lolcats napsack (I agree with you about the definite lack of a "k" for knapsack in lolcat, jessamyn) was mildly funny, but I dug White Liberal Bingo the most.

This one Says “Talking about racism is so divisive” or Turns every discussion of race into a discussion of class. is pretty much an automatic square for Metafilter based on my several years' worth of observation.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


This is the best.
posted by cazoo at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2008


My favorite.

Reading the original essay was a real eye-opener for a recent White immigrant to the US like myself.
posted by Kattullus at 1:31 PM on April 17, 2008


Says “Talking about racism is so divisive” or Turns every discussion of race into a discussion of class.

That's pretty awesome, since I was about to say that half of the points in the "knapsack" article were really about wealth rather than race.

Only half of them, though.
posted by gurple at 1:33 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


very very cool


the lolcat progression especially seems to illustrate the concept quite well.


As a way of teaching, the lolcat grammar/spelling makes it difficult to take issue with the semantics (as would doubtless occur were one to use the first post), and "loose the forest for the trees" which comes when discussing abstract concepts.

Likewise, when using cats to represent human social interaction removes ingrained societal prejudices, blah blah blah, Wittgenstein, blah ----> ITS COOL I LIKE
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 1:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I live in North East DC, I do not enjoy many of the priviledges that are listed in this piece. I consider myself "white" or "caucasian."
posted by Pollomacho at 1:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love my napsack this post.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:45 PM on April 17, 2008


I take comfort in the knowledge that every person is the same color once you've flayed their skin off.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:48 PM on April 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


meetup at Faint of Butt's place?
posted by Justinian at 1:49 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really needed a Women's Studies Professor to get me in touch with the real world.
posted by shownomercy at 1:50 PM on April 17, 2008 [11 favorites]


Agrees that racism has negative consequences for POC, without having positive consequences for white people.

This one doesn't seem to belong, I can't put my finger on why though.
posted by Skorgu at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2008


Depending on circumstance (and the post itself) I tend to react to local posts in one of two very different ways:

1. I was prepared to hate this, but I am pleasantly surprised by how funny I ended up finding it.

2. I was prepared to hate this, but I am surprised to discover just how much I ended up hating it.

Which of these applies in this case, I will leave as an exercise for the reader.

HINT: I have a sense of humor.
posted by dersins at 1:56 PM on April 17, 2008


Yeah, I consider myself pretty smart and I think it's absolutely clear that racism has negative consequences for both black and white people. It's just the negative consequences for black people are much more in-your-face and immediate while the consequences for white people are more related to opportunity costs and so forth.
posted by Justinian at 1:57 PM on April 17, 2008


Easily summed up:
Black good
White bad
posted by cccorlew at 1:59 PM on April 17, 2008


I tend to react to local posts in one of two very different ways

SPELLCHEKRS, YUR DOIN IT RONG!
posted by cowbellemoo at 2:01 PM on April 17, 2008


My knapsack is black and I can see it. What gives?
posted by Rafaelloello at 2:05 PM on April 17, 2008


I like the POC acronym. People also often talk about Communities of Color. One day I wondered, could we make that an acronym.....? Nope!
posted by salvia at 2:05 PM on April 17, 2008


Just take a deep breath and try not to respond with a defensive gut reaction [I suspect that LOLcats might not be the best forum to be introduced to the idea of white privilege, but maybe nothing really is]. Take a few moments to consider whether or not she has a point. I think you'll find that she does.

That's not to say that that you necessarily need to take it at face value, but reducing it to "black good, white bad" (or any varient thereof) makes you come across as looking, while, pretty unreasonable. Surely there are some aspects of whiteness that you think are worth critiquing? And surely one can critique something without necessarily saying it's bad (or that the "opposite" is somehow more desirable)?

Just because an argument makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean that it's intellectually responsible to reduce it to a nuance-less caricature.
posted by lunit at 2:11 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Point of contact? Oh, personnel of character, I get it.
posted by fixedgear at 2:13 PM on April 17, 2008


Just because an argument makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean that it's intellectually responsible to reduce it to a nuance-less caricature.
posted by lunit at 2:11 PM on April 17 [+] [!]


black cat: cute, white cat: cute, mottled cat: cute

Personally, I liked this caricature :)
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 2:16 PM on April 17, 2008


Yay! look at me. I only scored one on the BINGO card.
posted by seanyboy at 2:16 PM on April 17, 2008


Isn't the term People of Color just a rearrangement of the term Colored People? I thought that term went out of favor in the 50's? Is white a color, I thought it was all the colors combined and black was the absence of color, except when you're talking about paint and then its the opposite?

Surely there are some aspects of whiteness that you think are worth critiquing?

Isn't critiquing generalizations about an entire race the entire fucking problem with racism in the first place?
posted by Pollomacho at 2:21 PM on April 17, 2008


Pollomacho asked:
"Isn't critiquing generalizations about an entire race the entire fucking problem with racism in the first place?"

Yes. Or a big part of the entire fucking problem, anyway.

That and how denial works both ways, unlike that river in Egypt.
posted by batmonkey at 2:24 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


loltheorists.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:24 PM on April 17, 2008


Regarding the "White Liberal Bingo" link: white liberals quote Clarence Thomas? I've never heard such a thing. Issues of racism or not, I don't think it's ever happened.
posted by NoMich at 2:26 PM on April 17, 2008


Isn't critiquing generalizations about an entire race the entire fucking problem with racism in the first place?

N-3? BINGO!
posted by dersins at 2:26 PM on April 17, 2008


All white people are racist. I get it. Next post ...
posted by elmwood at 2:28 PM on April 17, 2008


No elmwood, you don't get it.
posted by aspo at 2:30 PM on April 17, 2008 [11 favorites]


I do not enjoy many of the priviledges that are listed in this piece. I consider myself "white" or "caucasian."
Yeah, but you're poor.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:32 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


For one thing, I don't agree that not being subjected to prejudice is a privilij. I'm pretty sure it's a basic right. And I don't agree with many of his listed privileges; I certainly can't afford to live anywhere I please and I don't "exercise my privilege" of ignoring the opinions of people who are the ethnic minority in a group. Furthermore, since the American melting pot has settled into colored bands, there are plenty of white people who do know what it's like to be a minority.
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:35 PM on April 17, 2008


Yeah, but you're poor.

More middle class really. I mean, we're dual income homeowners and all. We just live in a town and a particular side of that town in which we are vastly in the racial minority.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:37 PM on April 17, 2008


I don't think that enough attention is paid the the plight of black cats. I mean, from the very outset, they are discriminated against for being 'bad luck'. And then, people say that they are lazy, just wanting to lay around all day, getting high on catnip and only moving when they need to stay in the sunbeam.

In my house, the black cat is constantly being picked on; the authoritarian dogs are always chasing him around and trying to pin him down. The worst part is that the other cats are completely ok with it. They never step in and try to put a stop to the madness, they just run away and hide under the bed.

Of course, the hate-mongers will try and say it's because the black cat was stealing their dog food from right in front of them, but that's just the kind of thing that someone with an agenda would put forward as a talking point: "Black cats are thieves and looters."

It's a travesty.

[Lost White Cat is pretty brilliant though.]
posted by quin at 2:39 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bear in mind, the paper was published in that form in 1990 and, I think, written over the span of a few years leading up to that. Not that we live in a colorblind, fair, or ncessarily equitable society now, but I think that these issues were probably worse 18 years ago.
posted by ben242 at 2:40 PM on April 17, 2008


In my house, the black cat is constantly being picked on

First they came for the calicoes, but I didn't have a calico.
Then they came for the tabbies...
posted by Pollomacho at 2:41 PM on April 17, 2008


This very moment in a corner of neatly-trimmed Land-grant State-school , some scruffy doctoral student is sitting in a Dunkin Donuts desperately casting about for a tenable topic.
She whets her nicotine-stained fingers; shehits "Recent Activity"; she is struck by lightning.
A grin slips across her eco-sustained lip gloss.
She types.
"LOLCATS and OBAMA-- modes of race and public discourse in early 21st century."
She wins the Pulitzer before she turns thirty.
She thanks Dizzy on the acknowledgments page.
Far away a donkey brays.
posted by Dizzy at 2:42 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


And yes, agreeing with Bill Cosby is clearly an act of overt racism. How could it possibly be otherwise?
posted by deadmessenger at 2:43 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Agrees that racism has negative consequences for POC, without having positive consequences for white people.

This one doesn't seem to belong, I can't put my finger on why though.


I would say, first, because racism has negative consequences for everyone.

Second, the discussions of "overprivilege" and "giving up power" seem to imply that rather than attempting equality by treating with the same fairness accorded to the white heterosexual Christian male we should introduce additional unfairness in an attempt to even things out. (Aside from the sort of overprivilege that's inherent to the negative consequences to the discriminated group, yet not an explicit "positive consequence" e.g. if Black people are not given consideration for a job it will increase the chances of a White person getting that job, without a White person being given White people bonus points.)

In general, I think we need another word for a sort of "race-ism," the idea that encouraging the use of the arbitrary "races" is a good idea, an idea that's certainly present in traditional racism but also is in statements like "1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:49 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Surely there are some aspects of whiteness that you think are worth critiquing?

Isn't critiquing generalizations about an entire race the entire fucking problem with racism in the first place?


I think you need to distinguish between two kinds of generalization here.

Racism is generalizing about the nature of a race of people. You know, "Black people act/think/feel/smell like this, white people act/think/feel/smell like that." The interesting thing about this sort of generalization is that half the time, it's straight-up false — confirmation bias, skewed sampling, whatever — and the other half, it's a valid observation about culture being dishonestly packaged as one about genetics. Empirically speaking, if you look for cases where race itself — not culture or class or life history — determines a person's behavior, thoughts, feelings and so on, you just won't find any.

But then there's this other kind of generalization, where you talk about the treatment of a race of people. You know, "Black people are hired/fired/trusted/paid/filmed/indicted at this rate, white people are hired/fired/trusted/paid/filmed/indicted at that rate." Generalizations of this sort are often correct. If you look at the data, even adjusting for class and life history and so on, white people are more likely to get the job, make the grade, be waved through customs or what have you.

Talk about "white privilege" falls into the second kind of generalization. It doesn't involve the claim that white people are assholes, or that they think bad thoughts, or that they smell funny, or whatever. It just involves the claim that white people are, as a group, treated differently. And that's just demonstrably true.

Mind you, anyone who tells you whites are bad people because of their privilege is being racist. But nobody's said that in this thread. Anyone who tells you that white people should feel guilty because of their privilege is being... well, very slightly racist, but perhaps racist nonetheless. But nobody's said that in this thread.

The only claim that's being made is that white people should be aware of their privilege. Awareness of the truth is a good thing, n'est-ce pas?

posted by nebulawindphone at 2:58 PM on April 17, 2008 [17 favorites]


That is possibly the stupidest metaphor ever. Couldn't he have come up with something else?
posted by oaf at 2:59 PM on April 17, 2008


So, this privilege we're supposed to have for being fair-skinned?

Where's mine?

I mean, come on, if I have to put up with being treated in a shitty fashion by all of these people assuming that I must be on some kind of awesome cruise through life because of the (non)colour of my skin, I should at least be getting something out of it, or at least something more enjoyable than frustration and fury.

Right?
posted by batmonkey at 3:09 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


psst. batmonkey. i think that's why it's "invisible".
posted by lunit at 3:12 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Er, couldn't she have come up with something else?
posted by oaf at 3:15 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


psst. lunit. i think you may be missing my point.
posted by batmonkey at 3:16 PM on April 17, 2008


batmonkey, there are 50 examples in the essay of ways in which "white privilege" can manifest itself. are you saying that none of them are within your experience?
posted by moxiedoll at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


So, this privilege we're supposed to have for being fair-skinned? Where's mine?

B-3! BINGO!
posted by dersins at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


er, dersins? don't you need five in a row to win?
posted by salvia at 3:28 PM on April 17, 2008


I mean, come on, if I have to put up with being treated in a shitty fashion by all of these people assuming that I must be on some kind of awesome cruise through life because of the (non)colour of my skin, I should at least be getting something out of it, or at least something more enjoyable than frustration and fury.

Right?


We're telling you that if you're white and live in ... well, pretty much anywhere in the English-speaking world ... some of the shitty treatment you've gotten would have been worse if you'd been nonwhite.

Somewhere along the line you've gotten a job — maybe a demeaning and miserable one, but a job nonetheless, with money you could eat and live indoors on — from a manager who would have turned down a black guy flat. You've passed a class with a bare D+ — maybe one you hated, maybe one you had to struggle through — under a teacher who would have just flunked a black kid. You've gotten rude treatment from a waiter who at least seated you, when he would have told a black customer there were no tables. You've been screwed by a car salesman who would have screwed a black guy twice as hard. Something has gone better for you, in your frustrating, infuriating, flawed and imperfect life, because of your skin color.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:32 PM on April 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

Not true for most white people or most [any adjective that isn't "wealthy"] people.

When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.

Not limited to white people.

My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

Not limited to white people or even applicable particularly to white people.

I can chose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.

Not true for most people.

I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race.
I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.

Not true for anybody.
posted by oaf at 3:33 PM on April 17, 2008


51. I can write an article on white privilege and pretend it is an accurate portrayal of the experiences of my race.
posted by effwerd at 3:50 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This kind of list isn't meant to be an outline of any person's life - it's a series of suggestions, as a jumping off point for thinking about things. To point to some of them and say that in certain times and places they apply to people who aren't white really misses the point. This stuff blew my mind when I was first exposed to it, but it always kind of baffles me when people can't see it at all... I'm not saying that straight, white men all live on easy street and are prosperous and happy and spend all of their time hurting people and then laughing about it.... of course not. That's not remotely true. What is true, I think, is that the "default American person" is a straight white male. And if you *aren't* one of those things, then you're "other" in some way. You're right - the "flesh" color bandaids aren't invisible on my white skin either - but the point is that I grew up in a world where the crayon marked "flesh" was the color of a person of my race. I was aware that there were people of other races, but the default was a white person. Maybe you don't think that's important - I happen to think that it is - but at the very least it's interesting to think about and be aware of, right?
posted by moxiedoll at 3:55 PM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
...

oaf: Not true for anybody.

Can't speak to others, but I can speak to this: to oaf, I must not be anybody, or something. I've never been asked to speak for all people of my (perceived) racial group.

Now, I am in fact a person of color, but because my race/ethnicity is not devalued on the mainland U.S. (different story in Hawaii), I feel safe in saying I basically grew up white, once we left Hawaii. I've never been asked to speak for all white people, but in class after class after discussion group in college, I saw black, native American, Indian, Korean etc. fellow students get asked a variation of "So, [name] can you give us [ethnicity/race]'s prespective on [topic]?"

Now, as a woman, that's a different matter - I was often asked for my take on an issue, not as "me", but as "women." Which is just weird.
posted by rtha at 3:58 PM on April 17, 2008


And, okay, one more thing. For all I vehemently believe that white privilege exists and needs to be examined, my reaction every time I read this list has been to sit up at some point and think, "Wait, that one doesn't apply to me!" There are a few items that I don't think belong on the list at all — that are, yeah, more about having money, or wielding power of any kind, or about being perceived as "normal" in any way. It's a classic article, and deservedly so, but it's not without its flaws.

On the other hand, every time I read the list, there's an item or two that strikes me as being true — and as being something I could stand to think about more. I figure that means it's worth reading. It's not a canonical description of the White American Experience. (No such thing; we are all different.) It's just, like moxiedoll says, a jumping-off point: a list of issues that you can grab ahold of and wrestle with, whatever conclusion you ultimately wind up drawing.

Okay. Stepping away from the thread now. Time for dinner. Nobody flame out spectacularly without me.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:11 PM on April 17, 2008


to oaf, I must not be anybody, or something. I've never been asked to speak for all people of my (perceived) racial group.

Whoops. Apologies. That was an editing error. It should have been "not true for white people."
posted by oaf at 4:12 PM on April 17, 2008


Now, as a woman, that's a different matter - I was often asked for my take on an issue, not as "me", but as "women." Which is just weird.

I'm often asked for my take on an issue from my perspective as a being from Ceti Alpha 5. Which is really weird.

As everybody knows Ceti Alpha 5 blew up.
posted by tkchrist at 4:12 PM on April 17, 2008


I can go ... into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
...

Not limited to white people.


I don't know if I'm confusing what you mean by "not limited to white people," but I think maybe that the point of these statements are that, yes, they are not limited to white people, but you have to go out of your way to get what you want sometimes or go to a specialized store or purveyor for a well-represented selection of what you want compared to a white person.

Yes, even staple foods, do you really believe that one "Latin/Chinese/ethnic" food aisle in supermarkets really covers the staples for a lot of people? Some soy sauce and bottles of pre manufactured unauthentic sauces hardly makes up for when I need ot make Korean food. Not to mention the lone bottle of kimchi I found in a Whole Foods one time actually listed VINEGAR as one of its ingredients. And what if I wanted to make the soul food my dad used to make me? Maybe not a staple, but I haven't seen collard greens in an D'Agostino's south of 96th street.

Or what about "ethnic hair care" sections? That is IF you can find one in the particular store you have to go to. Every Duane Reade has all the Pantene you could need, but some might have a larger ethnic hair care section than most and others just don't. Usually it's not even an aisle but the footlong section on the three lower shelves at the end of an aisle.

As much as I would like to believe high-priced hair dressers know what the hell they are doing, if I wanted my hair relaxed, I wouldn't trust Ken Paves to not burn the scalp off my head even if he was using Just for Me no lye solution.

Now is it arguable if catering to everyone is financially viable to a business? Maybe, maybe not, that's a whole other argument, but your "not limited to white people" statement is a bit oversimplifying on just how different an experience something as seemingly simple as haircare and food products might be.
posted by kkokkodalk at 4:17 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Flesh-colored bandages are all too dark for me. But I think my love of Jello Pudding Pops is what makes me a racist.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:26 PM on April 17, 2008


The white privilege knapsack has been very thoroughly debated in the past on Metafilter. Not that it can't be debated again.
posted by salvia at 4:30 PM on April 17, 2008


The invisible knapsack thing is a double.
posted by puke & cry at 4:33 PM on April 17, 2008


Damn you.
posted by puke & cry at 4:34 PM on April 17, 2008


you have to go out of your way to get what you want sometimes or go to a specialized store or purveyor for a well-represented selection of what you want compared to a white person

Until rather recently, more than one half of all people in the United States were non-Hispanic whites. Of course it makes economic sense to cater to them—they're everywhere.
posted by oaf at 4:36 PM on April 17, 2008


This was funny. The LOL cats, I mean, and also the defensiveness.
posted by OmieWise at 4:46 PM on April 17, 2008


I live in North East DC, I do not enjoy many of the priviledges that are listed in this piece. I consider myself "white" or "caucasian."

"I'm not middle class, I'm poor. I was in college for four years, and now I'm in the third year of my PhD program. Have you seen what grad students make?!?"
posted by OmieWise at 4:55 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I loled at the lolcats and I liked the essay. I remember liking this post from November linking to the essay "Reflections on White Privilege" by Tad Lawrence, which was also food for thought.
posted by eponymouse at 4:58 PM on April 17, 2008


I'm often asked for my take on an issue from my perspective as a being from Ceti Alpha 5. Which is really weird. As everybody knows Ceti Alpha 5 blew up.

What's really weird is that somebody purported from Ceti Alpha 5 doesn't know that it was actually Ceti Alpha 6 that blew up.

You, sir, are no true Ceti Alpha Fivian.
posted by Justinian at 4:59 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Until rather recently, more than one half of all people in the United States were non-Hispanic whites. Of course it makes economic sense to cater to them—they're everywhere.

Well if you read what I wrote further, I said that that the economic viability of who you market to might be something to take into account, since if you have a mostly white neighborhood, why would you sell TCB activator gel? So sure, you can't expect all businesses to cater to everyone. My quibble was with your one-liner seemed like it was saying "no, we aren't that different when it comes to food and haircare," which I disagree with.

And I don't know, maybe I just suck at reading comprehension, and it has been a long day, but I'm confused as to what your additional statement is exactly trying to say. So you're saying it makes more economic sense to cater to non-Hispanic whites. OK, so you are saying that yes, the modern market does skew towards catering to non-Hispanic whites. So why would you say "not limited to white people" about it being easy to find what they need when they walk into a store? Again I'm confused as to whether you're agreeing or disagreeing or answering to these statements or what.
posted by kkokkodalk at 5:02 PM on April 17, 2008


Bear in mind, the paper was published in that form in 1990

I also think it may have been transcribed badly. For example:

They may say they will work to women's statues, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can't or won't support the idea of lessening men's.

Work to women's statues? Prolly shoulda been "work to improve women's status", I'm thinking.
posted by msalt at 5:08 PM on April 17, 2008


oaf: yes. But being in the class of people that it makes economic sense to cater to IS SOMETHING YOU WOULD MISS IF IT WENT AWAY. Life is easier if you are in the overwhelming majority. Sometimes overwhelmingly easier in ways you don't even realize are a pain in the butt for people who are outside of that majority.
posted by aspo at 5:15 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]



You, sir, are no true Ceti Alpha Fivian.

KAAAAAAAAAAAAAHN!!!!
posted by tkchrist at 5:16 PM on April 17, 2008


I'm confused as to what your additional statement is exactly trying to say.

Where in the U.S. does it make sense to have vast assortments of "ethnic" food? Not everywhere.
Where in the U.S. does it make sense to have vast assortments of "white people" food? Not everywhere, but close.
posted by oaf at 5:16 PM on April 17, 2008


economic sense
posted by oaf at 5:17 PM on April 17, 2008


#Isn't the term People of Color just a rearrangement of the term Colored People?

The new, hipster term is 'brown people'.

#More middle class really. I mean, we're dual income homeowners and all. We just live in a town and a particular side of that town in which we are vastly in the racial minority.

Don't worry, Pollomacho -- Capitol Hill is rapidly creeping eastward. If you own a home within 2 miles of the Capitol, you'll see the value of your home continue to increase by as much as 25% over the next 10 years as less affluent people keep getting forced out of the city. We bought our house more than 30 years ago, yet gentrification still seems to be going strong.

< / also in NE DC
posted by vhsiv at 5:21 PM on April 17, 2008


SOME OF MY BEST CATS ARE BLACK

Both of them, in point of fact.
posted by everichon at 5:29 PM on April 17, 2008


Well, I found out what lolcats was, thanks to this post. Thanks. (Not.)

But the list of elements of white privilege are not easily dismissed. If you are white, read them and think about how it might be different if you were not white. White people do not often think about what it means to be white. This is not unusual. The dominant culture is the default culture. It's assumed to define the basic elements of culture: others are different.

It isn't until recently that White Studies has existed as an academic discipline. Snark all you want, but I think it's a good sign that white privilege - the open acknowledgment of racism as an institution, not just a personal shortcoming - can be discussed.
posted by kozad at 5:32 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Economic sense: Yep, this essay is confusing a lot of different things with race, and being in the majority is the main one. Of course, there are lots of different majorities -- women, adults, suburbanites, etc. with different and overlapping privileges.

Other things confused with race include class (obviously), status, conformism/iconoclasm, neighborhoods (and their crime rates), and marital status.
posted by msalt at 5:33 PM on April 17, 2008


CHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIST!!!!
posted by adamdschneider at 5:34 PM on April 17, 2008


Buh?
posted by msalt at 5:36 PM on April 17, 2008


I dunno about the rest of it, but denying white privilege is in and of itself a privilege that non whites do not have.
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:40 PM on April 17, 2008 [13 favorites]


It's odd that people can be so resistant to the idea of white privilege. Nobody is saying that being white makes you a bad person, sheesh.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:41 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, msalt, are you turning this discussion of race into a discussion of class? B!
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:48 PM on April 17, 2008


The problem I have with the list is it's a recipe for neuroses if you're not white and actually see many of these conditions as ills. If I'm late to something, I don't give one shit if anyone thinks it reflects poorly on Korean people everywhere. A significant amount of the list is similarly posed. I would not advise anyone to think like this about the world. It won't help you, it won't help race relations, and it won't help relations in general. Know who you are, don't worry about others defining you or your race.

Much of the rest of the list is petty bullshit. Music? Grocery options? The color of adhesive bandages and what the manufacturer chose to name that color? Ignoring the perspective of others? Is that even a privilege? Protected from the negative consequences of being disinterested in minority writing or activism? Um, what? I think there might be a few real items on that list but it doesn't help the argument if 45 items are used as padding.

There is a real culture of white privilege in this country but it isn't for all whites, and the benefits of it are far greater than anything on that list.
posted by effwerd at 5:52 PM on April 17, 2008


I'm often asked for my take on an issue from my perspective as a being from Ceti Alpha 5. Which is really weird. As everybody knows Ceti Alpha 5 blew up.

What's really weird is that somebody purported from Ceti Alpha 5 doesn't know that it was actually Ceti Alpha 6 that blew up.

You, sir, are no true Ceti Alpha Fivian.


Since neither of you seem to remember the Ceti Alphan Disaster only occurred in dimensions 6772-A through 9998743-ZB...

I suppose Ceti Alphans just can't be educated. Good thing, since society will still need fusion scuttle wipers. That is if you can't get them to work...
posted by Samizdata at 5:53 PM on April 17, 2008


The list of examples could probably be pared down, as it is weakened by its inclusion of things that are easily turned around, such as:

If another student gets a scholarship instead of me, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.

I can dance badly and not have people put this down to my color.

I can get passed over for a job with an affirmative action employer without having to suspect that I didn't get it because of my race.

I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of me being white trash.

Some seems related to class and wealth, or stuff that's just plain wrong, like:

"12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair."

Even if you want to completely ignore that the roots of rock'n'roll are from black culture (pick your phraseology, I got off the euphemism treadmill just before "Afro-American" took hold), I have yet to see a record store that doesn't have an absolutely enormous, even disproportionate section under various headings like "Soul" and "Rap."

This would have more impact if it weren't so watered down. Or maybe it's that I sort of wore out my outrage. I'm not sure if I have the time to take off from feeling guilty that I'm lucky enough to be born in America (alternately, to be ashamed of my country), to be male, to be literate, and so forth, for this.

IM IN UR WHITE METAFILTER COMMENT BOX, TYPING WITH MY HARBL
posted by adipocere at 5:58 PM on April 17, 2008


Even if you want to completely ignore that the roots of rock'n'roll are from black culture

After fifty years of white appropriation of those roots, this is weak-ass argument.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:01 PM on April 17, 2008


And seriously, enough with the white guilt. White guilt turns anti-racism around and makes it about white people again- makes it about white people's feelings and white people's experiences. The whole point is that white people's feelings and experiences are not the universal reality which they are taken for.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:02 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Maybe it'd be easier to think about it if to apply it to other ways of being privileged... The dominant religious culture in this country is Christianity. I grew up Catholic. So the schools were always closed on my important holidays, and my important holidays were recognized in a big way by the culture around me - for Christmas, they'd cancel school for the whole week and we'd have parties and concerts about it before we left! So that was a kind of privilege that I experienced, and I never thought about it as such. I just took it for granted, and never thought about any other perspectives. And that doesn't mean that I think school should be open on Christmas, and it doesn't mean that there isn't a history of anti-Catholocism in this country, and it doesn't mean that I feel guilty for being part of that dominant culture and on and on and on.... nothing else changes the fact that my own experience in that realm was a privileged one. that's all!
posted by moxiedoll at 6:14 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I looooove white privilege discussions on the internets. My favorite part is watching all the touchy white people start asking, "where's MY privilege? I don't see any privilege around here! I live in a black neighborhood/my parents emigrated here after the civil war/I'm poor/a black person yelled at me once/REVERSE RACISM!!1!"
posted by LeeJay at 6:14 PM on April 17, 2008


Truthfully, I am without white gilt.
posted by everichon at 6:16 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh... I get it now. Teh funneh in teh lolcats piece trivielizing wite privilij is invisible too.

I admit, it's cute. Cats are cute. Great.

White privilege is not cute. And it's invisible in the same way that the elephant in the room that nobody cares to mention is invisible, which is very different from the way invisible bikes are invisible.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:20 PM on April 17, 2008


As everybody knows Ceti Alpha 5 blew up.

Whether or not it really did blow up, you can bet that if it didn't, the mainstream press wouldn't cover it.
posted by rtha at 6:21 PM on April 17, 2008


It's not meant to trivialize white privilege. It's meant to use humor to illustrate and call attention to it.
posted by streetdreams at 6:23 PM on April 17, 2008


I don't know that it is impossible to be both aware (which I understand is the main thrust of the original paper) and to also make with the cute. I am not convinced that these are mutually incompatible.
posted by everichon at 6:24 PM on April 17, 2008


The list just needs an update and some paring down.

White Privileges as of April 2008

1. I am more likely not to be in prison.

2. I am more likely to receive an adequate education.

3. I am more likely to receive proper medical/health care.

4. I am more likely to get promoted in business settings where management is mostly white, and merit and experience are routinely ignored or punished.

5. I am more likely to have my skepticism of white privilege ridiculed on the internet.
posted by effwerd at 6:26 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Goodness, these caucasoids get on my nerves. They are all intelligent, hardworking people. And so privileged. Always talking about how they've got this undeserved power, like it's something they don't have the automatic rights to. What is up with that? Why can't they just slack off, be lazy, and give up hopes of comfortable lifestyles like brown and black people do?

One of my best friends is a white man. He is quite inarticulate.
posted by Mister Cheese at 6:31 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I really thought metafilter of all places could have some intelligent discussions about race, without trivializing the issues (with fucking lolcats). I thought we could mostly avoid the "x point in this essay is wrong.... sooo the whole thing is worthless". Yes, a lot of the points made in the essay are about class. Guess what? Class and race still largely intersect in America.

Things have gotten better in the last decades. That doesn't mean we can all say, oh great, so now lets all talk about class instead, because we're all colorblind.

Bah. Read this. She says it better than I can. It's my bed time in fact.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:32 PM on April 17, 2008


See, effwerd's list is much better - getting to real iniquities.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:34 PM on April 17, 2008


It's not meant to trivialize white privilege. It's meant to use humor to illustrate and call attention to it.

It's not meant to (really?), but it does.

I'm sorry. I just don't see lolcats (in their current manifestation) being as capable of holding a place in socio-political rhetoric as, say, political cartoons.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:35 PM on April 17, 2008


rtha: I've never been asked to speak for all white people, but in class after class after discussion group in college, I saw black, native American, Indian, Korean etc. fellow students get asked a variation of "So, [name] can you give us [ethnicity/race]'s prespective on [topic]?"

THANK YOU. This is what annoys me about many panels I see here in Australia (and in a few other places elsewhere). Whenever there's a panel about something - say, culture or education or how the city will be in 20 years - the only person that is non-Majority (i.e. White Australian) is only there to represent their race. I was in one such panel about creative cities and the only Indigenous person (and non-white person) there spoke about...surprise, surprise, Indigenous issues. And all the other audience members who happen to be non-White Australian had to preface their comments with "As a person of XYZ culture, ..." You'd never find a non-White Aussie that could speak generally on culture/education/creative cities without having to represent their cultural background.

Also, as a supposed "person of colour", I HATE that phrase. It assumes that all "people of colour" feel the same, think the same, go through the same things. It also assumes that racism can't happen without a white person involved. The Feminist community on LJ had this ridiculous policy that "racism = power + privilege", then assumed that "privilege" always meant "white"; when some of us tried to talk about racism between different races (for example, my experiences with racism as a Bangladeshi in Malaysia), we got ignored - or told that "oh, that's just discrimination, there's no white person there so there's no privilege and no racism."
posted by divabat at 6:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it's at least arguable that a certain subset of cranky old folks might have said similar things about early manifestations of political cartoons.

I am quite serious about this topic, and I don't see the use of humor as incompatible with that. I think it can give people a fresh way of looking at things that could lead them to think differently than they would otherwise. Clearly, it doesn't always work that way, but I don't think that means it couldn't.
posted by streetdreams at 6:43 PM on April 17, 2008


Grows matlocks as "sign of respect/admiration."

MATLOCKS!!! By far the best name for those things yet. Worth the FPP just for that, thank you!
posted by BinGregory at 6:46 PM on April 17, 2008


Ok. Before I go to bed, I also want to say, yes, there are people here intelligently discussing race, privilege, etc. And there are plenty who aren't. Apparently they skipped the third link. Anyway, it's those ones that disappoint me. I hoped that could be avoided here.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:46 PM on April 17, 2008


I agree, gaucho. I hoped the same.
posted by streetdreams at 6:47 PM on April 17, 2008


I guess it'd be hard for that to happen with thousands of members.

Okay. Seriously. Work early. No more internets.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:49 PM on April 17, 2008


That is a really awesome essay, gauchodaspampas. (The link again).
posted by salvia at 7:03 PM on April 17, 2008


I don't know if there is such a thing as white guilt anymore. It seems to have been replaced by kneejerk white defensiveness.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:31 PM on April 17, 2008


I dunno about the rest of it, but denying white privilege is in and of itself a privilege that non whites do not have.

What do you mean? Lots of people of color do exactly that, and make good money at it (Michel Malkin is the first person that pops into mind I can name. In a way, it shows how far we've come. Nowadays people of color can be horrendous public racists, just like white people!)
I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

Not true for anybody.


Tell that to Jeremiah Wright.
posted by delmoi at 7:47 PM on April 17, 2008


So, msalt, are you turning this discussion of race into a discussion of class? B!

I don't understand this. Is it improper to bring class into a discussion of race and social inequalities? Is it wrong to suggest that white privilege is really just a localized manifestation of the more pervasive class privilege that can be found in practically every society around the world?

This message of white privilege is mostly coming from privileged white folks after all. And these privileged folks presume to speak for all white people. It also seems like they won't accept letting any white people out of it, they've defined all white people into the problem. And that's kinda rude. If some skeptics have never seen these privileges, it's no wonder they spew angry, inarticulate, and vapid arguments against the notion. It's also rude to posture as if you're right just because they can't form a cogent counter-argument (not saying you did this MrMoonPie).

The worst thing: the problem does not require it to be applied to all white people in order to be a valid definition of a real cultural phenomenon. I don't even know why anyone would argue that it must be so.

The issue of class, though, that's something that everyone can understand, as long as you don't believe "class" was invented by Marx. And when you talk about social privileges and disadvantages, all people, white, black, brown, yellow, red, can understand these when framed by class.

Racism, though, is more of a free-floating pretext. It can interfere with domestic policy, it can interfere with foreign policy. It can interfere with your job opportunities. It can interfere with your family reunion. I'm sure it can worm its way into most everything. It may or may not have to do with social inequalities.

So when you bring up matters of social inequalities and say all white people are implicated in this systemic racism because of their race alone, don't be surprised when under-privileged white people speak out. These social inequalities are real and not limited to any race. And if you focus on race as some kind of core motivating factor, it can seem to such people that you are off base and not properly suited to addressing the problem.

We do need a very serious discussion about social inequalities. Asking white people to think about how they have avoided social inequalities from being white is good. But so is asking everyone who has lived a middle class or higher class lifestyle to think about how their class has helped them in the same way.
posted by effwerd at 7:54 PM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Is it improper to bring class into a discussion of race and social inequalities?

No. But the class thing is often brought up to change the subject entirely, or to supposedly explain the whole thing. If I dress sloppily, people think I'm a hipster. If my non-white friend dresses sloppily, people think he's a criminal. Nobody is saying class doesn't matter or that poor white people have it super-easy. But racial stereotypes matter separate from class.
posted by salvia at 8:07 PM on April 17, 2008


I own two black cats. One of them repeatedly pisses on my knapsack if I leave it laying around. I am white.

What does it all mean?
posted by desjardins at 8:22 PM on April 17, 2008


46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.

Wow. Yeah. All those white people sure have it made since they can get Band-Aids in colors that nearly match the color of their skin!

On the other hand, people that have skin that looks like Sesame Street or Spongebob Squarepants are also the beneficiaries of such privilege, since they have Band-Aids that are made specifically to match their skin, too.
posted by davidmsc at 8:28 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


For the nth time, most poor people in the US are White, and, if one could choose one's own ethnicity, it would be more advantageous to be born Korean American, Indian American, or Jewish American than normatively White. If I were to hold the theory that economic disparities between racial populations stemmed from invisible institutions of privilege, I would be forced to acknowledge a Jewish Privilege and an Asian Privilege, no? Or does this logic of invisible privilege only apply to the example of White people? All in all, this model seems rather simplistic, convenient, and silly.

Simple as it may be, a color wheel may not be the ideal calculus for bucking down and solving real economic problems; there are all too visible advantages to growing up any color in Massachusetts over growing up white in South Carolina, or Mississippi, or in any number of economically bugfucked slices of the map. Did White Privilege do that?

Oh, I forgot. Poverty is Econ, down the hall. This is American Studies 101, where we pamper and overfeed our causes like pet cats.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:29 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of my gender studies class on white privilege and I was the only non-white person in the room as everyone else proclaimed how comfortable they felt living in a white suburb, watching white television shows and not feeling alienated because of the colour of their skin. Well, no fucking way, really? And then, there I was trying to explain to them what it's like growing up in a white society, with white role models and calling the cream coloured crayon "skin colour" in primary school, because I was white, right? Well, no. I'm not, actually. So, yeah, white privilege is still alive and kicking.
posted by liquorice at 8:40 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I dress sloppily, people think I'm a hipster. If my non-white friend dresses sloppily, people think he's a criminal. Nobody is saying class doesn't matter or that poor white people have it super-easy. But racial stereotypes matter separate from class.

Sure, but this is about supposed privileges inherent to being white in the US. If we want to count how we are or are not perceived as a privilege, we're on the wrong track. As long as someone's perception of you does not cross over into a felony or real discrimination, it's nobody's concern, and it's not a big deal. They can change or not. They'll eventually die. The newer humans are growing more cosmopolitan every generation. This is not to say we shouldn't recognize racism and work toward solutions, just that in matters of privilege and disadvantage, focusing on race seems incomplete while class seems to strike at the heart of the matter.
posted by effwerd at 8:45 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I dress sloppily, people think I'm a hipster. If my non-white friend dresses sloppily, people think he's a criminal.

Wait, which one is supposed to be worse again?
posted by kid ichorous at 8:55 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The lolcats napsack (I agree with you about the definite lack of a "k" for knapsack in lolcat, jessamyn) was mildly funny

Now, see, that's funny, because when I read her comment, I thought she was talking about the final 'k' -- that is, knapsac -- because 'sac' is HAHA TESTICLES AMIRITE which scores much higher on the LOLscale, I reckon.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:10 PM on April 17, 2008


[NOT TESTICLIST]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:11 PM on April 17, 2008


batmonkey: I mean, come on, if I have to put up with being treated in a shitty fashion by all of these people assuming that I must be on some kind of awesome cruise through life because of the (non)colour of my skin, I should at least be getting something out of it, or at least something more enjoyable than frustration and fury.

"Another source of the discomfort and anger that Whites often experience [when first considering the concept of "White Privilege"] stems from the frustration of being seen as a group member, rather than as an individual. People of color learn early in life that they are seen by others as members of a group. For Whites, thinking of oneself only as an individual is a legacy of White privilege. . . .[so] they are sometimes troubled, even angered, to learn that simply because of their group status they are viewed with suspicion by many people of color. 'I'm an individual, view me as an individual!'" -Beverly Daniel Tatum, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" And Other Conversations About Race
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:32 PM on April 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


For the nth time, most poor people in the US are White, and, if one could choose one's own ethnicity, it would be more advantageous to be born Korean American, Indian American, or Jewish American than normatively White.

At last the reason why I am poorer than either of my brothers is clear. It is because I was born to an Irish-American couple, but adopted by Jews, while they were born Jewish.

I hadn't realized the ethnic advantage people who are biologically Jewish had over me. How did I miss it?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:36 PM on April 17, 2008


For the nth time, most poor people in the US are White, and, if one could choose one's own ethnicity, it would be more advantageous to be born Korean American, Indian American, or Jewish American than normatively White.

Asians earn less per capita then whites in the U.S, but are more likely to have two income earners, and thus higher "household" income. "Asian privilage" is a myth, or so I learned in my Asian Studies class. (I needed one X Studies class to graduate)

Anyway, I don't see how working harder for less money per worker is a privilege.
posted by delmoi at 9:36 PM on April 17, 2008


(Also, since when are U.S. Jews not primarily white?)
posted by delmoi at 9:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Asians earn less per capita then whites in the U.S, but are more likely to have two income earners, and thus higher "household" income. "Asian privilage" is a myth, or so I learned in my Asian Studies class.

Did you take your class before 2004? The figures I found do not agree:

Overall Asian Americans enjoyed higher median personal incomes than any other racial demographic. (wiki)

Combined household income is here.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:51 PM on April 17, 2008


I hadn't realized the ethnic advantage people who are biologically Jewish had over me. How did I miss it?

You're absolutely right, I should have said "raised," rather than "born." I had no intention of raising a nature vs. nurture debate - only pointing out that this disparity can exist without systemic, institutional discrimination.

"Asian privilage" is a myth, or so I learned in my Asian Studies class.

Well, growing up under a cultural pressure to become a doctor (for whatever reason) is probably an advantage over growing up to the pipe dream of football scholarships or Nascar stardom.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:02 PM on April 17, 2008


Stereotypes piling up on all sides.
posted by naju at 10:03 PM on April 17, 2008


Simple as it may be, a color wheel may not be the ideal calculus for bucking down and solving real economic problems; there are all too visible advantages to growing up any color in Massachusetts over growing up white in South Carolina, or Mississippi, or in any number of economically bugfucked slices of the map. Did White Privilege do that?

The problem with this argument is that privilege is not simply about economics.

Put simply, a poor white man from Mississippi could conceivably move to Massachusetts. He can attain an education, adopt the dress, customs, and language of the society that he wishes to join, and in doing so would most likely enjoy all of the privileges that entailed. A black man could make that same journey, and while he may enjoy the many fruits of his economic success, the color of his skin still signifies something about him in the minds of others.

I'm personally convinced that there is one upside to being Black in a world of White Privilege. White people have no-one but themselves and their parents to blame their problems on, and therefore have to spend their hard earned money and free time on therapy when they get depressed.

As a black man, I get to blame white people for my angst, and spend my extra cash and free time on Video Games.

I guess the exception would be poor white people who can't afford therapy. They get to exercise the "immigrant blame" clause, and spend their extra money on Church and Guns.

Also based on what i've learned in movies, Black People are 60% more likely to have magical powers and/or sage wisdom. Native Americans have magicaler powers and sager wisdom, but they only get to be in Oliver Stone movies, so y'know...net loss for them once again.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:12 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


As a black man, I get to blame white people for my angst, and spend my extra cash and free time on Video Games.

I almost hesitate to wreck this for you, but I spend my extra cash and free time on Video Games as well. I have more extra cash, too, because of white privilege! Haha!
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:22 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I almost hesitate to wreck this for you, but I spend my extra cash and free time on Video Games as well. I have more extra cash, too, because of white privilege! Haha!

i hate to break this to you...lessee, how do I put this? Ever notice how you never hear Black People bitching about taxes? I think we can call this one even.

We had a good thing going too, until Wesley Snipes had to go ruin it for all of us!
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:32 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like to blame Video Games for my angst. What kind of privilege does that give me?
posted by salvia at 10:32 PM on April 17, 2008


I like to blame Video Games for my angst. What kind of privilege does that give me?

That all depends on if you consider Judd Apatow making a movie about you every two weeks a privilege.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:43 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here is a cat and a theremin.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:43 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


billyfleetwood: Put simply, a poor white man from Mississippi could conceivably move to Massachusetts. He can attain an education, adopt the dress, customs, and language of the society that he wishes to join, and in doing so would most likely enjoy all of the privileges that entailed. A black man could make that same journey, and while he may enjoy the many fruits of his economic success, the color of his skin still signifies something about him in the minds of others.

SAT scores and numbers of college-bound seniors being what they are, I don't expect too many poor Mississippians, Black or White, to attend college in Massachusetts. Citing personal experience, I must have met more people from the other side of the world than I met from the other* side of the country. A Black man from Mississippi would in fact stand out here - Southern transplants tend to.

*Southern, not Western.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:12 PM on April 17, 2008


So I was reading the blog "Stuff White People Like".

And then I was reading about how white people like to tell poor people what to do and how sad white people are that poor people "vote Republican instead of Democratic", and I was thinking, huh, there must be this big non-white poor person support thing for the Republicans that I've never heard of, because as far as I knew most of the poor people who vote Republican were white. Or maybe I was wrong, and poor people cease being white, because they definitely don't like the stuff white people like. And blogs are never wrong.

Since moving to the US, I've been aware that there is a discussion of race here that isn't productive. Frankly, because it doesn't talk about the nexus of race and class and how the two interact and the feedbacks they create. Because it isn't denying race to talk about class as well as race, but it is denying reality to refuse to talk about class as well as race.

In this unproductive discussion, all white people are middle class, and all black people are poor. And as long as we have some black people at a university, its "diverse", even if they are all middle class black students and we don't even think or make any effort to help working class and poor black students get the skills they need to get into higher education. Because variety in colour of skin is more important than variety in pocketbook size.

Race does matter, but so does class - part of the low status of black culture within the US is tied up with it not just being perceived as black, but as lower class. African art, for instance, that's high status. But brightly coloured suits? That's low-class (and African American). It's this feedback between race and class that contributes to disadvantages. People get passed over for not having the right accent or the right clothes - but if they could wear Armani and speak like Boston Brahmin, they could be promoted, and everyone would congratulate themselves on how not racist they are.

Sure, you could call me a river in Egypt for bringing up class during the sacred race discussion. but I would say that race doesn't make any sense without talking about class and other status markers/determinants. It's like how ethnic conflicts around the world, which the media like to portray as ancient emnity, essential cultural differences, usually turn out to be who owns more of the farmland or controls the government purse strings.

And if we were going to talk seriously about white priviledge, we would need to deaggregate it from class priviledge:

- not getting stopped on the street - RACE, with an element of class (esp in clothes choice)
- being able to afford a home in a nice neighbourhood - CLASS
- having social networks to get jobs - CLASS but maybe some RACE because of family connections
- good quality primary education - definitely CLASS, but of course class is heavily correlated with RACE

(not that it deaggregates well -- maybe because American ideas of whiteness are tied up with ideas of middle classness)

I'm living in a city that is very divided by both class and racial divisions, and I am very aware of both. But it makes me aware of how the two work in tandem, and that the experience of one is dependent on the other and vice versa.
posted by jb at 11:14 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


sorry, I realised it probably looks like I cherry picked more class things than race things in that list.

But I couldn't think of any of the non-stupid race things (no non-white music? Do we live on different planets?) off the top of my head right then. here are some:

- having a boss who is of my race - definitely white priviledge
- political figures of my race - also white priviledge, though changing
- seeing myself represented in media - again white priviledge, but also a black priviledge, over Native, Metis, East or South Asian people, as both black and white people are heavily represented in all forms of media. But non-white and non-black people are almost entirely forgotten in American discussions of race. All people of colour are the same, you see.
posted by jb at 11:33 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


jb, I think you make a very good point about class, but the problem, as it usually is when discussing this subject, iis that it becomes an apples and oranges debate. Yes, if you compare these middle class whites over here, with these lower class blacks over there you can find a plethora of factors to explain the gap between thetwo. Most of these factors could also apply across racial lines. Agreed. Through that lens, it's very much a class thing.

However, from my side of the fence I think the issue of white privilege is one that can only be measured with all other things being equal. Take two people in this country that have all things equal except the color of their skin and honestly tell me that more often than not, they can expect the exact same outcomes in their interactions with society at large. It's just not true. We all wish it were, but it isn't.

It's not entirely about economics. Sometimes it's simply about going through your day without being forced to deal the one thing about yourself that you can never change in the eyes of others. It's about the fact that the only way to avoid thinking about that one thing is to segregate yourself from mainstream society, and once you do that you have severely if not completely limited your ability to get ahead. In that one simple fact lies the privilege that is invisible to those who have it.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:57 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


So I was reading the blog "Stuff White People Like".

I'm sorry, we can't bring up that website here on Metafilter. Didn't you get the memo? No but seriously that site obviously doesn't think it is describing all white people. It is consciously describing a limited set of elite liberal white people and calling them simply "white" to inflict the discomfort of being grouped by skin color that POC experience daily. As quoted above:

[so] they are sometimes troubled, even angered, to learn that simply because of their group status they are viewed with suspicion by many people of color. 'I'm an individual, view me as an individual!'"
posted by BinGregory at 12:23 AM on April 18, 2008


I wonder how much this has to do with generational power division. The values of a society reflect the values of its rulers more than the values of its ordinary members, and its rulers are, on the average, old. That your boss (department head, company CEO or chief manager) is likely to be white and male is secondary, IMO, to the fact that he is likely to be a generation or two older than you. He was born between 1935 and 1960. He grew up in a society where the flags of white privilege and male privilege flew high. His peers in education were, probably, other white boys. His models of successful behavior (the previous two generations to him) were, almost exclusively, white men.

He expected to be able to be CEO of a company some day, and he succeeded in that. The relevant doors were opened for him, by white men older than him. Of course, there are many white men of his age sleeping in dumpsters and sucking down dollar whisky; your boss had to put in some effort of his own, he didn't slide by purely on his skin color and the contents of his pants, but these factors helped a lot. A lot of people he had to impress, to convince, to win over, to fool, those people who he had to get to open the doors for him, were also white men and wouldn't have opened the door for him were he not like themselves. (Or at least three times as good as him.)

My point is, your boss, a typical power-holding member of the generation one or two prior to yours, is highly likely to be a hell of a lot more open to the idea of a person who is black, and/or a woman, being able to do his job some day, than his own boss (when he was your age) was to that idea. It's likely that some of us white men will be bosses ourselves, some day, and considering our own present attitudes, we are much more likely in turn than our present boss is, to be open to that idea. And here's another data point: I suggest that your boss, in his time climbing the ladder among his fellow white males, wasn't entirely a loved and accepted member of the Universal Brotherhood of White Men, either. If race and gender aren't available, humans discriminate on other criteria. What was his religion? Who are his family? What geographical area was he born in? And so on. We don't really care. His bosses did care, a lot.

In a fully white-dominated, fully male-dominated society, is there a meaningful distinction of privilege between white men? Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo have some good answers to that. How about a society without any white men at all? Tenth-century China. (No truly female-dominated societies have existed, that I know of, for any length of time; for most of human history, dominance has implied violence, and males simply are more violent.) So, in a partially white-dominated, partially male-dominated society, is that distinction between white men utterly meaningless? I think it's relevant to the story, but is not the whole story.

My example here of bosses and workers is just the corporate capitalist version of this pseudonepotistic drive, but the same applies to any human power structure, whatever it's for. We accept and promote those we perceive as "like ourselves". The qualities by which we assess what "like ourselves" mean will change over time, as the nature of the society in which we live changes. As children we, here and now, had friends of other race, and gender, and religion. We consider them "like ourselves", mostly. They're our peers. We'll advance their interests when we're in a position to do so; we'll expect them to advance ours, when they're in a position to do so. And like our boss and his boss, those "not like ourselves", we'll sometimes hold back. (Or, as we advance someone "like ourselves" over them, have the same effect. And that's fine. It's not the fact of discrimination that's wrong; one must discriminate daily, in all kinds of ways, between people. It's unfairness, with consequence, that makes it wrong.)

It's almost certain that a race other than the whites will over the next few centuries ascend to the position of carrying the largest knapsack full of privilege around; and along with that the position of the whites will descend. But that's not our problem, and issues of class/race/gender discrimination elsewhere and elsewhen are largely a distraction from the fact that here and now in 2008 in English-speaking (the language is a highly relevant fact) countries we haven't quite transitioned out of pro-male gender bias, and we certainly haven't transitioned out of pro-white racial bias. But we have a cultural ideal towards doing so, and we're further along than we were forty years ago, when your boss first abased himself before the Profitable Mechanism, and swore to serve it all his days. Let's see what you're like in forty years.

But what to actually do here and now? This is a similar question to one discussed in a recent thread about class/race divisions and gender divisions at cross-purposes, and I make the same point here: at the core of prejudice, of all kinds, is an intellectual failure. Judge a person on what they are, not what you think they are. Where you see unfairness and prejudice, speak up. If you're white, accept the fact that your white privilege gives you cultural permission to speak up, and the fact that when you're arguing against your own apparent interests this, above and beyond the mere merits of your argument, gives your words strength. That's just the way it is. Acknowledge it, but never guilt over it, because that will only reduce the effectiveness of your argument. No matter what the argument, we ascribe greater honesty to those who say "no, I should get less" than those who say "no, I should get more". Use your advantages for good. That, from a point of view to which I occasionally wish I could sincerely subscribe, is "why we have privileges". (I've been told that by people who genuinely do believe in an interventionist god, for what it's worth.)

Personally, wherever my position in life permits (as adjusted for what my privileges allow), I use it to push the idea of "being fair to people", and whether it's in my own interests or not is as much beside the point as I'm capable of making it so. (No-one is completely objective, and it's undesirable to try to be.) It surprises and irritates me at times that the argument is even necessary to make, but so be it. I found McIntosh's list very interesting the first time I read it, and not in an "OMG that's terrible!" way, more in an eye-opening, perspective changing way. Communication, vicarious experience, makes us sapient. Unless we are capable of looking through the eyes of others, and letting them see through our own, our lives have no meaning whatsoever and we might as well be listless microbes in a nutrient soup. Reading and thinking about the perspectives of others is of value. Discussion and doing something about it is of far greater value again.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:15 AM on April 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Asians earn less per capita then whites in the U.S

What if you are Asian and white? And, no, I'm not talking about being of mixed race, or being a European born in China.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:32 AM on April 18, 2008


1) I know elusis. She is is a person of good character.
2) I'm pleasantly surprised. Yes, there is defensiveness here, but not nearly as much as I anticipated there would be. Maybe we are progressive after all.
posted by kalessin at 5:19 AM on April 18, 2008


I am more likely to receive proper medical/health care.

Again, this one is not race, but wealth.

Tell that to Jeremiah Wright.

He's quite aware of it, I'm sure. His experience demonstrates exactly what I said.
posted by oaf at 6:43 AM on April 18, 2008


(not that it deaggregates well -- maybe because American ideas of whiteness are tied up with ideas of middle classness)

This is very true, but to counteract that, we could limit our comparisons to people of a similar class. We could argue that, as a middle class black person, it is much harder for me to find a safe and welcoming neighborhood to live in than it is for a middle class person person. As a poor white person, it's easier for me to get beneficial medical treatment than it is for a poor black person. As a managerial-class black person, questions of my "qualifications" are much likely to arise than they would for a managerial-class white person. As a rich Asian person, it's (much!) harder for me to buy my way into political power than it is for a rich white person. Etc.

But I think for most white people, the feeling of privilege is only a kind of hazy potentiality. Someone else of your race gets a privilege so, theoretically, it could've gone to you in a different life. An example: The Office's "Ryan" character is a sterotype of that young white guy who rises from nowhere to a major leadership position in his mid-20's. My experience is that it's almost unheard of for someone who is not white to get that kind of gifted rise to power. From the outside (non-white) perspective, it looks like pure privilege. But from a white perspective, it's almost a burden, because you know that for you and 99% of other white people, it just serves as a reminder of the kind of silver spoon you never had.
posted by xigxag at 7:57 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I am more likely to receive proper medical/health care."

oaf: Again, this one is not race, but wealth.

Medical issues are not that clear cut. Eg, "The relative importance of pulse pressure, mean arterial pressure, systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) as predictors of coronary heart disease (CHD) have been shown to change with aging in individuals of white ethnicity, but few published data exist for those of African American ethnicity."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:42 AM on April 18, 2008


I LOVE YOU KICKINGTHEGROUND!!!

did you notice, though....that was 2 WHITE cats??!?!??!??!

the conspiracy deepens.
posted by CitizenD at 9:29 AM on April 18, 2008


Where in the U.S. does it make sense to have vast assortments of "ethnic" food? Not everywhere.
Where in the U.S. does it make sense to have vast assortments of "white people" food? Not everywhere, but close.


Ah, I see. Well, thank you, oaf, for coming back and clearing that up. So I understand that what you're just trying to say that yes, it's not feasible to have everything for everyone everywhere? Then maybe you should've just, I don't know, said that? Which is a perfectly fine viewpoint to bring up in the discussion of that text if you want to discuss it or if you wanted to help enlighten people to another way of interpreting this body of text. If you want to express an idea you have to other people, it kind of helps to actually talk to them about what it is. I just don't get why you had to resort to being so coy, unless I'm missing the point of some larger set up here. Like I don't know, you're trying to making a statement that this list of statements are a collection of useless generalizations by using simplistic one liners to answer them or something, which, again, seems like a roundabout way of making a point.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:54 AM on April 18, 2008


Attacking how I phrased something doesn't attack my argument. Try harder, perhaps?
posted by oaf at 10:02 AM on April 18, 2008


Damn. This was kind of sad to read. Some of it - some of it is like reading through guys talking about how women just whine too much, and aren't they the weaker sex anyway, and i don't see anything wrong with having a girls toy section with all dolls, and such.

This is frustrating because it's not a simple thing to comprehend, but in the time that it takes to truly understand it (took me years), a lot of people just disengage. I just hope those who dismiss the concept keep looking into it and keep reading about it and attempt to understand the points in the theories and arguments. Hopefully the responses of some of the people who have written a lot here are by posters you respect, and you'll look into it further.
posted by cashman at 10:17 AM on April 18, 2008


some of it is like reading through guys talking about how…i don't see anything wrong with having a girls toy section with all dolls, and such.

Please point out the injustice in selling things that sell.
posted by oaf at 11:50 AM on April 18, 2008


You mean in having societal values that presume to shuffle women off into certain roles that point toward them having lower societal standing and being treated poorer? Whew! That's gonna be tough. You got me, oaf.
posted by cashman at 12:04 PM on April 18, 2008


disaggregating class and race

A fascinating example right now is -- and I fear bringing up this name, but -- Barack Obama. The mainstream press is currently trying to build a narrative that Obama is an "elitist", using details like $100 ham, piss-poor bowling skills, his "cling" comment, etc. That's amazing because it disregards race, and aims to build resentment against him based on class privilege.

Aside from whether there is any truth or fairness in the narrative, it's an amazing step toward disaggregating race and class. And it's precisely because he has lived out the example given above about the hypothetical kid from Mississippi -- moving, going to top schools, adopting upper class dress and speaking styles, etc.
posted by msalt at 12:51 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You mean in having societal values that presume to shuffle women off into certain roles that point toward them having lower societal standing and being treated poorer?

No. I mean in selling things that sell. But feel free to put words in my mouth—it reflects badly on you, not me.
posted by oaf at 1:44 PM on April 18, 2008


Oaf: Economic sense doesn't matter. The problem is you are seeing "this kind of sucks for people who have to live with it" and confusing it with "this needs to be stamped out any way we can." Yes, it makes sense to market to the majorities. Yes it makes sense to sell what sells better. But it means that if you are stuck in a group that gets the short stick that it can get to you , that it can make your life a more difficult, and it constantly reminds you that to society you are the other. Why is that so hard for you to admit?
posted by aspo at 1:53 PM on April 18, 2008


oaf, you're completely (willfully) missing the point of "the invisible backpack" of privilege. The point is not that it's an "injustice" to sell things that sell. The point is that it is, nevertheless, an often-unnoticed advantage to those who are able to find products to suit them, and an often-unnoticed disadvantage to those who are not.

The contention, as I understand it, isn't that shopkeepers are racists for not selling black hair products. The contention is that LIFE IN OUR SOCIETY IS EASIER FOR WHITE PEOPLE.

Is this really a contention with which you disagree?
posted by dersins at 1:57 PM on April 18, 2008


oaf, you're completely (willfully) missing the point

Sorry-- there should be a question mark after willfully. I don't know that you're doing it on purpose, I was merely wondering whether you were.
posted by dersins at 1:58 PM on April 18, 2008


Isn't the issue here not whether the cause is racism, or whether it's classism, but rather how racism helps *drive* class inequity? I mean, if a few white guys were being jerks to a few black guys, or vice versa, well that's just mean but so what? But when it happens on a widespread, societal level, then we have systemic racism... which encourages suppression of class, including the socio-economic benefits that go along with it.

Just seems like a cause and effect thing to me, rather than a cause A vs. cause B thing. And, yet again, lizard-brain tribalism is at its root...
posted by LordSludge at 2:01 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


No. I mean in selling things that sell. But feel free to put words in my mouth—it reflects badly on you, not me.

No actually I made a statement, then you tried to put words in my mouth, and I clarified those words that were in my mouth. Cute try, but no.

Why is that so hard for you (oaf) to admit?

I think it's more contrarian-art Oaf is posting. At any rate, I don't have any more time on this fine Friday eve to be cap'n. Heh.
posted by cashman at 2:06 PM on April 18, 2008


Attacking how I phrased something doesn't attack my argument. Try harder, perhaps?

Maybe I'm not attacking your argument and instead your phrasing because your phrasing doesn't really argue anything? There needs to be a substance to what you're saying for me to argue it. I wasn't trying to attack your argument because I couldn't understand what the hell you were arguing in the first place and was trying to figure out what you were trying to say. And also if you're trying to pick apart why the semantics of these phrases don't make sense, certainly be ready to have your own way of putting things to be examined. And in fact by asking you to clarify what you are saying I am "trying harder" to figure out where your line of thought is going since you seem so against people jumping on other people with assumptions. And also because your phrasing sounds like you're just trying to be smart and not really address anything.

And I already put it out there as to why I'm disagreeing to all of your protestations, which you didn't even address or argue anyway, (but yet again, just slapped one of those one-liner rebuttals to yet you're the one trying to tell me I'm not "attacking" your argument and something else) but the point isn't that shopkeepers are racist but that mainstream consumerism is just geared towards a certain race. If you had just come out and said "Well, that might not be economically viable in some neighborhoods" I would've agreed with you but also I gave examples of how a store like duane read in a diverse place like New York City limits things to a very small section. And while stores know what they sell much better, it's more about the perceived "I have to go out of my way to get this" that's being talked about. It's not that I can't get kimchi or I can't get setting lotion for my hair, it's the idea that "Oh, I need to go to X to get this particular thing" when a white person can just come in and pick up the shampoo they need. I'm not mad at that person because they can just pick up a shampoo they need at whichever Duane Reade they go to and I'm not labeling them as racist, but the point the author was trying to make is when you're not part of the "mainstream" even the small things serve as a reminder. I don't think the arguments the author is trying to make is "Well, gee, these shopekeeprs are all racist because they don't carry X" but trying to illustrate the different thoughts and outside signifiers that can contribute to feelings of being the other or an outsider occurs to people who are not white. These are points of discussion to try and understand why that might be.

But you know, go on and make your nonsubstance comments and then get mad at people who call you out on it.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:23 PM on April 18, 2008


oaf, you're completely (willfully) missing the point of "the invisible backpack" of privilege.

I'm not, actually.

Willfully? Please pay at least some attention before posting in the thread.
posted by oaf at 2:33 PM on April 18, 2008


I just hope those who dismiss the concept keep looking into it and keep reading about it and attempt to understand the points in the theories and arguments.

I have to contest your terminology here, because these don't seem to be theories and arguments. Theories offer testable, quantifiable predictions; arguments substantiate a position with calls to existing data.

What Peggy McIntosh has created is more like a manifesto, or a work of art. This "knapsack" we're unpacking is a set of broad declarations, some of which are too subjective to even measure, about an idealized normative American experience. That the bearers of this rucksack encourage us to "reflect" on it to "learn compassion" and "walk in another's shoes," rather than apply it to solving any concrete problem in nature, suggests that it has less value as a work of theory than as an artistic speculation about cultural experiences. In a similar way, an episode of CSI is not exactly a treatise on abnormal psychology.

And now I'm going to throw out an unsubstantiated generalization of my own: I suspect that in biology, or in math, or in nearly any other peer-reviewed field, this paper would not have survived publication, much less become an object of veneration.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:34 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cute try, but no.

"Everything you say about me is automatically wrong because I say so! Nyah!"
posted by oaf at 2:35 PM on April 18, 2008


Willfully? Please pay at least some attention before posting in the thread.

Pot, meet kettle.
posted by rtha at 2:37 PM on April 18, 2008


the point isn't that shopkeepers are racist but that mainstream consumerism is just geared towards a certain race

And my point is that racism isn't required for that to occur.

I'm also not sure when the last time you were in a Duane Reade was if you think it's on the homogenous side of the spectrum.
posted by oaf at 2:38 PM on April 18, 2008


Pot, meet kettle.

Pot, meet kettle.
posted by oaf at 2:40 PM on April 18, 2008


the point isn't that shopkeepers are racist but that mainstream consumerism is just geared towards a certain race

And my point is that racism isn't required for that to occur.


NOONE IS SAYING THAT RACISM IS REQUIRED. SEE THERE IN THE SENTANCE YOU ARE QUOTING? LET ME REPEAT IT FOR YOU: the point isn't that shopkeepers are racist.
posted by aspo at 2:49 PM on April 18, 2008


aspo: Is the entire world made up of shopkeepers?
posted by oaf at 2:56 PM on April 18, 2008


I was just in Richmond, BC for the weekend and was often the only white guy in the room/mall/restaurant/etc. It was an interesting and cool experience.

Are there not predominately non-white communities in the US?
posted by ODiV at 3:06 PM on April 18, 2008


(In a capatalist society? That's a good question?)

Quick question. No racism being implied. If you are a minority and there are basic standard items that are significantly different for your ethnic group than for the racial majority can you see how that means that getting those basic items takes significantly more effort than it would if you were in the majority, can you see why that is a disadvatage to not being in the majority?

There's a lot of stuff like that. Things that aren't racist, but that still enforce the fact that being in the majority has advantages. Advantages that are so ubiquitious that unless they go away you may never even realize that they are there. (For instances there are areas of the country where the hispanic populations have grown so fast that they are being catered to ways that were totally foriegn 10 years ago. People freaking out when, say, billboards are in Spanish are a good example of how disconserting when majority privilege goes away.) So ubiquitious that if you don't have them they are a constant reminder that you are still outside of mainstream society. That's not racism but it still kind of sucks.
posted by aspo at 3:13 PM on April 18, 2008


Oh and about that side note. Taking white privilege for granted is often racist. At that point you aren't saying "society is geared towards my needs because that's how society is" and are saying "society is geared towards my needs because that's how society should be".
posted by aspo at 3:20 PM on April 18, 2008


Are there not predominately non-white communities in the US?

Are you in any real doubt about the answer to this?
posted by kid ichorous at 3:38 PM on April 18, 2008


Uh, yeah, I guess I am.

It just seems impossible that a community of "ethnicity X" would have trouble with most of that list. If the community is mostly "ethnicity X" then you can be sure you aren't being singled out because of your race, you have no trouble with the stuff on that list.

If that's what this whole thing is about, then forgive me for misunderstanding.
posted by ODiV at 3:52 PM on April 18, 2008


oaf, did you miss this comment before you posted yours? Just curious.
posted by salvia at 3:53 PM on April 18, 2008


grr, the second "with the stuff on that list" was going to be me listing some examples like buying posters with people of your race on them, getting pulled over because of your race, etc.

Not sure how I messed that up.
posted by ODiV at 3:53 PM on April 18, 2008


oaf, did you miss this comment before you posted yours? Just curious.

Adding a question mark to the end of "willfully" doesn't make it magically not ludicrous.
posted by oaf at 4:14 PM on April 18, 2008


Adding a question mark to the end of "willfully" doesn't make it magically not ludicrous.

You were missing the point of the linked article by such a large margin that you were either being willfully obtuse, or just plain obtuse. I was giving your level of intelligence the benefit of the doubt by wondering whether it was willful. If you find it "ludicrous" that I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, then so be it.
posted by dersins at 4:23 PM on April 18, 2008


It's a yes/no question oaf. If you are still reading the thread I'd really appreciate an answer.
posted by aspo at 4:58 PM on April 18, 2008


Uh, yeah, I guess I am...

Well, just as an example, within about 15 minutes I can travel to neighborhoods that are heavily Brazilian, Chinese, or Jewish. To address your example, it's not hard to find posters of, say, a Brazilian pop star, or to find a Chinese-language music store, or a Kosher deli.

But I think the internet solves the larger questions of cultural accessibility, because it mostly detaches cultural exchange from geography, giving you the ultimate case of "picking your neighbors." If your idea of sports is an unpopular card game, rather than American football, you can still find quite a few people online to hobby it up with. If you prefer Columbian football, you can watch games, order jerseys, and associate with other fans online.

Overall, this is a good thing. But I do wonder whether greater power to steep oneself within a preferred subculture, whether it be a World of Warcraft, or an ethnic or political allegiance, discourages people from mingling with the world of ideas beyond their comfort zone. That is, do global communications enable provincial attitudes?

One nice thing about driving 15 minutes to Chinatown is that you have to pass through other neighborhoods, other cultural centers, to get there. But does this sort of topology exist on the internet? (Popup ads?)
posted by kid ichorous at 5:01 PM on April 18, 2008


I think the internet solves the larger questions of cultural accessibility

Well, yes and no. It certainly gives us all kinds of access to things that we would have had much more difficulty finding in the past, but the internet is most emphatically NOT an adequate substitute for, y'know real life.
posted by dersins at 5:48 PM on April 18, 2008


You were missing the point of the linked article by such a large margin

No, I wasn't. There's no generosity on your part—you're just wrong.

It's a yes/no question oaf. If you are still reading the thread I'd really appreciate an answer.

I saw it, read it, and subsequently purged it; it didn't make any sort of difference—at least not one to merit consideration.
posted by oaf at 7:07 PM on April 18, 2008


Are there not predominately non-white communities in the US?

Well, yeah, but not all non-white people live in them. And a lot of times they are located within a larger municipality. So maybe your corner store is owned by people who look like you, but you've got to take the bus a couple of miles to the white neighborhood to go to the grocery store, and the cops are white.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:38 PM on April 18, 2008


Oaf: So when asked flat out if something has merit you refuse to answer. Well, have fun continuing to argue with yourself because you obviously don't care one iota about how other people are responding. Why the hell are you even bothering to post?
posted by aspo at 8:29 PM on April 18, 2008


I was wrong. The worst part of all of this is that we're obviously all on the same side and yet we are, for some reason, arguing over the applicability of two issues that we need to address anyway.
posted by effwerd at 9:01 PM on April 18, 2008


Ego, man. Ego is the biggest evil of all.
posted by LordSludge at 9:18 PM on April 18, 2008


So when asked flat out if something has merit you refuse to answer.

Where?
posted by oaf at 4:59 AM on April 19, 2008


It looks like any deviation from the MeFi orthodoxy gets you branded a racist, whether or not it's true (and it probably is for The Jesse Helms). You can call me a racist all you want, but you're not going to be anything other than wrong, no matter how much or how loudly you say it.

The real irony is the knee-jerk racism from some of the über-PC types.
posted by oaf at 5:05 AM on April 19, 2008


gauchodaspampas, thank you for linking to that essay (& salvia for re-linking it, which got me to click). Fan-freakin'-tastic:

"So many people have trouble grokking the concept of “privilege” and will respond to having their own pointed out with laundry lists of the disadvantages they’ve experienced in their lives. But privilege, in this sense, is not just about obvious advantages. It is about the luxury of not seeing the subtle shit.

As a white person, I haven’t been sensitized to covert racism by a lifetime of experiences. Unlike a person of color who has no choice but to see and feel it every day, I actually do have to “go looking for it”; my privilege could otherwise allow me to go through life believing it doesn’t exist. Because I care about being anti-racist, I do go looking, do make an effort to educate myself about patterns of racism I wouldn’t automatically recognize–and to question myself when my kneejerk reaction is, “Oh, come on–I’m supposed to believe that’s racist?”

But because I’m white, I also have the option of not looking any time I don’t feel like it. That’s what privilege is. It’s the option to ignore nasty shit that doesn’t directly affect my own life, my career, my relationships, my bank account, my social standing, my housing situation, etc."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:21 AM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


It looks like any deviation from the MeFi orthodoxy gets you branded a racist,

No, it seems at though you're being really obtuse. Don't know why, but that's a pretty piss point to attempt to make and your seemingly utter refusal or inability to understand smacks more of trolling, yet I don't think you are.

Honestly, what point are you trying to make? 'Cause it seems like your moving goal posts for the hell of it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:25 AM on April 20, 2008


nebulawindphone vehemently supposed:
"Somewhere along the line you've gotten a job — maybe a demeaning and miserable one, but a job nonetheless, with money you could eat and live indoors on — from a manager who would have turned down a black guy flat. You've passed a class with a bare D+ — maybe one you hated, maybe one you had to struggle through — under a teacher who would have just flunked a black kid. You've gotten rude treatment from a waiter who at least seated you, when he would have told a black customer there were no tables. You've been screwed by a car salesman who would have screwed a black guy twice as hard. Something has gone better for you, in your frustrating, infuriating, flawed and imperfect life, because of your skin color."

Your life is not my life, nebulawindphone, but I can understand how one's own experience and those of the people around them can seem pervasive enough to seem that way.

I had originally intended to do a point by point response to the 50 item list, but came to basically the same conclusions oaf did. And moxiedoll. And I'd already included a bit along the lines of what rtha pointed out, but hadn't said nearly as well so am quite glad I deleted: while some of those behaviours haven't come about because of the shade of my skin, many of them have come about because of some other uncontrollable or unfortunately obvious facet of my being.

Thankfully, I also know from long conversations and passionate, continuing study that pains of the types brought about by bigotry, prejudice or any type-ism are subject to a scale of perspective, just like any other kind of pain. I'm aware of that scale and am resolutely humbled by consideration of the pain scale and how low on the stick even my own extraordinary adventures and mistreatments are compared to some of the evils done to the helpless and vulnerable in this world.

Then I thought maybe I'd see how much of that Bingo board I could get, and lost the stomach for it, because it was just...smug for the wrong reasons. Of course those are the things people are going to say. Of course. And I didn't want to lend any implication of endorsement of the stuff.

Time and again I've proven that folks here aren't showing up to read the tale of my sad life, so I won't bore you with it, either. I will tell you, however, that you are assuming a LOT, and I'm very nearly convinced you've never lived in a minority-majority area or attended a minority-majority school.

If you had, it is my assertion that you wouldn't find it so easy to make the broad handwaves of imperfect understanding that you do above to a complete stranger who has had those experiences and has come out with no significant hate or worship but plenty of good, honest respect for the people who shared their cultures with me. And a different kind of respect for those who didn't.

You want stories, I've got stories. But I don't think you want stories. I'll tell you this, though: I begged for forgiveness for everything my perceived "race" has ever done at the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun while I shook in a blanket on my floor, and lived to tell the tale.

Have you?
posted by batmonkey at 1:54 AM on April 20, 2008


'Cause it seems like your moving goal posts for the hell of it.

Glad to see you haven't been reading the thread. To spell it out, they weren't saying that the shopkeepers were necessarily racist, but that the inequality in ease of finding desired products is due to society being racist. That is also very questionable.
posted by oaf at 5:40 PM on April 20, 2008


but that the inequality in ease of finding desired products is due to society being racist.

Wasn't that settled up thread?

Re:
the point isn't that shopkeepers are racist but that mainstream consumerism is just geared towards a certain race

And my point is that racism isn't required for that to occur.

NOONE IS SAYING THAT RACISM IS REQUIRED. SEE THERE IN THE SENTANCE YOU ARE QUOTING? LET ME REPEAT IT FOR YOU: the point isn't that shopkeepers are racist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 PM on April 20, 2008


No but seriously that site obviously doesn't think it is describing all white people. It is consciously describing a limited set of elite liberal white people

My husband and I've been talking a lot about this lately, as we are foreigners recently transplanted to the US.

And this white=middle class thing really isn't universal, it's a decidedly American cultural concept. When I read that site, I feel foreign.

We don't have it in Canada, because there our stereotype of poor is white, and our stereotype of rich is white and our stereotype of middle class is white. And because, among both white and non-white people, there are no large groups who belong to one culture, we tend to talk in ethnicities, rather than race. Maybe this is a recent thing - I remember the news talking about "the black community" in Toronto when I was younger, by which they meant the mostly Jamaican and other Carribean people community (which does have some cultural coherance), but since we've had a lot of emmigration from Africa this has entirely broken down for me. You just really can't possibly lump the Somalian community with the Jamaican community - there is absolutely no connection between them.
posted by jb at 12:04 AM on April 23, 2008


As a poor white person, it's easier for me to get beneficial medical treatment than it is for a poor black person.

Is there discrimination in health care provision by race? Or is it a complication of the fact that African Americans tend to be poorer, and thus tend to have have worse health care?

But this also gets at what I was talking about with a nexus of race and class. If you face discrimination in employment because of race, you find yourself poorer and with all the disadvantages of poverty. Race is involved, but it is not the whole story, and any addressing of the problem (poor health care provision/outcomes) would have to carefully untangle race, class and culture. Making all doctors take diversity training, for example, wouldn't solve the problem at all.

And I think trying to make race the whole story is what is so unconvincing for me about the white priviledge debate. It conflates and erases the effects of socioeconomic status and the complicated interactions it has with race. White priviledge is real, but it is a lot more complicated than a backpack that every white person gets.
posted by jb at 12:11 AM on April 23, 2008


Maybe I should put it this way:

I fully believe that white priviledge exists. It acts for every white person regardless of socioeconomic status. (In a white majority society context, of course. We'll leave the rest of the world aside, as its complicated, and I am lazy.)

But to go from that, to implying that a middle-class non-white person would face more disadvantages in society than a lower-class white person (which I'm not saying anyone in the thread has said, but is the logical conclusion of "white people have it easier", which has been said), that is where the argument breaks down.

Maybe it's not so much a backpack, as a lunch box, which goes inside your middle-class backpack which you can sling along with your university education tote-bag. Only some white people only get the lunch box, and sure they have lunch, but their arms still get tired.

And I think that addressing lunch box inequality is important -- but if your real beef is about backpack inequality, than fixating on lunch boxes isn't really getting to the issue.
posted by jb at 12:25 AM on April 23, 2008


We don't have it in Canada, because there our stereotype of poor is white

And...First Nations and Inuit peoples? (Metis too I think, though I haven't read as much about them). i'm Canadian too, and have been living in the US for several years now. You're right that "middle class = mostly white, poor = nonwhite" is a much more monolithic concept here than in Canada. But - in addition to Cdn "poor= white" there is certainly a poor underclass across Canada marked by skin colour (and that poverty is perpetuated by systemic discrimination as well as everyday racism). Most mainstream Cdns just don't usually think of them at all because our society has so successfully shunted them off to the geographic and social margins of society.

Is there discrimination in health care provision by race? Or is it a complication of the fact that African Americans tend to be poorer, and thus tend to have have worse health care?


The assertion "As a poor white person, it's easier for me to get beneficial medical treatment than it is for a poor black person", is much more complicated than that. What good is it to be a middle-class Afr-Am with heart disease rather than a poor one, when your country's medical establishment has almost no idea how heart disease progresses in Afr-Am because nobody's bothered to study them, because we've got all these studies of white people and what's true for them must be true for everybody?

But to go from that, to implying that a middle-class non-white person would face more disadvantages in society than a lower-class white person (which I'm not saying anyone in the thread has said, but is the logical conclusion of "white people have it easier"

"White people have it easier" is a vague and inaccurate expression of the key concept of the "invisible backpack". That key concept, again,articulated beautifully by Kate Harding in that essay linked 3x above, "because I’m white, I also have the option of not looking any time I don’t feel like it. That’s what privilege is. It’s the option to ignore nasty shit [grounded in skin color stereotypes, because of course! there's other nasty shit that poor, GLBT, disabled, etc whites have to deal with on a regular basis] that doesn’t directly affect my own life, my career, my relationships, my bank account, my social standing, my housing situation, etc."

And I think trying to make race the whole story is what is so unconvincing for me about the white priviledge debate.

The intent of pointing out that white privilege exists is not "to make race the whole story". The intent is to (Harding again) push "all the grey areas of privilege [into] the open: those of us who try to be anti-racist and educate ourselves accordingly but still missed the racism there until it was pointed out to us; those of us who sorta see it once it’s pointed out but still think people are making a mountain out of a molehill; and most importantly, those of us who missed it in the first place and, on the basis of that, continue to insist it is not there."

Harding's last category of people (of which I appreciate you are not one), those who won't even take the first step of listening and digesting before they leap into denial and retaliation - dealing with their endless iterations of "It's not possible that I could be privileged in any way, therefore what you're talking about doesn't exist" is what seems to "make race the whole story" in these white privilege debates.

I point out systemic and individual expressions of white privilege so that people previously unaware can be made aware (if they're open to it), because those expressions need to be acknowledged and addressed, along with advantages conferred by being on thenormative side of socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, weight, height, etc.

Over and out. I'm supposed to be packing up for a move in two days. I'm sure we'll butt heads again in future.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:33 AM on April 23, 2008


This thread has inspired lots of interesting off-line discussions, thanks. One thing we've skirted is that this all gets MUCH more complicated when you start including Latinos, whose skin tone (and, in fact race) is much more variable (from super pale white to very dark) and not always distinctive to the eye, but face more name-based discrimination (compared to blacks whose names are more often indistinguishable from whites'.)

The more we discussed this, the more I became convinced that housing segregation is the root of current racial discrmination problems -- it leads to inferior schools, crime and poor medical care compounding racial stereotypes, and it cements the bond between race and socioeconomic status generally. Here in Portland, racial segregation lasted much longer than other vestiges of discrimination. As late as 1990, 85% of blacks in the STATE lived in one neighborhood (NE Portland). By 2000, that had changed dramatically.

Which leads to a provocative question: are people who fight against gentrification perpetuating racial problems? Because gentrification is the natural economic process for circulating people around a city from a poor neighborhood.
posted by msalt at 9:55 AM on April 23, 2008


First Nations and Inuit peoples

I would say that the Canadian stereotype of aboriginal people is one of poverty, but the stereotype of poverty is not aboriginal people. Maybe that's because the discrimination against aboriginal people is so great that they are nearly invisible in the national culture.
posted by jb at 10:59 PM on April 24, 2008


« Older The Grace Lee Project...  |  50 years ago... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments