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September 15, 2008 8:01 AM   Subscribe

This is Your Nation on White Privilege is an excellent essay by anti-racism activist Tim Wise about how white privilege is shaping current American politics. " ^ previously
posted by FunkyHelix (209 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
While I don't necessarily disagree with most of what he's saying, I was expecting this to be more than an anti-Palin screed.
posted by The Straightener at 8:08 AM on September 15, 2008 [9 favorites]


White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
Tell that to Jamie Lynn Spears. I think "white privilege" here is actually more "republican privilege"
posted by delmoi at 8:08 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


I would not call this an "excellent essay" by any stretch. Tired, maybe. But not "excellent."
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:12 AM on September 15, 2008


The Palins are definitely ghetto-fabulous, Alaskan style. Bristol's baby daddy should get hisself a big gold grill.
posted by Mister_A at 8:13 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the piece is pretty weak.
posted by delmoi at 8:15 AM on September 15, 2008


It's a good rant. His points are pretty spot on. (If Obama had a pregnant teenage daughter how do you think that would have played out?)
posted by chunking express at 8:18 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Could also simply be dirty politics as usual.
posted by jonmc at 8:20 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


White Privilege is not the same as Attractive, Wealthy, Socially Connected Privilege.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:25 AM on September 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Put another way: You have to go back at least to Nixon'stime to find any Democrat elected president with ONLY the white vote. And since then, blacks have been knocked off the voter rolls in a few states--Ohio, Florida to name the first nes that come to mind. And it is going on now too. This means the Democrats get the white vote plus minority votes if they are to win; the GOP is the White Party, though they will of course deny this.But as Sen Schumer pointed out: constant references to Obama as community organizer are meant to imply a Sharpton-like candidate.
posted by Postroad at 8:26 AM on September 15, 2008


Kudos to Tim Wise for being able to make a living by re-writing the same essay over and over and over again. Is it acceptable to criticize Mr. Wise or am I exercising some sort of privilege?
posted by MikeMc at 8:26 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


delmoi - i wouldn't call it republican privilege. while many democrats and leftists would be nodding their heads, i think there's something to the notion that a lot of people don't view these behaviors to be as inexcusable in white people as they are in people of color. and yes, the media and the party spin have been working overtime to effect this frame, but still - it's there, in the minds of everybody who takes the bait.
posted by entropone at 8:27 AM on September 15, 2008


White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

No, that's class privilege. A poor white family would still get shit. And Palin is getting a different type of shit i.e. whether she should be home or out working.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement

Oh please, people have been questioning Palin's intelligence since DAY ONE, with good reason.

Can't read anymore, the essay is weak.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:28 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with what he is saying overall, but it's certainly not written in a way that sells it the the audience that it needs to be sold to...
posted by MoniqueR at 8:29 AM on September 15, 2008


i was expecting an essay on racism. what i got was an essay on racism in politics. nothing o see here--move along now.
posted by lester at 8:29 AM on September 15, 2008


Feels very 1988.
posted by bardic at 8:30 AM on September 15, 2008


Factors in the Democrat's favor this year: a disastrous economy, an unpopular war, an incumbent president with a 30% approval rating, far more money and better organization than the other side, a candidate who is charismatic, smart, accomplished and eloquent, an opponent who is old, out of touch, disliked by a large portion of his own party and a Washington insider when people want change.

Factors in the Republican's favor this year: the Democratic candidate is black.

Result: the race is dead-even.

No matter who wins, you can learn a lot about America just by looking at where the race stands today.
posted by ND¢ at 8:31 AM on September 15, 2008 [131 favorites]


This bitter and short-sighted diatribe mystifies me.

First of all, I see a lot of white teenaged girls who are pregnant walking down my street.
They are poor, abused, broken and have very few options, although many do pull themselves out, too.

Shelters are full of these "privleged" white girls who are blamed for their actions of the past.

The color of a person's skin has nothing to do with it.

It's all about the Benjamins, darlings.

If Palin wasn't in a position of power -- and if Jaime-Lynn Spears' sister wasn't famous -- they'd get raked over the coals just like every have-not teen in the world, regardless of skin color.

And, if I recal correctly, both those girls *were* raked over the coals and called every dirty name in the book.

And for the contention if Barack Obama's daughters found themselves in a similar situation, his fanboys and fangirls would defend him and make excuses -- the same people who jumpd on Palin's religious beliefs while giving him a free pass for attending a church with a troubling preacher.

If someone is rich they don't get called to task for the same things people of modest means are called on the carpet for -- not because people think they are better -- but because people don't want to offend them and blow their chance at perhaps getting a lucrative position or connection with someone with purse strings.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:37 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


"And for the contention if Barack Obama's daughters found themselves in a similar situation, his fanboys and fangirls would defend him and make excuses -- the same people who jumpd on Palin's religious beliefs while giving him a free pass for attending a church with a troubling preacher."

Last time I checked, Obama publicly disowned his connections to the Rev. when yet another flameout happened. What do you think the chances are that she will publicly disown her church, a dominionist group that wants to make America a Christian theocracy?
posted by mystyk at 8:43 AM on September 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's all about the Benjamins, darlings.

I think that's another way of saying it's all about race -- without actually saying it's all about race.

A poor white person is not as disadvantaged as a poor black person in America. (That they both have it worse than the rich isn't that shocking or insightful.)

Also, Middle class White Americans arguing about race on MetaFilter is always a fun read.
posted by chunking express at 8:47 AM on September 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


the same people who jumpd on Palin's religious beliefs while giving him a free pass for attending a church with a troubling preacher.

Except when you stop to consider that the people who decried at volume how "troubling" Jeremiah Wright was, and what did it mean for Obama, outnumber those that jumped on Palin's church by many orders of magnitude.

Your claims lack anything resembling an appreciation of scale and reach of these public pronouncements. It seems a bit of a stretch to equate what you're hearing from individual bloggers and a handful of few and far between commentators like Olbermann to what has been happening in the mainstream all spring and summer long.
posted by psmealey at 8:47 AM on September 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Result: the race is dead-even.

The elections are always going to be dead even because politics are extremely polarized. Yankee fans don't suddenly become Red Sox fans when the Yankees have a bad year.

The race in 2004 was decided by Bush convincing certain parts of the Rebublican base to get out and vote (OMG, gay people want to get married!). This year might be decided by Obama getting Democrat college students to show up at the poles.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:48 AM on September 15, 2008


Factors in the Republican's favor this year: the Democratic candidate is black.

This is too simplistic. You also need to factor in the fundies who will never vote Dem, the patriots who think the Dems are doves who don't have the belly for war (a war the patriots mostly want to keep going), and the tax obsessed who think a Dem will never do anything to reduce taxes ever and will in fact raise them. Then you throw in what you said and you have an even race.
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Palins are definitely ghetto-fabulous, Alaskan style. Bristol's baby daddy should get hisself a big gold grill.

Werrrd, he'd be like Paul Wall-silla.
posted by The Straightener at 8:50 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This year might be decided by Obama getting Democrat college students to show up at the poles.

he means 'polls,' students. I didn't want a bunch of confused college kids loitering around firehouses and the Batcave instead of voting.
posted by jonmc at 8:50 AM on September 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


You also need to factor in the fundies who will never vote Dem, the patriots who think the Dems are doves who don't have the belly for war (a war the patriots mostly want to keep going), and the tax obsessed who think a Dem will never do anything to reduce taxes ever and will in fact raise them. Then you throw in what you said and you have an even race.

I think those cohorts pretty much account for Bush's 28% approval rating. It's the remaining 72% you need to try to convince.
posted by psmealey at 8:53 AM on September 15, 2008


This year might be decided by Obama getting Democrat college students to show up at the poles.

Obama is a magician?
posted by chunking express at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Last time I checked, Obama publicly disowned his connections to the Rev. when yet another flameout happened. What do you think the chances are that she will publicly disown her church, a dominionist group that wants to make America a Christian theocracy?

One was surprising, the other was not. Not that there isn't a huge double standard here in terms of the media, but who's going to change their vote on Palin because of her church? Anyone who would be bothered by it would already be worried about voting for Palin. On the other hand, with Wright there was the question of whether or not the republicans would be able to turn Obama's Christianity into negative for most Christians who would otherwise like him.
posted by delmoi at 9:03 AM on September 15, 2008


Poor framing on this post. I was actually excited at seeing what examples he would give, but they were all just anti-Palin sentiments. Some of them had nothing to do with white privilege at all.

At least mention the fact that it consists of accusations about Palin's use of white privilege, and not a more general or interesting discussion of that phenomenon.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:06 AM on September 15, 2008


I hope I'm wrong, but saying bad things about the future Vice President won't be a plus sign on your record once the New Theocracy is in charge.
posted by tommasz at 9:07 AM on September 15, 2008


"This year might be decided by Obama getting Democrat college students to show up at the poles."

Obama is a magician?


No, he's a strip-club owner.

(That, and/or the leader of an Arctic and/or Antarctic expedition.)
posted by el_lupino at 9:12 AM on September 15, 2008


Bait and switch, with a large dose of conflating class and race (admittedly easy to do in the US).
posted by QIbHom at 9:14 AM on September 15, 2008


White privilege, my ass. I'd wear my invisible knapsack around town, except some British soldier kicked my Irish grandfather's ass in Dublin and stole his wallet, so I can't afford a knapsack.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:18 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the Jim Crow era, black people used to talk about how you had to have a Ph.D. just to get a job at the post office. Even now, white people seem to be given more latitude to succeed wildly despite their mediocrity than black people ever have. Obama never would have gotten as far as he's gotten in the presidential race, if he had been a "mediocre" candidate, either in terms of his credentials or his skills as a campaigner.
posted by jonp72 at 9:19 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Very weak. But oh how does outrage goes so well with the binary injustice of the shallow blogger.
posted by plexi at 9:21 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


He posted it on his myspace. I think it's best read there. I wouldn't call this an essay. A little collection of interesting observations.

What I like is that as much as race figures into things, Obama himself is looking past all that. With the selection of Biden (who made the 'articulate, clean black dude wow!' comments), and his statement on 60 minutes, he makes it clear that white support is not a problem. That he (Obama) would not have gotten to the point he's at now without the fervent support of white people.

You had Cornell West and Julianne Malveaux on Tavis Smiley's show upset because Obama didn't reference MLK Jr. more in his DNC acceptance speech. When Steve Croft talked about it on 60 minutes, I loved Obama's response. Croft essentially asked him about him being the first black nominee, and about mentioning it more, etc. Obama said "I think people noticed".

Barack Obama calls out to our best selves. He clearly knows about racism in the U.S. Look at his response to the controversial and now denounced book The Bell Curve. And then look, 14 years later, at the book's author, praising Obama as "flat out brilliant" in his speech on race.

Obama knows all about racism. Even as some people attend his rallies to try to question his ability to respond to problems the black community faces, he responds admirably. He's calling out to the best in America, from everybody. This is why a lot of the old black guard is criticizing him and getting criticized themselves, and also why so many people are latching on to him and moving forward. Because he represents the future of relations in this country, not the past. He has a firm grasp on race relations in America. He has faced racism just like many of us have. Wise's writings are scattershot but he's totally right - Obama would never have been afforded the privileges others have been, if pregnancy, lies and a spouse involved in a group ready to secede from the United States were valid issues surrounding his campaign. Most importantly, if he, as president, vice president, anything, would have been sprung on the nation with these issues with 60 days left until the election, there's no way in hell he would have gotten embraced.

These issues Wise brings up are valid. McCain isn't even on the scale with fixing these issues. He isn't on the map, isn't on the same continent as the country, state and city this arena is in. Obama will make things a lot better by addressing these issues where needed, and not using them, as so many black leaders do, to needle white people who by and large understand that things aren't right and need to be fixed. I like how Obama handles himself on these issues, and he's already shown himself to be masterful at addressing the concerns of people on this issue.

John McCain is nowhere to be found on this issue. Last I saw of him, he was voting against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and then apologizing earlier this year when it was clear he'd better do it and do it fast. How'd that turn out? Oh yeah, he had some old black dude holding an umbrella over his head (yes I know about his arms) as the crowd rightfully booed him.


The color of a person's skin has nothing to do with it.


Yes it does. I see this viewpoint all the time. Racism exists, people say, but then they will fight you tooth and nail over any instance you point out to them, unless it's a dude with a white hood on with a "we r racist" banner across the front of a business. And even then some people will swear that it isn't a problem because you can just go elsewhere, or buy products from somebody else.

Yes, dominant group privilege exists. Perhaps Obama will get elected and things will start to change. He certainly is looking to people's best selves, and I hope the country proves him right.
posted by cashman at 9:24 AM on September 15, 2008 [26 favorites]


Nothing could be more accurate. "Bitter and short-sighted"? No.

Most Americans are uncomfortable when they are faced with this reality, so they start splitting hairs ("it's not race, it's class", "it's simplistic"). But you know all too well what he means.

Time to grow up and face the truth.
posted by Zambrano at 9:24 AM on September 15, 2008


Tim Wise chooses his words very carefully.
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2008


This year might be decided by Obama getting Democrat college students to show up at the poles.

Grad School Strippers for Obama!! W00t!!1
posted by MikeMc at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


who's going to change their vote on Palin because of her church? Anyone who would be bothered by it would already be worried about voting for Palin.

You're overlooking the huge section of the American electorate that aren't bad people, but are completely uninformed. I was talking to my wife's grandmother this weekend and asked her what she thought of Palin and she said that she wasn't really sure. She works in a library and I told her about Palin's attempts to fire the Wasilla librarian because she told her she would not allow her to ban books, and by the end of the conversation she said she would definitely not be voting for her.

It is easy to think that things that you have heard a million times are generally known, but there are a lot of people who don't watch the news or read the newspaper or blogs. These are people who vote for someone because "they feel comfortable with them" which, if they know nothing about the candidates, means they will vote with the people who look the most like them. That is why it is so important to talk to people who are different than you and not just dismiss them. If you tell people that the economy generally does better under Democrats and that Obama won't raise their taxes and that McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time and that Palin is a wackjob then that will resonate with some people who just don't have that information. There are reasonable people out there that just don't want to follow politics, but if you talk sense to them then they will listen.
posted by ND¢ at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2008 [9 favorites]


With the selection of Biden (who made the 'articulate, clean black dude wow!' comments),

As I mentioned in another thread, the Biden selection baffled me at first, but now it seems incredibly shrewd. First because of Biden's obvious qualifications and second it sends a message: 'I'm not H. Rap Brown. I won't hold the occasional verbal gaffe against somebody who's heart is in the right place.' This sets a good tone for a nation dialogue (as opposed to shouting match) about race (and a whole lot of other things). Or at least this well-intentioned middle-class white boy thinks so. ;>
posted by jonmc at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, a tangent, but one that struck me as interesting. My wife likes to watch the talking head shows on Sunday morning and yell at the screen. I usually just hang out at my computer and steal music or comment here. But usually we wind up discussing what she watched. Yesterday we wound up talking about Obama and related topics, and a though occured to me: if Colin Powell ran for President as a Republican, would he get the nomination. Oddly, my gut says: yes. But we Democrats seem to be wobbling on this, which is weird.
posted by jonmc at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2008


I don't know what qualifies this guy as an "anti-racism activist", but he does a terrible job, and the entire piece is dishonest. By painting each of the nuanced and complex issues as if they all exist because of the race of the democratic candidate he's just adding more noise into the already low signal to noise ratio on this issue. I can see why people wouldn't take this issue seriously if these are the best examples that could be provided.

As many point out above, there are many other issues at play here. Many of which should be so obvious the author has to be dishonest not to recognize them. Given that he's delicately framed each conflict to portray his argument in he best possible light without documentation, there's no reason to expect that he's doing anything but making baseless assertions. Take for example:

"while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt"

Find me anyone who's said exactly that and I'll eat my shorts. I'm confident you won't because no one's out there making such a stupid argument. Whatever argument there is for Obama being corrupt because of his Chicago connections extends beyond "merely knowing some folks."

This kind of crap is why political discourse sucks in this country. I'd expect MeFites to be able to recognize this article for what it is, but here it is on our front page.
posted by betaray at 9:44 AM on September 15, 2008


Well, a shitload of stuff goes on the frontpage.
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on September 15, 2008


chunking express claimed:
"A poor white person is not as disadvantaged as a poor black person in America. (That they both have it worse than the rich isn't that shocking or insightful.)"

Uh, what?

How in the world can you claim that?
posted by batmonkey at 9:49 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's all about the Benjamins, darlings.
I think that's another way of saying it's all about race -- without actually saying it's all about race.


How about if 'we' make it a conversation about Class instead?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:53 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't say he's completely wrong, batmonkey. The advantage might be minor, but it's there. And the right wing has been making political hay with it for decades. Look, I'd rather be a Huxtable than an unemployed white coal miner, but that's where class issues come in, but I can't deny that race is still a factor in things.
posted by jonmc at 9:54 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


How in the world can you claim that?

One of the bedrock principals of anti-racist activism is that all white people enjoy privilege to some extent. Another core principal is that racism = power + privilege (which is shorthand for "only white people can be racist"). If you start with those two ideas as a foundation you can see how the rest plays out.
posted by MikeMc at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2008


"A poor white person is not as disadvantaged as a poor black person in America. (That they both have it worse than the rich isn't that shocking or insightful.)"

Uh, what?

How in the world can you claim that?
posted by batmonkey at 9:49 AM on September 15


Here is a true story: once I worked at a place where two guys applied for the same job. It wasn't a hard job - some basic labor where all you needed to do was follow simple instructions. The black guy came in jeans and a polo shirt. The white guy came in jeans and a t-shirt, and wore a - I shit you not - John Deere baseball cap. Their resumes were both pretty mediocre, but I talked to both of them before they interviewed, and the black guy was bright as hell considering he was applying for a boring shit job. The white guy was fucking retarded. I do not know of any better way to say it. Nice enough, but just, god, stupid. Guess who got the job.

This is an anecdote, and illustrates only that my boss at the time was fucking dumb. But it also illustrates that race is still a factor in hiring. White privilege is real. Denying it is insane.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:21 AM on September 15, 2008 [13 favorites]


How in the world can you claim that?

There are obvious and subtle factors that make it more difficult to be black or other minorities rather than white in the US. For example, black males are perceived as being more likely than white males to commit crimes, which results in obvious discrimination, such as racial profiling, and more subtle discrimination, such as employers slightly favoring white candidates over black candidates.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:21 AM on September 15, 2008


A poor White person is not as disadvantaged as a poor Black person in America.

This assumption, made by the very people who are supposed to be concerned about poverty, confers quite an interesting and... supernatural disadvantage upon poor Whites. Ellison called it Invisibility.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:24 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


TBH I think even if you’re not invested in identity politics this election is pretty full of old-fashioned non-notion-of-privelege racism that this sort of thing seems kind of redundant.
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on September 15, 2008


Tim Wise's sulky encyclopedia dramatica photo isn't doing him any favors either.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:27 AM on September 15, 2008


Factors in the Republican's favor this year: the Democratic candidate is black.

You forgot "War Hero." I know, it's not quite Astronaut, but it is coming at a time of indefinitely-declared war, and it does carry weight with an electorate still scared half out of their minds.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:28 AM on September 15, 2008


John Ridley had a series of these observations as well.

He referred to it as Palinguage.
posted by zueod at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


How in the world can you claim that?

This is the Internet and stuff like that is easy to claim? FYI: I didn't write a PhD on this topic. I just looked that fact up in my gut. (I don't think it's an unreasonable claim, mind you.)
posted by chunking express at 10:37 AM on September 15, 2008


How about if 'we' make it a conversation about Class instead?

You can make the discussion about whatever you like. I'm not a moderator here. MetaFilter doesn't usually do a good job of discussing race anyway.

To be clear, I didn't say poor white people have a life full of roses, I just said they have an easier time of things than poor blacks.
posted by chunking express at 10:42 AM on September 15, 2008


shorthand for "only white people can be racist"

What? This is a bedrock principle of anti-racism activism? Cite, please.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2008


cf. Every time the invisible knapsack comes up on metafilter, ever.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2008


This is an anecdote, and illustrates only that my boss at the time was fucking dumb. But it also illustrates that race is still a factor in hiring. White privilege is real. Denying it is insane.

Hi, I'm well dressed and articulate. I would like $15/hr.

vs.

I meet the minimum requirements and you can pay me $8/hr.

I'm not saying that there wasn't more to it, but there are plenty of reasons people don't get jobs.
posted by electroboy at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2008


White privilege, my ass. I'd wear my invisible knapsack around town, except some British soldier kicked my Irish grandfather's ass in Dublin and stole his wallet, so I can't afford a knapsack.

"I'm Irish so I don't have white privilege" is classic funny shit. You're white and you live in a country- and a world- in which whites are privileged above other races. If you really believe that being Irish somehow evicts you from White Privilege Town, or exempts you from your responsibility to be aware of white privilege and work against it, you're either a dumbass or someone who is unwilling to face up to the society s/he lives in and his/her responsibilities that living in that society confers upon her/him. Neither speaks well of you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:53 AM on September 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


This assumption, made by the very people who are supposed to be concerned about poverty, confers quite an interesting and... supernatural disadvantage upon poor Whites.

Look, privilege is not a binary thing. It's not a matter of either you have privilege or you don't. There are many kinds of privilege- white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, wealth privilege, etc. A poor white person still has white privilege, which puts him/her one up on a poor black person.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:54 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Racism exists, people say, but then they will fight you tooth and nail over any instance you point out to them, unless it's a dude with a white hood on with a "we r racist" banner across the front of a business.
This comes from the fact that, in racism stories, white folks are almost always the explicit villians.

On top of that, it's a reminder that one need not be racist to benefit from racism, which differs from say, homelessness, where ending that problem has little to no chance of harming me.

Ending racism, however means whites will have to compete in a tight labor pool with blacks, which would erode the widening black-white wealth gap, which is already at a whole order of magnitude.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:59 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's assuming a zero-sum game, of course.
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2008


McCain: Racist, Bigot & Homophobe
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:13 AM on September 15, 2008


It does make me a bit uncomfortable how much more likely Tim Wise's essays are to get posted all over the internet* than, say, an anti-racist activist of color writing about the same kind of thing...

*based on the number of places I saw this essay posted this morning.
posted by lunit at 11:14 AM on September 15, 2008


That's assuming a zero-sum game, of course.
Re-read what I said. Competing against black workers on an even keel would erode, which is the word I used - erode, the black-white wealth gap. Zero sum game or not.

What I am assuming is that white privledge/racism whatever you want to call it is the cause of the gap.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2008


Your examples do probably seem compelling to you, but I still believe it's about class more than it is about race. Colour just happens to be an easy way of deciding class, so I'll agree to the principle that non-"white" folks receive the brunt of classist treatment. Making it solely about shade of skin ruins the chance we all have to examine the destructive effects of classism.

I don't know about other poor people who end up classified as "white", but my own family had it worse or equal to the folks we grew up around (we were generally amongst one or two "white" families in any neighbourhood).

That said, racism definitely still exists, and I'm positive it does get pulled out for crappy decisions by crappy people. I've seen it happen. It's evil. But saying that only non-white people are completely disadvantaged is remarkably blind to the realities of being poor in America, and contaminates a valid point about racism while also denying the powerful impact of classism.

This is why I always bristle when this is brought up here. This isn't a binary situation, on or off. It's pervasive and complicated and needs us to accept the full spectrum of issues the same way we should accept the full spectrum of skin shades. That is the only way we'll ever really solve it.

Additionally: It doesn't matter what hue of skin someone's sporting, they're still capable of racism. There is no such thing as reverse racism. Racism is racism.
posted by batmonkey at 11:19 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


shorthand for "only white people can be racist"

What? This is a bedrock principle of anti-racism activism? Cite, please.


Below is what I consider to be a good summary of this idea (from here):

"The social definition of racism underpins the argument that while anyone can be prejudiced or bigoted toward anyone else on account of their skin color (including blacks who hate whites), racism is something that only applies to blacks and other ethnic minorities. Since racism is a matter of racially-coded social exclusion from positions of power, and since white people are not systematically so excluded, white people cannot be victims of racism. Yes, a white person can be a victim of bigotry, and a black person can be a bigot, but it is only society itself that is racist. Individuals can only meaningfully be described as “racists” insofar as their prejudices actively perpetuate society’s racism."

This is a very common approach to defining racism in activist circles, I can't believe you're not familiar with it.
posted by MikeMc at 11:21 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


But saying that only non-white people are completely disadvantaged is remarkably blind to the realities of being poor in America...

Has anyone in this thread actually said this?

It's like people are arguing with imaginary people.
posted by chunking express at 11:22 AM on September 15, 2008


Another good one from here:

"...Racism is a system of power. And, as a member of the numeric minority group, I do not hold the same institutionalized power as the majority group. I may be able to exert power in individual ways, however I still operate within an institutionalized set of rules (laid forth by white people in power).

“Reverse racism” - a way to ignore white privilege"
posted by MikeMc at 11:25 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


You directly said that poor "whites" are not as disadvantaged as the poor of other cultures, chunking express.

And, as long as we're talking about poor in America, I disagree with you based on experience - living in slum housing, eating out of garbage cans, wearing filthy clothes, losing jobs to people who had the advantage of college, having to make certain I learned not to speak with a local accent (I noticed early on this turned people off, which may be unfair but there it is), falling through the cracks in health care and financial services...it goes on and on.

I can directly compare to my neighbourhood compatriots and I know for a fact that it can't be generalised in that way.
posted by batmonkey at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2008


...and heres where it gets very "if you don't agree with everything I say then YOU ARE A RACIST AND BAD". See also the various misogyny threads.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2008


And one more (from here):

1. We understand that as white people we live in a racist society and have been taught to be racist.
2. We understand that white people have institutional power in the United States.
3. We understand that racism is race prejudice backed with institutional power.

4. We understand that we have directly benefited from white skin privilege and have taken part directly and indirectly in perpetuating white supremacy and systematic racism.
5. We are committed to acknowledging racism and taking the required steps to undo racism on an individual, cultural and institutional level.
6. We are committed to honoring the leadership of people of color and to being held accountable to them.
7. We are committed to exploring what it means to be white in a society where white people hold institutional power.
8. We are committed to organizing in an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-classist, anti-ageist and anti-ableist way.

Note the bold. Would you like me to continue?
posted by MikeMc at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2008


“Factors in the Republican's favor this year: the Democratic candidate is black.
Result: the race is dead-even.”

The sheriff is near.

“I was expecting this to be more than an anti-Palin screed.”

Well, she does pretty much exemplify everything he’s talking about. Oh I have some issues with the piece in terms of the breadth in some statements:
(“White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.”
!?!??!?!??!?!??!???????!?!??!??)
but on the whole, what he’s talking about exists. It astonishes me that Palin can feed herself much less became mayor - much less governor - much less candidate for vice president. I mean *I* know Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t publicly funded just through media osmosis. I’m no economist, but how does someone not pick that basic fact up?

There’s a luxury there that one can be careless. I don’t think the same benefit of the doubt is extended to black folks on the social scale.
It doesn’t have to be racism to be prejudice. Doesn’t have to even deliberate, or even conscious, to have an impact.

Reminds me of baseball stats. The difference between being a pro-ball player and a nobody is basically one more hit a week during the season.
Just that minor fluctuation - over the long term - has a major impact on the final result.
Same thing here. You might not see it because it’s ones and twos and small scale. But stepping back and looking at the big picture you see the odds skewed on the whole enough to make a difference.

And that’s Palin all over. Just a bit more benefit of doubt in each little circumstance in her life. Just a bit more “luck” - just lucky enough that no one else wanted the job of running for VP with McCain - and she’s where she is despite being a friggin’ idiot. So she’s upbeat and happy all the time and looks like she deserves success when there’s black women far better qualified and able, but they’ve been told ‘no’ so many times - albeit perhaps in small ways - that it gets some of them down. Not all of them. But enough. And they are bit pissed, even the ones who make it, because they have to push hard all the time.
So of course you have Michelle Obama not dimpling and happy and all loving America all the time. It’s been real for her. Palin lives in a freaking fantasy land, and worse, she's trying to push that on everyone like it's going to actually work. Oh, just be positive!
Yeah, give more blowjobs maybe and you'll be popular, thanks hon!
posted by Smedleyman at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Appropriately enough, Tim Wise has an actual essay on "Reverse Racism":
Poor whites are rarely typified as pathological, dangerous, lazy or shiftless to anywhere near the extent the black poor are. Nor are they demonized the way poor Latino immigrants tend to be. When politicians want to bash welfare recipients they don't pick Bubba and Crystal from the trailer park; they choose Shawonda Jefferson from the projects, with her five kids. . . .

None of this denies that poor whites are being screwed by an economic system that relies on their misery. But they retain a leg up on poor or somewhat better off people of color thanks to racism.
I find his actually essays are of better quality than his quick blog posts. Still, it's amusing how easily some people can dismiss everything he says.

Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 11:34 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's like people are arguing with imaginary people.

It's easier to win that way.
posted by electroboy at 11:35 AM on September 15, 2008


Still, it's amusing how easily some people can dismiss everything he says.

That's because he's like the Danielle Steel of anti-racism rehashing the same plots time after time. There are three basic ideas in his work:

#1 - White people get unearned advantages in American society based on their skin color
#2 - #1 is bad.
#3 - Having acknowledged #1 & #2 we should do something about it.

I'm amazed (and frankly a little jealous) at his ability to re-write those same three lines a thousand different ways and get paid for it.
posted by MikeMc at 11:42 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


You directly said that poor "whites" are not as disadvantaged as the poor of other cultures, chunking express.

This is true. Which is not the same as saying, "that only non-white people are completely disadvantaged is remarkably blind to the realities of being poor in America..." Like I said, you can argue with yourself and win the Internet. Just don't put words in my mouth.

Your life was hard. Thanks for letting us know. I'm still willing to bet that the black dude living in the slums with you probably would have had a harder time getting out of them, a harder time avoid jail, debt, death, etc. There are lots and lots of cold depressing stats to back this sort of thing up.

Also, Critical_Beatdown's comment a couple comments up has an excellent quote worth reading.
posted by chunking express at 11:46 AM on September 15, 2008


The over-focus on black/white interactions seems very Americancentric to me. I mean, yeah, I understand you have your own special and unique history which throws up some very defianate issues on race, but come on, those are not the only issues on race, and if your POV is causing you to throw out things like "only white people can be racist" as unchallenagble truths then it's maybe time to broaden it a little.
posted by Artw at 11:48 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


if your POV is causing you to throw out things like "only white people can be racist" as unchallenagble truths then it's maybe time to broaden it a little.

Fine, Japanese people can be racist in Japan, as Japan is dominated by the Japanese.

It's about power, and in nearly all MeFites' countries, white people got it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:50 AM on September 15, 2008


I'm amazed (and frankly a little jealous) at his ability to re-write those same three lines a thousand different ways and get paid for it.

It must be white privilege at work.
posted by chunking express at 11:50 AM on September 15, 2008


I'm amazed (and frankly a little jealous) at his ability to re-write those same three lines a thousand different ways and get paid for it.
posted by MikeMc at 11:42 AM on September 15


If Tim Wise's pittance makes you jealous, what would you do if you saw Michelle Malkin's paycheck?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:52 AM on September 15, 2008


To those of you who don't think white privilege exists: http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html.

This is one of the worst comment threads I've ever read on mefi.
posted by holympus at 11:57 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


For the record, this is not a "winnable" discussion, unless it somehow helps people to understand that classism and racism are inter-related and need to be attacked from all fronts. Both are evil. Both are used to hold back people who deserve a chance. Both are used to dismiss the valid experiences and concerns of huge populations of people under-(or mis-)represented in all facets of culture.

They are both an establishment of a "them" within an "us", and it's wrong.

Those of you vociferously trying to grab onto just one piece...I get what you're going for, but I don't think it's helping, overall. It's just creating artificial divides in what is, ultimately, the same discussion: how to keep society from ignoring and/or mistreating massive segments of the population based on prejudice, misinformation, and "me first"-ism.
posted by batmonkey at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


#1 - White people get unearned advantages in American society based on their skin color
#2 - #1 is bad.
#3 - Having acknowledged #1 & #2 we should do something about it.
Tim Wise on:

Threatening to withhold support from Barack Obama.
Hillary's loss has nothing to do with sexism.
Sean Bell shooting.
Black on white violence.

And that's just from this year.

All that being said, I'm not sure how exiciting and original the work of a anti-racism activist should be. It's not like he can discuss how fucking awesome The Dark Knight was with us.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 12:01 PM on September 15, 2008


For the record, this is not a "winnable" discussion

But ... this ... is ... SPARTA!

/me kicks the dude and his cronies into the well
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2008


The Dark Knight is clearly racist.
posted by Artw at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2008


holympus, McIntosh's decidedly unscientific and unsourced laundry-list of generalizations is partially why I don't accept the premise of White privilege at face value. It's not really an asset to that side of the argument.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2008


I'm amazed (and frankly a little jealous) at his ability to re-write those same three lines a thousand different ways and get paid for it.

It's because, surprisingly enough, white people still don't. get. it. There will be a market for his pieces so long as people stubbornly insist that "it's not racism, it's classism" and that they can't possibly benefit from white privilege because they're irish, italian, [insert white ethnic identity here.]

In other words, bingo!
posted by lunit at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


chunking express:
"I'm still willing to bet that the black dude living in the slums with you probably would have had a harder time getting out of them, a harder time avoid jail, debt, death, etc. There are lots and lots of cold depressing stats to back this sort of thing up."

?

Stats are not people. Stats are misleading. One real life experience is enough to make statistics worth questioning.

You're also making a lot of assumptions. I've learned already that writing out my life experiences here is generally unwelcome and unhelpful, so I'll resist the urge to expand. A couple of things you mention are things I'm loathe to address in a public forum but can absolutely protest as incorrect on your part. Grievously, grossly incorrect.

I wish you could see how limiting and narrow your viewpoint is, how you're feeding both the racism monster and the classism monster with it. I understand why you cannot, I just wish it were different. It would be nice to have more allies instead of smug sparring partners.
posted by batmonkey at 12:06 PM on September 15, 2008


Possibly his argument (Which seems to be basically "You are racist and bad and should feel very guilty about it, and if you think you can do anything else you are wrong, and a racist for even thinking so") is not very compeling to those that don't enjoy feeling guilty.
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't see the guilt trip myself, Artw. Methinks that might be projection.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 12:09 PM on September 15, 2008


Every single discussion like this on MeFi ever revolves around the guilt trip.

Methinks that might be projection.

That's part of the guilt trip right there!
posted by Artw at 12:13 PM on September 15, 2008


Possibly his argument (Which seems to be basically "You are racist and bad and should feel very guilty about it, and if you think you can do anything else you are wrong, and a racist for even thinking so") is not very compeling to those that don't enjoy feeling guilty.

White guilt: making it okay for white people not to do anything (after all, feeling guilty is doing something, right?) and making the issue of racism about how white people feel at the same time! This terrific product will cleanse you of any responsibility you might otherwise have and obligate POC to compliment you on how virtuous you are! Order today!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:17 PM on September 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


MikeMC: a white person can be a victim of bigotry, and a black person can be a bigot, but it is only society itself that is racist. Individuals can only meaningfully be described as “racists” insofar as their prejudices actively perpetuate society’s racism.", etc.

Yeah, I get the "power + privilege" part. I didn't see how that could possibly translate into "only whites can be racist," since I was thinking, as I suspect most would upon reading the phrase "only whites can be racist," of the broader, popular connotations of "racist" - ie, what your quote above considers individual bigotry. (Especially having read the recent exchange in another thread arguing over whether Michelle Malkin can be racist when she's Filipina.)

Popular connotations of "racist/ism" don't refer to a structural system of discrimination or subordination codified in law, because so many people not only are ignorant of those systems but, when faced with information about discriminatory mortgage lending practices or whatever, will still argue that it's all in the past so such systems couldn't possibly exist.

Anyway, I get where you're coming from now. Carry on.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2008


That's part of the guilt trip right there!
So if he uses a guilt trip, that's bad. OK, I can buy at least some of that.

Bbut if he doesn't use a guilt try, and you feel guilty anyway, that's part of the guilt trip tactic too?
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2008


I (white, female) grew up in a terrible neighborhood with little money and I had things a hell of a lot easier than the black and hispanic kids I knew of the same class. You don't even need to get to the point of racism in hiring decisions for racism to have had a significant negative effect on someone's life. Having people call you awful, racist things as you grow up, or assume you're stupid or lazy before you ever say anything is nothing to underestimate. It's certainly demoralizing at the very least, and when you feel as a child that the deck is stacked against you and no one has any hopes for you, that doesn't just go away.

One of my best friends was a black girl named Courtney. She was sweet and funny but mostly quiet unless she was around her friends. She never messed with anyone. Yet somehow, racist things always seemed to crop up when I was there to witness it.

The weirdest example I can remember is that one year I had my birthday party somewhere like Discovery Zone or Chuck-E-Cheese. They taped bracelets on each party of kids with matching numbers so no one can just grab a kid and leave. Anyway, Courtney was at the party and we all had fun. The problem came when we tried to leave. They wouldn't let us take Courtney, despite the fact that she had the matching bracelet number, because the white attendant just could not believe that I would be friends with a black girl. It was the most ridiculous thing we had ever heard. This was the mid-1990s in Houston and still happening. I told the woman multiple times that Courtney was my friend and had been for years, but she just ignored me. The woman threatened to call security on us and accused us of trying to steal a black child from another birthday party. My aunt finally told the woman to "go ahead and try and stop us" from leaving with her, and we walked out the door.

Thankfully we didn't hear anything more about it from the establishment, but Courtney was in tears once we got to the car. She was angry at the woman; she felt like she had ruined my birthday party by being black; she felt like people didn't think she was good enough to have white friends... who knows what else she felt but didn't say. We all told her so many times that the woman was an idiot, none of it was her fault at all, but still she moped. My aunt said that she was so sorry Courtney had to deal with things like that, and Courtney just sniffled and said: "It's okay. I'm used to it."

All she had done was go to my birthday party. She was only 10 years old. Imagine what that would do to a person, to have those things happen out of nowhere, over and over.

I never got any crap from people for being poor, or even for being a girl. Courtney was middle class black and got more crap for being black by the time she was ten than I'd ever got for anything in my life. Her parents had gone to college; mine hadn't. She lived in a big house; we had to live in an apartment. One of her parents was a teacher and was diligent about helping Courtney with her homework and doing everything necessary to make sure she did well in school, and she did. But it's not that easy to merely look a person and see "poor" and even though Courtney far outranked me in economic class, no one treated me badly. All the world seemed to see when it looked at Courtney, though, was "black."

I can think of plenty of black people who didn't have it as bad as Courtney, sure. Some of them had more money, some of them had less. But even those that let the racism roll off them have plenty of stories of things they'd had to deal with. (A favorite: My upper class black friend had the cops called on him because he was finishing up a cell phone call in his driveway. His distant neighbors assumed he was going to rob the place... which, you know, he lived in.) There's some "reverse racism" whites sometimes encounter -- and I have, a few times -- but it simply does not compare. It's ridiculous to claim that poor white people don't have it better than poor minorities. They absolutely do. It's not easy being poor, but it's a lot easier than being poor in a world full of people that will hate you at a single glance.
posted by Nattie at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2008 [28 favorites]


This construction of the word "racism" as requiring institutional power and so only White people can be racist seems rather niche. It's not the dictionary definition, for example. In regular discourse, I've generally seen people refer to that specific idea as "structural (or institutional) racism" and consider all people capable of "racism".
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:25 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Critical_Beatdown - Maybe the guilt trip is invisible, and you just can't see it. Which makes you a racist, BTW.
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on September 15, 2008


PG: Look, privilege is not a binary thing. It's not a matter of either you have privilege or you don't. There are many kinds of privilege- white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, wealth privilege, etc. A poor white person still has white privilege, which puts him/her one up on a poor black person.

That casts it in more reasonable terms, though we're still in the realm of generalities that (arguably) don't level with the specific. But the way I'm accustomed to seeing the anti-racist philosophy defined, and maybe I'm seeing the wrong examples, is pretty absolute - that racism toward Whites, aside from escaping categorization as racism, is a progressive gesture; that Whiteness is the paramount problem of American society; that Whiteness can be circularly redefined as 'privilege' itself in order to keep anti-racist axioms afloat, e.g.:

The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society.

I mean, to start off with: what could be more circular?

The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in US society. [Race Traitor]

Enjamb the lines, and you've basically got vintage Amiri Baraka. And when a philosophy is at the verge of having to redefine Asians as "White" in order to preserve its tenuous applicability, it becomes orthodoxy.


I respect all the voices here, but I'm not sure I can debate this issue without retracing steps and bygones from other threads, or inviting a massive, unwelcome derail. If even arguing the point elicits reactions like:

This is one of the worst comment threads I've ever read on mefi.

Then I won't press the case.

posted by kid ichorous at 12:33 PM on September 15, 2008


It's about power, and in nearly all MeFites' countries, white people got it.

I'd say this accurately represents the argument in the article, and it's wrong. Who seriously thinks Fox new's position is based on Palin being white? I'd like a show of hands on this one. I find it hard to believe that Condoleezza Rice's daughter would be being dragged through the streets by Sean Hannity. The media gave the Bill Clinton a pass because he's a white man, right?

You're right to a degree, their position is all about maintaining power, but white power. Please, give me a break.
posted by betaray at 12:38 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I thought capitalization of Black and White was the norm when referring to ethnicities? Looking over the thread, maybe not?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:38 PM on September 15, 2008


Who seriously thinks Fox new's position is based on Palin being white? I'd like a show of hands on this one. I find it hard to believe that Condoleezza Rice's daughter would be being dragged through the streets by Sean Hannity. The media gave the Bill Clinton a pass because he's a white man, right?
Where did Wise say race was the ONLY determinate of "unfair" media coverage?

I call strawman.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 12:42 PM on September 15, 2008


I don't know, where did anyone say that it was the ONLY determinate? It was proposed by the article that the kind of media coverage was indicative of racism. By counter example, I have showed that racism probably has little to do with it. Do you understand the argument now?
posted by betaray at 12:46 PM on September 15, 2008


If a guilt trip happens in the middle of a forest, and there's no one there to hear it, is it really a guilt trip?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:48 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the way I'm accustomed to seeing the anti-racist philosophy defined, and maybe I'm seeing the wrong examples, is pretty absolute - that racism toward Whites, aside from escaping categorization as racism, is a progressive gesture

If a track and field team hold someone in a cage only slightly larger than themselves for a year, not allowing them to stretch or exercise, and then put them on the team and expect them to compete, it's a sick and disgusting thing to blame them when they can't keep up. "Anti-white racism" in the form of affirmative action is the equivalent of giving the caged individual a headstart. Of course the other racers, who've spent their lives training, object; they're used to having a headstart in the form of training, nutrition, and the like, and seeing someone else get an open advantage, to counter both the open and covert advantages, offends them.

(Possibly the best definition of privilege that I've ever heard is "the advantages you get that other people don't, but you think they're normal.")

If you're talking about POC discriminating against whites, well, frankly, the vast majority of racial prejudice in our society is White-on-POC. Mote, log, you know the story. Besides which, focusing on white-victimizing discrimination is once again making How White People Feel the focus of the discussion. It makes you sound the people who, in every discussion of rape, yell "WELL MEN GET RAPED TOO!" Sure, it happens, but male-victimizing rape is in the vast minority of rapes and men aren't the oppressed gender. Antiracists don't dismiss the fact that white people are sometimes the victims of discrimination because antiracists hate white people, it's because a) white people have all the power and b) white-victimizing discrimination is the vast minority.

that Whiteness is the paramount problem of American society

The problem is power. White supremacy simply happens to be the power manifestation that antiracists focus on, while activists of other stripes (feminists, GLBT rights activists, communisty types) focus on others (male supremacy, homophobia, classism).

that Whiteness can be circularly redefined as 'privilege' itself in order to keep anti-racist axioms afloat

Whiteness is privilege in this society; if, say, Latinos were in the position that whites are in, we'd be talking about Latino privilege. We talk about white privilege because it is germane to the world in which we live.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:48 PM on September 15, 2008 [9 favorites]


@batmonkey we aren't sparring partners. I agree poor people have a rough lot in life. I've not said anything contrary in this thread. What I have said is that visible minorities are going to have a rougher time in the West than Whites in similar economic circumstances. I'm willing to bet in some cases that minorites in better circumstances will still have a rougher go at things. That your situation was/is particularly tough doesn't change that.

American's can choose to sort out their class issues first if they like. Once that is out of the way, there will still be issues surrounding race the country still needs to deal with.
posted by chunking express at 12:50 PM on September 15, 2008


To be a little more clear: If he's not atleast claiming that it's a significant determinate then he's article is pointless. If he's saying it's significant then there should be someone who'll step forward to show that Fox News would act differently in my Condoleezza Rice example. My contention is that race is insignificant, andthey'd be just of protective of a black fellow-idealogue as a white.
posted by betaray at 12:51 PM on September 15, 2008


Oh, and I thought capitalization of Black and White was the norm when referring to ethnicities? Looking over the thread, maybe not?

Personally, I decided to work from the fact that many of our race terms such as "Hispanic" and "Asian" are based on proper nouns and thus should be capitalized for grammatical correctness, so for consistency extend the capitalization to Black and White.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2008


betaray, be less obtuse. Race is significant, but to a right-wing shitpile, being a fellow right-wing shitpile is even more important, especially when the fellow shitpile is a POC. Condoleezza Rice is someone the GOP can point to and go "See? We love black people!" They're not going to risk alienating her.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2008


Last time I checked, Obama publicly disowned his connections to the Rev. when yet another flameout happened. What do you think the chances are that she will publicly disown her church, a dominionist group that wants to make America a Christian theocracy?


Yes, when the optics would prove to be a liability -- but he accepted that message for years.

Reality of life: there are going to be people are going to take issue with the way you breath, let alone the way you think -- if you believed it when no one knew who you are, you should believe it when all eyes are on you. At least you know what Palin believes in.

I am always surprised what people assume -- there are a lot of who have all sorts of beliefs that we may see as eccentric and they do very well as leaders -- but since they do not advertise their beliefs doesn't mean they aren't being guided by it.

In an Internet Age, we are going to see more and more of things that were always there, but people were blissfully ignorant of those facts. Such as the role as someone's spiritual beliefs.

My point was when people are ideologically blind, they will find all sorts of excuses why their guy does the same thing they are condemning the other guy for -- they will split hairs and grains.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:00 PM on September 15, 2008


At least you know what Palin believes in.

Given what she believes in, this is in sense a comfort.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2008


This is a self-link, but I don't think that employing the labor saving device of self-quotation would be appropriate, as what I want to link to is pretty long.

I wrote relatively recently about a particular privilege that I think is endemic in white privilege and that largely, I think, goes unexamined. It's the privilege of social safety.

I think it applies pretty comprehensively to a lot of the objections I've seen to Wise's piece linked in the OP.

Due diligence: I am half-Caucasian, half-Chinese, and entirely a U.S. citizen. I work in IT but am also, among other activisms, an antiracist activist.
posted by kalessin at 1:06 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


When does significant become insignificant? If race is less important than ideology, as you agree it is with Republicans and Ms. Rice, is it significant? If race is less important than class, as has been shown with regard to medical care, education, and employment opportunity, is it significant?

The point is that for each one of the bullet points I can find a black person that's been given the "white privilege" and white person's that's suffering from this supposed racism. The reason I can do that is because each of the issue here has little to do with race and a lot more to do with much more significant factors in that person's life. Everyone of these problems issue is way more complex than "he's black, she's white", and That kinda blows the whole racism boat right out of the water, doesn't it?
posted by betaray at 1:08 PM on September 15, 2008


...in NO sense a comfort, bleagh.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:10 PM on September 15, 2008


betaray, buddy, nuance. Privilege is not a binary switch. It is a set of advantages. Other advantages and disadvantages interact with the privilege advantages in various ways, and just as having John Elway on your team doesn't guarantee you a victory, it's ridiculous to claim that having him on your team is insignificant.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:12 PM on September 15, 2008


This is an anecdote, and illustrates only that my boss at the time was fucking dumb. But it also illustrates that race is still a factor in hiring. White privilege is real. Denying it is insane.

...

Hi, I'm well dressed and articulate. I would like $15/hr.

vs.

I meet the minimum requirements and you can pay me $8/hr.

I'm not saying that there wasn't more to it, but there are plenty of reasons people don't get jobs.


White Convicts As Likely to Be Hired As Blacks Without Criminal Records
posted by mrgrimm at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2008


And I can't believe this post wasn't deleted. It's a rant. What's there to discuss?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2008


By counter example, I have showed that racism probably has little to do with it. Do you understand the argument now?
This has little to do with my understanding, but rather a case of over-generalizing. He listed his list of specific incidents he thinks are racially caused, your listing of ones that clearly have nothing to do with race don't constitute a counter-example - unless you thought he was saying everything is always racial.

Which he didn't.

In short that seems to be a apples to oranges comparison.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 1:22 PM on September 15, 2008


PG, I guess the crucial point where I diverge is in my estimation of the value of Whiteness in American society. I don't see it as the defining question of social inequality, and I think the pursuit of it is like chasing a white stag - it's a deceptively simple (but infinite) distraction from measures that could address needs in a precise way. Not based on racial conjecture, but based on verifiable need. If Whites had all the power, and all questions of power broke down under a simple prism of White vs Minority, why would Asian American individuals and households earn more than White households? Why would children of Black African immigrants be outperforming the children of Black and White Americans? It would be unheard of. Why would White kids who had the misfortune of growing up in South Carolina have lower expected SAT scores, earnings, etc, than Black kids from Cambridge, MA? Why can't the educational system achieve parity across the states? What role does cultural anti-intellectualism play, and how tied is it to geography? And so on.

It makes you sound the people who, in every discussion of rape, yell "WELL MEN GET RAPED TOO!" Sure, it happens, but male-victimizing rape is in the vast minority of rapes and men aren't the oppressed gender.

Okay, I hate to be that guy, but there's a method to it: according to SPR, as comparable number of men are raped in American prisons to women raped outside of prison. And if you want to get into the races involved, well, UN Human Rights Watch claims that a significant racial bias exists in the victimization rates.

The point being that these monolithic descriptions of race and power can obscure real needs and injustices. Somehow, if these statistics reflected an overwhelming number of Black women being violently raped by White men, I don't think they could be written off so easily, because it would be housed neatly in these existing constructs. I think those constructs have to be written off as too simple.

posted by kid ichorous at 1:25 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


And I can't believe this post wasn't deleted. It's a rant. What's there to discuss?

LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!! I'M NOT LISTENING!!!
posted by jonp72 at 1:30 PM on September 15, 2008


These discussions always seemed to get bogged down in minutia and statistics and comparisons and at the end of the day, I wonder how much good that does anybody. Maybe it's a corny idea, but I think just reminding yourself that everybody you run into is a human being with all the rights, priviliges, resposibilites and liabilities that entails, is a good start, at least in terms of our personal behavior.
posted by jonmc at 1:31 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the conversation may soon cross over into being stupider than the stupid comiccon harassment conversation, which takes some doing. It does share the similar feature of being being a bitter feud between people who, I suspect, agree with each other close to 100% on matters of race and racism, but are totally prepared to tear each other apart about the remaining fraction of a percentage.

At least this one isn’t attached to an FPP that was all that much cop to begin with.
posted by Artw at 1:36 PM on September 15, 2008


You're overlooking the huge section of the American electorate that aren't bad people, but are completely uninformed.

Banality of evil. Being completely uninformed more or less MAKES you a bad person.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2008


What's there to discuss?

Must be something because this thread just keeps on a rollin'.
posted by MikeMc at 1:38 PM on September 15, 2008


Banality of evil. Being completely uninformed more or less MAKES you a bad person.

No. Not giving a fuck makes you a bad person. Being uninformed is not a blameless thing, but not the same.
posted by jonmc at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2008


There's a quote about Gerald Ford (of all people) where somebody who knew him says "If Jerry saw a hungry child, he'd give him something to eat. But he dosen't see that not supporting the school lunch program is depriving millions of hungry kids of something to eat."

That's a very oversimplified version of what we're dealing with when it comes to a large portion of the electorate, and what makes communication of larger issues difficult is that most of them are dealing with their own problems and are too aggravated and exhausted to want to hear it, a lot of the time.
posted by jonmc at 1:43 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


And I can't believe this post wasn't deleted. It's a rant. What's there to discuss?

LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!! I'M NOT LISTENING!!!


Obama Waffles was posted first.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:53 PM on September 15, 2008


To those of you who don't think white privilege exists: http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html.

That's largely CanardFilter.
posted by oaf at 2:08 PM on September 15, 2008


I was very excited to click on that link because I was hoping for something new to consider, and instead I was disgusted. Racism is wrong on a fundamental level but to take a worthy cause and use it just like any other manipulative tactic merely to take potshots at a political figure... bleh... the liberals have turned into what they claim to abhor. I tried to read beyond the first few paragraphs expecting to find the never-ending sexism, but the hypocrisy got to me first.

People who claim to be all about the social justice can't take potshots without falling off their high horse.

And unfortunately, what is there to do with one's unearned white privilege except try to refuse it's use when handed it? What do men do with their unearned male privilege? Honestly I think half the reason men go on and on about racism is because it allows them to ignore contemplating what it means to be a man without gender privilege. I mean, if they're sincerely concerned about "social justice for all"...

Besides that, I think the folks here get the whole "racism is bad" meme. Any racists hanging about? No? well... Kind of telling that whenever I hear an occurrance of racism people are outraged, but sexism? It's background noise. Objectification of women's bodies is 24/7/365 -- but do let me know when the black people eating watermelon channel comes on the telly.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Being completely uninformed more or less MAKES you a bad person.

I disagree. People choose not to follow current events for lots of reasons. Maybe they are too busy trying to make a living, maybe they didn't get a great education and have trouble following stuff, maybe they got sick of the 24-hour news networks and find PBS boring and don't know about alternatives. I agree that it is good to be informed, but I don't think being uninformed makes one a bad person, just a person that needs help. At least they aren't watching Fox News.
posted by ND¢ at 2:12 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's a very oversimplified version of what we're dealing with when it comes to a large portion of the electorate...

I'd assert that it's so oversimplified that it's no longer valid. Any governmental program costs money, which has to be raised in taxes, which means it has to be taken from people via threat of force (you go to jail if you don't pay your taxes). It's one thing to say, "give a hungry child something to eat," and another to say, "If you don't give me money, which I promise I'll use to give a hungry child something to eat, I'll put you in jail. Oh, and by the way, you have no effective short-term means of holding me to my promise."

Now, school lunches are good things. I think most people are for butterflies and kittens, too. But I don't think mere communication of larger issues is the problem. It's our numbing acceptance of the communication of larger issues that leads to right-left infantilization ...

But enough of arguing for higher levels of discourse. John McCain is brain-damaged! Barack Obama wants your kindergartners to have sex! Joe Biden is a stuffed shirt! Sarah Palin is ... is ... uhh ...

Funny, I don't have anything inflammatory to say about Sarah Palin that isn't actually true ... hmm ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:21 PM on September 15, 2008


I'd assert that it's so oversimplified that it's no longer valid.

I suppose. But I hope the point I was trying to make came across.
posted by jonmc at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2008


Obama has to walk on eggshells whenever he's approached about the dynamics of the mccain or palin family. He can't discuss mccains military record without it being respectful to mccain's supporters. The shit he has to go through to get to the whitehouse is... typical. He knows this. His white supporters closest to him are really freakin smart, so they know this too. All the ghetto black people I've talked to say "they'll never let a 'n' become president." All the regular black people I talk to are split. Either they just don't like him-some deep seeded self hate, or, they're mad as hell that this country still cannot get past race. My father was a Black Panther in Chicago, and it took me two weeks to convince him to vote for Obama. And he was steady quoting Chris Rock in his own defense. Crazy. There is terrible racism in this country. Whites just live in denial and will be quick to say they're not racist at all, then go turn the tele on cnn or fox and get 'fed'. Blacks here are just as bad. We're all morons in this country. When the hate and guilt finally breaks on a national level, it will be broken for good. Rich people love that we cannot trust each other, and continue to vote them in to help us manage our pathetic lives. I mean really. Feminists are split into colors. Lesbians are split into colors. It would be funny if it wasn't getting out of control. Rich white privileged people affect all of us, here in the states, every day. From the Black NFL coach, to the handicapped original American. I almost hope mccain wins to speed up the process. It's like growing up in L.A., and the day the cops got acquitted for the Rodney King beatings saying, shit L.A.'s about to burn. This is the logical step. Either start the healing, or get to fighting. once and for all.
posted by Flex1970 at 2:34 PM on September 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


holympus was right.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:38 PM on September 15, 2008


Jeez, Flex, you sound like a White Separatist. Instead of the goddamn race war I'd really like it if we could just focus the parabola of hate on the Neocons. John Yu and David Addington and Condoleeza Rice are kicking back in some enclave of pan-racial harmony and watching the opposition eat itself alive.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:44 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


He can't discuss mccains military record without it being respectful to mccain's supporters.

This has absolutely nothing to do with Obama's race, and everything to do with the fact that you must support the military no matter what or you hate America you awful person you. (Note: does not apply if the veteran is a Democrat.)
posted by oaf at 2:46 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


you awful person you.

Haha.. Point taken. What you say kinda makes sense. It's an interesting take, at least. I've never been called awful before. Thanks for the kind insult.
posted by Flex1970 at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2008


Jeez, Flex, you sound like a White Separatist.

I know, and I'm sorry. I'm really just a black hippie who gets bitter from time to time. Politics are my liquor. It takes me towards the negative(real liquor makes me all lovey dovey). Maybe I'm just overly nice the rest of the time. I listen alot, but nothings really beautiful anymore. Who cares anyway, eh?
posted by Flex1970 at 3:06 PM on September 15, 2008


That essay was the same crapola that's been dished out for years. Written like a white high school student from a wealthy suburb, who just got his second Kanye West CD.

lame of the web
posted by timsteil at 3:30 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've never been called awful before.

No, not you you, and that's not my opinion. I'm just referring to the fact that even hinting that McCain's experience in Vietnam doesn't automatically qualify him to be president is usually met with "WHY DO YOU HATE VETERANS? SUPPORT OUR TROOPS."
posted by oaf at 3:50 PM on September 15, 2008


Guess I'm late to the party. Time for my usual criticism of "white privilege" that the same people will roundly condemn as a failure to take their word for racial dynamics which are beyond my ability to understand because of my race, and that the same other people will accept as a justified demand for proof to support a sweeping set of assertions. Here we go again.

The entire notion of an "invisible knapsack" and all that comes with it is an edifice of asseverations built on a foundation of unsubstantiated claims. Where is any proof that Bristol Palin is treated the way she is because she's white, instead of because she's the daughter of a critical political figurehead? (A political figurehead, I might add, whose image many people have a significant interest in preserving.) Where is the evidence that the favorable response to Sarah Palin among Republicans has anything to do with her race as opposed to the GOP looking for an excuse to get "energized" at a time when their party's reputation is declining starkly?

Taking things a step farther, where is the evidence to support the author's declaration that people question only Barack Obama's experience and not Sarah Palin's, particularly in light of Charlie Gibson's first interview question to Palin, which went directly to the issue of her inexperience (and that's to say nothing of NPR spending two days covering Palin's shocking ignorance of the Bush Doctrine)? Where is the author's evidence that people aren't scared of NRA members, militiamen, gun nuts as long as they're white? Last I heard that particular group was struggling with some bad PR that would lead most people to be a little scared.

On a similar note, why is Sarah Palin's political success despite her husband's anti-American politics attributable to her race, while Obama's success despite his wife's anti-American remarks is apparently based on something else? Going a step farther, why does the author make no mention of the mass media regularly lamenting the role that race plays when it works against Obama, but then nodding in approval at race as a voting factor when it works in his favor? Why is it that Obama's appeal to black voters is lauded as a part of the "historical nature" of Obama's campaign, while white reluctance to vote for Obama is decried as bigotry?

But I guess the most pressing question of all is, why are unsupported arguments in favor of "invisible privilege" accepted on faith or authority around here in striking contrast to most other subjects, where brazen sweeping claims are rightfully met with skepticism and earnest intellectual challenges?
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 4:04 PM on September 15, 2008 [5 favorites]



No, not you you, and that's not my opinion.


HAHA.. Double OHHH! WOW, that's cool. I was being totally defensive, and missed the point completely(blushing with embarrassment). Now it really makes sense, and it is true how it is seen. It's true Dems do not, and cannot possibly support the troops. I wish some of mccains propaganda films for the VC would surface. But that would be spun too. It seems to me that the the people choose the candidates, then the media chooses who they will support, and the looser gets the boot. Sigh. And there's an attempt to control the whole process from start to finish, I bet. Too big for me to know. Sorry oaf, I took that totally the wrong way.
posted by Flex1970 at 4:06 PM on September 15, 2008


Racism is wrong on a fundamental level

Some religious types think God is the original racist and therefore right.
http://www.georgegordon.org/A/3/09/0903032.m3u

(So there is something else that can be talked about, how right, just and proper The Bible is)
posted by rough ashlar at 4:07 PM on September 15, 2008


I tried to flag one of batmonkey's comments, and the site wouldn't let me. I'm assuming this is a direct manifestation of white privilege.
posted by davejay at 4:17 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reverse racism is a simply ridiculous concept. I'm white, I've been in a few situations where I was the only white person (or one of a few), and people have been rude to me for no other apparent reason than my skin color.

You know what I can do in those situations? Just get in my car and go almost anywhere else in the entire country. No other race or ethnicity can do that in the US; they're limited to specific enclaves.
posted by desjardins at 4:38 PM on September 15, 2008


Reverse racism is a simply ridiculous concept.

Well, if we're going to use single-example anecdotes, I can tell you about the time I was passed over for a writing job with a major newspaper. The editor suggested I take a desk position because, and looked me square in the eye and said, "You have no future in writing because you're a white male."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:52 PM on September 15, 2008


I was hoping for an excellent essay (whether or not I agreed with it.) Instead, I got a rant about the Republican VP candidate.

Thanks for wasting my time.
posted by mmagin at 5:12 PM on September 15, 2008


I have wracked my brains for the past 20 minutes, trying in vain to think of a newspaper that employs a single white male writer.

My god...you're RIGHT, Cool Papa Bell!
posted by you just lost the game at 5:16 PM on September 15, 2008


Unless, of course, you were being sarcastic...in which case, chalk up another case of internet sarcasm gone awry.
posted by you just lost the game at 5:17 PM on September 15, 2008


Unless, of course, you were being sarcastic...in which case, chalk up another case of internet sarcasm gone awry.

No, actually, this really happened to me. It was 1992, and in my area (sportswriting), there was a concerted effort among major papers to hire women and minorities. Most writing positions were considered plum, visible assignments, perfect for showing off your token non-white male staff, while the desk editors toiled in relative obscurity. I didn't get all torn up over it, and got a job somewhere else.

Are most newspaper staff white males? Sure they are. Does racism exist? Yep. But I always whip out the anecdote anytime some self-hating undergrad tries to tell me that reverse racism doesn't exist or that affirmative action can never, ever go awry.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:52 PM on September 15, 2008


desjardins, lacking a personal, anecdotal example of something doesn't necessarily make it a ridiculous concept.

The outlines of privilege arguments do sometimes feel like an eerie replay of the construct White racists employ for their own anti-Semitism. If I can channel the wingnut internet Sturmgewehr:

"1. People of Jewish ancestry are disproportionally over-represented (astronomically relative to their small population) in positions and institutions of power in America - political, academic, economic. On any respectable metric - law, banking, professorships, nobel prizes, fuck, Hollywood - they reign.

2. The power of our institutions is warped by the gravitic lensing of massive Jewish success. It's not unreasonable to say that American power is disproportionately if not largely in the hands of Jews.

2a. Comparing the number of Jews - around 15 million worldwide - to other ethnic groups, Jewish success is unprecedented and simply inexplicable, unless systematic cultural favoritism and closed networking is involved.

3. These tendencies and power disparities are collectively called the Invisible Jewish Conspiracy. They tidily explain our government's weird alliance with fringe Zionist elements and the popularity of Steve Gutenberg. QED

Of course, it's invisible to you, shocked listener - but then, your sociology department had its share of Jewish last names, amirite? Yeah, that's the reigning establishment paradigm and its deceptive orthodoxy. You need to study our orthodoxy to learn the truth."


Go argue with one of those people for 5 minutes, and tell me if it doesn't hold a fun-house mirror to American Studies 101.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:57 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Where is the author's evidence that people aren't scared of NRA members, militiamen, gun nuts as long as they're white?

Actually, you can find evidence of it by comparing how whites in the New Left were treated during the 1960s vs. the Black Panthers. Gun-toting white leftist radicals got prison sentences, whereas gun-toting blacks in the Black Panthers were injured or killed in shootouts with police.
posted by jonp72 at 5:57 PM on September 15, 2008


But I always whip out the anecdote anytime some self-hating undergrad tries to tell me that reverse racism doesn't exist or that affirmative action can never, ever go awry.

Mine are much more violent.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:07 PM on September 15, 2008


You know what I can do in those situations? Just get in my car and go almost anywhere else in the entire country. No other race or ethnicity can do that in the US; they're limited to specific enclaves.

Sure, if by "specific enclaves" you mean "entire US states in which they are the numerical majority". Like others have said above, race in America is not a simple issue, and it's not just about black and white, either.

As for the last few comments, I remember when "whatever, you people can always go elsewhere if you can't hack it" and "well, so what if you lost your job, Company X hired Ethnicity Y" were frowned upon as excuses for racism. Yes, "reverse racism" is too often used as a glib excuse to focus the discussion away from white racism, but arguing that it doesn't exist (or, worse, doesn't matter) doesn't really help your cause. The extent to which some of these "anti-racist" arguments seem to be deliberately designed to piss off well-meaning white people is amazing.

I mean, clearly, the very first thing we need to do in order to convince people to stop being racist is to declare that it doesn't count as racism when and if it hurts them, based solely on their race! These guys may be academics, but Psychology 101 was apparently not among their prerequisites...
posted by vorfeed at 6:10 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


And before someone points out that Jewish people are White (next, Asian people will be White, watch), consider that, to the economically and very educationally deprived Untermensch of conspiracy nut, Jewish people exist on a plane of success far removed from where they could ever imagine themselves. Plus they killed Jesus. There's no sense of connection, just seething envy.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:13 PM on September 15, 2008


Actually, you can find evidence of it by comparing how whites in the New Left were treated during the 1960s vs. the Black Panthers. Gun-toting white leftist radicals got prison sentences, whereas gun-toting blacks in the Black Panthers were injured or killed in shootouts with police.

I think this is distorting historical context. Was there such a thing as "white privilege" in the 1960's before the civil rights movement achieved its aims? Yes, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any rational person who'd argue otherwise. However, is that conclusive evidence that there is "white privilege" today, no matter how many interceding changes have occurred since then? I don't believe so.

To apply reductio ad absurdum here, why don't people suggest there is a Macedonian privilege, or a Roman privilege, or a French or a British privilege? After all, each of those groups enjoyed widespread cultural dominance due to coercive military power at some point in the past. The obvious answer is, "because things have changed since the days of Alexander." Which is fine. But I think those changes can happen in shorter timeframes, too.

The fact is, I think the onus should be on advocates of "white privilege" to provide verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on today. Pointing to evidence of such discrimination two generations ago doesn't convince me that the same conditions exist now, and I suggest that evidence shouldn't convince anyone else, either.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 6:29 PM on September 15, 2008


holympus, McIntosh's decidedly unscientific and unsourced laundry-list of generalizations is partially why I don't accept the premise of White privilege at face value. It's not really an asset to that side of the argument.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:02 PM


But I guess the most pressing question of all is, why are unsupported arguments in favor of "invisible privilege" accepted on faith or authority around here in striking contrast to most other subjects, where brazen sweeping claims are rightfully met with skepticism and earnest intellectual challenges?
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 4:04 PM


There is a wealth of scientific data that I myself can source on white privilege, and I am far from a sociologist. Your comments stand in evidence of precisely what McIntosh means when she calls the knapsack 'invisible:' not that it cannot be seen and therefore must be accepted on faith, or authority; rather, that the privileges conferred on whites as a result of societal racial inequality have, until introspection and--surprising though you may find it--rational, positivist, sophisticated intellectual analysis, little if anything to do with our race, because we of course never experience them explicitly as such. Perhaps it feels an affront to have Peggy McIntosh or Tim Wise point these things out bluntly (it did to me, when I first encountered McIntosh), but if you pride yourself on being a paragon of rationality and accepting no argument supported by vague generalizations, you should not let your emotional shock cause you to dismiss them as being full of shit before you turn your skepticism in on the vague generalizations and tiny world experiences that inform your own opinions on how the world works.

Maybe race doesn't matter. Let's take a moment and consider a piece of data presented in chapter three of

Orfield, Gary. "The Growth of Segregation." In Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education, eds. Gary Orfield, Susan E. Eaton, and The Harvard Project on Desegregation. New York: The New Press, 1996.

"..in metropolitan Chicago, the correlation between minority percentage and low-income percentage for elementary schools was .895--so high that, for statistical purposes, the two measures are virtually indistinguishable" (56)

What a remarkable coincidence.
posted by holympus at 6:52 PM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


The fact is, I think the onus should be on advocates of "white privilege" to provide verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on today.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 9:29 PM on September 15


Well, Jesus, that shouldn't be difficult.

In fiscal year 2007, EEOC [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] received 30,510 charges of race discrimination. EEOC resolved 25,882 race charges in FY 2007, and recovered $67.7 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).

(To stay on topic, I thought the Wise essay was pretty weak sauce - I was expecting something much more thoughtful and complicated, and less partisan - but I'm all agog at somebody suggesting that racial discrimination may simply not exist anymore.)
posted by joannemerriam at 7:20 PM on September 15, 2008


Maybe race doesn't matter. Let's take a moment and consider a piece of data presented in chapter three of "..in metropolitan Chicago, the correlation between minority percentage and low-income percentage for elementary schools was .895--so high that, for statistical purposes, the two measures are virtually indistinguishable" (56) What a remarkable coincidence.

Nobody said race doesn't matter. However, yes, some people are calling out one particular White-hegemonic model of American society and its seeming catch-all applicability to anything a self-appointed antiracist decides to forcefeed to it - this latest Sarah Palin nonsense especially. Maybe if you took a moment to put aside the strawman and the "tiny world experiences" that gave it mass, this wouldn't have to be like 9/10s of the arguments on the internet.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:28 PM on September 15, 2008


And I'm far from a sociologist myself, which is another reason why I'm uncomfortable with that McIntosh article coming up again and again. Suffice to say if you turned something like Knapsack in as a thesis in most departments, you'd become internet famous too, but not the good kind.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:38 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Who seriously thinks Fox new's position is based on Palin being white?"

Well that's a double edged sword. On the one hand yeah - Fox news would characterize Jack the Ripper as 'misunderstood' if he were on the Republican ticket.
On the other hand McCain - or anyone else in the organization - wouldn't pick Jack the Ripper as a running mate.
So, replace "murderer" with "Black" and 'would never pick anyone favoring substantial change' with 'being white' and - fits like a glove.
(I mean look at Palin - is she even really a woman? Oh, I don't want to go 'true scotsman' here - I'm saying she's more ideological puppet than anything else - which would be true of anyone they picked up - even if such a person did have dark skin. Say, where is Colin Powell anyway?)

Indeed, there are countless of examples - in recent history even - of welfare mothers and the like being denigrated by Republican politicians on the basis of them having many children, out of wedlock, etc. - ostensibly to cheat the welfare system.

As to Bill Clinton, well, he's not exactly a paragon of justice in this matter. Bubba's big on bragging on the drop in welfare recipients on his watch without mentioning the five year limit and other restrictions he put into place which, y'know, kicked people off welfare.

Those people are, y'know, mostly black.

And where are they? I don't know because there's no way to monitor Aid to Families with Dependent Children once they "left" welfare. I mention the kids because 70% are...er...were - kids, and his reform (ah, progress) bailed on the governments responsibility to help - or even acknowledge, the poor.

We know from Census data that at least a million folks formerly on welfare don't have jobs, health care, and are completely impoverished. Oh, and Black.

Of course some of them have found jobs, part time, minimum wage gigs without benefits - sometimes even four of 'em (isn't that great? Only in America!)

Meanwhile those million or more have more than a million kids growing up more or less alone. And they're Black.

So why are all these Black people poor? Is it because they're lazy and shiftless? Is it some inherent trait like the color of their skin?

The fact of the matter is there's abundant evidence that racism, and institutional racism exists. Doesn't have to be overt. Just not getting one job means not living in a nicer neighborhood means your kid not going to a nicer school means less likelyhood he'll graduate from school means he's probably going to turn to more realistic and likely avenues of making money means perhaps a greater likelyhood of incarceration - and the wheel just keeps spinning that way.

No one's saying all white people are in on it.

And why can't it be a component - a feature - of class struggle instead of a bug?
Hell, the first tenant of dominance is 'divide and conquer.'

(And yeah, the article IS a rant. But one I'd've thought no one needed to hear)

"by comparing how whites in the New Left were treated during the 1960s vs. the Black Panthers."

Well, that was a long time ago. The new paradigm seems to be if you're Black and you have a gun you're a gangbanger thug. If you're white and you have a gun you're a domestic terrorist or potential child killer.

"All the ghetto black people I've talked to say "they'll never let a 'n' become president."

Good thing Obama (or anyone else) isn't a nigger. Who's 'they?' You see, that is, I think, what we're really dancing around here. A lot of folks saying "I'm not the man (Mr. Charlie, Cracker, the ofay, Peckerwood...but I digress)"

But the gist of the piece is - "hey, look at this." And most people want to think they got wherever they are without any help at all in a fair manner, etc. etc.
That just isn't true. Just because you make out ok, doesn't mean it's alright to play on a crooked table - even if you win in spite of the odds, the house is still, on the whole, cleaning up.
Indeed, the fact of it is, if you look deeply enough and you're white, you'll see you're being suckered too.

"This is the logical step. Either start the healing, or get to fighting. once and for all."

Go ahead. Go ahead, skin it. Skin that smoke wagon and see what happens.

Listen, mister, I-I'm gettin' awful tired of your--

I'm gettin' awful tired of your gas. Now jerk that pistol and go to work....I said throw down, boy. You gonna do somethin' or just stand there and bleed? No? I didn't think so.

Yeah. "Let's you and him fight" oldest one in the book. Violent insurrection is possible, but it's got to be done in a methodical careful manner, otherwise you're just chewing up your own real estate. I'm in earnest - who's "they"? Figure that out and you can move the ball forward. It's not - and I agree with sentiments here - average white folks just doing their thing to survive too.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:24 PM on September 15, 2008


And by that "you'll see you're being suckered too" - it's a fairly obvious bit of human psychology that you can give someone less if you give them more than someone else.
Look at what we pay women. It's still disproportionate for the same job. That's silly - why would 'they' do that? Well, 'they've' got to be getting something out of it more than just getting off on oppressing women.
That'd be the distinction.
Not that it's really spelled out in the rant.

But yeah, you'll never go broke playing someone off someone else telling them how much better they are than 'those' people or that guy or girl or whatever and pretending they're part of a privileged group too.

Hell, didn't I read on here that's 3/4 of the reason folks think people vote Republican in the first place?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:30 PM on September 15, 2008


Nobody said race doesn't matter. However, yes, some people are calling out one particular White-hegemonic model of American society and its seeming catch-all applicability to anything a self-appointed antiracist decides to forcefeed to it - this latest Sarah Palin nonsense especially. Maybe if you took a moment to put aside the strawman and the "tiny world experiences" that gave it mass, this wouldn't have to be like 9/10s of the arguments on the internet.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:28 PM


And I'm far from a sociologist myself, which is another reason why I'm uncomfortable with that McIntosh article coming up again and again. Suffice to say if you turned something like Knapsack in as a thesis in most departments, you'd become internet famous too, but not the good kind.
posted by kid ichorous


I don't want to get into a flamewar. I shouldn't have suggested I think that your world experiences are tiny--I know nothing about you. I apologize and I withdraw the comment.

I have only two points. The first is that for me, it was very difficult at first to accept that some people's world experiences could be profoundly different from mine. It is of course easy to imagine that someone who is paralyzed, or starving, or dying of terminal cancer would experience quite a different world than I, but it was profoundly hard at first to accept that people that I lived amongst every day might experience a vastly different world due to, say, their race, or gender. What I wanted to do when I first read McIntosh or heard Wise was dismiss them as somehow conceited--I had this feeling that they couldn't actually believe what they were saying, that they must just be saying it so they could ride their high horse and get a rise out of people. Of course, this is a silly and solipsistic world view that doesn't end up getting you very far. If I don't go around saying wacky things just to get a rise out of people, isn't it a bit pathological to assume that others do? I think you fail to appreciate who Peggy McIntosh, and Tim Wise, and Gary Orfield, and Jonathan Kozol, and Cornel West, and bell hooks, and Angela Valenzuela, to name a few, are--what they have learned, studied, been through. They are not waltzing into a discussion on race and stirring things up for shits and giggles. They care deeply about these issues, however caustically obnoxious they might have come to sound (shout out to Tim Wise). This is what I meant to say when I said your world experiences were tiny. I know my world experiences are tiny, and it was all too easy for me to assume that everyone else's had been the same, tiny ones.

Last, and thread-appropriate. Just ponder this question as honestly as you can: if Sarah Palin were a black woman, or a Latina woman, with five children, one of whom was seventeen and currently pregnant with a baby conceived out of wedlock, what might have happened had John McCain selected her as his running mate?

What might have happened had Barack Obama selected her as his running mate?
posted by holympus at 8:40 PM on September 15, 2008


(next, Asian people will be White, watch)

Indians too, I think, though both are going to vary geographically.

I already know an Asian guy who's said he tends to forget he's not White.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:08 PM on September 15, 2008


Well ... I don't know. To use something that's not quite as charged as race:

A couple of years ago I came across a board on the internet where a bunch of short people were complaining about this and that -- mostly that short people were massively discriminated against by women, and how tall people must all be followed about by gaggles of adoring females.

Now, I'm a fairly tall person, and I can't say I've ever experienced this sort of thing (uhm, the gaggles, &c.), so my first reaction was: That's utterly ridiculous, I certainly don't feel like I have any sort of 'tall privilege'. But then I thought about it, and I realized that, well, maybe I do. It's kind of strange to think of it that way, because being tall is not quite the unfettered barrel of awesomeness that those short people seemed to think of it as being, but, I would believe someone who told me that they experienced negative side effects from being short. Having never experienced any negative reactions due to my height, I would probably feel that any 'advantage' I receive from my height is pretty minor. I am certain the short people would disagree.

Part of this, I think, is the side effect of ... well, racism or anti-short-ism, or what have you. It doesn't have to happen all the time to create internal watchfulness. It is little insults which maybe wouldn't affect you, because you haven't been made more sensitive to things by a lifetime of certain things happening to you. It's kind of a difficult thing to understand if it never happens to you, but I wouldn't say it doesn't exist. It may be more exaggerated or less pronounced than people think, but I think it's still there.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:13 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Don't try to shoo this away with "Oh, it's class not race." No matter how poor the white person is, this is still true:

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

When a black person does the same thing, would-be Republican voters see it as very threatening.

Jamie Lynn Spears might get shit for being pregnant, but Bristol Palin would still dodge it, even if Sarah Palin made $20K per year. A hypothetical teenage Obama daughter would not, no matter how rich she was. Nor would a hypothetical black Bristol Palin. Republicans would not rally around a black woman with a pregnant daughter, no matter how much she loved hockey.
posted by ignignokt at 10:24 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Stats are not people. Stats are misleading. One real life experience is enough to make statistics worth questioning."

One real life experience is NOT ENOUGH to - ah fuck it - yeah your one subjective experience beats a big pile of data! Whatever you say! Here's that book on astrology and UFOs and creation I borrowed - IT WAS AWESOME
posted by thedaniel at 12:35 AM on September 16, 2008


Given the various studies and other links provided in this discussion, and the dynamics of our society in general, I am left asking what kind of proof is required to make "invisible privilege" visible?

To me, an honorary white person (half white, half Asian man who is often but not always accorded the privilege of a white person) in the U.S., employing a reasonable amount of critical thinking, it's extremely visible, obvious, and self-evident. What kind of proof, exactly, are you looking for, Law Talkin' Guy (and others)?

From my point of view, this is equivalent to asking for proof that lemons (Scientific name: Citrus × limon) are yellow when ripe ready for normal consumption, but given the opportunity to build a bridge and try to attain a level of meaningful communication, I feel I must ask.
posted by kalessin at 4:56 AM on September 16, 2008


Some links to articles post 1960 about white privilege:Given that this is like shooting fish in a barrel, I suggest that other skeptics have a look at Google Scholar, and search using the term, "white privilege".

Perhaps another benefit of white privilege is being able to claim the privilege doesn't exist and have other white people agree with you.
posted by kalessin at 5:15 AM on September 16, 2008


(next, Asian people will be White, watch)

Indians too, I think, though both are going to vary geographically.

I already know an Asian guy who's said he tends to forget he's not White.


I don't know about that. I'm Asian, and I'm aware that Asian people fit really strangely into the black/white race discussion. I do recall a story from WWII -- an Asian soldier from Hawaii was traveling by train through Alabama (IIRC, the 442nd RCT was moving out to Europe), and they stopped at a train station where there were segregated restrooms. The guy asked a guy at the rail station which one he should use, and he was told to always go to the one marked 'white'.

When people say Asian people are kind of 'white', it's kind of loaded. In my experience (having lived in a bunch of states), where there are very few Asian people and especially where the Asian people are located in the area because of universities or that sort of thing, a lot of white people will consider Asian people 'white' for _certain things_, because when they think 'black', they think really terrible things, and those Asian people don't fit into _that_. This does not, however, mean Asian people are, for example, totally welcome to date their daughters, or that people won't always kind of think of them as foreigners, or that kind of thing.

Note that where Asian people have not been self-selected by immigration laws skewed towards the best and brightest, they are not necessarily so 'welcomed'. Witness, for example, the Hmong in Wisconsin. Also note that in swathes of California, where there are large Asian populations, there is a much stronger negative reaction against Asian people, since people feel more threatened. (Oh no, the Asians are taking over our schools, why do they always speak their strange foreign language, observe the curious and strange foodstuffs that they eat, &c.) Where there are smaller Asian populations, they are more novelties, and nobody feels threatened.

I think part of the problem is that 'privilege' is not an active privilege, like, "Yo, I am white, I get 50% off my next purchase of a washer/dryer set, and you do not." or something like that. It's only a 'privilege' in that you don't get some of the bad treatment that other people may routinely receive through no fault of their own. For example, I was walking through a restaurant with a bunch of guys I went to undergrad with -- all of us with science degrees from a top notch university. Later, I was told (by the African-American one of us) that one lady grabbed her purse as he walked by. And I got to thinking: Wow, that must really, _really_ suck. You have an engineering degree from one of the best universities in the country, and some lady in a restaurant takes one look at you and thinks: "Criminal!" And whatever other problems I may have, you know, at least I don't have _that_.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:45 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


The fact is, I think the onus should be on advocates of "white privilege" to provide verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on today.

Are you being willfully ignorant here?
posted by chunking express at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2008


Is it racism when one group (say, whites) view itself as inherently racist?
Is it racism to consider the statistical risks associate with one group compared to another?

I really like the example of the well dressed black applicant versus the poorly dressed white applicant, and the question: hired because he was white, or because he could be paid less short and long term? It gets to the question of assumed motivation.

Claims of discrimination are essentially claims of market failure. This is fine, because market participants don't act perfectly. At the same time, it is easy to think that market participants would rather be racist than efficient, but as this relies on an analysis of their presumed motives rather than on the cost/benefit it is not always reliable.
posted by ewkpates at 9:25 AM on September 16, 2008


Cool Papa Bell, was the person who refused to hire you white? If so, it cannot be reverse racism. We can argue the merits of affirmative action, but it's not the same thing as reverse racism. I'll accept your premise that minorities were/are given high-profile writing jobs at newspapers because I have far less knowledge of the journalism field than you apparently do. However, it cannot reasonably be argued that the same is true for all industries. You did get a sportswriting job, yes? So your experience can really be boiled down to one asshole expressing his opinion that you would never make it in the field due to your whitemaleness. And he was wrong.
posted by desjardins at 10:31 AM on September 16, 2008


Claims of discrimination are essentially claims of market failure.

Sentences like this are why I despise economists. There are actually very few nails.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


“It's kind of strange to think of it that way, because being tall is not quite the unfettered barrel of awesomeness that those short people seemed to think of it”

Yeah. Good illustration. The world is sort of made for the average height person. I saw a little person (being very conscious of them now having been called out on it) at a store a bit ago with his kids. (And I personally dislike the term ‘little people’ simply because of the implication in the words - not that ‘midget’ is any better - but y’know, whatever folks feel comfortable being called)
And the guy was trying to reach something, his kids were running around (they were ‘normal’ sized) and it seemed to be a real headache for him. Whereas I can reach everything in the store, I can simply grab and stop my kid physically without shouting, etc. etc. etc.
Guy had on a nice sweater and tailor made pants and shoes and I’m thinking ‘he must be doing well’ and then it hits me ‘no, he almost HAS to have them custom made’

As a large person I can empathize with some of that. I mean, I’m not gigantically tall. But I am pretty beefy so (like Payton) I can’t wear off the rack pants. It’s tough to find actual XXL or XXXL shirts that fit. In part because they’re made for XXXL guts not XXXL shoulders and also in part because Joe Average at 5’10, 170 lbs wants to think he’s huge “Yeah, I’m a 2XL.” so you can’t find actual large sizes without going to a big and tall store.
Which is a hassle. So people see me in custom tailored suits, pants, exclusive shirts and think I’m doing really well - or they see me in gym gear and think I’m vain. But I’m not vain, I wear it socially because it’s the only thing that fits comfortably (I’m vain because I stick a cucumber down my pants).

So I don’t think it’s that white folks (and what the hell is ‘white’ anyway. I haven’t had white bread since I was a child and I hate mayonaise and Lawrence Welk) are racist. But rather that they’re the ‘off the rack’ standard - socially.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some links to articles post 1960 about white privilege:

Your links prove that there are other academics out there who agree with your position. I never disputed that, nor would I try to. My point is that bald assertions about the causes of discrete events such as Sarah Palin being favorably received among conservatives aren't an adequate foundation for sweeping declarations about complex social phenomena that are much, much broader in scope than the examples given to support them.

Perhaps another benefit of white privilege is being able to claim the privilege doesn't exist and have other white people agree with you.

Yes, because surely the hordes of Malebolge would descend on any nonwhite person who dared challenge the concept of white privilege.

In fiscal year 2007, EEOC [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] received 30,510 charges of race discrimination. EEOC resolved 25,882 race charges in FY 2007, and recovered $67.7 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).

First, anything that pertains to allegations of some event, especially allegations that stand to create a benefit for the accuser, is hardly proof of that event. I could go to the EEOC tomorrow and file a complaint against my employer for discriminating against me on account of my being left-handed. If I repeated that process 10,000 times, or if 10,000 people did likewise, that would hardly serve as proof of pervasive discrimination against left-handed people.

Second, employers settle these sorts of charges all the time. Even beyond the incentive to settle civil litigation in general, there's an even greater incentive to settle discrimination claims because of the bad PR involved and the unpredictability of juries. The latter motivation may have something to do with fear of jurors who presuppose the existence of "white privilege" and presume that claims of racism standing without any evidence are credible. So I'd say that recovery figures are a pretty suspect indicator, as well.

Third, even assuming the reliability of this information, it at best proves that some number of discrete instances of racism took place in some number of companies that employed minorities. The significance of those stats are limited in scope to the context of employment discrimination as a matter of common sense.

You cannot extrapolate from them some nebulous cultural force that explains events that are entirely unrelated to employment discrimination. The EEOC figures are not evidence to support the Sarah Palin article's claim that her political successes are attributable to white privilege, nor do they support any of the author's other outlandish claims.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 10:16 AM on September 17, 2008


Oh, and one other thing concerning the EEOC data. Employment discrimination against nonwhites in favor of whites is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Hence the existence of an agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission whose job it is to provide remedies for that type of behavior and whose responsibility take steps to curtail it in the future.

Conversely, employment discrimination against whites in favor of nonwhites is affirmative action, which in many cases is perfectly legal. There are many public and private agencies whose job it is to promote this type of discrimination and ensure that it continues in the future.

So, I'd be loathe to say that the field of employment discrimination provides much evidence in favor of the concept of "white privilege."
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 11:36 AM on September 17, 2008


Law Talkin' Guy, you have not specified what you determine as "proof" that would satisfy you, just shot down attempts at providing different forms of "proof", which apparently all failed to satisfy.

Before I go on with this silly discourse, I think I'll have to insist that you provide some examples of the kind of "proof" you require in order to be convinced, and then be surprised by how you either provide no examples or you provide examples that would be impossible to provide.
posted by kalessin at 12:49 PM on September 17, 2008


The fact is, I think the onus should be on advocates of "white privilege" to provide verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on today.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 9:29 PM on September 15


You cannot extrapolate from them some nebulous cultural force that explains events that are entirely unrelated to employment discrimination.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 1:16 PM on September 17


??? You asked for verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on. That's what I provided. If the government saying to tens of thousands of people, "yes, you were discriminated against based on race" isn't proof, what would constitute proof? What about the link mrgrimm posted above, where white men with prison records are offered jobs just as often as black men who have never been arrested? Is that proof? Please define what kind of proof you'd find acceptable.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:32 PM on September 17, 2008


I think the disagreement here has as much to do with the diverse, amorphous and expansive accounts of what White Privilege is, as with the question of its existence, because, obviously, some basic agreement on the former is necessary before the latter can be answered.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that discussion of White Privilege is not about 'unpacking' so much as about 'packing.' We start with the irreducible assumption - self-evident as the color of a lemon, kalessin puts it - that White Privilege exists, and then inflate our definition in a thousand directions to include every anecdote, opinion, and observed discrepancy from any field scholar, academic, or blogger. Even in this thread, we're really talking about a snowball model - one without testable, predictive power - but one layered with many different assumptions about its magnitude and nature. Sarah Palin? Just another leaf on the onion.

I feel that taking the time and attention to make citations deserves a response in kind, however late. I hope some of you are still here reading, and sorry I couldn't make this post sooner:

joannemerriam: In fiscal year 2007, EEOC [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] received 30,510 charges of race discrimination.

Now, this sounds fairly compelling, but let's dig a little deeper at the EEOC's data.

In the EEOC's statistical breakdown for 2007, we see that only 983 of 30510 claims are said to have "reasonable cause." The EEOC's definition of reasonable cause is as follows:

Reasonable Cause: EEOC's determination of reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred based upon evidence obtained in investigation. Reasonable cause determinations are generally followed by efforts to conciliate the discriminatory issues which gave rise to the initial charge. NOTE: Some reasonable cause findings are resolved through negotiated settlements, withdrawals with benefits, and other types of resolutions, which are not characterized as either successful or unsuccessful conciliations.

In other words, of thirty thousand charges, only one thousand were found to be reasonable by the EEOC. In a market of about 160 million jobs.

However, even if these charges didn't have a failure rate of more than 90 percent, we're still left without any information on which races were affected, or mechanisms for why. But I think we can agree that making a conclusion about a sweeping White Privilege based on just the data above is very premature.

joannemerriam: What about the link mrgrimm posted above, where white men with prison records are offered jobs just as often as black men who have never been arrested? Is that proof?

MrGrimm didn't actually link to Pager and Western in his comment, so here's the study in full for your consideration.

As to whether this study of constitutes proof of a society-wide construct of White Privilege, I think it's important to.

First of all, and I'm not sure if this is something now commonplace in academic papers, but the methodology is horribly opaque and subjective. I can fit the entire methodology section in the paragraph below:

Our research methodology involved sending matched teams of young men (called testers) to apply for 1470 real entry-level jobs throughout New York City over ten months in 2004. The testers were well-spoken young men, aged 22 to 26; most were college- educated, between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet in height, recruited in and around New York City. They were chosen on the basis of their similar verbal skills, interactional styles and physical attractiveness. Additionally, testers went through a common training program to ensure uniform style of self presentation in job interviews. Testers were assigned matched fictitious resumes representing comparable profiles with respect to educational attainment, quality of high school, work experience, and neighborhood of residence. Testers presented themselves as high school graduates with steady work experience in entry-level jobs. In some conditions, testers presented additional evidence of a felony conviction.

We'll have to take the authors' word at face value that subjects were chosen based on similar verbal skills and styles of interaction; that the resumes were matched, that the businesses selected represented a true cross-section of the market and were not weighted towards any expectations, and so on. We have no chance to examine their methodology for ourselves.

As for results, there's the same opacity - all we get are summaries of the callback rates and a few anecdotal examples drawn from the data. There's no complete presentation of the data collected.

In short, drawing conclusions about anything other than racial dynamics in the New York City unskilled labor market in 2004 would be a stretch; and considering how little information is shown, I wouldn't confidently go that far. This study doesn't successfully underline a society-wide White Privilege anymore than a survey of NYC's local diamond industry would indicate a state of Jewish Conspiracy.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:25 AM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, amend the above:

As to whether this study of constitutes proof of a society-wide construct of White Privilege, I think it's important to...

...to examine the reach of the data and the soundness of the methodology.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:29 AM on September 18, 2008


Also, joannemerriam, I have read some (but not all) of those authors you mentioned, including Bell Hooks.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:30 AM on September 18, 2008


holympus: Last, and thread-appropriate. Just ponder this question as honestly as you can: if Sarah Palin were a black woman, or a Latina woman, with five children, one of whom was seventeen and currently pregnant with a baby conceived out of wedlock, what might have happened had John McCain selected her as his running mate?

My answer would be 'little to nothing;' the sort of fear-and-smear campaigning for which Rove has become notorious is now off-limits to the Democrats, due (among other things) to the Obama campaign's attempt at defining itself in opposition to the Rove-school. This puts Democrats in the precarious situation of having a lower bound to their rhetoric, whereas their opponents have none. They only need to transgress it once to become dirty.

What might have happened had Barack Obama selected her as his running mate?

Oh gods, they'd be calling her a whore. They'd be calling her a whore if she were White, too. As I said, they've defined their political signal as talk-radio with no floor.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2008


And Kalessin, I'd have to second Law Talkin' Guy's reaction to the studies you provided; none of them seem to substantiate or even define White Privilege. At least McIntosh's paper, though levitating over a void of actual scholarship, draws out a general outline of what White Privilege is supposed to be. I'll give her that.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:17 AM on September 18, 2008


My answer would be 'little to nothing;' the sort of fear-and-smear campaigning for which Rove has become notorious is now off-limits to the Democrats, due (among other things) to the Obama campaign's attempt at defining itself in opposition to the Rove-school. This puts Democrats in the precarious situation of having a lower bound to their rhetoric, whereas their opponents have none. They only need to transgress it once to become dirty.

What might have happened had Barack Obama selected her as his running mate?

Oh gods, they'd be calling her a whore. They'd be calling her a whore if she were White, too. As I said, they've defined their political signal as talk-radio with no floor.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:12 AM


If you honestly believe that John McCain would have remained a viable Republican candidate for the presidency after selecting a black or Latina Sarah Palin as his running mate, the gulf that separates our common sense notions of the world is simply too wide to be bridged by a mefi thread. I don't think we're going to come to any agreement on Tim Wise.

Now, tell me: without an appeal to institutionalized racism, how is it, again, that you explain that in Chicago, all of the poor people are black, and all of the black people are poor?
posted by holympus at 11:36 AM on September 18, 2008


Are you kidding? Condoleeza Rice is the Bush admin's Secretary of State. Colin Powell as VP was being talked-up by the right as the perfect counter to Obama. For whatever reasons, and quite fortunately, they didn't get him.

Without accepting your exaggerated description of Chicago wholesale: because poverty, like Blackness, is a heritable and environmentally-reinforced condition. In other words, for the same reason that all the poor people in trailer-and-tornado towns are White, and all the White people are poor.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:40 PM on September 18, 2008


Well, Blackness and Whiteness aren't environmentally-reinforced; but poverty certainly is, as well as being overwhelmingly heritable.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:47 PM on September 18, 2008


Also, FYI, in the 2000 census, 19% of Chicago's population lived below the poverty line, and 37% of the population was Black. Even in the statistically impossible, worst-case scenario, almost half of the Black population is not poor. Real figures are undoubtedly less than that. Unfortunately, I can't find any detailed figures on the racial makeup of Chicago's poor.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:57 PM on September 18, 2008


in Chicago, all of the poor people are black, and all of the black people are poor

Categorically wrong, and the stats are even better in 2007 than kid ichorous states. Only 31.5% of Chicago's black population is below the poverty line. Source (Census Bureau) Yes, this is higher than other racial/ethnic groups, but 68.5% of the black population of Chicago is NOT below the poverty line.
posted by desjardins at 1:13 PM on September 18, 2008


Thanks des, for some reason it didn't occur to me to go there!

BTW, holympus, sorry for mistakenly attributing that quoted list of authors to joannemerriam instead of you. I do agree with you that writers like Bell Hooks have a genuine concern for these issues. But I do think it's possible (and commonplace) to be reach the wrong conclusions without acting in bad faith.

I mean, ask a politician like Charles Rangel why he helped introduce (and oversaw) our disastrous Federal policies towards crack, and he might tell you that he'd acted in the interests of his Black constituency. He might tell you that crack was an irresistible force, a plague that only a determined zero-tolerance approach could cure, treatment was too soft a stance. He might tell you that the paradigm of Federal intervention, of putting soldiers on the streets, worked for desegregation and it would work again for drugs. Two decades have proved him wrong.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:04 PM on September 18, 2008



in Chicago, all of the poor people are black, and all of the black people are poor

Categorically wrong, and the stats are even better in 2007 than kid ichorous states. Only 31.5% of Chicago's black population is below the poverty line. Source (Census Bureau) Yes, this is higher than other racial/ethnic groups, but 68.5% of the black population of Chicago is NOT below the poverty line.
posted by desjardins at 1:13 PM


desjardins, that was a crude reference to my earlier post, in which I cited a statistic stating that the correlation between being a minority student and being a low-income student in Chicago elementary schools in 1988 was .895. Whether only twice as many blacks as whites are below the poverty line in Chicago is really beside the point.
posted by holympus at 8:40 PM on September 18, 2008


Are you kidding? Condoleeza Rice is the Bush admin's Secretary of State. Colin Powell as VP was being talked-up by the right as the perfect counter to Obama. For whatever reasons, and quite fortunately, they didn't get him.

Without accepting your exaggerated description of Chicago wholesale: because poverty, like Blackness, is a heritable and environmentally-reinforced condition. In other words, for the same reason that all the poor people in trailer-and-tornado towns are White, and all the White people are poor.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:40 PM


This doesn't make any sense. The reason that all the poor people in trailer and tornado towns are white is that there are no black people in trailer and tornado towns. Why should a condition's heritability or environmental reinforcedness mean that blacks are more likely to possess it than whites?
posted by holympus at 8:42 PM on September 18, 2008


desjardins, that was a crude reference to my earlier post, in which I cited a statistic stating that the correlation between being a minority student and being a low-income student in Chicago elementary schools in 1988 was .895.

sure, people who can afford it generally send their kids to private schools. And most of the people who can afford it are white. No shocker there.
posted by desjardins at 8:44 PM on September 18, 2008


sure, people who can afford it generally send their kids to private schools. And most of the people who can afford it are white. No shocker there.
posted by desjardins at 8:44 PM


desjardins, that doesn't make any sense, either. First of all, most American students--rich or poor, white, black, or otherwise--are enrolled in public schools. Second, the reason that there are so many poor minority children in public school is not because the rich white children have all been sent elsewhere--that reasoning doesn't even make any sense, and it turns out that your underlying assumption is false, anyway. From the same chapter:

"The huge changes in the racial composition of American public schools and the segregation of African American and Latino students over the past half century have often been misunderstood. The great increase in the proportion of nonwhite students has not been a consequence of 'white flight' from public to private schools, but rather of basic changes in birth rates and immigration patterns. In fact, there has been no significant redistribution between public and private schools. During the period from 1970 to 1984, there was a small increase in the share of students in private schools, but between 1984 and 1992 public enrollment grew 8 percent while private enrollment dropped 9 percent. U.S. Department of Education projections indicate that between 1994 and 2004 public school enrollment would climb 12 percent while private enrollment would rise 11 percent. Even as many Americans believe there is flight from public schools, many believe that desegregation is something that was tried a generation ago but did not last. Both beliefs reflect the political rhetoric of the 1980s, not what actually happened in the society. (61-62)

...

The proportion of whites in public schools was actually increasing...At the high school level, 92 percent of American children were in public schools, including 92 percent of whites, 95 percent of Latinos, and 97 percent of blacks. Private high schools were more popular among affluent whites, but served only one-eighth of their children. (62)

Even if all of the affluent white children were enrolled in public school--which they aren't--that still would have no bearing on why in these elementary schools in Chicago students received free lunches if and only if they were minority students, which is what the high correlation entails.

You seem to acknowledge the real reason in the last bit of your comment, which is that in the US, minorities are markedly more likely to be poor than whites. This goes directly to what we're arguing about, which is the supposedly elusive and unscientific nature of white privilege, when, in fact, it is trivially easy to cite example after example of scientific data supporting the existence of institutionalized racism in the United States.
posted by holympus at 10:21 PM on September 18, 2008


Why should a condition's heritability or environmental reinforcedness mean that blacks are more likely to possess it than whites?

holympus, building an argument on this would be argument from ignorance. The burden is still on you to show that White Privilege must account for a particular situation. If I fail to provide an explanation for the performance of Black Americans vs White Americans, or Indian-Americans and Arab-Americans, for that matter, this does not mean that another theory is automatically validated, or that White Privilege makes Blacks poor, or anything like that. I'll refrain from further comment on the complex situation of Black poverty, since the whole subject is so third-railed by now that someone with Obama's charisma still risks live emasculation on FOX for straying outside of Jackson-approved canon.

It looks like the basis of your argument, though, is that ethnic discrepancies in income must originate from 'White Privilege,' since no other force could account for them. This argument rests entirely on the words no other force, and, once again, I submit that myriad non-White demographics make this hard to believe. The aforementioned Indian-Americans and Arab-Americans earn more than Whites, and defy any simple model that demands privilege as an explanation. And I'm not talking about Arab-Americans that go to an Orthodox Christian church and vote Republican and try to pass as culturally 'White,' whatever we've decided that means:

While Arab Americans in the United States are classified as White in the U.S. Census, some have questioned this designation and lobbied for the creation of a separate category. [...]
A new Zogby Poll International found that there are 3.5 Million Americans who identify themselves as "Arab-Americans" or Americans of ancestry belonging to one of the 23 UN member countries of the Arab World. The poll also found that more than half identify themselves as Muslims (of that over half identify their denomination as of the Shi'a Mosque). Poll also finds that majority of those who identify themselves as Arab Americans are of Lebanese origin. 62% of participants identify themselves as Democratic or leaning to the Democratic party in voting in the 2008 election [...]
Furthermore, the majority of poll participants reported a household income of equal to or over $100,000 U.S. (2007). Nearly one third of those who reported their incomes identified themselves as self-employed or running a family owned business.
[wiki]

The Arab-American Institute shows that listing Arab-Americans as 'White' in the US Census inflates White incomes (pdf).

Using 'minority' as shorthand for Black is trying to impose a Black/White model on a question that's infinitely more complicated. And showing that Blacks are disproportionately poor is not even close to equivalent with 'White Privilege exists and is responsible.'
posted by kid ichorous at 10:54 PM on September 18, 2008


You seem to acknowledge the real reason in the last bit of your comment, which is that in the US, minorities are markedly more likely to be poor than whites. This goes directly to what we're arguing about, which is the supposedly elusive and unscientific nature of white privilege, when, in fact, it is trivially easy to cite example after example of scientific data supporting the existence of institutionalized racism in the United States.

They're even more likely to be poor than about a half-dozen minorities I can name.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:06 PM on September 18, 2008


??? You asked for verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on. That's what I provided. If the government saying to tens of thousands of people, "yes, you were discriminated against based on race" isn't proof, what would constitute proof?

You're equivocating on the definition of "white privilege" here. I did not ask for evidence that racial discrimination occurs. I asked for evidence in support of "white privilege" as it's been postulated and favorably received by this community. White privilege, in just its original presentation, was offered as the explanation for phenomena touching upon law, employment, finance, housing, education, politics, medicine, social dynamics, cultural trends, human psychology, and domestic commerce.

You ask what measure of proof I would require to accept assertions based on "white privilege." I answer: credible, objective evidence that encompasses each and every one of those areas and which doesn't already presuppose race as the cause of daily events. The amount of evidence I'd need would necessarily be staggering in amount and scope. I don't see that as a problem since the assertions resting on that (hypothetical) evidence are just as broad and sweeping, so I believe I'm perfectly justified in asking for an equally extensive amount of support for them.

As for specific examples, the EEOC statistics might have been persuasive that a "white privilege" exists in the context of employment. Unsurprisingly however, the facts, untainted by ideology and unskewed towards a preexisting desired outcome, in fact prove the opposite. So if reliable, objective proof could be marshaled that bore upon all of the above areas, then I would be convinced that there is some basis in fact for the neverending lists of asseverations that accompany "______ privilege." However, all such evidence that I've seen thus far counsels against such a concept, not in favor of it.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 8:19 AM on September 19, 2008


holympus: in the US, minorities blacks are markedly more likely to be poor than whites.

With the exception of Native Americans, other minorities aren't doing quite as bad off as blacks (but Natives are still doing better overall).

holympus: The great increase in the proportion of nonwhite students has not been a consequence of 'white flight' from public to private schools, but rather of basic changes in birth rates and immigration patterns.

The proportion of whites in public schools was actually increasing...

These two statements contradict each other. Either nonwhite students are increasing in proportion, or white students are increasing. Maybe both are increasing in raw numbers, but in proportion the total has to equal 100%. Can you provide sources?

kid ichorous: And showing that Blacks are disproportionately poor is not even close to equivalent with 'White Privilege exists and is responsible.'

Right. Racism exists and is most likely the biggest initial factor in the poverty of blacks due to the effects of slavery. Whites got a tremendous head start WRT education, political power, etc and blacks have only begun to catch up since the civil rights movement, which was not even 40 years ago. The Irish were not considered white when they immigrated and while they didn't face as much discrimination as blacks, they were certainly much poorer on average than "real" whites. Anglo-Saxon whites in this country had a headstart over everyone who came later or who was already here. It's not surprising that everyone else had to catch up (or is still catching up).

However, the loss of manufacturing jobs, at least in the midwest, is a HUGE contributor to the horrid conditions that exist today in cities like Milwaukee (my hometown). Drugs and violence are epidemic and keep people trapped in houses they can't sell, not to mention that a much larger proportion of black men than white men are imprisoned. Higher birthrates amongst blacks means lower per capita income. Also, schools are funded by property taxes (at least in WI and IL) and areas with low housing values are necessarily going to pay less in taxes, causing a huge disparity in spending per capita between predominantly black schools and predominantly white schools. It's not rocket science that an underfunded school produces (on average) less prepared graduates, who then work at lower-income jobs. There's also some self-selection here: I work in adult higher education and the most popular major amongst our black student population is medical coding & billing. The most popular amongst whites is IT. Guess which field pays better?

I do not deny for a second that racism has an ongoing effect on the poverty of blacks. I deny that white privilege is the whole story.
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on September 19, 2008


Why should a condition's heritability or environmental reinforcedness mean that blacks are more likely to possess it than whites?

holympus, building an argument on this would be argument from ignorance.


No. You asserted that more blacks are in poverty because it is heritable and environmentally reinforced. I'm saying that you've provided no evidence that these two properties of poverty would make blacks more likely to be in poverty than whites.


Using 'minority' as shorthand for Black is trying to impose a Black/White model on a question that's infinitely more complicated.


I used black as a shorthand for minority--not the reverse--in reference to a previous comment because all of the participants in this thread had presumably read my previous comment.


holympus: in the US, minorities blacks are markedly more likely to be poor than whites.

With the exception of Native Americans, other minorities aren't doing quite as bad off as blacks (but Natives are still doing better overall).


The fact that blacks do worse than other minorities certainly does not mean that other minorities do worse than whites. Despite kid ichorous being ridiculous, Arab-Americans and Indian-Americans make up a very small portion of the US population.

These two statements contradict each other. Either nonwhite students are increasing in proportion, or white students are increasing. Maybe both are increasing in raw numbers, but in proportion the total has to equal 100%. Can you provide sources?

I already sourced these data, and they are not contradictory--you're just having trouble reading them. The first statement is that there has been an increase in the proportion of nonwhite students to white students in public schools. The second is that meanwhile, the proportion of white students in public school to white students in private school has been increasing simultaneously. Please--challenge Gary Orfield's credentials on education research.

I do not deny for a second that racism has an ongoing effect on the poverty of blacks. I deny that white privilege is the whole story.

I think, then, that we agree. No one is arguing that white privilege is the whole story, only that it exists, and that, as per the post that began all of this, Sarah Palin's race has affected her political viability, such that were she not white, she would not have been a viable vice presidential running mate choice.
posted by holympus at 9:37 AM on September 19, 2008


*...that other minorities do not do worse than whites...*
posted by holympus at 9:39 AM on September 19, 2008


I already sourced these data, and they are not contradictory--you're just having trouble reading them.

Got it. This was lack of caffeine on my part.
posted by desjardins at 2:00 PM on September 19, 2008


holympus: Despite kid ichorous being ridiculous, Arab-Americans and Indian-Americans make up a very small portion of the US population.

Arab Americans and Asian Americans, both of whom earn more than Whites, make up about 6% of the population. In comparison, Black Americans make up about 12%.

holympus, other people have been offering cited income and demographics data for the US at large. You're offering data from a study that's not online, for a select population (schoolchildren) of undisclosed demographics ('minority') in a select city (Chicago), from two decades ago, I might add, and you're trying to build a case off of that to demonstrate widespread pro-White discrimination nationwide. If anything's ridiculous, it's this.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:38 PM on September 19, 2008


And, just a hint on argumentative styles: if you want to show a universal pattern of pro-White discrimination, show it. Don't give us inflated EEoC data that's 96% off the mark, don't conjure hypotheticals about who'd be viable on a Republican ticket, and please don't give me 20-year-old demographics data from Chicago that can in no way be causally linked to discrimination. Give evidence of widespread discrimination commensurate with claims of White Privilege.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2008


Here's a hint on argumentative styles: try not to be snide and condescending unnecessarily. I specifically have not said that a black VP candidate as McCain's running mate would not be viable...I'm being a little bit more subtle than that--as was Tim Wise--so you'll have to work with me and be a bit less bombastic.

I cited data from a book, not a study. I somehow anticipated that the source of my data would come under much dispute from people unwilling to budge despite voluminous data controverting their position; that's why I included the full citation in the first comment in which I used it.
posted by holympus at 3:49 PM on September 19, 2008


Funny that such voluminous data always tends to be confined to 1) leftist sermons that presuppose the existence of "white privilege" without supplying any supporting facts 2) evidence of institutionalized discrimination that went on before civil rights reforms, or 3) suspect claims of contemporary discrimination that never seem to rest on credible evidence or verifiable facts.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 9:21 PM on September 20, 2008


Yes, I think it's high time that we agree to disagree.

holympus, I'm sorry that I've come across as snide. I've tried to put forward an honest argument and to be as thorough as possible in sourcing and fact-checking both sides. In return, I feel like I'm being met with casual put-downs.

Remember that the first thing you did upon entering this thread was disparage the whole conversation; the second was to link to McIntosh, as if reading the original Knapsack, in spite of it being an unabashedly unscientific paper, but rather a credo or manifesto, should have been good enough for us.

That's exactly the kind of self-assured cockiness neither of us wants to deal with, and I'm sorry if I've crept towards it myself. I'm sure you know this, but the sciences - including the social sciences, try as they might to escape it - are still more about how to think rather than what to think. Yet scattered about there are many landmines of (politically-charged) topics where some creed refuses to bear critical examination. And when conversations on Metafilter give me that same spider-tingle I feel when arguing with my Republican uncles at Thanksgiving dinner, I think I've stepped on one of them.

Pass the gravy.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:24 AM on September 21, 2008


The fact is, I think the onus should be on advocates of "white privilege" to provide verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on today.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 9:29 PM on September 15


??? You asked for verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on. That's what I provided. If the government saying to tens of thousands of people, "yes, you were discriminated against based on race" isn't proof, what would constitute proof?

You're equivocating on the definition of "white privilege" here. I did not ask for evidence that racial discrimination occurs. I asked for evidence in support of "white privilege" as it's been postulated and favorably received by this community.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 11:19 AM on September 19



Just for the record, I'm not talking about white privilege at all. I was only responding to your original request that somebody "provide verifiable evidence that racial discrimination goes on today."
posted by joannemerriam at 6:52 PM on September 21, 2008


Fair enough. What I meant was the type of pervasive, universal racial discrimination that underlies the notion of "white privilege" as it's been discussed on this site. But I'll readily concede that what I wrote did not convey that at all.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 2:36 PM on September 23, 2008


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