Thursday, October 15, 2009

White Privilege

A few weeks back a friend of mine on Facebook invited me to a group called Truth2Power. The group's description is: "A place for the serious minded to come and discuss the politics and issues affecting us all....While this group focuses primarily on news and commentary from an African American perspective, ALL are welcome to contribute and provide insight regardless of ethnicy or whether your on the right, left or somewhere in between....This is not just a place to talk, but to talk about solutions, and put those solutions into action..The dialogue will be fresh, frank, and even heated, but always respectful....So all that are truly ready to make a change, no matter how challenging it may be, please join us........."

The membership of the group is at 42. The African American perspective of the group is what intrigued me to join the group. The topics are wide ranging. Through my interactions on the discussion boards, I have learned a few things. During the topic "Yes, You can be a Democrat and Racist at the same time", members of Truth2Power – Stephen Walker and Von Jackson– re-introduced me to the concept of "White Privilege" and a speaker name Tim Wise. While I do not agree with all that is said within the group and those within the group do not always agree with my perspective, the conversation is honest, rational, and very respectful.

Many see the election of Barack Obama as a cure for racism in the United States. I am not sure that we, as a society, can eradicate racism completely. After reading excerpts of essays written by Peggy McIntosh and Tim Wise I posted the following comments:

Von...thanks for the two pieces of literature. While I understand some of what Peggy McIntosh listed, I fall short as anyone, and I mean anyone, can rise themselves up from their social status and move to a higher social status. Prejudices will never be eradicated as we all hold them. It is how we allow them to interfere with our interactions and decisions.

I disagree with Peggy McIntosh's assertions of:

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

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

A number of here items listed are self-defeating and a "woe is me" approach. Don't get me wrong racism exists and it exists on all sides of the debate. Of the ones that I listed above, there were others too, are all items that can be overcome because of the freedoms we as Americans enjoy and the Capitalism.

Also, tell me who is the most powerful person to leapfrog a book written that was deemed to be true but later proved untrue. The answer is Oprah Winfrey. She has launched many careers - of all races. Yes, the election of Obama will not erase racism from the United States but it does say that a majority of the independent thinkers in America are no longer promoting "white privilege".

The President is to speak today on the deaths of young teens in Chicago today; specifically young black teens. Now, I know there are certain areas of Minneapolis that I, a white male, cannot walk freely down without harassment or fear of personal harm. Just as there are places in Detroit, New York, LA, and Chicago that no non-black person dare walk alone in.

As Robert Jensen discussed, he grew up in the middle of White America in North Dakota. I went to the University of North Dakota and will admit that if someone saw a black male on campus, the first thought is "What sport does he play?" Is this really racism? Or is it a product of the environment? North Dakota, as many states in the area, the number of black residents is relatively lower than places on either coast or in the South. Why is that?

While there is no concrete numbers, but some say over 100,000 slaves escaped the south for Canada. Why is that the current black population, per the Canadian Gov't, is about 2.5% of their population? My point is that areas like North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin - other too - were predominately settled by whites. Scandavians are, in general, laid back and acceptable people. Now there is still bitterness in the South.

Robert Jensen said that "when I seek admission to a university, apply for a job, or hunt for an apartment, I don't look threatening." That is correct unless he is doing all of that in Watts or other similar locals throughout major metropolitan areas. I do acknowledge that people have preconceived notions and prejudices but they are not monopolized by White America.

You may like this little antidote. When I purchased my home, my brother moved in with me. A number of residents that didn't know anything about me or my situation assumed that my brother and I were a homosexual couples. It wasn't until more and more neighbors got to know us that they realized the real situation. That being said, as I wrote when the fiasco went down in Cambridge earlier this year, we all must get out to know our neighbors. For without doing that we only perpetuate the prejudices and stereotypes of the unknown.

Replies from my post were:

Von Jackson: Post #28

Von Jackson wrote on October 7, 2009 at 6:34pm

Chris,,,,Great discussion here....I will address a few points, but as I am mobile right, in length a bit later....Your reference to the black guy on campus and "What sport does he play" is borderline racist, because in fact, you are assuming that blacks are not intelligent enough to get into college without a sports scholarship or the like.. Where you are missing the point, is that preconception about race, is monopolized by white America, because white America is the dominate power structure in America and has the POWER to discriminate against others...In an earlier post, you stated that you are German and Swedish, that is irrelevant because in the larger scheme of things you are still a member of the European white race, and it matters not that you ancestors did or did not own slaves.....And don't forget that the racist Nazi regime was.................German. And yes, it's the same way that it matters not that a black person may be Haitian, or Latin, or from the islands, they are seen as black, so your ancestry being Swedish or German, you are still white....My ancestors may or may not have been slaves, however in the larger scheme of things I am still black, and you my friend, are still a beneficiary of white privilege, like it or not, accept it or not, that's the way it is.......Now, how do you DISAGREE, that you can go into a grocery store and find foods that not find your cultural foods when most foods and grocery stores are geared towards predominately white people.. What mainstream record store have you been too that DID NOT carries white music?? And it is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE for a black person to go to a hair salon and the whites DO NOT know how to style black hair, just ask my wife...I've never seen a white person go to "supercuts" and not be able to get a hair cut......


I encourage all on Facebook to join this group and for those not on Facebook join the conversation here. I have asked those in the Truth2Power group to read my blog and participate. So, how do we as a society move forward in regards to race relations?