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okay the controversy

So I was reading an LJ today and the subject of "White Privilege" Came up. This is the notion that by the mere dent of being white, a persons life will have an inherent benefit or easing of problems or standards. This was used as an argument for why someone was being clueless talking about a subject related to race. The idea is if you are white your opinion on race is suspect because you benefit of the so called White Privilege.

Now I believe that 50 years ago there was a strong argument for White Privilege. It was clearly present Culturally and in the laws of the time sadly. I believe in the last 20 years though you are hard pressed to come up with real evidence for it. You can find evidence of some things which are sad. The statistics of minority students who get higher education or doctorates are distressing. However the evidence these days could easily be read on the aspect of financial status more than race. With a very few exceptions the evidence just is not conclusive.

I personally don't believe in it. It just isn't there any more. That is not to say there are not some individual racists out there. There are of course plenty of them out there. I am saying there is no inherent cultural, religious, or legal benefits to being born white. I certainly have never benefited from it. There is no one in my long and winding experience that I can point to and say they benefited from it more than being born in to an upper middle class home. The arguments so far presented fail to show privilege in an indisputable way. What is more I feel using that as a justification to discount someone is lazy and disingenuous. Rather than explain why you think someone is wrong on something you point to them and say well they are white. Not only does it not address why they are wrong, but it really is kind of racist. it renders any argument might offer there after weaker as a result.

This discussion went on someones lj and they very politely indulged the discussion till they were done and then asked it be moved elsewhere. So I am posting my thoughts here to any who felt compelled to continue the discussion.

keep it civil.


( 80 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 19th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC)
What an interesting discussion topic. I think I personally tend to agree with you, but I'll have to put some thought into it.

The racist thing that always gets my goat is that if you are a member of a racial minority, you can't be considered racist. Oh, the racist remarks I've heard spouted under that umbrella!
May. 19th, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC)
The answer is simple economics. Families tend to past generational wealth and connections down the line.

My grandfather was well off and therefore able to afford all kinds of benefits to pass down to his children who then passed them down to their children.

Even though I am the first lawyer in my family, My father was college educated and instilled those values into me. he got them from his father who was also college educated.

Even SO most of the lawyers I know come from families of lawyers who are able to use their connections to get good internships and jobs in the future.

Many black families are lucky to have 1 generation of college background, much less multiples. In fact my generation the black community is only about 4 generations away from being property.

One need merely look at the statistics. There are more blacks by percentage in poverty, in prison, and without education. We are several generations away from erasing the stigma of slavery that has set back black Americans in all measures of economic and social progress.
May. 19th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
Ah but does that equate to a white privilege? Or is it a wealth privilege? Is it not more accurate to say that the real prilege goes to those with money or a history of family money? A real test would be to look at the traditionally poor residents in the deep Appalachians. How many of them go to college, get doctorates, get high paying jobs, become lawyers and so on. I suspect they will be in step with the minority rates in those areas.
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May. 19th, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC)
I blame rap personally. Or rather, a culture that glorifies poverty, belittles those who seek higher education, and has little to offer its youth but a slim chance at advancing themselves (temporarily) through the various entertainment industries.

The black American community needs to start, as many of them call it, "acting white": work harder in school than any others and do everything possible to better themselves without resorting to theft, dealing drugs, and the like. There's no doubt about it, whites (and Asians) are on top, so we must be doing something right (who developed advanced civilizations, gunpowder, electricity, etc...?). So those who are at the bottom had better do something to rise above.
May. 20th, 2009 12:08 am (UTC)
While there is some truth in your statement, there is less accuracy than you may believe. Rap and the music that came before it back into Blues and Gospel is a result of the conditions the music was created in.

There is an indication you also buy into certain racial stereotypes in your response. You hav indicated the problem is blacks don't pursue those things and instead invest more than other races in the theft, dealing drugs and the like. This is not actually shown to be the case, though there is certainly a higher conviction rate and higher sentensing. This due to the fact that if your from an inner city generally you are poor. If you are poor you cant afford private lawyers and other tools in your defense.

Your contention that Whites are on top is also erroneous. You concede the Asians of course dominate in finance for instance. Your contention we developed advanced civilizations, gun powder and electricity. The Chinese developed gunpowder and we got it from the Islamic cultures. Electricity existed in well before modern man. The bagdad battery is offered as proof. Certainly some western scientists refined our knowledge of it but many African Americans contributed to many of those discoveries. Advanced Civilizations? When europe was still shitting itself into oblivion the muslim was the home learning. When the Moors were driven out of spain we looted their libraries and found knowledge almost a 1000 years lost to us. The largest empires in history were not white but Asian and later Muslim.

Your contribution is appreciated but is completely baseless actually. A cultural acceptance of conditions may be accurate but the rest is actually nonsense.
May. 20th, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
I have complained about the idea of white privalage and corrective measure (affirmative action) for quite sometime. With a bit of thought (and reading other responses) I tend to agree that there is more of an advantage seen from a family's financial circumstances. Even with this though there are significant opportunities available to those in lower socioeconomic groupings. Avril is the first of her family to get a college education and had to face her share of difficulties to achieve the succes she has. She was able to do this through personal hard work, success in public education, financial aid programs, and a father who encouraged her to succeed as much as he was able.

I guess one thing to look at is the question of why there is a sense of pointing fingers rather than personal accountability and self improvement. If this is a matter of ignorance, then it can be corrected through education and public work. If it is a matter of laziness and resentment then it needs to just be sucked up and move on.

May. 20th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
I have risen above my own hard times and have a pretty good life as well. Effort can overcome a lot. It does not actually disprove or prove privilege though. Overcoming an obstacle does not disprove the existence of an obstacle. I just dispute the nature of the obstacle.
May. 20th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
White privilege exists, still. Not as sharply or overtly as 20 years ago or more, but it exists.

Unfortunately, I don't feel really comfortable trying to get into it here where you've got a bunch of people who disbelieve in it as well.

May. 20th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
I am a strong believer in polite disagreement and open debate. I understand if you dont comfortable discussing it here but I can assure you no one will be anything but polite no matter their beliefs on the subject.
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May. 20th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
The problem with the statistical argument is that it is dependent on corollary numbers. Statistically people who wear shoes are more likely to get cancer. So statistically speaking going with out shoes leads to a higher chance of avoiding cancer. This is an example of corollary evidence used to make an argument. It is nonsense and we all know that.

White privilege is an example of this as well. It is based on corollary evidence. It is only the historical aspect that allows it to carry any more weight than the other corollaries. It is also a form of racism. If the same evidence was used to suggest African Americans were more prone crime or not do well in school, then the arguer would be guilty of racism. It is okay to make a racist statement about white people but not in the reverse?

People don't make an argument about straight privilege. There is certainly still a very strong cultural advantage to being straight. Hell they are still making laws to establish different rules for gays in our society. They cant be allowed to serve their country. But no one argues there is a straight privilege. The main reason is it is a silly argument. But it is okay to make the argument about whites.

And the whole notion that I cant argue against white privilege because I am white is just weak. It is circular logic that lacks any value. oh because you benefit from the privilege you cant see it. your skinny. You can never have anything of value to say about being fat. You could be a nutritionist and and world class athlete, it doesn't matter cause you benefit from being skinny. It is a weak stance.
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May. 20th, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
This is another of those topics that I would love to talk about, but feel, note the word feel, that most persons who might discuss it already have their minds made up and are not ready to spout much beyond their personal political party lines.

That said, your discussion on wealth vs racial privilege has made me more intrigued.

My father's family was white trash. He went to work at 16 and worked his own way in the world. I did in fact benefit from his 60-80 hour work week ethics and money.

My mother's family was lower middle class. They made their own clothes, but by the time she was old enough to drive, helped her put a down payment on a car.

I don't have data, studies or anything scientific to really discuss this topic, except for my own personal experiences.

So far it has been up to me to earn my way in the world. My father taught me early on that if I wanted someone, I had to work to get it. I paid my own way through school. I gave up 5 years of my life for that (Army college fund). I bought my first car, paid my insurance, etc.

I have gone to school with rich kids, who drove BMWs, Jaguars and Mercedes cars at 16. They weren't all white, although I would say 6-7 out of 10 were.

May. 20th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
The argument is based on statistics and history. That is why it is even thought of to begin with, history. How many poor kids did you know growing up actually went on to do anything with their lives? How many of them made it to college? How many of them ended up flipping burgers or working retail? Would you atribute those results to wealth, race, how they were raised, number of parents, iq, or height? All of those ways can be used to look at the data. Imagine which one gets the most attention.

Your right in that it is all sort of intellectual masturbation in the end. I do not believe I will be changing anyone's mind today, but the discussion was interesting and stimulating.
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May. 20th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
As a separate opine on this subject, the idea that being white makes you unable to participate in meaningful discussion is terribly racist and not helpful toward fixing anything.
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May. 20th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
You are correct that many arguments used regarding "white privilege" are "wealth privilege". However, there are a number of roadblocks that stand in the way of any black person that white people simply don't have to contend with.

Take a friend of mine who has recently opened a cookie business: over the phone, people have no issues with him, however, when it comes to personal appearances, his race is an immediate mark against him. Business people assume he is hired help, rather than the owner, then when his position is made clear, become less open in exchanges: less likely to be receptive to opening a business dialogue/aid one another: et cetera. He recently participated in a vendor product demonstration, and so long as he stood at his own table, people generally "politely" walked past and on to other tables. He noticed that when he wasn't physically standing at his own table, people stopped, took brochures, sampled his product, etc. And those were people who would probably claim not to be racist.

I've black friends who get stopped by policemen and harassed simply for being where white policemen don't expect them: "what are you doing in this neighborhood?"

Given two relatively equally qualified candidates for a position, unless there is a specific company practice that encourages creating a diverse workplace employers will generally hire a white person over someone who isn't.

All of these things could be explained away as "not being racist", but the truth of the matter is that people generally invest in the stereotype of black men and women as less than motivated, less loyal, more apt to cause problems, commit crime, et cetera. And that perception is an invasive ongoing part of every black person's life. They have to go above and beyond the call of any white person to demonstrably act/behave in a way that isn't stereotypical, and then they get casually insulted (via misguided attempts to be nice) by white people and directly insulted by more 'stereotypical' blacks for not wallowing as part of the lowest common denominator.
May. 20th, 2009 03:56 am (UTC)
That being said, "white privilege" has an odd reverse effect that I've experienced in my own life. Since my disability isn't one you can necessarily ascertain via looking at me, I have had to go above and beyond the call of similarly disabled minorities to prove I'm in a position where it affects me in a way that somehow my race alone cannot overcome--i.e. I'm a relatively "young" white male who walks into offices and looks nice, speaks well, et cetera, so why can't/won't I just go out and get a job?

There was a time before I started receiving enough for basic living expenses from the Veterans Administration where I actively sought information on how I might be able to obtain welfare. I honestly never found it, because by reverse token, I had roadblocks put in my way that minorities simply don't experience. If it weren't for my father, who really couldn't afford it, himself, I'd have been one of many statistics of homeless veterans.

"White privilege" opens doors for success.
"Black privilege" opens doors that help you remain/exist in poverty.
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May. 20th, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
Okay, I wasn't going to say anything. But.

White privelege checklist
Male privelege checklist
May. 20th, 2009 06:40 am (UTC)
Those are really good links. Had to bookmark them for later. =)

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May. 20th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
It exists. I benefit from it every day.
My father made a deliberate decision to take an anglecized name, I won genetic lotto and came out much paler than most of my immediate family, who look mediterranean and use the surname Habib.

There are literally hundreds of instances in which I have noticed explicitly different treatment.

Calling it "White Privilege" is a deceptive shorthand. It is a social dominance privilege that is mostly present for White Anglo Saxon Protestants.

It manifests most dramatically with respect to African Americans and large immigrant populations, for historical reasons.

Wealth privilege certainly exists and exacerbates it - but think about the difference in treatment between an anglocentric wealthy african american, a wealthy african-american athelete, and a wealthy WASP.

George Bush got a DUI and went on to be president.
African American Atheletes with wealth who get DUI's are routinely lambasted in the media, with an undertone of "well what did you expect"
May. 20th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Re: It exists. I benefit from it every day.
George bush's father was an influential politician when his DUI happened and it occurred in 1976 when he was completely unknown. IT became a forgotten footnote. If it had happened during his run for election we would not have had him as president.

An athlete of any color who gets called up on DUI charges these days will get lambasted. The more famous the more they get cooked. Pete rose was certainly damn near crucified for his gambling charges. He would not have gotten the worse of it if he had been black as well.

I fully accept there are some few racists out there. I dont doubt it for a second. As a culture though we no longer find it acceptable to discriminate on the virtue of race. Privilege implies special rights and rules for your group. I have no special rights or rules. There are statistical statements someone can make concerning some likely hoods but they are essentially meaningless. People live their lives based on experience and environment. Statistics are good for predicting the lives of groups some times but not the individual.

What is more the label is used as a way to justify a racist view. Whites will get x, y and z and they will never understand discrimination because of white privilege. This is in of itself a racist statement. It also misses the point. There are maybe some predictors someone might make in the data but those predictors can made on many data sets. Instead we focus on race due to the historical reasons.
May. 20th, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
But what about my experience?
I confused the issue with famous examples. Here's the thing. I had people close to me who simply look mediterranean (ie, foreign) with a non anglo name. And really, the incidents I can testify to firsthand are too numerous to count.

My father lives very, very cautiously for fear of being persecuted as a result of losing jobs and other explicit harassment over the course of his career.

And in general, contemporary american society treats mediterranean features and jewish ancestry much, much better than African-Americans.

Here's the thing - I would *never* have noticed it except that my family were the people involved, and there was direct comparison. The treatment you are accustomed to receive is "normal" - you don't get discriminated *against* for these reasons - you can't know what didn't happen to you, or how common it is. Pointing that out is a statistical argument, unless we get race-change technology and time machines to prove the point about how *your* experience would differ. On the other hand, I bet you can easily discern instances of discrimination for weight/appearance. What you can't do without statistics is see how relatively prevalent they are. Racial discrimination is often more prevalent and more severe than other forms (again, statistically).

I can go into detail about specific examples from my childhood through to today if you like. People feeling that I am in their cultural group speaking derogatorily about people who share my ancestry to me freely because they felt that I was "one of them" in work situations, social situations, etc. And again, my social group isn't the worst off in the hierarchy! I can only imagine how much worse it is for others.

That's the thing - it is really something you can't see, because it's not the presence of favoritism, per se - it's the absence of discrimination. People don't go "heh heh - you're white! I'm not going to try to harass you to leave this booth so "decent customers" can occupy it" you just order coffee.

You may recall age discrimination. Most young people can recall being shooed out of places in their early adult lives - try to imagine what it is when this continues. It's invisible to you now because it doesn't happen to you. You have to watch how others are treated to see it.

May. 20th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
Re: But what about my experience?
I can't comment to your personal experience directly, I was not there and i cant point to the issues in question. Your father may have had reason to be concerned about the effect of race on his job 20 years ago, but today? Today he would be able to sue anyone who tried to discriminate against him in that manner. He is the one with special privileges in that situation. I cant sue if I loose my job for being fat, which I have in the past. I have no recourse. Why? Because discrimination against weight is still acceptable in society. That is why there are no laws protecting me on that point and there are protecting you and your father. One is acceptable in society and one is not.

Because discrimination exists in isolated cases does not confer privilege on the people not subject to them. They only have privilege if it is the culturally accepted norm, which racism is not. It is culturally acceptable for rich kids to get to go to all the best schools. There is prohibition against it on any level. There is no cultural prohibition on a minority student going to all the best schools. The privilege is not there based on race. What it is based on is finance which is acceptable to our society.

I do not object to the notion of there being statistical behaviors we might want to see changed. I object to the blunt club that is the term White Privilege which is used as both a way to nullify the input of one race on the discussion and a way to perpetuate reverse racism in the discussion.

Racism and discrimination does go both ways after all. I have been called cracker. I have been assumed to be a racist because i was white and southern. If the privilege is to be free from discrimination and racism then it clearly has failed me then.

Re: But what about my experience? - caudelac - May. 21st, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: But what about my experience? - technoir - May. 21st, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: But what about my experience? - caudelac - May. 21st, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 20th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
Still today.
Literally, within the last month, I've had three incidents. One was an acquaintance who assumed that I had certain racial suppositions in common with him in a casual conversation.

Another were a group of strangers at a bar, who didn't realize or care that I could overhear them.

Another was in the workplace, where one of my new bosses intimated that another of our employees wasn't "a good fit" for "cultural reasons"

It's there, just open eyes and ears. It is all over the place. And it is meaningful - the employee in question won't get the benefit of the doubt that another might somewhere down the road.

Again, it's not explicit privilege. It's getting benefit of the doubt.

Honestly, I think you are in a position where you not only don't see what didn't happen to you, that you do see what does happen to you, regarding weight-bias and socioeconomic bias, and that makes it look similar.

Statistically is the only way to gauge the similarity. Weight bias is actually pretty darn pervasive, and pretty significant in terms of impact, but while more common, it isn't typically measured to be as extreme in most people.

But for the idea that you can't find evidence of detrimental racism in practice in the last 20 years? You are fooling yourself. Ask and look around.
May. 20th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Still today.
Can I find a racism example? Of course. Does that equal a culture of racism being acceptable? Does that mean that is acceptabel to the society at large? No of course not. If you find someone doing so call them on it cause they are not the norm. They are the exception and society does not think they are okay.

It is okay in our present society to discriminate and insult people who are fat. Your weak, disgusting, and stink. A person can go on TV and say it and not get fired or lambasted. it is concidered funny.

Tell me which one has the privilege? People who face racism can appeal to the society and get recourse. Some one who is over weight cannot. Someone who faces possible racism may go and commiserate with others of their minority. They can sue. they can be proud. They can get aid in getting jobs and cgoing to college. I cannot. I can get fired from some jobs for being fat. I can't commiserate with someone else who is fat because the pervasive attitude about being fat infects the fat as well as the skinny.

Tell me where is the privilege? Privilege means special rights and rules in your favor. Being white does not confer that. White privilege is a catch phrase for saying whites have it easy at best. It is flat out an excuse for insult at its worse.

No one has yet told me why white privilege gets to be a thing that is accepted into acedemic circles, has books published about and repeatedly brought in almost any debate about race the past few years, BUT ....all of the statistical corollaries with the exception of sex get all but ignored. The fact the term exists is because we as a country are race obsessed and view the information through that lens.
Re: Still today. - lilisonna - May. 20th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Still today. - technoir - May. 20th, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 20th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
But there is a different between White Privilege and Racism. There is.

W.P. is the general theory that people who have paler skin in our society are at an advantage over those who have darker skin. It does NOT mean that there are special rights and rules in your favor; it means that your path does not have the obstacles that someone who is black might have.

Racism is someone being a dick to somebody else because of the color of their skin. W.P. is more generic and is spread out over a society. Racism is, generally, more direct.

Because you are white, you are statistically more likely to get a cheaper mortgage rate than someone who is black but has your exact same statistics. This isn't necessarily because some bank is being a dick (although some banks are), but because the white person will have better access to information on how to get better mortgages. They will have friends and family who have done this process before. Their neighborhood won't be considered as likely to have defaults, so the rate will be lowered.

Because you are white, you are statistically more likely to not be arrested, get a fairer trial, serve less time, have a lighter sentence than someone who is black.

Because you are white, if you adopt a black child, people will not call the police when you tell them that you are the child's adoptive father.

It means you grew up and were expected (generally) by the society to succeed and not fail. You had role models that looked like you, and you could find daily examples of people just like you who were successful in society and in your chosen profession.

It does not hold true in all cases. Some dark skinned people do well; some light skinned people fall on their face. But looking across the society, if you are white and male, you are generally going to have things smoother for you than if you are not.

You can't SEE this, because without really making an effort to look at it from the other person's perspective, there's no reason to notice it. There's no secret handshake, no catchy pass-word; there is merely the accumulation of centuries of habit, tradition, money, influence, and expectation.
May. 20th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
The problem with this is it infers an accepted cause and effect from the statistics which is not actually proven. Because i am white statistically more likely to succeed. because I am overweight I am less likely to succeed. Because someone else is taller than me they are more likely to succeed. Why is it we always come back to race? Why is that the important one? I can get the sexism one. There are cultural forces that still find it acceptable to deny someone something based on sex. They cant serve in direct combat roles(though that is lessening) They cant be priests in many religious sects. It is still okay to occasionally make fun of women being ineffectual. People still enjoy the I love Lucy bits which do this pretty solidly.

Race is the one gets trotted out though, with the exception of sexism it gets more play. Mainly because we are as a people obsessed with race when it really does not have as much of an effect on your relative success as say being born with money. The reason it is okay to bring up white privilege is not because it confers privilege which is in fact defined as special rules or standards separate from everyone else. It is brought up to say see white people wont understand because they have never faced real racism. This is in of itself a racist statement. I have faced racism in just not the kind people think of. I get told I am racist because i am white and southern. I get called cracker. I get told I don't belong in a neighborhood because I am white. But I am privilege and there for dont have to deal with racism.

Cant you we just say some people are getting the short end of the stick for various reasons. That something should be done about that. Does it have to be about race? Does it have to be about nullification of my perspective because I was born of the wrong skin color?
(no subject) - caudelac - May. 21st, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
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