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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.


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.

May. 21st, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
Re: But what about my experience?
Today he would be able to sue anyone who tried to discriminate against him in that manner.

Not necessarily. He has to be able to afford to sue, and know how to go about it.

Look, it's not isolated. It's pervasive. It's not crime or overt racism, it's something you can't report. It's the way that I am expected to be smarter and more successful than my dark colored siblings and cousins. It is the way that my dad hears all kinds of stuff from Florida good ol' boys till they learn who he's married to, and then their attitude subtly shifts.

It's the fact that being intelligent, well read and articulate is even referred to as "acting white" by anyone. The term is not something that cuts you out of the conversation. The term means, as I've tried to make clear, that /not being aware of your racial difference, or having the feeling of 'difference' applies to the fact of your race is a privilege."

That's all it is-- a kind of blissful ignorance that is very easy to maintain, by not actively trying to figure out what other people's experiences are, or by denying that their personal experiences are relevant.
May. 21st, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
Re: But what about my experience?
Ah so white privilege is some form of slow child now?

As to denying peoples personal experiences, I am not. What I am saying is there are many ways to look at things. Race privilege is one. it is not the only one. It is not even the most accurate. You see the world as filled with racists that get away with being racists. I see the world as being a better place than what used to be. That blaming things on a level of racism that was once the case but now is rapidly receding is missing out on a lot of other very valid reasons. I am not saying there are not people who face racism everyday. What I am saying is that has become unacceptable and it is becoming more and more infrequent. And when i say this is based on my personal experience and my looking into other peoples experiences, then I am told my perspective on the matter, my personal experiences don't matter.
May. 21st, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
Re: But what about my experience?
You see the world as filled with racists that get away with being racists.

No, that's not the case. I'm saying that there's a difference between racism and what's going on when people talk about privilege.

And no, it's not slow child. I'm saying that when you say your experience has shown you no race bias, I'm saying of course your experience has shown you no race differences. My experience has. A lot of other differences too, but we're talking about that one right now.

If you want to talk about any others, I'm open to those conversations. But don't say that race is a conversation that's over, because that's the impression I'm getting here.



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