Salon published a piece called Dear White America: I know it’s hard, but you have to acknowledge what’ s happening in this country. The commenters don’t feel the same. In practice, white people hate hearing about “white privilege.” The most recent comment starts like this:
Let me tell you why terms like “white privilege” and “check your privilege” not only doesn’t apply to me, but pisses me off. I was taught as a child that color didn’t matter, only how a person acted. I’ve gone to school with and worked with people of various ethnicity and never treated them any differently than I treated anyone else. And I haven’t waltzed through life on a street paved with gold, either.
There are lots of willfully stupid assumptions in this one paragraph.
The person means she was explicitly told by parents and schoolteachers to believe that color didn’t matter. That’s a very narrow understanding of “what I was taught as a child.”
Repeating that you had a black friend in response to an article about why that’s irrelevant to systemic racism is just obnoxious. It’s just being belligerent about not listening or engaging with any of the arguments.
She continues about street paved with gold:
I was divorced when my daughter was 5 years old and my ex took off and didn’t pay child support. I had $10 and no job. I got a job, I begged a man who owned a cabinet shop to hire me even tho I had no experience and he already had 2 women working and didn’t have any jobs open that he felt women could work. It was minimum wage job. Groceries were bread and lunch meat. I had to get up in the middle of the night on cold nights to go start the car and let it idle or it wouldn’t start in the morning. I took my daughter to a churches and other places that gave away clothes and school supplies, and shopped at the Salvation Army store on days when they had their $5 for everything you can stuff in a bag sales.It took 90 days to get our first foodstamps, $250 a month, and to get approved for state medicaid and daycare.
I found a better job in telemarketing, but we still lived paycheck to paycheck. And with no help from the state because I made too much. $7 over the limit. That’s how much “too much” was.
Has she considered that social services are deliberately degrading because there’s a cultural assumption that they’re for black people?
The difference between white people and black people is that, in the same situation, the owner of the cabinet shop would’ve been less likely to hire her. As if there were a lot of small businesses and you could make personal arrangements like that. More likely, you’re one of hundreds of people applying for a job at a retail franchise in a totally impersonal process. She barely got the job as a woman, because the guy said openly sexist stuff. Surely he wasn’t about to hire a black woman in the same situation.
She’s now self-righteous:
I’m finally in a great job, with good benefits, and for the first time in my life paying income tax .And I got here by working my butt off and doing without for a long time. So when I’m told that I have this built in privilege and supremacy — I’d like to know where it was for the last 20 years when I was wondering how I was going to keep a roof over our head and food in our bellies.
She can’t imagine that it might be even worse for other people. She’s arrived, now that she’s a taxpayer and enjoys a semblance of a social safety net.
Finally, she has a solution to the problem:
I know that there’s racism and inequality in our country, but it’s not as rampant as you’re making it out to be. Why put a wall up in front of people who aren’t racist and are sympathetic? Why act as if no one else ever struggles? Don’t assume that we’re doing nothing. I taught my daughter to treat all people the same. That’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do.
Is it as rampant as the social scientists say that it is? If not, can you explain what’s wrong with their methods? Is having the occasional talk with your daughter the only thing you can imagine doing?
When you say “white America”, you lump us all together as if we all think the same and all share the same life experiences. We’re not and we don’t. And we can’t make the people who are racist change the way they think and act. All we can do is teach our children to treat everyone equally and for them to teach their children the same.
In fact, racists listen more to other white people. If they’re acting all racist and the other white people laugh or look the other way, their racism is encouraged. White people have the power to stop tolerating racism in each other. Many of them choose not to exercise that power.
And that works for “black America” as well. Don’t teach your children that they’re not as privileged as someone else or that “white America” is all racist people who hate them. America can’t come together until everyone teaches their children to look past skin color.
Lecturing someone about their privilege is racist, in case you haven’t thought about that while you were pondering how to fix things. Telling someone that they should feel guilt for past sins done by their ancestors or for current sins done by others who happen to be the same color, is also racist. And it’s not okay for anyone of any skin color to be racist.
I know you are, but what am I?
Do black people have permission to tell their children about the factual, extensively documented prevalence of racist white people like this lady? Notice that the response to “pondering how to fix things” is a dismissive sneer and putting the niggers in their place. There’s an actual abdication of responsibility, sort of like the way black people are stereotyped to be. Irresponsible and racist? I know you are, but what am I?
There’s more brilliance a few comments down:
This author is so concerned about “white privilege” she doesn’t see how she’s being played. “Divide and conquer” is a classic response to challenges from below. Now that the 1% has the black underclass squared off against white progressives, all they need to do is watch, eat popcorn, and laugh.
The comment is implying a mythological past in which Martin Luther King himself didn’t complain about white liberals. The collective behavior of white people is so bad that black people are reduced to insisting their lives matter at all. In this person’s mind, everything was A-OK until the black people started attacking the heroic Bernie Sanders. If black people would just lie down and play dead, the white people will take care of them, no problem.
At least this person is honest:
Here’s my problem with the constant pushing of the term “white privilege”. It’s coupled with the assumption that if only one acknowledged that privilege, one would do anything to give it up. When has that ever been true? When people realize they have a privilege, only the most self-abnegating fight to give it up. If you don’t believe me, read some blog posts by airline mileage collectors who are furious that another person can get the same status by using an airline branded credit card.
And not getting murdered by cops should not be a privilege, it should be a presumption. I think we are at a moment in time when we are realizing that some of our citizens are not being treated as they should. Sandra Bland was a young woman who was pissed because she was getting a traffic ticket, and got her head slammed into the ground and jailed for that sauciness. Despite some conservative pundits pretending they are always sugar sweet to cops, I think the vast majority of us are pissy when getting a traffic ticket. It’s shocking to think one could end up in jail over it. If you keep pounding in that it happened to her because she was black, and it would never happen to you because white privilege, that causes distancing. It makes one care less, not more. If the reaction is not “holy crap, what if that happens to me the next time I mouth off to a cop?” Instead it’s “Oh let me check my lily white skin – phew – that will NEVER happen to me!” How on earth do you come out ahead?
This is the core of it. White people do react that way, and it’s a profound moral failure on their part. They ought to be ashamed of themselves instead of raging at anyone who dares to complain.