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View Diary: Barack Obama on White Privilege: And Why We Need To Listen (231 comments)

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  •  that is a nice fiction -- Bullsh*t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    I've had both rich white and rich black folks call me "poor white trash", and had to swallow the insult because they were my landlords and I didn't want to be evicted.

    BTW, they were conservative Republicans.

    I've been homeless six times in a Republican state.  Have you ever had a cop tell you you were a "traitor to your race"?  Have you ever had business owners tell you you have the right to be homeless?

    •  you need to seperate individual experiences (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian Reifowitz

      from macro level claims. no one ever said being poor and white was easy. but, the data is what the data is.

      take a step back.

      •  Chauncey, if I may. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MKSinSA

        Can I focus on Midgebaker's reaction for a second? I know you didn't say being poor and white was easy. But what you did say came across to her as you saying that being poor and white was easy. Your tone -- to midgebaker -- suggested that being poor and white was easy. It suggested that being poor and white was easier than being rich and black, and maybe even easier than being "middle class" and black.

        Now you didn't say any of those things or even get that specific, but that's what your words suggested or implied or whatever to her. I know you said your concern isn't in convincing whites, etc., but you are here dialoguing with her and replying to her. She isn't someone who has been, in an overall sense "privileged" compared to the average American, even though she does benefit from white privilege. We can talk about white privilege, but to be successful, we always have to remember that individuals don't live "macro level claims" but live their own lives. You talk to individuals. Telling someone who is poor that they are "privileged", rather than taking a nuanced approach to their white privilege that first acknowledges how they are disadvantaged in the ways that they see every day (like, they can't afford much of anything) is just going to mean they dismiss any truth you want to deliver. You can't be a truth-spreader if people can't hear your truth.

        My point in this diary and this comment is that everyone can make their points more effectively, can move people more effectively (and isn't that the goal of public dialogue?) by delivering the facts and the truth with some empathy. Now maybe I'm wrong about the purpose of public dialogue for you or for anyone else. That's fine. My diary is aimed at those for whom public dialogue is about convincing people. But I'm really glad to have the opportunity to talk this through with you. Because I think your truths are very valuable, and I'd like to see you be able to spread them more widely. You've influenced me and I hopeful to be able to influence you as well. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant, but, as I said, to me that's the whole point of publishing one's words. To influence people and spread one's ideas. Vice versa, the point of me reading other's words is to get myself better educated and motivated. It's a two way street.

        •  My criticism is simple (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ian Reifowitz, MKSinSA

          When you deny and dismiss the personal life experience of an individual as "fiction", you essentially deny and negate their dignity and humanity. No good can come of this.

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 10:14:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  i wish that folks would take so much care and (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves, Ian Reifowitz

            concern when they talk about the experiences of people of color and the black and brown poor. funny dynamic that they are not so empathized with and defended, is it not?

            white privilege and the white racial frame colors many things, does it not?

            •  Some people do (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MKSinSA, Ian Reifowitz

              it's a shame that you've apparently never met any of them. Or perhaps you just didn't recognize them when you did.

               

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 03:35:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

                •  Do you really think (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ian Reifowitz

                  life can be lived by statistics? Do you really want standards set by the lowest common denominator?

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 06:56:20 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  i live in the world as it is nice as we dream (0+ / 0-)

                    it to be. i ain't that lucky to have luxury and privilege to live a lie.

                    •  That's not really an answer, is it? (0+ / 0-)

                      It's an assertion that your version of reality trumps everyone else's. That doesn't leave much room for discussion, does it?

                      Nothing human is alien to me.

                      by WB Reeves on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 07:17:14 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  there is much evidence about the lack of (0+ / 0-)

                        empathy by whites/"Americans" towards people of color who happen to be poor. Check out Why Americans Hate Welfare or even the recent survey data where white respondents, especially conservatives, are much more likely to believe that black people are subsidized by the state, are moochers, and vote for the democrats because they "get welfare and other goodies" from that party.

                        The Southern Strategy and Romney's more recent use of symbolic racism is both a reflection of this anti-black animus while also encouraging it.

                        Remember WB I am an empiricist, we have a great deal of data about racial attitudes and poverty policy. As a student of politics, surveying the national scene, I would hope you see the obvious about the intersections between race/class and other types of animus and stereotypes.

                        Don't be so naive.

                        I would also check out a foundational book in American political development called Protecting Soldiers and Mothers which tracks the idea of the "deserving poor" and the "undeserving poor" and how race is part of this narrative.

                        Don't fall into the right-wing dream world where a thing is true simply because you will it to be.

                        •  Excuse me (0+ / 0-)

                          but the issue between us is the treatment of individuals, not macro social trends. I'm not so "naive" as to ignore the distinction between the two. Neither am I so "naive" as to be ignorant of where doing so is likely to lead.

                          This is what you actually objected to:

                          When you deny and dismiss the personal life experience of an individual as "fiction", you essentially deny and negate their dignity and humanity. No good can come of this.
                          To be fair, you didn't really disagree. In fact, you indicated that you would like to have such solicitude shown for your own dignity and humanity as well as that of all black folks.

                          What I find odd is your apparent belief that you can demand such treatment for yourself without committing to treat others in a like fashion. Only the Mitt Romney's of the world can managed that trick.

                          In the real world, to borrow your phrase, demanding that others observe a higher standard towards yourself than you are willing to observe towards them only works if you're rich or otherwise immune to social consequences.

                          I'm in no such position and I very much doubt that you are either. Apparently, neither is Midgebaker.  

                             

                          Nothing human is alien to me.

                          by WB Reeves on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 10:19:22 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  what i said was (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Ian Reifowitz, WB Reeves

                            that I have no use for white fictions and deflections that try to ignore macro level realities through appeals to individual storytelling.

                            i have no interest in such games. sorry. those are common deflections when white privilege is discussed--i am white, poor, and not privileged! acknowledge my pain before we can start talking about other issues!

                            no interest. old con game that enables white skin privilege and white supremacy (again). as i said, poc have been imminently patient on such matters to what end?

                            once more, clean up your house and you can deal with such people who want their "pain" acknowledged in a society that is structured around maintaining white privilege and subsidizing white mediocrity. until you realize why many people of color would not rush out to hand hold and coddle white folks you are not going to get one of the basic issues of the color line.

                            we have chatted a few times. i believe your heart is in the right place. however, i do think you are not getting how such a request is a bridge too far for black and brown folks in this country and to ask for such empathy and generosity is really insulting and exhausting in many ways.

                          •  Be a realist then (0+ / 0-)

                            MLK showed empathy and delivered truth. And got results. And that was at a time of far worse racism. If we want to win the fight against racism, we'll be much more successful by showing empathy toward those -- in particular those who have little themselves -- we're trying to convince to give up something--privilege.

                          •  where did mlk show "empathy" for white (0+ / 0-)

                            supremacy and white racism?

                          •  This is itself a diversion (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Ian Reifowitz

                            We aren't talking about ideological structures. We aren't even talking about those who occupy the commanding heights of the social edifice that maintains those structures. We are talking about those who live under such structures and are confronted with the choice of acquiescence or moving into active opposition.

                            MLK's entire strategy was predicated on the efficacy of a moral,social and economic appeal across the color line. His final great initiative, The Poor People's Campaign, was a  testament to this.

                            One can agree or disagree with his judgement. However, it cannot be written out of his legacy and it certainly doesn't deserve comparison to "empathizing" with white supremacy or white racism.    

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 12:26:11 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  king was a master provocateur who understood how (0+ / 0-)

                            to shame white america and push white elites in the context of the cold war to act in their own interest by confronting jim and jane crow.

                            even during the height of the movement white public opinion was very split, the plurality (from memory of some gallup data) were either indifferent to black civil rights or actively opposed king. hell, most white people thought that blacks in america had "equal opportunities."

                            what a joke.

                            he was, as you know, at the time of his murder one of the most unpopular people in the united states.

                            you asked me to be 'empathetic" to the racial paranoia, white racial resentment, and investment in the psychic wages of whiteness as paid to poor white people. in this context that is empathy for white racism. king would have had little of those sorts of feelings.

                            pity and sadness for those lost souls, and certainly king had discussed how white racism hurts white people, but empathy? doubtful. but he was complicated and unless we have full access to his archives and thoughts we would have to do some work to get a definitive answer.

                          •  Chauncy (0+ / 0-)

                            I've never said anything remotely like this:

                            you asked me to be 'empathetic" to the racial paranoia, white racial resentment, and investment in the psychic wages of whiteness as paid to poor white people. in this context that is empathy for white racism. king would have had little of those sorts of feelings.
                            I don't I think I've ever actually asked you to "empathize" with anyone. If I'm wrong about this, just point out where I did so.

                            In any case, this is obviously your take. My repeated efforts to clarify my position to you don't appear to have done any good so I guess we  will just have to let it lie.

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:07:12 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You know that's not what I said. Come on. (0+ / 0-)

                            You talk about this monolith of white racism. I'm talking about how to deal with people who are in a particular economic situation and who are resentful but yet reachable. If you view whites as a monolith, you miss the opportunity of reaching the reachable, and of advancing the goal of fighting racism.

                          •  Chauncey (0+ / 0-)

                            I appreciate you giving me the benefit of a doubt. I recognize that's a tough thing for you to do. Given the social reality we inhabit, it could hardly be otherwise.

                            Let me try to be as clear as I can. I'm not asking you or any person of color to do anything "for" whites as a class. If I didn't think it served your interest, I wouldn't bother to bring such points forward.

                            If you'll allow me a military analogy, it isn't enough to know the location of the enemy army. One needs a thorough understanding of the intervening ground and the disposition of their forces. In particular, any disaffection that would tend towards desertion.

                            It's fundamental to my viewpoint that appeals to altruistic principles that ignore the actual material interests at play are next to useless. I have no delusion that patience, forbearance or charity on the part of the oppressed will lead to anything other than greater oppression. I agree with Frederick Douglass that "Power has never conceded anything without a demand. It never has and it never will."

                            I suspect the difference in our perspectives, putting aside the obvious differences in our life experiences, is rooted in differing views of where the wellspring of oppressive power is located. It seems to me that you locate it in the realm of culture. I don't.

                            I think history is clear on this point. Economic interest, rather than cultural bias, was the motor that drove the construction of white racism and white supremacy. Likewise economic interest, both real and perceived, maintains these structures in the present. I don't think that any strategy that ignores this central reality has a prayer of deconstructing white supremacy.

                            Not everyone agrees with this analysis. I have no illusion that I alone am competent to pronounce the final word on these questions. I only present it for consideration and for what usefulness others may find in it.

                                 

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:31:04 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  crude economic materialism that does (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Tonedevil

                            not understand the relationship between material realities and the cultural, psychic, and ideological artifices that create and sustain it is ultimately very, very, very short sighted.

                            you speak of economic interest, but you ignore how whites from the birth of white supremacy to the present are deeply moored and grounded in more than how whiteness is a type of material property, but also how it is cultural and psychological.

                            if "culture" was not important then why do those whites you are trying to reach with your class analysis consistently choose racial identification and loyalty with white elites over alliances of shared class interest across the color line?

                            history is anything but "clear" on your crude materialism on these matters.

                            check out some of goldberg's work or even folks like stuart hall, judith butler, and others on this cultural part of the story. the essays in the 1993 book on rodney king and issues of culture and visual representation would be helpful. if you want to go "old school" check out Jordan's classic White Over Black.

                          •  Calling the analysis "crude" (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            kj in missouri

                            doesn't make it so.

                            Also, I do not dismiss the importance of the cultural matrix but it is an effect, not a cause. We disagree about the history as well. Slavery gave rise to both white racism and white supremacy and slavery was an economic institution. It's purpose was profit. If it hadn't been profitable, we most likely wouldn't be having this conversation.

                            I'm not asserting that racism and white supremacy will simply disappear if you liquidate their economic basis. I am saying that they will never disappear if you don't.

                            Thanks for the reading suggestions.

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:55:28 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  economics and culture comingled at a certain (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            kj in missouri, Tonedevil, WB Reeves

                            point to sustain the institution and the society it created.

                            racism is both economic and psychic/attitudinal.

                          •  Nothing to disagree with here. (0+ / 0-)

                            If you'd like a glimpse of my very personal view of the impact of culture you can find it here. A caution, you may find it disturbing or upsetting but as you know, attempting to tell the truth often is.

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 01:50:38 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

            •  I do too. And people do, even if not everyone. (0+ / 0-)

              But remember, I'm talking about political strategy. People of color already are on board with fighting racism and supporting necessary measures to rectify injustice. I'm talking about how to win converts to that cause.

        •  common deflection--xyz social reality (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tonedevil

          and documented phenomenon does not exist because i cannot reconcile it with my personal experiences. that mess is tiresome.

          "My point in this diary and this comment is that everyone can make their points more effectively, can move people more effectively (and isn't that the goal of public dialogue?) by delivering the facts and the truth with some empathy. "

          Empathy? Again, who is empathetic towards black and brown folks in America? This occurs often when we are asked to talk about systems of oppression and privilege. I have no interesting in being "empathetic" to those invested in whiteness and who benefit from white privilege. To ask black Americans, and others with like experiences in this country to do that, is more than absurd, it is a type of myopic arrogance.

          in my teaching and other work i always acknowledge how it sucks to be poor in america. i also spend alot of time talking about the invisible white poor in america. now, this does not mean that all of the life chances data, and other metrics about race are meaningless.

          i love it when white students often deflect with, "well xyz doesn't describe me or my friends so it can't be true."

          that is silly and facile.

          i say okay, you and your friends are magical outliers, what does that tell us about the many many other cases and data points that we have?

          colorblind racism works by flattening and making equivalent the experiences of racism and other forms of domination experienced by people of color with other types of inequalities...especially as lived by white people in America.

          as i said before, there is no area in life where being a person of color, a black person especially, is an advantage in this society. as such, i cut that meme short whenever it is used, especially by the "i am poor and white defense."

          funny thing, "poor" white people have more assets and income than "middle" and "working class" people of color in America.

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