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View Diary: A Reflection on Racism and White Privilege or My Experience at the Safeway Store (103 comments)

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  •  I think I have problems with the word "privilege" (4+ / 0-)

    for that reason -- it sounds to me as if it means that everyone should, by rights, be treated shabbily and that it isn't fair that white people are exempt. I know that isn't the intention, but it sounds that way.

    I'm wondering if I have the same feeling about "male privilege." E.g. males have the privilege of being able to go for a walk in the woods without seeing large signs warning them not to go alone (something that always upsets me -- how taken-for-granted it is in some places that we women shouldn't expect to enjoy solitude in nature). Honestly, I get so angry about some of the ways that women's movements are curtailed by threat of male violence that at first glance, I don't mind calling men's exemption from all that "male privilege." It helps me express how pissed off I am that women have to make daily decisions about where to go and what to do with the awareness that someone might decide to physically attack and torture us. And yet, when I calm down a little, I wouldn't ultimately want to call it "male privilege," because again, that implies that I think basic human rights -- like the right to go for a walk without being sexually assaulted -- are only a "privilege." I don't have any great ideas for what I would want to call it, but not that.

    Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

    by Noisy Democrat on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 12:41:48 PM PDT

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    •  This always makes me laugh (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonedevil

      We white people are always going on about how uncomfortable the word "privilege" makes us. As if having the word attached us itself is somehow more of a burden than not having the privileges.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:03:34 PM PDT

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      •  Though I believe in this case (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cameron Hoppe

        I was talking about how I, as a woman, would be uncomfortable attaching the term "privilege" to men, in a description of what ought to be a basic right.  Therefore I would submit that my reasoning isn't a knee jerk aversion to being called someone who has "privileges," but a deeper concern about how this kind of framing is counterproductive and misrepresents some important things about our social problems and the best solutions.

        In the case of "white privilege," I continually ask -- and have never gotten much of an answer -- how making people aware of "white privilege" will lead to some kind of constructive action. Frankly, I don't see how making men aware of "male privilege" would help much either, but again, if someone has an explanation of how it could help, I would sincerely love to hear it. I do think that making people aware that many of our citizens routinely have their human rights violated might help, by catalyzing public outrage against the perpetrators and changing a culture that takes these kinds of violations for granted. Or maybe it won't help -- I don't know. But I've had a lot of difficulty visualizing how framing things in terms of "privileges" will encourage a positive change. Maybe I just don't understand the full program that people intend when they're working on raising consciousness about "white privilege".

        Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

        by Noisy Democrat on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:15:47 PM PDT

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        •  Except.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tonedevil

          I am pretty sure you decided you didn't want to attach the word to "male" because you did not like the way it made you feel as a white person. So, it really was about white privilege.

          As for your question about how using the phrase works: it worked on me, and it's worked on a lot of other white people, both on this site and elsewhere. I went through much of my life being completely oblivious to the racist aspects of our institutions, and to the privileges I had as a white person. Seeing lectures on white privilege, reading stuff from various authors like James Baldwin opened my eyes. It also made me notice how often white people always want to re-name stuff to make us feel better about ourselves. Maybe the reason you and others are not comfortable with the term "white privilege" is because you have not come to terms with all of the connotations of what it means and made peace with it.

          Why do some white people like yourself balk at the very idea that we have privileges, while others like myself have no problem owning up to it and trying to work with people to change the situation? Why are we so concerned about hurting the feelings of those with the privileges rather than caring more about those without?

          Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

          by moviemeister76 on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:28:30 PM PDT

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          •  Excuse me? (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aitchdee, pigpaste, Sychotic1, orestes1963

            I explored my feelings of anger about male privilege and my temporary willingness to attach the word "privilege" to it in order to express how much it pisses me off -- and then decided that on balance, it would be better not to call it "privilege." You then claim the right to tell me what I was thinking and feeling and why I decided that way? Excuse me? Do you have any idea how sexist and obnoxious it is for a man to presume to tell a woman what her thought processes were on an issue like that? "Mansplaining" isn't even a strong enough term.

            To address your other point: Yes, we white people have privileges out the wazoo. Compared to the treatment of people of color in much of this society, we can expect to be treated with kid gloves. We have advantages that would take a couple of pages to list. There, I've admitted it, I have no problem admitting it, and I don't feel defensive about it. It's an obvious, indisputable truth that there are massive advantages to being white in American society. Frankly, I don't see how anyone could even argue otherwise. There. Your argument that I don't want to see how good we white people have it is effectively demolished.

            However, I still question whether "privilege" is the best framing for it. And I still reject the "male privilege" framing for sexism, for the reasons I stated above, rather than for any reasons that a man wishes to push on me.

            As for why I'm concerned about hurting people's feelings -- that isn't it. I'm concerned about a way of framing things that doesn't lead to better communication, doesn't lead to action, and doesn't help get us to a better society. However, you said that this specific framing helped you to see it. How was it more effective than any other framing?

            Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

            by Noisy Democrat on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:36:19 PM PDT

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            •  Uh (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Tonedevil

              Well, first, I'm a woman. So, there's that.

              Second, you are apparently not fine with admitting we have privileges because you do not wish to refer to them as that If you were truly fine with  the fact that we have privileges, why would you have a problem referring to them as such? Why would it bother you so much?

              It worked for me because that is what it is. It's basic grammar. Lying about it, trying to spare my feelings and the feelings of other white people, doesn't work for me. Honesty is key.

              Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

              by moviemeister76 on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:44:19 PM PDT

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              •  I don't mean to pile on. (4+ / 0-)

                I think what Noisy and I agree on is that being treated decently and fairly, given a presumption of innocence or goodwill by law enforcement, receiving a legitimate chance at a good education--we don't see these as privileges.  We see them as reasonable expectations, entitlements, rights of everyone living in these United States.  The term privilege doesn't touch on what's lost when those things aren't extended to everyone.  A privilege is just that--a nice thing to have that not everyone deserves.  The stuff that's been unfortunately labeled as "male privilege" and "white privilege" are usually things that should be guaranteed to everyone.

                I appreciate your low standards ;)

                by Cameron Hoppe on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:37:22 PM PDT

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                •  That's kind of the point (0+ / 0-)

                  The term is supposed to be both uncomfortable and ironic. What we white people view as normal and basic decency is considered a privilege by folks of color. The term comes from the perspective of a person of color, which is not something most white people are used to, I know.

                  However, it's about more than just rights we have. It also refers to the fact that white people have the privilege of being ignorant about not only our own history, but the history of others. We are protected from it, whereas people of color are not.

                  Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

                  by moviemeister76 on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:01:21 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry, I thought you were a man (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                moviemeister76

                When a woman presumes to tell another woman what she's thinking and feeling about how to talk about sexism, that's just garden-variety annoying but not sexist. My bad. In any case, my reasoning about whether I like the term "male privilege" was based on what I think about calling basic decent treatment a "privilege," not on anything else, and I don't believe anyone of either sex has sharp enough ESP skills to tell me otherwise.  

                I don't like the framing of "privilege" (and it is a framing, not a fact) because I think it doesn't help people communicate. I will certainly concede that we have plenty of what you can call privileges, if you like. I prefer to call them "basic human rights," "fundamentally decent and fair treatment," and things like that. The fact that not all of our fellow citizens are  being treated in those ways is a huge problem. I don't like the idea that these "privileges" are something that I and others don't deserve (since privileges are usually something not deserved) and that, by implication, if we lost them so that everyone was being treated equally badly, there'd be nothing to complain about -- just loss of a few privileges. I'd say in contrast that if the direction that we go in is one in which everyone is treated equally badly, we've screwed up. The goal should be to secure proper respect and rights for everyone.

                Oops, I now see that Cameron has already made the same point below, but now that I've typed all this, I'll post it anyway.

                Bottom line: If talking about "white privilege" works as a wake-up call for some people, then it has its place. But long-term, as a core strategy for how to frame the issues, I just don't think we should be calling basic rights, privileges. There's a reason we have a Bill of Rights, not a Bill of Privileges.

                Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

                by Noisy Democrat on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 08:53:35 PM PDT

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                •  I think I see the point (0+ / 0-)

                  Thing is, you are arguing from a white perspective. The whole point of the term "white privilege" is that it is deliberately from the perspective of a person of color, and I wonder if that is why so many white liberals find it to be an uncomfortable or even offensive term.  We have gotten used to having everything framed from our own perspective.

                  Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

                  by moviemeister76 on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 12:49:30 PM PDT

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                  •  I've found an interesting study (0+ / 0-)

                    which says that framing things in terms of "privileges" does work to raise consciousness and make white people less racist:  http://data.psych.udel.edu/...(15)/Powell.pdf

                    I'm still concerned because the idea of "privilege" still implies to me that we should learn to get along without them -- e.g. white people should get used to being feared and distrusted on the basis of skin color; sexual violence against men should be considered legitimate since women have to put up with it -- but if research indicates that this framing has a measurable positive effect and may actually do some good in the real world, that carries some weight with me.

                    Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

                    by Noisy Democrat on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 12:54:43 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I always took the term as ironic (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Noisy Democrat

                      It's not saying that no one should have what we have as rights. It's mocking the fact that white people see them as basic human rights, but people of color do not get them. In that way, they have become privileges reserved only for some.

                      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

                      by moviemeister76 on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:09:04 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You know, if that explanation were commonly (0+ / 0-)

                        offered, it would do an awful lot to make me feel more comfortable with the whole thing. "These things should be basic human rights, but instead they've become privileges. You have these privileges and other people don't. This is a huge problem." I can get behind that wholeheartedly. I was resisting the implicit idea that these things are supposed to be privileges. But when you put it that way -- yeah, obviously, we white people have privileges out the wazoo. We should be working to make them rights that everyone has, but far too often, they're just our privileges.

                        Does appending that bit of explanation to the framing undo the intended power of the frame?

                        Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

                        by Noisy Democrat on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:13:40 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  I think you may be partially right (0+ / 0-)

                    It reminds me of the West Wing episode in which cartographers argue that the globe should be represented with the Northern Hemisphere on the bottom.

                    I think though that the framing of "privilege" does carry more than one meaning -- and it's not only that it's an unfamiliar vantage point from which to look at the white situation (or the male situation, for that matter -- it is rather new for me to think that men have the "privilege" of walking down the street at night without worrying about rape). Privileges can be revoked, privileges can be taken away, etc. When I try to imagine a society in which white people aren't "privileged" to feel OK about their skin color or aren't "privileged" to think that their skin color is irrelevant when they go to cash a check, for instance, I imagine that we've built a society in which everyone has to take a certain amount of crap due to their race and everyone is just supposed to suck it up and accept that it's the human condition to be abused on account of your race, but at least now the misery is shared out more fairly. It's harder for me to imagine that we've arrived at a society where the privileges are shared out more fairly, because that isn't where a "privilege" model naturally leads my imagination. That's why I keep asking where we're going with this model.

                    But if the one study I've found so far is right and shifting to a "privilege" framework can help, I can conceivably get behind it -- but with a lot of reservations, still, because of not knowing how we formulate the goals within the "privilege" model.

                    Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

                    by Noisy Democrat on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:05:51 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  The fact that you went through most of your life (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dr Swig Mcjigger

            unaware of American racism indicates that you lived a very sheltered, segregated life.  It is that experience that is the problem in American society, not so-called white privilege.  I grew up white in a poor/working class urban environment where whites and blacks (and later latinos) interacted daily, albeit not always lovingly.  

            Although you claim to be enlightened now (sic), your chauvinism continues to shine through in your quickness to try to tell someone else what she is really thinking and intending.  See, you really haven't come that far, but at least you get to feel holier than thou.  It's shameful, frankly.

            •  "so-called" (0+ / 0-)

              First of all, I was not unaware of racism. I saw it all the freaking time. I have commented in the past about how my dad is a racist.

              I was unaware of white privilege. I was unaware of some of the more institutionalized aspects of racism. There's a difference.

              And I actually grew up poor and mostly lived in communities that were racially mixed. So what? Anyone who can actually put the tag "so-called" in front of white privilege has no right to lecture anyone about being holier than thou.

              Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

              by moviemeister76 on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 12:46:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

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