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View Diary: Privilege; What it Means to be White. (158 comments)

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  •  I think the whole concept is a losing argument (10+ / 0-)

    First, most whites don't believe they are privileged.  Second, if you convince them they are, the last thing they want to do is LOSE something they have.

    When is it ever a winning argument to tell people you want them to LOSE something they already have?  It quite naturally pushes them into a defensive mode.  You want to take something from me?  Whoa, I better defend myself first.  It becomes all about ME.  They're not thinking about your problems at that point.  You've become a threat to them.

    •  And third, the best way to fix a problem (6+ / 0-)

      Is to quibble over commonly accepted phrasing...
      You may be right, but the wording is what it is.  You can fight one fight to bring all our brothers and sisters the same higher level of "privilege" and respect, or you can fight TWO fights, one over wording and one over the actual problem.
      Your choice.

      •  You're wrong (5+ / 0-)

        Phrasing sometimes makes all the difference. Words have power.

        None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

        by gjohnsit on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 03:59:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  of course and words change meaning as well (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Youffraita, I love OCD

          Note how the RW has succeeded in branding liberal as a pejorative and how they are working on terms such as affirmative action and political correctness to re-brand those terms.  So why do we concede the linguistic ground every time?

          •  NEVER concede the linguistics. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            entlord, Tonedevil

            Turn it on them:

            Why do you hate your base? Why do you want to make your voters poor? Why do you think your voters should die for lack of health care? Why do you think their babies should die for lack of milk?

            Why do you want the rich to get richer while your electorate grows poorer?

            Why do you HATE PEOPLE?

            ...and so on.

            Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

            by Youffraita on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 01:34:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I was already a threat to them (19+ / 0-)

      This society is built on a presumption of danger from black males. That's what has been ubiquitous from the origination of slave codes and the formation of slave patrols down to Nixon's Southern Strategy and Reagan's welfare queen and Bush I's Willie Horton ad to Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant

      The presumption that the presence of black males was a threat is the reason Charles Stuart and Susan Smith could say " black guy did it" and they would be believed.

      Talking about white privilege is not what makes me a threat; being black is. Being lumped in with any black person who commits a crime is. Driving a car that's too new or living in a house that's too expensive makes me a threat...and even if no one ever talked about white privilege again... I would still be a threat.

      Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

      by awesumtenor on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 04:47:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But what's more useful? (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Be Skeptical, gjohnsit, Youffraita, hmi, MHB, Choco8

        Talking about how I'm the beneficiary of white privilege? Or talking about how you're the target of racism?

        I had a boss who couldn't drive his car on the Mass Pike. I once got stopped in New Orleans because someone told the cops that a man with a 'black voice' was at her door. I can't imagine what they would've done if my skin was black, too.

        So I'm completely aware that my life is buffered 'round with white privilege. But I'm also not convinced that 'white privilege' is the best way to identify the problem. Racism is the problem. Without racism, there can be no white privilege.

        I guess I'm not entirely sure what the phrase brings to the conversation.

        "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

        by GussieFN on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 05:11:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What does it bring? (23+ / 0-)

          It reminds us that we have - and GIVE - privilege based on skin color.

          White Privilege isn't just something that White people have. It's something we offer up to other White people as a matter of fact. We don't think about it, most of the time, but we do it.

          Every time we don't shrink away from a White man in an elevator, or cross the street when a tall White man walks towards us, or when we leave a White person alone in the store where we work because we figure they're less likely to steal....

          We are giving them the benefit of the doubt. Because we (consciously or unconsciously) offer them those privileges and many others based solely on the color of their skin.

          People need to stop thinking about White Privilege as something we didn't ask for and are given - we need to start thinking about the way we treat others, and stop showing that privilege to those who share our paler skin.

          And if you're one of those who has miraculously eradicated every last trace and vestige of unconscious bigotry from the deepest recesses of your mind, kudos to you. You're a rare breed indeed. Even the most enlightened of us generally makes those mistakes and assumptions far too often.

          I think the first step would be this: Instead of complaining about the terminology and feeling attacked by it, realize that it exists. If you're White, you have it. Even if you somehow manage to treat everyone equally, you still GET that treatment from others. Swallow hard and just DEAL with that fact, and work to eradicate it. Work hard to treat all people equally, regardless of skin color or anything else.

          It's a White problem. It's White people giving other White people the trust they deny to people of color. It's White people giving themselves privileges they deny to others.

          This is why it's called "White Privilege" and why we're the ones that have to fix it.

          "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

          by Diogenes2008 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 07:05:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This! (8+ / 0-)

            People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. --V for Vendetta

            by WFBMM on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 07:39:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  But that's circular. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gjohnsit, Youffraita, MHB, stormicats

            My question is, 'do we give white privilege based on skin color, or are we racist, and beneficiaries of racism, based on skin color?"

            I think 'white privilege' is a cop-out. Every time we don't shrink away from a white man, that's privilege? Maybe. But maybe every time we do shrink away from a black man, that's definitely racism.

            And the goal here isn't the erase that privilege, is it?

            You say that we "need to stop showing that privilege to those who share our paler skin."

            That strikes me as loopy. We don't want to get rid of the privileges that adhere currently to whites. We want to extend them to include non-whites. I don't want cops to start abusing whites. I want them to start respecting blacks.

            I think the first step is this: instead of avoiding the terminology 'racism,' realize that it exists. If you're white, you've got it. Swallow hard and just DEAL with that fact, and work to eradicate it. Don't feel so attacked.

            "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

            by GussieFN on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 08:05:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thank you (9+ / 0-)
              We don't want to get rid of the privileges that adhere currently to whites. We want to extend them to include non-whites. I don't want cops to start abusing whites. I want them to start respecting blacks.
              That's just common sense.
              It's too bad that something so basic still needs to be explained here.

              None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

              by gjohnsit on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 08:30:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Bingo! (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GussieFN, Cassandra Waites

              Gussie, that's how I've felt all my life.

              I am still struggling to overcome the racism my mother tried to instill...but at least I know it's there and that it's irrational, and that my mother was a racist.

              I might never completely overcome it: but as long as I know what I'm struggling against, I can fight and refuse to admit defeat to what I loathe.

              I hope that makes sense.

              Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

              by Youffraita on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 01:39:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I gotta agree with GussieFN (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hmi, GussieFN
            It's a White problem. It's White people giving other White people the trust they deny to people of color.
            No, the problem isn't what white people give anyone. The problem is what white people don't give other people.

              Put another way: do you stay up at night worrying about what one white person is giving another white person?
              If you do then you are the one with the problem, not white people.

             If you are normal then what bothers you is what isn't given to you that you think should be a common courtesy.

              In other words, what bothers you is racism, not white privilege.

            None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

            by gjohnsit on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 08:29:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No. (17+ / 0-)

              Because White people can go through an entire day, or week, or month... and never think about the color of their skin.

              That's a privilege afforded to them.

              Black people are reminded daily, by the way they're treated in our society.

              We have the privilege of not having to think about racism and how it affects others, every single day. They do not.

              Until that changes, we still have a privilege they do not.

              Even if you're not racist - you STILL get that freedom.

              "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

              by Diogenes2008 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 09:01:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  ^^^This^^^ Very well put. (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Diogenes2008, zizi, sngmama, Tonedevil

                The GOP says you have to have an ID to vote, but $ Millionaire donors should remain anonymous?

                by JVolvo on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 07:12:15 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I still don't see how it helps (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                greenbell

                to frame that as a privilege that we accord to white people instead of racism against non-white people.

                Of course I'm privileged by not being the target of racism. But the problem isn't my privilege. It's my racism.

                "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

                by GussieFN on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 08:22:05 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Because it's something you have (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  stormicats, Denise Oliver Velez

                  And you don't even have to know about it, or think about it...

                  If you frame it as "White Privilege" it makes White people uncomfortable. That's the first step - get them (us) THINKING about it.

                  And why the hell shouldn't we be uncomfortable for a change?

                  Other people are mistreated every damned day because of the color of their skin. They don't get that benefit of the doubt; that trust based on skin color.

                  We need to share that discomfort until it affects us enough to do something real about bigotry and racism.

                  Until everyone is comfortable, nobody should be.

                  But we are. And most of us don't know it, or don't think about it, or don't care. That has to change.

                  If this term bothers you - GOOD. It has you thinking, then.

                  "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

                  by Diogenes2008 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 08:55:05 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm not sure that calling it (0+ / 0-)

                    'racism' makes white people more comfortable. In fact, quite the contrary.

                    Believe me, if you frame it as 'racism,' it makes white people plenty uncomfortable.

                    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

                    by GussieFN on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 10:13:00 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  To a degree, it does make them more comfortable (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Tonedevil

                      Because then they can just deny that they have any in them, as most already do. Even the most ardent racist will generally deny it.

                      Racism is something that the "other guy" exhibits. It's an act, and is something that can be denied or ignored.

                      White Privilege is a state of being that applies to all Whites, regardless of their actions. That's why it makes Whites uncomfortable, and why it is necessary.

                      People need to understand that it isn't conditional on their individual behavior. It is a fact of life, and one we need to deal with.

                      Having it doesn't make you a bad person - unless you realize you have it and just don't give a shit... or intentionally perpetuate it.

                      Awareness is the first step, acceptance is next, and then the willingness to do something about it should follow - at least (in my opinion) for anyone who considers themselves progressive, or liberal, or whatever terminology you prefer.

                      "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

                      by Diogenes2008 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 11:49:21 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  But yes (3+ / 0-)

                  The problem IS our privilege - and the fact that it allows us to ignore the reality of the situation if we choose. Because for us, it IS a choice.

                  If we don't realize that we have that privilege, and that we ALL need to be involved in getting rid of it, then it is far too easy to say "That's someone else's problem".

                  It's not my problem because I'm not really racist.

                  It's not my problem, because I didn't cause this.

                  It's not my problem, because I'm not Black, and this is a problem Black people have, not White people.

                  No. It's our problem because we have it, we offer it to others even unconsciously, and because we benefit from it every single day even if we don't think about it.

                  It's up to US to fix it. The onus is on ALL of us. Those who give it, and those who get it. ALL OF US (White people).

                  "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

                  by Diogenes2008 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 09:01:07 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  omg so many money quotes here (7+ / 0-)

            but this is the top one:

            Even if you somehow manage to treat everyone equally, you still GET that treatment from others. Swallow hard and just DEAL with that fact, and work to eradicate it. Work hard to treat all people equally, regardless of skin color or anything else.

            Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
            Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

            by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 04:48:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  No, I don't want a PROBLEM to DEAL with (0+ / 0-)

            Telling me this is my PROBLEM loses me.  I don't want hear what else you have say. I don't believe guilt is a reliable change agent.  I don't believe guilt motivates people to make rational decisions.  In fact, it sometimes works in reverse.  

            Let's be blunt here, how many white people haven't encountered the excuse that adding a black person to the team may be disruptive because the person may have a chip on their shoulder which is going to make life more difficult for the supervisor.  If there's one sad fact I learned over my working life it is that hiring decisions are often made based on what is going to make things easier for the supervisor and when the supervisor is a bad manager that often means the supervisor just wants some good old boy who will barely get the job done but won't make waves.  

            I never met a hiring manager that wanted to obsess about their white privilege.  

            •  It makes you uncomfortable, does it? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Denise Oliver Velez

              Good. Then spend some time thinking about how uncomfortable those who do not have this privilege are, every single day.

              It won't hurt you to think about it. It won't hurt you to open up and realize you're getting privileges denied to others.

              What will hurt you is allowing the discomfort to close you off from the pain others feel because they do not have that benefit of the doubt.

              "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

              by Diogenes2008 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 09:05:06 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  There is just so much ironic about your post (2+ / 0-)

              The fact that you justify your behavior by saying that since hiring managers don't think about white privilege then neither should you is hilarious. Of course most hiring managers probably don't think about it. That's the whole point of both institutionalized racism and white privilege. The way racism is perpetuated today is due to white people either being blind to their privilege or, like you, choosing to ignore it.

              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 Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 10:25:15 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  that is the problem; rights are not a finite (0+ / 0-)

      resource.  Your having rights does not affect my rights, unless you wish to argue that the rights belonging to your fist do not end at my nose.  What people frequently argue they will lose as "rights" are really advantages.  I note many people who argue against AA have no problem with legacy college admissions.  So in their minds, rights depend on which womb you occupied

      •  But few are altruistic enough to choose to give (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Be Skeptical, gjohnsit

        up advantages so framing the discussion that way is counterproductive unless you are actually asking to take something tangible away from whites as you might be with affirmative action and even there I don't see how framing the discussion of AA that way would be productive.  I'd sell the benefits of a more diverse student body not the desire to reduce the privileges of the white student body.  

    •  What? (5+ / 0-)

      It's not about taking anything away from white people except our rather common lack of ability to see it. Where did you get that from? It's not a zero sum game.

      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 Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 09:56:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  who says they have to lose it (7+ / 0-)

      why can't we bring everyone up to the same level rather than bring anyone down to the lower level?

      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 04:46:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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