Let me start by saying that I may not be the best person to write this diary. I am a blond, blue-eyed WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant), and I have benefitted, directly and indirectly, from the system of white privilege for my entire life. However, I have been around dKos for a long time, and I would like to start a respectful discussion of something that is too seldom discussed here, the effects of a system of white privilege and color-blind racism.
This diary was sparked in part by a question raised the other day by MrChris in discussing the reaction to President Obama's Nobel Prize:
"Is it possible there is racism on both sides of the spectrum?" and "Could unrealistic expectations [for President Obama] exhibited by some be a sign of the 'you must perform twice as well to call yourself equal' paradigm"?
I see these as valid questions upon which to build a good conversation.
There is no question that the dKos community reacts strongly to overt racism. Many diaries and commenters called out the middle-aged teabagger who wanted her country back and the suburban Philadelphia country club that refused to admit African American children to its pool last summer.
We seem much less willing to talk about the less obvious system of white privilege that was built in this country over a 300-year period and that affects the ways we interact with each other on a daily basis. It is the elephant in the room.
Bill Bradley was one of the first national politicians to raise the issue of white skin privilege. He raised it when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000. On August 15th, 2000, he said the following:
White skin privilege is the flip side of discrimination. While discrimination is negative overt, white skin privilege is negative and passive. It’s not something whites intentionally do. Rather it’s a great blind spot that most whites are unaware of.
When I was a rookie in the NBA, I got a lot of offers to do ads, even though I wasn’t the best player. My black teammates got none. I felt the offers were coming to me because I was white. That’s white skin privilege. If you’re white and your kids are stopped by police at night, you don’t fear they’ll be mistreated because of the color of their skin.
Let me pose a hypothetical question. We have all supported Alan Grayson (D-FL) for speaking up for the Democratic wing of the Democratic party and calling out the Republicans on healthcare. It is important to remember, however, that some of the most liberal and progressive members of Congress are the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. How would we (and America) have reacted if those same words had been spoken by, say, Maxine Waters. Would she have been dismissed as just an "angry black person"? Would she have been treated the way that Michelle Obama was treated by the press during the presidential campaign?
Do we, as white people, unconsciously think of white as normal and everyone else as the "other"? Do we benefit because other white people think that way? I know that I have driven around with burned-out headlights, broken tail lights, and a missing tail-pipe, but I have never been stopped for "driving while black." I have never been hassled for driving the wrong kind of car or driving in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time of day. I have walked around an Ivy League campus and never been asked what sport I play. This is a part of white skin privilege.
As columnist Sean Gonsalves said:
White-skin privilege is never having to think about this unless some loud mouth like me brings it up. Of course, that's not a luxury black folks can afford.
As Julian Bond wrote back in 1997:
Acknowledging and understanding white-skin privilege is the vital first step in any honest dialogue on race. A forthright, candid internal exchange among whites is a necessary first phase, the predicate to interracial conversation.
I want this diary to be the beginnings of a dialog. We can't just assume that no real progressive is racist. It is easy to call out the old white guy who brought the monkey doll to the Palin rally. It is much harder and more painful to examine our own unconscious assumptions and attitudes. We need to talk about the system of white privilege. This is the only way that we can truly build a fair and just society for our kids and our grandchildren. Let's talk.
As a final note, I decided to post this, in part, because Pat Buchanan was bloviating on MSNBC about how Obama's Nobel Prize would give him a sense entitlement. What?? If we are going to talk about a sense of privilege and entitlement, we need to talk about his predecessor, W. W's entire career was based on entitlement and white privilege.
You may want to take a look at eco's diary as well