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Most of my diaries are pontifications...me telling you (dear reader) what I think you should think, or do, or how someone somewhere is doing it all wrong fer chrissake.

This, however, is not one of those diaries. This time...and maybe only just this once...I want you to tell me a thing or two.

The modern dialog monologue regarding white privilege has fallen on receptive ears here. My lifelong commitment to civil rights (unwittingly sowed by a father who was a vile racist and xenophobe) was based almost exclusively on moral grounds (we really are all children of God, goddamit, and damn well need to act like it). But until perhaps two years ago it was never a particularly introspective position -- I never really stopped to see how I, personally, fit into the bigger picture of endemic institutional racism throughout the world. But now, slowly, I'm beginning to get it.

In a way this is pretty ironic, as my own grandparents were themselves victims of (and ultimately crushed by) institutional xenophobia, from the moment they shuffled, coughing and covered in weeping sores, out of steerage and onto Ellis Island with little more than an onion and a stub of sausage between them. Their names were taken from them (and with that, all hope of my ever knowing who my ancestors were). Their culture (what little of it they might have had, beyond Christianity and a reverence for the next cabbage to grace their plates) was similarly stripped away. And then they were fed into the maw of the machine: one of my grandfathers died of black lung in the coal mines, the other a broken, penniless drunk, and both of my grandmothers eked out ragged lives as washerwomen, always on the edge of starvation or homelessness. And yet, they had one precious advantage they were never even aware of as such -- a privilege they were able to hand down to their children, and their children's children, and which insured that my own life would be so much better than theirs: their skins were white. Their children were able to cast off their parents' own Mark of Cain -- thick incomprehensible language full of Zs and strange, curlicued consonants in endless parade -- learn unaccented simple English, and blend in among the native-born. Today, no one would look at me and think other than "there goes a reg'lar good ole boy."

Life -- lived properly, anyway -- is a voyage of discovery, and mine perhaps more than most. In 1965 my childhood innocence abruptly came to an end when I discovered a war waged by my country half a world away, where crusaders in my name were melting innocent children with napalm and stealing their limbs with bomblets that looked like toys, leveling villages in the act of 'saving' them, carpet-bombing a nation from a safe 30,000 feet up, and spraying millions of gallons of toxins over vast swaths of jungle.

Revolted, I revolted; over the next decade my life would be largely defined by my own small actions against the war which, like one tiny trickle joining many others to form a stream, and then a river, and finally an ocean's crashing waves, battered away at the imposing cliffs of war and finally (but, God I'm sorry, far too late!) brought them tumbling down. I took more than a few lumps (both figurative and literal), did some time, clocked more hours under interrogation than I care to recall, and put the 'normal' course of my life's development on indefinite hold. Don't misunderstand, though: it wasn't a sacrifice by any means. I was becoming the person God created me to be. But had my skin been any color other than white, it more than likely would have been a grave sacrifice. Like as not, some of the shit I pulled back then would have been met with either a bullet or a crowd of steel-toed head-kicking boots and battering rifle butts. I didn't realize it then, but even in rebellion my pale skin was my impenetrable shining armor.

It is damn hard to sustain that level of intensity for a lifetime (nor, I would argue, should one even try; rebellion is a young man's game). I certainly didn't. I talked my way into a state college (without benefit of a high school diploma, my white skin working its magic yet again), collected a passel of degrees, did some pretty good science, earned a prestigious position at a leading university (a liberal white faculty surrounded by a sea of black poverty), married my best friend (with her fatherless child in her arms), had another kid, found them good, safe (and, of course, lily-white) public schools, and saw them safely through college. Along the way I became disgusted with the pointless, self-absorbed life of the academic (this academic, anyway), went into commerce, worked my way up through that industry (again playing my white-skin ticket), built a company of my own, cashed out, and moved to the soul-healing quiet of a horse farm (surrounded by white Southern Baptist neighbors who warned me not to go down into the city after dark because nigras).

Just as all politics are local, so too all civil rights are personal. As a professor I found myself quite naturally taking to the few outnumbered, awkward, silent students of color in my courses, taking the best of them under my wing and managing to help get a couple of them into the best professional schools. As a business executive it was pointed out to me more than once by HR that I seemed to be unusually inclined to fill open positions with people of color, and women of color at that. This was always said in a congratulatory tone (helping the company post good statistics), but I always had the feeling there was quite another sentiment entirely buried deep beneath those comments. None of this was anything like a sacrifice on my part. It all made me feel quite good about myself.

Today, in my peaceful semi-retirement, I find myself devoting more and more of my free time to political causes again. I'm a regular at Moral Mondays rallies here in North Carolina (remembering, as I do, how much it heartened me in my youth to see the occasional old person marching in anti-war demonstrations, how their mere presence seemed to magically shield us youngsters around them from the worst of the police brutality). I donate more than I probably should to young, promising progressive political candidates, and to progressive causes. I don't ring doorbells or stand around on sidewalks registering voters...I wish I could, but that's just not my style. I publish diaries here at DKos that I hope will touch others (like this one I'm particularly proud of, and which brings a tear to my eye every time I revisit it).

In church, in my work, and in the community, I refuse to stand silently by in the face of misogyny, homophobia, or racism. I open my mouth and call others on their assholery when I witness it. And, increasingly, in private at least I call myself on my own, as well.

And yet, it just doesn't feel like enough. Not nearly enough. Don't misunderstand me: I'm not riddled with some kind of white guilt. Like anyone else, I'll play most every advantage available to me (although I do draw the line at screwing others). But I am increasingly weighed down by the awareness of how undeservedly blessed I have been, and how, in dutifully passing those undeserved blessings on to my children, I have quite unintentionally reinforced that legacy of privilege. I want to do something more, something personal (which giving money, however important it may be, is not)...but I honestly can't think what.

So, like the title says: White? Check. Privileged? Check. So now what? Help me out here.

Originally posted to DocDawg on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 08:42 AM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, White Privilege Working Group, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  One white guy to another: (18+ / 0-)

    Listen. Put your ego aside. Don't focus on "tone" or "politeness" or any personal affront when a person of color is telling you something about your privilege, our culture, or even something you did that was offensive or hurtful to them. Avoid the urge to be defensive and just HEAR what they say.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 08:46:19 AM PDT

    •  Sound advice. Thanks. (3+ / 0-)

      To which I can only add that once you have listened...or, rather, have developed the habit of listening...then move beyond merely listening. How have you done that?

      •  A very fair counterquestion. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DocDawg, Audri, watercarrier4diogenes

        One that merits a longer answer than I can spare time for at the moment. But I can tell you that doing the above will make the next steps more clear.

        "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

        by raptavio on Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 06:00:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  OK. Here's a start at a longer response: (5+ / 0-)

        Politically, it's easy. Support laws that strengthen protections for minorities against having their voting rights restricted or compromised; support laws that give minorities the opportunity to seek justice when they are discriminated against; oppose laws that disproportionately impact minorities; promote laws that increase transparency and accountability for our law enforcement.

        Socially, it's harder.

        When it's just us white folk around, no minorities to listen in, that's when it happens. You know what I'm talking about. The friend who tells a racist joke; the colleague who whispers how "they" wreck "their" communities; the cousin who is tired of paying taxes for "welfare queens" to sit on the porch all day and do nothing.

        Things you know they'd never say in the presence of a minority, but when it's just us "Regular folks" around, well, that's different, right?

        Make it not different. Have the courage to say "Don't be that guy, Bob." Have the strength to say "That's really racist and untrue, Steve." Have the integrity to say, "That's not okay, Mary, and here's why."

        It's easy to make paeans to equality and justice, say, here on the GOS, or on Facebook, or wherever, in public, and feel all warm and fuzzy about it. And that does, in some small measure, help. But the real change happens if we live that change where nobody's going to give us an attaboy for doing it, and it might even ruffle feathers or cause hard feelings. Making your private conduct meet your public ideals is the best thing you can do.

        That also goes to how you treat other people, too. Coworkers, colleagues, customers, waitstaff, the man in the street. Take a moment to mentally evaluate whether your perceptions and your conduct might be influenced by the race of the person with whom you are interacting (or avoiding interacting). Do what you can to not be part of the structures that give white people unearned privilege that is denied minorities.

        I guess these are starting points.

        "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

        by raptavio on Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 02:39:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great suggestions, thx! Here's another: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jbsoul, kickiewickie

          I tend to like creative activities with just a hint of guerrilla to them.

          If you're a college alum, look up the racial composition of the student body at your alma mater at the U.S. Dept. of Education's excellent IPEDS resource. Here is an example page for one of my alma maters, UC Irvine. Note that blacks comprise 2% and Hispanics comprise 22% of undergrads. Now go to the U.S. Census Bureau and look up the relevant geographic area's racial composition (example here for Orange County, CA). Two percent black, 34% Hispanic. I was surprised to find that Hispanics are so under-represented at a Southern California state university. Rest assured that I will soon be contacting the Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations to politely but firmly ask "WTF???" And I'll encourage some of my more progressive fellow alumni to do the same. I'll do this prepared for a mealy-mouthed answer such as "lack of sufficiently competitive candidates" by asking the follow-on question, "and so what is UCI doing in the community to assist in better preparing latino students for a UC education?"

          Money talks. You can use your economic power in many different ways to help address institutional inequality. How many faces of color do you see employed in the businesses you frequent? If it's way out of line with demographics, ask the manager why. And if you get shit for an answer, put your items down and walk away. Then ask some of your friends to do the same.

  •  From one more white guy to another: (7+ / 0-)

    You can't be serious, man.

    Everyone makes choices, but it is incomprehensible to assert there is just no alternative but to ride the white privilege gravy train and spend a lifetime profiteering on its spoils.

    American history and world history are rife with examples of white people who did more than just banked a shitload of money and occasionally donated to charities.

    Read. Talk. Consider what others have done to better the world and challenge the forces of ignorance, expropriation, oppression and injustice. Ask what you and those around you might do to further those struggles.

    Take risks and consider activist steps more dramatic and committed than throwing a few stray bucks at worthy causes. Good luck.

  •  I'd Say it Depends What Opportunity Comes Along. (18+ / 0-)

    Seems like you've done some part already to help make society a little more open and level playing field. I don't know that it's your job solve the whole problem for the rest of us.

    I'm not sure you're exactly perpetuating privilege just by moving around within it; the gardens don't steal rain from the desert or perpetuate the rain on themselves, even as they benefit from it.

    Let's think about your term "personal:"

    Are you looking for a problem you can fix or significantly advance using mainly your personal efforts, which would seem to be something on the scale of bringing some kind of special opportunity to a small number of local people for example; or are you looking for some important cause that you can invest a lot of personal energy into.

    If it's the former, I would think there would be organizations on the regional and local scale that would be reasonable to contact and see what kinds of needs there are that feel like a fit to what you think you can help achieve.

    It might be something as small as helping one or a few local kids stay or get back on track in school, or inspiring even one to a career where they could make a contribution. This happens among our own all the time; at mom's memorial a neighbor had praise for mom's inspiration to go into nursing, which we can be pretty sure wouldn't have happened without that intervention. Obviously you understand the concept of "privilege" to know that such inspiration is a lot easier to come by in mainstream white circles than it is in minority circles. So maybe you could nudge the odds better for a few people.

    For the bigger things, well 2 big civil rights issues unresolved in the wings are the undocumented immigrant problem, and marriage equality. The latter has little to do with whiteness but it is, like immigration, a case of society legally marginalizing some of the little people, something that justice demands be ended.

    Then there are the 2 biggest issues of all: our system of government does not work as advertised and, evidently, as intended, which makes it hard for we the people to get anything fixed, and climate change, which is on track to eventually inflict the mother of all casualties on humanity.

    As to how your efforts make you feel, well first there's no equivalent of "carbon free" living with respect to racial privilege, because it's structural privilege on your side just as it's structural prejudice facing other people. You don't operate the structure, you can't avoid benefiting from it except rarely where you can see somebody throwing hardballs to someone right next to you while you get the softball.

    So you can't live privilege free and you can't live immune to an occasional angry response from someone who's behind one of society's many 8 balls, and briefly only sees you as one more lucky bastard.

    One thing we who are privileged need to accept is that life for a while is going to be like working in the customer service department, something I've had to do for a living and try to come home at night with any kind of sanity and no ulcers.

    I didn't design the crappy product, or build the customer's item together with 3 screws missing, but here we are today, they've got a raw deal, and it's my job at the moment to hear their complaint even though I didn't create the situation.

    We privileged are going to have to live with that until there isn't any mass privilege and prejudice left in society. All we can do is as many underprivileged people repeat, is listen, sometimes we have to let a person vent, maybe there is something we can personally do to help and maybe not.

    It sucks but it's a pretty minimal suck.

    Good luck with your search. It sounds like you have some resources and good intentions, there are certainly many problems local and global, large and small that can benefit from those assets.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 09:43:22 AM PDT

  •  Did your father sometimes (9+ / 0-)

    yell really loudly that black people should all go back to Africa? Mine did. He was a big fan of Archie Bunker on "All in the Family", but just like so many of the stereotypical fans of that show, he completely failed to realize that Norman Lear was making fun of people like him.

    You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger.

    by mstep on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 10:14:27 AM PDT

  •  The first step is to admit that you have (9+ / 0-)

    benefited from privilege - which you have done. It dismays me, as a white male, that so many, even among those who self-ascribe as progressive, just flatly refuse to consider how they have privilege, and benefit from it. All kinds of red herrings are put up - such as how they struggle - as if that in and of itself negates any privilege they may have had.

    Admitting privilege is necessary, but far from sufficient, however, to contributing to any solution. We also have to be willing to faceup to individual instances of our ignorance and not being helpful when there were opportunities to make a difference. We have to be teachable, even to the point of sometimes swallowing the bitter medicine of having our blind spots made bare.

    One way in which we have privilege is that we can treat this very subject as an intellectual exercise. People who don't benefit from that privilege don't have that luxury. We must be willing and find ways to challenge the system.  

    For myself, since ACORN disbanded, I've wondered if there's any organization that has any similar qualities, or if one can start up.

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 10:33:25 AM PDT

  •  a person at dkos, a white middle-aged female (13+ / 0-)

    commented in a diary recently that she asked her friend, the black male person, to stand behind her at the demonstration because she was less likely to be a target right away. I lost track of where I read this, but I'm sure another dkoser can link it.  It's time for white people to "start taking the hits" (in terms of bullets) she said. I agree. And several others quoted her. perhaps someone can rescue that thread if it's not already front & center.
        I have always been the one to benefit from white female assumptions and privilege. Wish I could share it. Perhaps I can if this is the tipping point.
     

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 10:39:05 AM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary, DocDawg (13+ / 0-)

    Recognizing the role of white privilege in your ancestors', yours, and your children's lives is something that few American men do. Perhaps the largest group of those who resist the idea are young white males. Doors open and they think it is native ability. Reaching them is a difficult task.

    You have done so much in your life to act upon your ideas. Writing here about that journey is the best thing you can do besides what you are doing otherwise.

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 12:35:40 PM PDT

    •  Thank you, Steph (0+ / 0-)

      As you know, I greatly respect your own work to make the world a better place as well, and you've written your own beautiful diary regarding the path that led you there. But let me ask: per the topic of today's diary, how do you see your own work in the light of the issues of civil rights, white privilege, and race relations? I think (heck, I know) that it is all too easy for I've-had-it firebrands to diss highly individualized creative efforts that don't involve simply raising hell. Have you met that, too? How do you deal with it (internally, as well as externally)?

      •  Thank you, DocDawg (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DocDawg

        I actually see the in-the-streets actions as necessary as the legislative actions, the initiative process, and the kind of social action that you so kindly mention that I do with pets of the homeless. It all works together. You have to have a public presence to exist otherwise you are invisible. Sometimes I wear a chicken on my hat and sometimes I dress up in my most expensive blouse. It is all tactics and all valuable.

        In thinking about civil rights, I see that individual's and communities' rights have not only been submerged by corporate super-civil rights but have actually been curtailed. I think that applies to all of us--black, poor, white, female, male.

        We have an aristocracy now. The more the citizens realize that, the more we can recognize each other. When we can embrace each other as fellow human beings, we can reclaim our rightful places in a more just society.

        I think community conversations are important. The Oregon Humanities Council sponsors these in small towns all over with great topics. We don't do enough of that. When we talk, person to person, we can breakthrough.

        We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

        by occupystephanie on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 02:02:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  They aren't completely wrong. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jbsoul
      Perhaps the largest group of those who resist the idea are young white males. Doors open and they think it is native ability. Reaching them is a difficult task.
      It kind of IS native ability, in a way: they were born that way.

      But it's hard to reach them because they don't understand the significance of what was actually involved.

      •  Oblivious, really (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco

        I've seen that breakthrough, however, in college classes. (One more reason to avoid online college where there are no other students or any discussion.) It is a very hard thing to break through and that is where the humanities are so important.

        I remember one Toni Morrison book we read where a character was named guitar because he saw one in a store window. When the denials of white privilege happened, I asked everyone in the class to raise their hand if they had at least one musical instrument in their homes growing up. Everyone raised their hands.

        Sometimes it is just a matter of imagination.

        We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

        by occupystephanie on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 01:48:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Above and Beyond the Pale (7+ / 0-)

    Your rummination on the nature of white privilege  and your desire to relinquish , or at least avail "coloreds" some of it is indeed laudable. Going outside of the "picket pale" is a stance not too many white liberals are willing to even consider.
    It is notable  that you have already painted with the  conventional progressive civil rights brush both personally and politically and are willing to entertain new ways of leveling the fence.
    Since you are christian and I am- and (yes dkos there are many progressive liberals who are bible quoting praying christians") I feel free to offer you spiritual advice from the good book on how to advance on problematic matters concerning social justice:
    Pray
    ....ask god for divine revelation on the matter and watch your true purpose reaveal itself... Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened onto you....
    I love and welcome your spirit as the mind of christ  bro keep up the "good" work...

  •  time of the Great Invitation (4+ / 0-)

    summed up as
    'this is the time of the Great Invitation to Awareness and Action' by Molly Sturges

    I found inspiration at a writers/thinkers institute called the  
     Sitka Symposium this year.
    Speakers and participants mentioned a plethora of actions and I've got a list going.  Maybe you'd like to consider some of these:

    create a food coop/ improve the public health of your community/ work for better funding of public schools - especially in Ferguson, MO/ teach financial basics to parents, workers, small business owners/ sponsor a refugee child/ mentor high schoolers/ endow a scholarship for college students/ teach at community college/ participate in large publc demonstrations/ mentor returning veterans/ report as a witness on any number of crises in our time/ tell the stories of your family/ tutor immigrants in literacy, citizenship preparation/ lure businesses that hire people to the depressed parts of your town, county, state/ serve at a soup kitchen/ go listen to your elders, even in assisted living facilities/ fight for more funding for community colleges (America's second chance)/ sponsor tickets to plays and concerts for people under the age of 30/ patronize businesses owned by people different than your family/

    I'm still thinking about Rankism by Robert Fuller, considering how to make democracy work, and trying to figure out how to leverage my training in education to relieve our children (6 and under to start with) from high-stakes, standardized testing.  

    "If I’m wanting what I don’t have, I’ve got to do what I ain’t done” from the song “First Light. by Grant Dermody 2010

    by RosyFinch on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 02:10:09 PM PDT

  •  Blessed is just a term (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martini, silverfoxcruiser

    That changes based on POV. Being poor in America is no good thing. But I'd rather be poor in America than many other places. In that sense even the American poor are blessed. Everything is really a shifting POV. I'm blessed to be in  a country where I'm not arrested for collaborating with others in anti government protests, or where we aren't bombing within our own borders, and when incidents like Ferguson there is media coverage and large scale discussions in the appropriate use of force.

    You don't have to do anything and nobody is asking you to. Just listen to the disadvantaged and try to help them where you can. Because from someone else's point of view you're likely disadvantaged too.

    Unless you're a billionaire.

    http://www.thedreammapnovel.com

    by DAISHI on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 03:04:29 PM PDT

  •  You have done nothing to be ashamed of. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, worldlotus, martini

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 03:09:43 PM PDT

  •  I would like to say that your diary today (4+ / 0-)

    is a refreshing look at recent events.  But I would be amiss with the word refreshing.  The white circle around us is shrinking with the shocking response of this tragedy by many our "friends".  I'm now really beginning to understand how brothers fought against other in the Civil War.  Except this time the lines aren't so easily drawn out.  

    Change is a process, not an event. ~ Joellen Killion

    by sabathiel on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 04:27:39 PM PDT

  •  Is privilege a problem? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, martini, silverfoxcruiser, Choco8

    Isn't saying privilege is a problem like saying wealth is a problem?  

    Really, the lack of wealth or lack of privilege is the problem.  The story of America is that what began as a privilege for some is aspired to be a right for all.   And it is not a zero-sum game, for I truly believe that I am better off when no lack of privilege is holding back my fellow citizens.  

    I know that recent off-the-boat types that have been successful are often exhibit the most denseness about this; but I believe if they reflected on their experience, they would realize that what was a privilege in their original country was a right in the US of A; and that is what enabled them to be successful here while their chances in their original country were dim.

    So I think if you feel privileged, do not apologize for it. Instead you should be demanding to know with all your privileged might why all your fellow citizens don't enjoy the same privileges.

  •  Republished to the White Privilege Working Group (4+ / 0-)

    so that perhaps someone will give you some advice.

    Me? I try to call people out when they treat me differently than they might others of another color, and I talk about it often when I'm teaching. Also, I try to bring it up with other white people. And I try to listen to people who are not white about their perspectives and needs, and also, to put their needs first with the consideration that they are more systemically marginalized than I will ever be. What that looks like in practice would depend on who you are and what you do.

    I try to defer my "authority" to those who aren't white in situations where race is a question and not whitesplain' things to non-white people.

    And I try to not diminish the very real differences one has living in different skin and just walking around, going into a store, asking for a raise, and so on since I know I am at an advantage automatically.

    There's a million more things. Raise your kids right, for example. Support when an African-American principal gets fired on a flimsy premise and be vocal about it. Help organize resources. Be an ally. Don't put yourself first so much since you're already, implicitly "in front of" non-white people.

    Perhaps others have more suggestions.

    "That nice, but how do we keep it from going back to business as USUAL?" - Elon James White on Ferguson, MO

    by mahakali overdrive on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 05:13:25 PM PDT

  •  DocDawg, perhaps the answers you seek are here: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    silverfoxcruiser, DocDawg, jbsoul
    Revolted, I revolted; over the next decade my life would be largely defined by my own small actions against the war which, like one tiny trickle joining many others to form a stream, and then a river, and finally an ocean's crashing waves, battered away at the imposing cliffs of war and finally (but, God I'm sorry, far too late!) brought them tumbling down.
    As you posit, some rebellions are for the youth.  However, I do not believe that spark ever truly goes away with age.  It can lie dormant, but never leaves the heartspirit.

    Perhaps, you can allow the long ago youth (that I still see in your writing) to merge with the mature you as you look closely within your local community for what needs be.

    Locally let your heart decide to once again:

    Revolted, I revolted
    Personally, for 50 years, I've held close to heart the belief in the ripple effect.  Whether large or small, our actions fill voids and make a difference to at least one life touched.

    Our actions, no matter how small have the potential to build some things that change the world..even though it may be long after we are gone.

    I've lived long enough to see this in action across this country and others.  Whether the action was the original Black Panthers feeding local school age kiddos breakfast & lunch & then campaigning for this right for all our nation's children or a solitary human packing a backpack with food to see a kiddo through a weekend or a summer that morphed into pockets of groups doing the same nationwide.  Small actions can create a ripple effect.

    Never doubt the power of one.

    And thank you for this diary & for revolting.

  •  Start by really listening (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    silverfoxcruiser, RockyMtnLib, jbsoul

    I find that's an important first step. People of color have a lot of information to impart about the way in which racism affects everything in our country. They can probably explain to you ways in which you and I are privileged that we don't even realize.

    To do this, though, you have to really listen and really hear what they say. This means letting people of color control the conversation. This is more than just giving them the floor. It involves allowing them to set the terms of the discussion and letting them frame the issues based on their experience and perspective.

    Another thing that's important is to try to catch yourself in your racist thinking. We all like to think we aren't influenced by racism, but we are, whether we're conscious of it or not. This is a deeply personal and difficult task, but I think it's essential if we white people as individuals are to overcome our own racism.

    Those are just a few thoughts right now.

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 10:06:46 PM PDT

  •  Excellent diary, excellent comments. Thanks all! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, tobendaro, Ian Reifowitz, jbsoul

    White guy here.

    A good place to practice listening:

    I welcome you to the Black Kos Community diaries, published on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. Feel free to listen and enjoy the conversation. I have learned a lot there, made friends, been inspired to act.

    You don't have to be black to participate in the BK diaries. You don't have to be black to be a member of the Black Kos Community. Drop by, see if you like the porch and the refreshment. Listen.

    If you want the BK diaries to show up in your Stream (diary inbox), click here and then click the red heart or the Follow button.

    2thanks

    PS - You will find what you are looking for.  
    PPS - I will be linking to your diary here on Tuesday.

  •  So, let me salt the conversation at this point (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim

    First, I have the impression (although maybe I'm wrong) that the majority of commenters here are white. In a way this is as it should be, since the problem of white privilege is a white problem (in the sense that whites created it and benefit every day from it). But I would certainly welcome more feedback from the black community, as well.

    Second, I find it interesting that no one has yet mentioned the elephant in the room: reparations. I'll stick my neck out here and take the first stab at it: I don't support the idea of reparations per se, first because it will never, ever fly (due to the argument "My people never had slaves," which, while quite beside the point, has an important element of truthiness to it anyway). And second, because to my ear at least it sounds awfully like "white man's burden"...which I think is the single greatest trap that must be avoided when thinking about how we can act to dismantle white privilege.

    That said, I do support reparations by any other name. As just one example: donating to foundations that help deserving black students into and through college (because I can't think of a single more effective means to begin to dismantle white privilege). Do we need new organizations here, or are existing ones, such as the United Negro College Fund, sufficient? I support UNCF and I'm pleased with their low ratio of administrative + fundraising expenses to program expenses (i.e., scholarships), although I will admit to being quite uncomfortable with their CEO's salary ($1.2 million according to Charity Navigator). I'm also uncomfortable with its apparent focus on black students (the cost of white privilege is shared by more than merely the black community). I'd welcome others' opinions here.

  •  Political is not personal (0+ / 0-)

    DocDawg,

    More personally than your diary acknowledges, you’ve done much, are doing much, and doubtless will do much more.

    Despite the general persuasiveness of the slogan, ‘the personal is political’, seeking to make the political more personal than you have already made it does not seem to me feasible or desirable.

    Keeping yourself alive and available to continue educating younger potential voters and activists is a relatively personal political goal.

    At present, each contribution you make to local political consciousness raising and/or organizing has national and global significance because of North Carolina’s present status as the potential electoral college stake in the heart of Presidential prospects for Republicans and other candidates dependent mainly on Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”.

  •  I grew up a poor white male ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Parthenia, DocDawg, jbsoul

    but the tendency, even if unconscious, to help even poor whites over others gave me advantages that I cannot deny.  I worked hard, but being a white male still opened doors for me, which allowed me to become a professional scientist. However, as has been pointed out here, I am not to blame for the structure of society when I was born, but I am to blame if I let it stand without opposition and if I take my privileged position as my right.

    What can we do about this?  Well, as has been said we can listen and take issues of inequality seriously.  Further we can use the opportunities that one often encounters to improve the situation.  Try to live intentionally, question preconceptions, especially those with which one grew up. Hatred can be taught, but so can love and respect.  Sometimes we have to teach ourselves to overthrow prejudice.  

  •  Don't limit yourself to Racial Privlege (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, jbsoul

    There is one form of privlege that often goes overlooked:

    Ablism.

    So while we still have racial inequality we've come along way. We still have sexual orientation inequality, we've come along way. We still have gender inequality, but, again, we've come along way.

    We have really no equality when it comes to people who are disabled or differently-abled (to include agism and sizeism).

    Large swaths of the blind population, for example, although having intelligent minds, aren't employed. Largely due to the fear of having to purchase accommodations and accessibility tools. Those with multiple handicaps work for sub-minimum wage in places like the Goodwill stores.

    We talk a lot about racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. because we're "comfortable" discussing them.

    We're not comfortable or willing to talk about ableism as much because even to well meaning people, they're disabled and that's that.

    •  You make an excellent point. Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

      Those of us who are conventionally abled also have that accident of birth to thank for our material blessings...and as a society we still mostly deny these same blessings to the differently abled (the ADA notwithstanding).

      One of my very dearest friends in life has wrestled for decades with a chronic, incurable, progressive, and very disabling disease.  Every time I make the mistake of referring to her as "permanently disabled" she smiles (she has such a huge, sunny smile) and refers to me, in turn, as "temporarily enabled."

  •  it's a question i ask myself when the topic (0+ / 0-)

    Comes up. I'm not going to reject a job because I might even think a PoC might have gotten it if it weren't for me. With out something definite to do about it it just feels like a white guilt campaign.

    •  You're absolutely correct. (0+ / 0-)

      Nobody expects anybody to forego their own opportunities so that someone else can have them instead. It's not practical, it's not realistic, and it's never going to happen on any systematic basis. But what is practical and realistic, and what should happen, is to look for specific opportunities to help those who have been undeserving victims of racial privilege. Helping, where you can, to give individual deserving young people of color a leg up in the world is a great way to do this, I think.

      Not to sound too schmaltzy, but I think the "It's A Wonderful Life" test applies here. How would the world be different today if you never existed? If the answer is not absolutely obviously "it would be a worse place" then you're doing it wrong.

  •  Just be yourself... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg

    ...and if that self stands with the oppressed, good for you.

    I'm white, my early childhood was lived in the housing projects and youth center of Seattle and my best friends were three black kids.  Their homes were like second homes for me.  My mom, who was my only family, then died at the beginning of sixth grade and I would live in eight places over the next six years.

    My second stop after my mom's death, I was beaten to a pulp an adult racist man when he learned that I had black friends in the project who I had returned to visit.  That summer I was seeing violent imagery white cops, blacks, fire hoses and dogs.  I did not understand.  I felt so bad.  

    My next to last stop was a group home, where the first black kid to be put there a year before I showed up soon died under suspicious circumstances, but nothing could be proven.  I understood from the kids who had been there that he had been murdered by some of the white kids.  For being black.  A year later, a black kid from the projects where I had lived, not one of my three best friends, but someone I knew, would be the second black.  I made sure everybody know that he my friend.  

    When was finally old enough and free, I sought work, doors were wide open for me.  Being white, all I had to do was dress appropriately and to anyone who met me, there was no history in what they saw of housing projects, youth centers, beatings and black people.  Those same doors were closed to blacks.  

    Years later, when I was trying to discuss my concerns, as I had done for years, my employer of that time in a profession which employed no blacks in my city told me how their doors were wide open for blacks to walk through.  "Where are they?", he said to me.  I told him, "You opening the doors to your fancy office on the 14th floor of a glass tower doesn't mean shit.  After all these years of doors being closed, if you truly hope to see a black walk through those doors, you need to do more than just open them.  If you don't want blacks here, go ahead and leave those doors open and go back to work."

    Okay, you're white.  You're privileged.  So now what?  Just be yourself.  That's all you can ever be.  And if being yourself means that you're disgusted with what you see and are open to growth, change and action, good for you.  We need more people like that in this world.  It'd be a better place for it.          

    "Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world" - Tennyson

    by SteveSeattle on Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 01:02:11 PM PDT

  •  I am a white male and have had many doors (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg

    opened for me because I was white. I realized at the time this was happening but shamefully did not think too much of it until I joined the Army and witnessed overt racism in a Lake Charles, LA airport. I was traveling home for Christmas (1965) with my bunkmate--a young black male from Richmond, CA.  At the airport we saw restroom signs for "White Women", "White Men" and "Colored." Water fountains were displayed with signs: "Whites Only." The shock of seeing this was so overwhelming that at first it was thought to be a joke.  It wasn't a joke. I was soon going to be sharing a Foxhole with my bunkmate so it was only fitting we share the same restroom. My bunkmate and best friend could fight and die for his country but he wasn't suppose to use the same bathroom as me. I was embarrassed at and for my country. When walking out of the "Colored" bathroom several men greeted me with some of the most menacing looks I've ever seen. Years later I found my bunkmate and friend's name on "The Wall", and completely lost my composure.

    Ten years or so go by when I then married a Mexican American and we unfortunately had a child born with Cerebral Palsy.  My boss at the time (In Fresno, CA) looked me in the eye one day and said: "you deserve having a crippled halfbreed for marrying a Mexican."  I left that place of employment.

    Where does all this hate come from?  From parents, local social mores, friends or school? I don't know, probably all of them.  When these two related experiences happened to me it really cut deep into my psyche and these were only two over a span of 50 years. Just imagine what it must be like to live within this hate-filled environment for decades?

    I don't like seeing the property damage occurring in Ferguson, but quite frankly if I lived under that oppressive racists Police regime I too might be one breaking windows.  Racial hatred is ugly, leaving scars that last a lifetime.

    As a white male, I have had things a lot easier than my black or hispanic contemporaries. It ain't right.

    "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." Albert Einstein

    by sfcouple on Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 01:15:41 PM PDT

  •  may I respectfully suggest that the hardest (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, jbsoul, peregrine kate

    privilege to be aware of us the one that operates in our most intimate relationships.

    You would be amazed at how complex and difficult the spousal relationship is for straight women. When he disagrees with me and appears to be not listening fully to my view, is it just a difference of opinion or is it something more, the careless assumption that his views are worth more? Or am I just being too sensitive?

    It's hard for women to know where male privilege stops and every-day compromise (you don't always get your way) begins. When are you sacrificing too much of yourself? When are you just participating in normal give-and-take?

    If you want to do more about privilege, know you can always start there. Yes, I know you are probably a male feminist, light years beyond most men in our country. You probably understand that the ability to walk down the street without fear is privilege.

    Yet, do you truly comprehend how male privilege can subtly express itself within your own household? Possibly you do.

    You can always ask women how they experience the daily give-and-take of household dynamics. If they give you a real answer, a thoughtful answer, then please listen. This is a gift to you, given only because they love and trust you.

    working for a world that works for everyone ...

    by USHomeopath on Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 03:59:05 PM PDT

  •  Privilege is insidious.......... (0+ / 0-)

    And most of the people that benefit from it have no clue that it is a real thing.  Our culture is wrapped around the idea successful people are good and therefore anyone that is not is morally bad.  So all these guys are walking around thinking they deserve everything they have.  On top of that the people that have privilege generally make the rules to ensure the cards are stacked in their favor.

    I had an argument with our legal counsel at work about the Lily Ledbetter Act.  He thought the rule change on when you could claim pay discrimination was a conspiracy for women to file discrimination lawsuits whenever they wanted.  He understood that there was pay discrimination but he just didn't care.  It didn't affect him negatively therefore why should he care about it?  Worse why shouldn't he fight to keep the status quo that he benefits from?  I told him if he didn't want to be sued under the LLA then maybe he shouldn't try to screw people over on purpose.

    I do think the patriotic thing to do is to critique my country. How else do you make a country better but by pointing out its flaws? Bill Maher

    by gtghawaii on Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 07:13:26 PM PDT

  •  White privilege is a euphemism for racism (0+ / 0-)

    America has a malignant disease called racism. There, I said it.

    I'm a white male, advanced college degrees, make a lot of money (relative to the "average" anyway) and clearly benefit from so-called "white privilege." Of course white privilege is a misnomer because in fact it is a euphemism for racism and racism is devastating to all of us - we all pay a very steep price indeed to maintain social inequity of the "races." As a biochemist and molecular biologist I know, of course, that there is no such thing as different human races. It's like calling a chocolate and a yellow dog different races... they are NOT, they are dogs with oh so slightly different genes being expressed just like different "races" of humans look different phenotypically and yet genotypes practically match. The truth is we are simply different culturally as there is no such thing as human race. Black colored people are singled-out based on the fact that they LOOK different.

    Many or even most white people, even those that claim to be "colorblind," are anything but. Just take the events in the killing of the young black American in Ferguson, MO. The truth is my comments will apply to most of the recent killings of unarmed black pigmented Americans. Let's briefly review the reaction I've noted (and VERY consistent) online and other forms of media to see some examples to chew on.

    *Police officer kills unarmed young black pigmented American... news at 11.

    The immediate reaction is outrage in minority communities. White reaction is heavily slanted towards blaming the victim, invariably the cops (typically white and supporting the white authority even if the cop isn't white). Frequently the communities these shootings occur in are poor and violent and incredibly dysfunctional places. White people tend to never forgive black people for being poor and disenfranchised and will vociferously vilify the entire community for their immorality and inferiority to whites. Never-mind that black people have been oppressed by this very culture for well over 200 years... no, that's never taken into consideration by the judgmental white and mostly Christian majority.

    *News reports that the shooting "victim" (if you ask black person) or "suspect" (if you ask a white person) has a history with some petty mostly drug-related or property crime in their history. They live in a lawless community their entire lives but are still immediately judged by the white community as deserving of any punishment they receive because of their inability to be perfect moral citizens and to live up to the behaviors seen in rich white communities. This of course is rife with hypocrisy because white communities are even more saturated with drugs and white collar crime than most minority communities - it just looks different outwardly. The judgement has already been made by the average white American, guilty until proven innocent (and even then they wonder if ANY black man is truly innocent).

    *News reports looting in response to shooting and apparent police cover-up.

    White people freak-out when they see high fructose corn syrup going up in flames in a QuickEMart... never mind someone was shot dead, it's the property that counts. The message is CLEAR, black lives are less important than property.

    Members of the (Republican) so-called Tea Party (a new name for the old religious right) celebrate their identity based on the destruction of property (342 chests of tea) worth a very large amount of money at the time. It's OK for Republicans to destroy property in protest of authority and yet as soon as a QuickEMart burns they immediately use it as an excuse to overlook the murder of the minority. Talk about rank hypocrisy! It's the name of their party and they refuse to allow black men to expect the same right to protest!

    Clive Bundy stood in front of police ARMED and the police backed down and went away. We all know what would happen if a black pigmented man tried the same stunt.

    *Forensics and autopsies are released and the black community is outraged while whites believe it proves the black man deserved to be shot dead.

    In the recent case at least six shots were fired into the unarmed "big, scary black man" (and you'll see that refrain throughout comments from white people about the case pointing out his enormous size and scariness).

    Four shots to the inner arm, one to top of the head and exiting the eye, and the final kill shot to the apex of the head. How do white people rationalize this evidence? He charged the cop... that's right, the big scary black man charged a cop with a gun because he's a Cigarillo thief. Wow. It seems quite reasonable that four shots to the inner arm indicate the arms were upright, otherwise how did they all enter the inner forearm and exit the back of the forearm? Explaining the shot entering the top of the head and exiting the eye indicates he was shot while his head was down and he was on all fours and the final shot clearly had to happen with his head down. Sure, it's possible the cop was charged as he unloaded his clip but doesn't sound like the most likely scenario.

    The truth is the cop was (at best) investigating a Cigarillo theft crime so why did he have to play Rambo with these two young suspects (although the chief reported he knew nothing of the Cigarillo crime) at all? Why didn't he just call backup? What's the punishment for stealing less than $50 prison (if convicted) at best if you're black. Even if the suspect punched the cop and reached for his gun and then ran away why did the cop have to give chase ALONE? Why was an execution necessary?

    It's obvious, white commentators typically concentrate on anything that proves the black man is deserving of death while black commentators scream of racism.

    As a white man it is painfully obvious what my white peers are doing... they are being racist and apparently most can't even see it. Very sad for this country indeed. I think the civil rights movements of the 1960's were a complete failure and the state of the pigmented minority in America today is just as bad or worse than 50 years ago. Sure some things have clearly improved but clearly others have gotten worse.

    What I do know is that America is a horrible place to live if you are not granted white-privilege.

  •  I like that, in an earlier comment, you address... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, 2thanks, poco

    I like that, in an earlier comment, you addressed the issue of reparations. In the past year, I've given a great deal of thought to the subject and I whole heartedly support it. Like you, I recognize the absurdity of simply doling out X number of dollars to every person with African lineage. My vision for reparations would be an aggressive outpouring of resources to black communities.

    No reasonable person can deny that the United States built it's wealth on the backs of slaves. Yet, throughout the years, this country has systematically limited the access of it's resources to people of color. Americans forget how recently segregation was legally ended. We used words like "freedom" and "equality" as band aids to cover the wounds left by injustice. Those wounds continue to bleed because they were not adequately cared for. They need stitching and, even then, time to heal.

    The ignorant will point to successful African Americans as evidence of racial equality. Their ambition and talent is often met with a condescending pat on the head for rising above the "attitude" or the "culture" of the black community. Blame is then laid at the feet of the oppressed, as is the habit of all abusers.

    This shameful legacy should be responded to. Amends have yet to be made. Reparations are no longer about whose ancestors did what to whom. Reparations should be paid as a debt from an entire nation that has benefited from a dark period in our history.

    The ancestor who gave me my last name was an indentured child servant (excuse me , he was "adopted") from Ireland. He married a Native American girl (don't even get me started on what we owe Native Americans). Like many, I am a descendent of impoverished people who were no strangers to injustice. While some would use that as an argument against reparations, I see practically no similarity. My ancestors were paid for their work. They had choices. They moved about freely in the world and were able to seek opportunity. My family was not decimated because someone was able to sell a parent or a child.

    I would like to see white people of means use their influence and connections to push forth a movement for reparations (perhaps by some other name, to give it a fighting chance). Once we see more African Americans empowered and realizing their potential, we can snuff out the culture of disrespect that makes a white cop think he can kill an unarmed black man and get away with it.

    •  Thanks! You win the prize for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      puccinigirl, poco

      the "only reader with the guts to address reparations" challenge.

      But I really think the concept needs a different name...that in fact we should abolish talk of 'reparations'. The dictionary says 'reparations' means "the making of amends for a wrong one has done." But the "ones" who have "done" the very worst foundational wrongs are dead and gone, suggesting to some that the time for reparations has come and gone with them. Plus (I think) the very notion that 'amends' (compensation) for the horrors of slavery can ever be made in dollars is insulting and minimizes the horror. And, finally, the greatest complication of all may be the sheer magnitude of the amends that are owed...not just to African Americans, but to Hispanics, Chinese, Irish (as you point out), Amerinds, Eastern Europeans (like my grandparents), and so many more. Using any reasonable metric for what a life of servitude is worth, we would pretty much have to move out of this country in order to come up with the cash that is really required.

      Another problem with 'reparations' is that it puts the focus on past wrongs, whereas I believe we should focus on future rights. The right way to make amends is to dismantle today's system of privilege that holds so many down while raising up an undeserving few. The solution to this linguistic problem can, I think, be found the etymological roots of the word 'reparation,' which derives from the latin reparare, meaning to repair. Let's not talk about paying reparations; let's talk about repairing the world.

      Back deep in the woods behind one of my pastures there is an old, old set of train tracks, almost completely hidden now by vines and trees and consumed by rust. I'm told by locals that this was the line on which boxcars of enslaved persons were rolled into the area to pick cotton and tobacco. Every time I see those damn rails I want to claw them out of the ground with my bare hands and throw them into a ravine. But as good as that might make me feel, it would be a pointless effort. Better I should spend my time and passion repairing the scar they have left on the land.

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