There is much to be said about the murder of Jordan Davis and the trial of Michael Dunn; of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman; of racism in the US, especially Florida, and the systemic injustices inherent in law enforcement, the courts, and society at large; or - in keeping with the theme of this blog - the white-privilege-stained Stand Your Ground policy that is letting men like Dunn off the hook.
But I honestly don't have that kind of time right now, so I'll defer instead to the cartoons above and the video below, by Elon James White. These may not be totally comprehensive, but they hit the main points on the head - quite literally, in Batman's case.
Yo! It's Black History Month, so I'm bringing on the white privilege material!
I came across this video a few days ago and thought I should share it as part of my series this month on white privilege. Perhaps you're familiar with lists of white privilege, such as Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. But the video above brings a whole new privilege to light:
As a white person, I don't have to worry about my skin tone being too white; about being perceived by others, including my own race or ethnicity, as being somehow less than for having a lighter complexion.
But as the (beautiful) Black women in the video explain, there is a stigma to having dark skin, even within the Black community. Our society - Black and white - (still) objectifies and dehumanises people with dark skin. As the little girl demonstrates, dark skin is associated with stupidity and ugliness, even from an early age.
A friend of mine was telling me yesterday that her 8-year-old niece, who is black, insisted on having a white, blond-haired doll rather than a dark-skinned doll. I can only imagine the psychological factors that go into such a choice, but I suspect that little white girls would likely play with white dolls as well, dolls that actually look like them. They wouldn't be compelled toward the other. I wonder whether this is because for Black people, the other is constantly portrayed by society, and especially popular media, as the better.
As a fair-skinned person, I don't have this problem. I'm constantly told - even if subliminally - that I'm the better. More beautiful, acceptable, lovable.
Just another tool for my knapsack.
YO! It's Black History Month, so I'm bringing on the white privilege material!
I've been meaning to write about racial color-blindness for a real long time. In fact, it was one of the topics that inspired this blog in the first place. I'll write more about it soon, but in the mean time check out this article that I came across in Atlanta Blackstar: Seven Things Your [typically "liberal"] Colorblind Racist Friend Might Say to You and How to Respond.
What they say:
“People are just people.”
”I don’t see color.”
”We’re all just human.”
“Character, not color, is what counts with me.”
“Colorblindness” negates the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color. Even if an individual white person can ignore a person’s skin color, society does not.
Claiming to be “colorblind” can also be a defense when someone is afraid to discuss racism, especially if the assumption is that all conversation about race or color is racist. Color consciousness does not equal racism.
YO! It's Black History Month, so I'm bringing on the white privilege material! I came across an article recently, written by a Black woman, that pretty clearly demonstrates unequal employment opportunities for people of color in this day and age. Apparently, it literally pays to be White!
Find select excerpts below or read the full article at this link.
For two years, I have been unemployed. In the beginning, I applied to more than three hundred open positions in the insurance industry—an industry that I’ve worked in for the previous ten years. Not one employer responded to my resume.
I usually applied for positions advertised on the popular website Monster.com. I’d used it in the past and have been successful in obtaining jobs through it.
Two years ago, I noticed that Monster.com had added a “diversity questionnaire” to the site. This gives an applicant the opportunity to identify their sex and race to potential employers. Monster.com guarantees that this “option” will not jeopardize your chances of gaining employment.
So I decided to try an experiment: I created a fake job applicant and called her Bianca White. I kept the same employment history and educational background on her resume that was listed on my own. Then I created an online Monster.com account, listed Bianca as a White woman on the diversity questionnaire, and activated the account.
That very same day, I received a phone call. The next day, my phone line and Bianca’s email address, were packed with potential employers calling for an interview. I was stunned. All along, my real Monster.com account was open and active; but, despite having the same background as Bianca, I received no phone calls. Potential positions offering a competitive salary and benefits all went to Bianca. In the end, a total of twenty-four employers looked at Bianca’s resume while only ten looked at mines.
There’s not a day that goes by in which I fail to see a news program about how tough the job market is. Recently, while I was watching a report on underemployed and underpaid Americans, I saw a middle aged White man complaining that he was making only $80,000 which was $30,000 less than what he was making before. I thought to myself that in this economy, many would feel they’d hit the jackpot if they made 80K a year.
The more America continues to hold back great candidates based on race, the more our economy is going to stay in a rut. We all need each other to prosper, flourish, and to move ahead.
Stay tuned all month for more on White privilege, racism, and more!
Two days past the 2014 Grammys, it's become clear that - besides Grammy awards - newly famed pop rapper Macklemore just can't win; that - besides having produced a great pop/rap album - he can't do anything right in the eyes of some in the hip-hop community.
I spent (too much) time yesterday on twitter and facebook, arguing the merits of Macklemore's album The Heist, which earned him the Best Rap Album accolade on Sunday night. Having approached The Heist as a performer, songwriter, and producer, I agreed that it was a great album and earned its place on the broader Best Album list, even if it didn't deserve to win (Daft Punk took the award).
But I also recognize (as it seems Macklemore does himself) that none of this also qualifies The Heist as a great rap album, much less the best rap album. From what I can tell, the consensus is that Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d. city deserved this one.
For my own part, I'm in no place to judge. Though I enjoy hip-hop music, I certainly don't keep up with it (admittedly, prior to the Grammys, the only new rap album I had listened to was The Heist). It's just not the music or culture that I grew up on. I can listen to and appreciate hip-hop music, but I know I'll always do so as an outsider-looking-in.
Like Macklemore, I too am white (Cuban, but with very fair skin). I was raised in the suburbs, in a middle-class family. I didn't listen to hip-hop because I didn't understand it; I didn't relate to it. When I finally gave hip-hop a chance in my early 20s, it was an appeal to my musical obsession - how could I consider myself musically enculturated without a healthy appreciation of so significant a movement as hip-hop?
Like any good suburban white boy, I was initially turned off by popular hip-hop music, which I perceived as too "hard" - with loads of expletives, misogynistic language and attitudes, violent themes, and an obsession with money (CREAM and Benjamins). So I was weaned instead onto indie hip-hop acts that are often described (and/or dismissed) as "conscious" or "positive". I got into Mos Def and Talib Kweli, KRS, The Roots, Blackalicious, Blue Scholars, Solillaquists of Sound, among many others.
I discovered Macklemore in late 2012 when I heard Same Love. I later listened to the rest of the album and appreciated his take on being an indie artist, his honesty about his addictions (including sneakers), and almost everything else he has to say (I never took the Thrift Shop song very seriously). He even talks about White privilege. Now this was hip-hop I could relate to!
Indeed, Macklemore is a hard-working independent artist who earned his stripes in the Seattle indie hip-hop scene and in 2012 put out a solid album, The Heist, that put out a handful of pop hits. He also happens to be white. But unlike me, he did grow up on hip-hop. He has a strong respect for the community and appreciation/awareness for the white privilege that puts him at odds with it. Yet it seems there's nothing he can do to overcome these odds.
His White privilege undoubtedly accounted for his win over Lamar in the Best Rap Album category. Macklemore himself would likely admit this (he's already admitted that he "robbed" the award). But to be fair, this can't be held against him. What's he to do? Quit making music? Switch to country music instead? Be someone and something that he's not?
Macklemore is vocal about his own White privilege in interviews and even in the lyrics of his music. He's aware not only of its existence (an important first step!) but also its role in catapulting him to fame. On Sunday night he used this platform to elevate Kendrick Lamar's album via a text message he posted to instagram, though some have interpreted the act as "self-congratulatory magnanimity."
Who knows what his true intents and motivations were in publicizing that text? But I can tell you one thing - a lot more people have checked out good kid, m.A.A.d. city as a result of that post. Those people are certainly not real hip-hop fans, but then neither are the people who vote for the Grammys. So why does anyone really care which rapper wins them?
I do hope that Macklemore will continue to make good music, whether deemed rap, hip-hop, "true" hip-hop, "conscious" hip-hop, pop, or whatever else; and that he'll continue to use his notoriety to address White privilege, marriage equality, and other important issues of our day. What more can anyone, including those in the hip-hop community, fairly ask of him?
I found this great article on privilege from a fellow Occupier, Gina Crosley-Corcoran. I thought I'd post some excerpts here as a refresher for the New Year: how to explain privilege to poor White folks (or anyone, really!)...
I came from the kind of Poor that people don't want to believe still exists in this country... So when [a] feminist told me I had "white privilege," I told her that my white skin didn't do shit to prevent me from experiencing poverty. Then, like any good, educated feminist would, she directed me to Peggy McIntosh's 1988 now-famous piece, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack."
After one reads McIntosh's powerful essay, it's impossible to deny that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of another skin color simple are not afforded... BUT LISTEN: This is not said to make white people feel guilty about their privilege. It's not your fault you were born with white skin and experience these privileges. BUT, whether you realize it or not, you DO benefit from it, and it IS your fault if you don't maintain awareness of that fact.
I, maybe more than most people, can completely understand why broke white folks get pissed when the word "Privilege" is thrown around. As a child, I was constantly discriminated against because of my poverty and those wounds still run very deep. But luckily my college education introduced me to a more nuanced concept of Privilege; the term Intersectionality. The concept of Intersectionality recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways and definitely not privileged in others. There are many different types of privilege, not just skin color privilege, that impact the way people can move through the world or are discriminated against. These are all things you are born into, not things you earned, that afford you opportunities others may not have. For example:
As you can see, belonging to one or more category of Privilege, especially being a Straight White Middle Class Able-Bodied Male, can be like winning a lottery you didn't even know you were playing.
Recognizing Privilege doesn't mean suffering guilt or shame for your lot in life. Nobody's saying that Straight White Middle Class Able-Bodied Males are all a bunch of assholes who don't work hard for what they have. Recognizing Privilege simply means being aware that some people have to work much harder just to experience the things you take for granted (if they ever can experience them at all.)
I know now that I AM Privileged in many ways. I am Privileged as a natural born white citizen. I am privileged as a cis-gendered woman. I am privileged as an able-bodied person. I am privileged that my first language is also our national language, and that I was born with an intellect and ambition that pulled me out of the poverty I was otherwise destined for. I was privileged to be able to marry my way "up" by partnering with a Privileged middle-class educated male who fully expected me to earn a college degree.
There are a million ways I experience Privilege, and some that I certainly don't. But thankfully, Intersectionality allows us to examine these varying dimensions and degrees of discrimination while raising awareness of the results of multiple systems of oppression at work.
Click here for the rest of the article.
* The chart above shows that White people make up 41.5% of the country's poor, but they also make up a larger percentage of the total population. The
white poverty rate actually runs much lower than the black rate, just under
10 percent, about one-third of the black rate (27%).
The real question is this: if the man had been described as White, given no other clues to his identity, would this ever have been published?
Me thinks not.
'Tis the day before Christmas
and all through the nation,
privileged Christians are certain
there's a war on their celebration.
Hehe. I just whipped that up...
That's right, it's Christmas Eve and the holly-jolliness is nearly at its boiling point... At least for those of us who are secure enough in our private observation of these supposed holy days not to get offended by the words "Happy Holidays" or by the removal (or ever-so-slight obstruction) of nativity scenes in government buildings.
But I'm sorry to say that not everyone recognizes their Christian privilege. In fact many Christians still feel that they are under attack, fighting the defensive in what they call the War On Christmas. They somehow don't see (or care) that their religion is still the dominant religion of this country, that countless people who do not share their religious convictions must experience this "holiday season" for a month or two each year, through the ubiquitous music and imagery of Christmas. Instead, many Christians paint themselves as the victims, as the oppressed, when just the opposite is true.
Jon Stewart again addressed this matter a couple weeks ago...
First off: we all know that Christmas is everyone's favorite holiday. Everyone's. EVERYONE'S. Need I say more?
But the best part of this bit is where Jon Stewart points out just how nuts FOX News pundit Gretchen Carlson really is. In one clip, she asks, rhetorically, "why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for nativity scenes, and be like...'look, there's baby Jesus behind the festivus pole made of beer cans?' It's nuts!"
Indeed. First of all, why should there be nativity scenes at the state capitol building? Or even on the streets? If Gretchen wants to show her kids a nativity scene then she can always put one in her own home (mine always had one under the Christmas tree); or visit her local churches (mine always had one with live people, animals, and even baby Jesus... not to mention the epic Christmas pageant we held at the county auditorium each year, which told the full story of Jesus from birth to Ascension!); OR finally, as Jon so aptly points out, she can bring her kids to the very place where she works - the plaza outside the News Corp building, where FOX News had their very own live nativity scene.
But I suppose that she wouldn't then have grounds to play the victim card.
Thankfully, Jon's War On Christmas coverage didn't end there. He then went on to discuss some comments that Megyn Kelly had made regarding Santa Claus.
Before I address those comments myself, I just want to remind everyone that Santa Claus has nothing at all to do with the actual Christmas story; in my humble opinion, Christians ought to denounce Santa as both a distraction and a symbol of consumerism, capitalism, and greed (as Jon Stewart himself did earlier this month... perhaps Stewart understands the meaning of Christmas better than the FOX News pundits, who are supposedly defending it?) But it still gets the FOX News people in a huff if you attack Santa Claus, or apparently, the conventional ideas about who he is. So...
In an article on Slate.com, culture blogger Aisha Harris insisted that Santa Claus should no longer be a white man. Having struggled with the image of a white Santa across the US cultural spectrum but a Black Santa in her own home, she suggested that instead Santa should just be a cartoon penguin. And yes, she gave some very compelling and valid reasons, though obviously tongue-in-cheek.
FOX News pundit Megyn Kelly took the piece a little too seriously and, perhaps trusting that none of her viewers would actually go and read the piece, shot back with, "Santa just is white." Kelly then misrepresented Harris' argument by saying, "this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa." (In fact, Harris was saying - again - that Santa should be a penguin) I suppose Megyn just had an inkling that the very idea of a black Santa would enrage her audience as much as it had enraged her.
But this was a rather strange position to take, given that with relatively transparent vulnerability, Harris had first written "I remember feeling slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn’t the 'real thing.'" I suppose Kelly is too blinded by her White privilege and victim mentality to possibly imagine how difficult it might be for a family of color to integrate a white-skinned Santa into their holiday traditions.
And never mind that Santa Claus is based on the historical figure of Saint Nicholas, who was actually from present-day Turkey and probably had brown skin, not white. In any case, he was certainly not Caucasian. But I'll let Jon Stewart make the case, because he's a lot funnier than I am (and has a bigger budget and more writers).
And don't even get me started on the idea that Jesus was white...
It's Christmas Eve. If you're a Christian reading this, then I suppose you're celebrating tonight and tomorrow the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth, who came as a baby to a lowly family and oppressed people; who as a grown man humbled himself as a servant; and whom we yet posthumously call the Prince of Peace and King of Kings. So how's about we lay down our rhetorical arms this Christmas, beat our swords into plowshares, love our neighbors (whether Christian or not, as Jesus directed us to do), and perhaps - God willing - we can even check our privilege at the stable door. Thus we might actually follow the example of Him whom we find in the manger. (See: Phillippians 2:1-8)
In that spirit, I wish you all a joyful and peaceful holiday season, whatever you may (or may not) be celebrating. Amen (and a-women too).
Last week I stumbled upon an article regarding the importance of intersectionality and subaltern voices in the discourse on privilege. It is written in response to British leftist writer Mark Fisher, who had recently published a piece for The North Star likening the subaltern and "neo-anarchist" communities to blood-sucking vampires.
He's apparently exiting Dracula's castle.
By "neo-anarchist," Fisher refers to the likes of Occupy protesters. Which means he's talking about me. This is personal. But truth be told, I'm totally oblivious to the socio-political conditions in the UK that he is speaking to. So I will refrain from comment on his piece (nay, I've not even bothered to waste time reading it). Instead, I'd like to share excerpts from the article that I found in response.
I've selected and edited the excerpts below (careful not to distort their meaning or message) to reflect a universality for the privilege discussion. The author, whose name I've not been able to find yet, could just as easily be speaking of the US, on behalf of subaltern voices here, or really anywhere. It's crucial that we who have privilege and power are able to incline our ears to such voices.
It’s pretty depressing that black women are still fighting to get white men [and women] to recognise how racism structures our lives. A battle for dominance is being played out on the terrain of identity by white male leftists stung by the explosion of new, subaltern perspectives emerging on social media platforms like twitter. What is being reconfigured here is the notion of democracy.
It's hard to take advantage of all the Black Friday steals when you are being accused of stealing...
Happy Thanksgiving and Buy Nothing Day, everyone!
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.