Category Archives: White Privilege

White Privileges Denied

Image result for deny privilegeI wonder what our lives would be like if those who are privileged by race would deny these social entitlements.  What change could be brought about if when persons are offered a pass, a perk, a protection or the benefit of doubt, they would reject it?  How might we be challenged if we did not accept what we did not earn, if we rejected those things that put others at a disadvantage?  What if we no longer feigned ignorance or blindness, if we stopped looking the other way for “us” and not “them”?

What kind of people could we be if when the privilege of whiteness was presented, we said, “Privileges denied”?  Because we provide its currency.  We are the medium of transaction.  We open the door, give the leg up, shake the hand and wink.  We give them more while paying less and less attention to who we become in the process.

We are cheaters, thieves even.  Robbing from “them” to pay for “us.”  Race is only a scapegoat used to cover up our greed and need for power.

I wonder if persons would be willing to post a sign on the doors of their businesses, schools, shared community spaces, government buildings, places of worship and homes that inform those who enter that we don’t accept white privileges here.  I imagine that persons would have to prove themselves and make their way without them.  Justifying their place in the world and their position of authority would get a whole lot harder.

Patting pockets, flipping through wallets or searching purses, what might we pull from them to cover our expenses, to explain our position in the world, to justify our preferential treatment.  If we take the socially colored white skin away and say, we refuse to privilege socially colored white skin here, what then?  What do we have then?

Tell us (because we all accept it) that the limit has been exceeded far too many times and for too long, that we can no longer afford its costs, that the card has expired and won’t be renewed.  We simply cannot afford to be people of any color any more.

Question Whiteness

Image result for white privilegeWhiteness is not an identity but a privilege.  It is the only real race card for if whiteness ceased to exist, so would all the other social colors.  We could all throw our hands in.  Game over.  But, no deal.

It is handed out, passed down as an American inheritance for the have’s.  But, have not we been having this conversation for years now?  What must be repeated before we understand?

We know this truth full well and still, I am compelled to tell you so.  Whiteness is not an identity but a privilege.  It is a government handout, the greatest welfare program of Western civilization.  We foot the bill again and again without receipts or questions.

No questions and no comments.  No comments!  No comments!

There is no disputing or interrogating this social rite of passage.  We treat it as an absolute, a universal truth, fixed and independent of any outside interpretation.  It is an American given.

Because we have all been told and taught that socially colored white people have done it all and are deserving of it all.  We are merely paying them back, providing advances on their creations.

Continually celebrated, whiteness is not used to being challenged.  Too valuable, too delicate, too fragile, we must keep our voices down, our questions to a minimum and our presence on the margins.

But, whiteness needs to touched, approached, crowded.

Whiteness suggests that other social colors live an apologetic existence.  “Forgive us for not being white.”  Whiteness asks that other cultures explain their differences and justify them.  “Look at me.  Listen to me.  I am important and of value.”

Whiteness demands assimilation.

But, I encourage you to talk back, to not take the social construct of whiteness at face value but to argue you against its inflation.  And when you do here are a few questions:

  1. How do you know that you are socially colored white?  Who told you?  What was your response?
  2. What does it mean to be a white person?
  3. What are the benefits of the identity?
  4. Are there losses to being socially colored white?
  5. Do you primarily identify as a white person and if not, what characteristic or quality do you prize above it?  If not, why is being socially colored white central to who you are?
  6. Why is whiteness so important?
  7. What would the loss of whiteness mean?
  8. What is the value of whiteness and why must it be prized above all others?
  9. Do you question whiteness?  Why or why not?
  10. What would you do, who would you become if you could no longer be socially colored white?

Tearing Down the ‘White’ Wall of Silence

Image result for wall of white silence

There has been much talk about the “blue wall of silence,” that is the expectation, the unwritten rule, the code shared among those who wear blue and carry a badge to protect and cover for their fellow officer.  They have to stick together; it is the police officers against a dangerous world.

They will take care of each other.  The police officers take care of their own.  No different than the gang culture, it simply means, “Don’t snitch.”

It’s not unusual.  No one wants to experience betrayal and everyone wants to believe that there are those that they can depend on.  The problem occurs when having their back requires that you and I turn a blind eye and keep our mouths closed when we see them do something immoral and illegal.  Ironically, instead of speaking out against injustice wherever they see it, some police officers keep silent if it comes from within the ranks.

For these folks, there are borders, restrictions, blue lines that should not be crossed.

There is good silence: contemplative silence, meditative silence, shocked silence, where we find ourselves at a loss for words.  All of this is normal silence.  Then, there is bad silence.  When we are a witness to hurt, harm, danger and even death and we say nothing.  Instead, we excuse, defend, deny, rationalize, justify and demonize the person affected– every single time.  It is not a new phenomenon or a new problem.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. openly rebuked his Christian and Jewish brothers who did not speak out and step out in faith with their African American brothers and sisters during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.

I wonder if this same sentiment is true of European Americans, of those socially colored white as a culture.  Is there an unspoken rule, a cultural expectation that persons do not turn on those of their own culture?  I would not be surprised as it would be an expression of white pride, a distortion of appreciation and respect for heritage and history.  To be sure, the same could be said of any other culture who frowns on the airing of dirty laundry.  The difference is the dehumanization, depreciation, devaluing, damaging and even loss of life that happens as a result of keeping quiet.

Pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem “First They Came” is a frightening reminder of the dangerous effects of silence. Still, nothing worthwhile is done without risks.  So, before you speak up, let me offer you these warnings.  Before you open your mouth:

  1. You will have to talk back to yourself, confront yourself, challenge your thinking as it relates to race and its progeny.  What do you really believe?
  2. You will need to deny your deny racialized self, laying down your position of social power due to the privilege of whiteness.  In other words, you will need to turn in your white card.  Who are you really without it?
  3. You will need to reject the lies that have kept you comfortable.  What stereotypes about oppressed groups have aided and abetted your silence?
  4. You will need to accept your responsibility, your complicity in the crimes and cruelties committed against persons that are not socially colored white.  What have you really done?
  5. You will need to release power and control of the outcome, of the land and resources that the social construct of race say are your divine right.  What are you holding onto?

Start answering these questions and the white wall of silence will come tumbling down.

_______________

See also: Jack E. White, “The White Wall of Silence,” Time Magazine, June 6,1999

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” August 1965

 

“Make America White Again”?

make-america-white-again-signJust when I think that I have said enough or said it all as it relates to my views on race, I get a sign.  This time it was a billboard sign created by Rick Tyler of Tennessee who is running for Congress.  Clearly, a play on the Trump campaign, Tyler hopes to “Make American White Again.”  Deep sigh.  And we wonder why African Americans continue to ask for more conversations on race.

When asked about the sign, Tyler said that it wasn’t meant to be racist.  You can read the full story here while I give you a little back story on the history of whiteness, which has its roots in the origins of what is now the United States of America.  Whiteness is a socially constructed difference, a manufactured, capitalistically- driven identity for sale and consumption in America.  It is given to some groups and sold to others in the form of skin bleaching creams, Westernization surgeries, hair relaxers and the like.  The symbol of purity, goodness, perfection, beauty, morality, righteousness, chosen-ness, whiteness takes all the good and the rest take on all that is unclean, bad, wrong, ugly, evil, indecent and rejected.

Making American white again suggests that it began as such.  America was never white as there were persons indigenous to the land that were all but wiped out in an attempt to give the settlers a clean slate.  Making America white has called for the annihilation of countless people, their cultures and languages.  So, Tyler’s attempt would be a first since America has never been white.  It seems that Tyler believed the lies his teacher told him.

To be sure, America was not first America and it was never white.  Pre- Columbian contact, it was Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huastec, Purepecha, Toltec and many others.  But, such is the case with whiteness and its memory, when it begins, all other people groups end.

Making America white has always meant the devaluing of bodies not socially colored white.  Compared to animals and small children, who needed the supervision of a slave- holding nation, specifically for the African American, whiteness is defined by the objectification and brutalization of other human beings.  The making of whiteness is costly and other cultures pay the price.

Making America white calls for the building of walls and “tougher immigration laws.”  Because whiteness is to be protected.  And if you are in country legally but there is an attack or if we are at war with your homeland, well then, we will need to relocate you– from the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 to the religious profiling of Muslims in 2016.

These are the options for whiteness: fight or flight.  Stay and protect it, that is raise the cost of living in order to create a mass exodus to keep others out or move into another community and call it redevelopment.  When the neighborhood begins to change, go and create another in order to make the neighborhood white and thus, right, again.

Tyler’s slogan assumes that things are better when people are white, which smacks of Nazism and eugenics.  It sounds as if Tyler is hoping to be elected in order to create more race- based policies for the American people, which would only create more social, interpersonal and emotional upheaval.  His slogan also lends itself to another set of assumptions, all of them wrong, prejudicial, self- serving.  White is not right and the possibility of it being so is unreal.  The fact that he does not understood the outright racist nature of his choice of words should cause him to reconsider his election bid.

Naming White Privileges

imageSo often in matters of race, we only talk about the impact of oppression, the effects of blackness and the negative impact of the social construct of race. But, race has a bright side.  It’s called privilege, white privilege.

While we are familiar with “the race card” and now due to this presidential election cycle “the woman card,” we have not discussed the full deck that persons identified as socially colored white are handed in American society. I suppose that discussing it would “show their hand.”

Still, I dare you to name the privileges that you have benefited from due to your “appearance”, to go beyond Peggy McIntosh’s “Invisible Knapsack” and name your own.  What are the personal privileges that you have benefitted from due to a social constructed white identity? What favorable assumptions have been made about you that are not true– but true of the stereotype of whiteness?  Are their instances when you have used your white privilege to your benefit and to the detriment of someone not socially colored white?  What support did you give yourself for the action?  What lie did you tell yourself in order to play this race card?

I am convinced that while we may be talking more about race, we are thinking less and less about what race means to us. Instead, we outsource it to the latest public outcry of racialized injustice.  We find a bad racist to pin our problems with race on.  “It him and not me.”  “It’s them and not us.”

But, the privileges that we hold are holding us back from authentic relationships with our selves and each other. Naming the privileges of whiteness allows us to expose the lies that we live by, dismantle the deceptions that prop up faulty hierarchies of supremacy and remove the mask that allows us to smile and oppress at the same time.