“White privilege shapes the U.S.”

I just finished reading Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks. bell hooks is amazing. Her writing is pleasantly painful. I wish I could write as eloquently as hooks. Her words are completely accessible yet they have meaning that can take days to process.

One problem that plagues our society that has been stirring my mental pot is white privilege. Thanks to bell hooks, Beverly Tatum(Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) and Janet Helms (White racial identity and A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life ), I now have an awareness that is light years from where I started. Self awareness can be challenging and very frightening. I wrestled with Janet Helms until I could finally understand what she meant when she says that all white people start there lives as racists.

On that note, I would like to start a discussion with my readers. I want to ask a question and attempt to elicit responses via comments. I will moderate comments so that hate does not appear. Dialogue is good, but hate has no place on my blog.

Feel free to add comments to the following question(s):

Does white privilege exist? and if you answered “yes”, how have you become aware of it?

I will post my answer to the question in a few days.

If you are not aware of what white privilege is, please consider the following excerpts from Robert Jensen and Peggy McIntosh.

From Robert Jensen’s essay on white privilege:

“In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves…

I have struggled to resist that racist training and the ongoing racism of my culture. I like to think I have changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. But no matter how much I “fix” myself, one thing never changes–I walk through the world with white privilege.

What does that mean? Perhaps most importantly, when I seek admission to a university, apply for a job, or hunt for an apartment, I don’t look threatening. Almost all of the people evaluating me for those things look like me–they are white. They see in me a reflection of themselves, and in a racist world that is an advantage. I smile. I am white. I am one of them. I am not dangerous. Even when I voice critical opinions, I am cut some slack. After all, I’m white.” (as cited in bell hooks, Teaching Community:A Pedagogy of Hope, 2003)

If you do not feel that white privilege exists, please consider the following:

Daily effects of white privilege:

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.

25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.

29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.

31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.

32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.

33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.

34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.

37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.

39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.

43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.

45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.

46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.

48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.

49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.

50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social” (McIntosh, 1990).

McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack. Retrieved Dec. 01, 2005, from http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html.

  • Cathlene E. McGraw

    Yes white privilege does exist. Here is an example. My colleague and I have very similiar professional patterns of behavior. I am white. She is Latina. I am younger, she is older. In my opinion, she looks more like a professional than I do most of the time. However…When we asked the same person at different times if we could make copies at the same copy machine we were told two different things. She was treated as though it was an inconvience and that she’d have to get permission from some faculty in the department – sorta treated like a student or a child might. I went in after with the same pile of copies and was HANDED THE COPY CODE. The only thing different about us is our perceived ethnicity or race. It is highly unlikely that my colleague was rude or was otherwise somehow deserving of the rude treatment she received from the same person who was very cordial to me. I believe that because her skin is darker than mine she did not benefit from the privilege of being perceived as someone who should have access to the same resources as me. The is called the Assumption of Competence in Cris Cullinan’s article on white privilege. :)

  • Here’s a great link from EL: Blog Against Racism Day .

  • Reagan

    huh, white privilege? isn’t that just a myth that’s going around? i don’t get it… Speaking of white privilege I just spent my whole B-day weekend writing a 15 page paper on the possessive investment in whiteness!!! good stuff… here’s an interesting article on it: oregonstate.edu/~ler/the_possessive_investment_in_whiteness.pdf

  • Annette Martel

    Yes, white privilege exists. And it’s not just about skin pigment. It is presumed that if someone is acting in a “white” way (i.e. entitlement, assumption of success, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” etc.), they are “normal.” It is a complicated, invasive thing. And I check myself on it constantly.

    And I would just like to say a big fat, “I told you so!!!!!!!!!!!!” to Eric. You didn’t believe me when I said bell hooks was awesome. Now, you know. And knowing is half the battle.

  • WG

    It has taken me a while to comment on this topic because I am afraid of voicing my opinion. I have only been away from “mom and dad” for a little over a year and anything that is different from “home” is new to me and I am just learning. I don’t want to say something and then realize maybe I don’t agree with that and I don’t want to be attacked by someone who disagrees when I don’t know enough information about the topic. But here is my wishy-washy comment. I guess it does exist. I never thought about it before reading this, and I know 95% of the students I come in contact with daily haven’t thought about it either. (I guess they are white, huh?) I was taught everyone is equal and everyone should be treated equally. I truly believed all my grade school teachers, but now I see that they weren’t telling me how it really is. And I guess I am racist. Not because I want to be, but because I don’t (or didn’t) know any better and thought I wasn’t.

  • Amanda

    White privilage only exists in America. (And only if Chuck Norris says so, otherwise it doesn’t bc I don’t want a roundhouse kick to the head) Here in Scotland, “there are no race issues.”

    Yeah right…

    I can’t wait to come back Stateside for a few weeks – land of the enlightened (sometimes)

    A la Jessica White – here is my favorite theory quote and what do you know? Its by bell hooks!! “When our lived experience of theorizing is fundamentally linked to processes of self-discovery, of collective liberation, no gap exists between theory and practice. Indeed, what such experience makes more evident is the bond between the two – that ultimately reciprocal process wherein one enables the other.”
    (hooks, 1994, p. 61)

  • Yes, white privilege exists. I became aware of my white privilege when I started reading Janet Helms’ model of White Identity Development. I then read Helms’ book, A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life.

    It really hurts a lot when you realize that you have received unearned privileges for your life and that those privileges were simultaneously doing damage to people of color. An example of white privilege that I have recently encountered happened while I was conversing with another white person. We were talking about a variety of topics when the following was said (not by me, I might add), “racism does not exist anymore.” I immediately asked what this person meant. They said that the kkk was ineffective and that they had been taught that racism had been abolished. I sent them the Peggy McIntosh article on white privilege. Their position on racism changed very quickly. This person had been oblivious to the privileges that were benefiting their “everyone is on an equal playing field” mentality.

    It is amazing to me, now that my eyes have been opened, that racism exists and that I see/hear racist actions all the time. It’s like an internal racism radar screen has been activated.

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  • White privilege does not exist. White privilege is the invention of the racialist/multiculturalist mob in an attempt force white people to admit that blacks and other people of color are at a distinct disadvantage in this country and, as such, should be entitled to greater support both financially and structurally (institutionally) than are white people.

    The idea of white privilege is based on a misunderstanding/failure to understand the history of the white race in America. It’s based on a desire not to research the current condition of the white race, as well. Jim Goad wrote a book called “The Redneck Manifesto” which is built around the following question: if white privilege exists, then how do you explain white trash? How can the the white people of the South (especially in Appalachia) and the Midwest and the Northern Plains, white people who have lived in poverty and illiteracy for generation after generation, be explained if they all are at an advantage based solely on their race?

    The argument from the racialist mob is that these white people could, if they sought out education and cleaned themselves up a bit, take advantage of their white privilege. Of course, the average white racist would say that if black folks would speak correctly and seek out an education, then they’d be just as likely as anyone else to succeed.

    Since the idea of white privilege is based totally on observation, nobody has to be bothered with the millions of desperately poor white people who aren’t observed because nobody cares. Nobody has to explain their existence in the face of such innate privilege.

  • How can the the white people of the South (especially in Appalachia) and the Midwest and the Northern Plains, white people who have lived in poverty and illiteracy for generation after generation, be explained if they all are at an advantage based solely on their race?

    One privilege (an unearned advantage) that comes to my mind is the fact that the White folks who live in the South, the Midwest, and the Northern Plains all get the unearned privilege of stolen lands. Yes, there are White people who are poor and illiterate, but they do not have to live on reservations. All White people in this country get the privilege of seeing their race represented in almost all k-12 history books. This is regardless of their socio-economic class status.

  • poor boy,

    i’ve read goad’s book, and i can tell you that his framework is fundamentally flawed. (it was some years ago, so i can’t been too specific, but i remember having serious problems with the book. i’m not going to reread it, because i’m not going to put myself through that again.) goad is also a misogynistic robert crumb (also a misogynist) wannabe.

    we have here the inherent problem with “ranking” oppressions. yes, white privilege exists. just being able to go through your day and not having to “think about race” is one of the privileges of not being a minority in a white supremacist culture. but there’s also such thing as class oppression. impoverished white people do face barriers to achieving their goals, based on their class, but i would ask you to compare the experience of impoverished whites and impoverished blacks. the experiences are significantly different.

    bell hooks would remind us that oppression based on race, class and gender are all important and have to be fought at the same time. it is not progress to achieve rights for one group at the expense of another.

    and to eric, all of the lands of the united states of america are stolen lands acquired through genocide. it’s all occupied territory.

  • “There are white people who are poor and ILLITERATE”…”All white people get the privilege of seeing their race represented in almost all k-12 history books”. Do you see the logical failure of that statement?

    Also, I’d suggest stepping away from the Humanities for a moment and sitting in an Economics class. Ask the professor the following: you’ve got food on the y axis, and a history book for an illiterate cracker on the x axis, what is the marginal utility to the illiterate cracker of each mention of a white person in a history book? What kind of demand curve are we constructing, here?

    The professor will tell you that you’re constructing an irrational curve. To a poor person who lacks the basic neccessities of life, your argument about history books is asinine; the history books represent zero utility, and each time the person is given a history book over food you are causing them to suffer negative marginal utility. THAT is NOT a privilege.

    Oh, by the way, that is called an emperical argument. Give it a try sometime.

  • I agree with you Fournier. There is no such thing as a hierarchy of oppressions. Oppression and the “isms” are interconnected.

    Poor Boy: Fournier makes a great point. I think we would both love to hear about your unique experience.

    impoverished white people do face barriers to achieving their goals, based on their class, but i would ask you to compare the experience of impoverished whites and impoverished blacks.

  • Fournier, it’s very difficult to take someone seriously when they say that there are fundemental flaws with any book, thought, process and then they follow that with “but I can’t tell you what it is”.

    Eric, I’ve got no interest in telling you my “unique story” because it’s not unique. It’s the story of many, many, millions, of other white people, black people, Mexicans and everyone else on the planet who wasn’t born rich. I’m more interested in stopping people like you from sounding like absolute idiots because you’re so used to talking in a vacuum in which nobody has ever pointed out to you how illogical your entire philosophy is.

  • like i said, it’s been years since i read Goad’s book and it was not particularly enlightening. what i do remember is him missing the point that race DOES matter. the experience(s) of blacks in america, and asians, and first nations people, and people from south and central america cannot be “compared” with the experience of impoverished white americans.

    i’m well aware that impoverished white people face challenges. living in portland, a city with little ethnic diversity, i see white poverty all the time. in fact, most of the people i work with, are whites in poverty. so, please don’t assume that i’m not aware of the reality of poverty. what i can tell you, is that poverty (unlike race) can change. it’s also possible to learn the traits of a different class for reasons of passing through barriers. changing ones racial identity is not possible.

    white privilege exists, if only because white people are free to be “individuals” while members of any other ethnic background are expected to be ambassadors and representatives of a whole people. i suggest that you re-read the content of the post. it’s excellent.

    (and no, i do not limiit my discussions of race, gender and class oppression to “safe” vacuums. i do most of my talking about oppression with those unfamiliar with the concepts, in an effort to educate. i get challenged plenty, and my arguments are able to withstand criticism.)

  • I’ve got to question the ability of people who are unfamiliar with a topic that you are discussing to properly challenge you. They may dissagree, but if they do so out of ignorance of the topic. then it’s not really a challenge, is it?

    Goad’s book directly measures the plight of white trash against the plight of blacks, so the fact that you’d claim that it doesn’t only leads me to believe that you’ve never read it (or failed to understand the words he was writing). No matter, Goad isn’t a prophet, and it isn’t neccessary to read his book to understand that simply claiming that white priviledge exists is not enough to make it so. There are simply too many examples of generational poverty within the white community for such a broad statement to have merit. At this point, I’m finding it difficult to even find arguments against the white priviledge position, because it’s so unsupported that I don’t neccessarily have anything to argue against except for the entire idea, which is like arguing with a Christian about the validity of their religion.

    One telling point, though: in every response that I make, I start by pointing out a logical fallacy, or simple failure of logic, in the posts from Eric and yourself. Don’t you think that any worldview that cannot be supported for even a paragraph or two without relying on a lack of logic probably has significant problems?

  • Let’s start off with a few basic questions then:

    Does institutionalized racism exist?

    What is your opinion on how Native Americans have been treated in this country?

  • Institutional racism against whom? There are institutions of various kinds, and various institutions are obviously racist toward various groups. [edited by Admin] The Ku Klux Klan is racist against blacks, other racial minorities, as well as Catholics, Jews, and so on. There are individuals within institutions of all sorts who are certainly racist; but, I believe, with no sarcasm or irony, that the 14th Amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act mean that there is no legally sanctioned, and therefore no institutional (insofar as we’re talking about institutions of the public/civic realm), racism in this country. That includes against Native Americans.

  • poorboy,

    i feel like you’re being deliberately evasive, so i’m not sure i’m going to continue to respond to you. you haven’t answered my question about the experience of blacks and whites in poverty. if you look at blacks and whites of any economic class, you will see that there are experienced barriers at each level. racism exists in all economic classes.

    as to your, hopefully unintentional, misunderstanding of my last comment. what i said is that i talk about the concepts of race, gender and class outside of environments where they are typically discussed. the “vacuum” you referenced previously. i don’t think there’s a person alive today not familiar with the concepts of racism, sexism or lack of access to economic opportunity.

    here’s an article on diversity and white privilege if you’d like to read it.

    no one here is arguing that class inequalities don’t exist. i said in my last comment that i work directly with people experiencing poverty and homelessness and that most of them are white. no one is saying that poor whites don’t have a hard time accessing health care, education, etc… but there are additional barriers for people who also experience racism in addition to poverty. or for people who experience sexism in addition to poverty. or homophobia in addition to poverty. or who experience poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia.

    maybe poor whites don’t get very much sympathy. is that what this is about? goad writes, i recall, about the irish who were kidnapped and forced into “indentured servitude.” the “white” identity didn’t always include the irish. it wasn’t until later that the irish “became” “white.” generational poverty is difficult to escape from, and it’s even harder when you have additional factors working against you.

    “whiteness” is still considered the normative standard for behavior/being. being anything else is “other.” that in itself is significant. that in itself provides privileges to those who are “in” and disadvantages to those who are “out.” it’s not an absolute system, but if you ask any person of color living in america, (aside from J.C. Watts maybe) they will tell you that white privilege is very real.

  • I’m not being evasive, I’m disagreeing with you. I’m attempted to have a discussion on the level at which educated people should be able to have a discussion; that is to say that I’m attempting to have a discussion based on facts.

    You’re attempted to have a discussion based on conjecture and personal experience. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with personal experience, but the validity of your experience depends, a great deal, on you.

    For instance, you argue that if I were to ask any person of color living in America about white privilege, I would get an answer which supports your position. So what? [edited by Admin]
    In regards to your question, I really thought it was rhetorical. You assume that there is a fundemental difference in experience between a black man who earns $5.00 per hour and a white man who earns the same. I’d argue that the only conceivable difference is who the two people are going to be inclined to blame for their situation. The black man is more likely to blame his race, while the white man will have to find some other target. Perhaps he blames the rich, perhaps he blames the “system”, perhaps he blames parents who didn’t love him enough. Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter what I think the differences or similarities are in experience; the question is, what factual evidence do you have that there is a difference, beyond inference?

    The most simple way to ask my question is: can you quantify white privilege? Can you point to a study that shows, empirically, blacks have some actual disadvantage to whites in our society due solely to their race, rather than on some other factor such as being raised in a broken family, having dropped out of high school, having had children as a teen, or having used drugs. Can you point to any study which shows that a white person who has a child at 15, drops out of high school, was raised in a broken home…will achieve, on average, a higher level of success than a black person in similar circumstances?

    Now, I would answer my own question, but I’ve searched for such studies and have found none. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, perhaps I’ve been unlucky. But, if my feeling is correct, that no such studies exist, I’ve got a really hard time with people believing that there is an inherent privilege in being white based on nothing more than the fact that they enjoy the writing style of a person with a certain political leaning.

    This is an important issue, because if there is really no white privilege, then spending more, per capita, on kids in prodominately black school districts (such as the case when comparing the 90% black Kansas City, Missouri school district with the prodominately white districts around it) because blacks are seen as being at an inherent disadvantage is immoral. So is affirmative action, special small business grants, special treatment in government contract awards, and all of the other programs which are meant to make up for a privilege that may, or may not, exist given all of the hard evidence we’ve ever been shown.

    I’m sure you and Eric are both intellectually savvy people who don’t want to believe things just to believe them; I can’t believe that niether of you have any interest in seeing hard facts. I’m very sure that you wouldn’t want to believe in white privilege if it didn’t really exist. Would you?

  • you’re right poorboy,

    slavery never happened. people from europe never kidnapped people from africa and sold them as property in what became the united states of america. there weren’t, after the Civil War, amendments to the Constitution (13th-15th) that made discrimination by race illegal and provided voting rights to those who wouldn’t actually be able to use them for nearly 100 years. it didn’t take the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to actually enforce those amendments. that was, what, 40 years ago? clearly, that’s a sufficient amount of time for generations of legally enforced poverty (had it actually happened, which it didn’t) to have worked itself out by sheer determination.

    Jim Crow didn’t exist. Rosa Parks was clearly delusional when she was asked to move to the back of the bus. Billie Holiday was mistaken when she sang of the “strange fruit” hanging from southern trees. Martin Luther King Jr’s need for having a dream of equality was clearly a hallucination, since inequality never manifested itself. the experience of white people and black people have been exactly the same in this country. Malcolm X’s anger was completely irrational.

    in fact, it’s truly the white people who have been oppressed. i see now that we have always been beset by the complaints of those claiming that we’ve been oppressing them. clearly, it’s the liberal media that wants to make white people feel guilty for being white. there’s nothing in european americans’ history to be ashamed of.

    the land which makes up the united states of america wasn’t already populated before the spanish, english, dutch or french landed. no genocide happened. clearly the historical record has been tampered with. some privileged liberal revisionists have been trying to rewrite our proud history based on a sense of opportunism they’ve invented and managed to infect our university system with. the liberal politicians clearly are trying to ride the overwhelming power of the black voter into office. the disenfranchisement of voters didn’t happen in Florida in 2000, and it certainly didn’t happen in Ohio in 2004.

    we live in a democracy and we are charged with the righteous task of exporting our glorious product worldwide.

  • Fournier, I’ll take that to mean that you cannot prove that there is any inherent white privilege with any quantifiable methods.

    What you are arguing is that white America owes something to the blacks because of opression that occured between 40 and 200 years ago. That has nothing to do with the idea of white privilege.

    Anyway, I can’t abide this willfull ignorance of imperical fact. Either white privilege exists, or it doesn’t — you’ve given not one lick of evidence that it does exist over three days of debate.

  • Here are two links you may want to look at before dismissing the concept of white privilege. (by the way, quantitative studies are not the only way of showing something exists or happens. qualitative studies can be just as rigorous and reliable and are often more appropriate in the realm of the social sciences.

    Link 1 & Link 2

    privilege isn’t about acheivement of success, it’s about facing fewer barriers. are you suggesting that people of color face fewer barriers in the united states?

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  • Poor Boy,

    Thank you for your honesty. I apologize for turning off the discussion board, but Fournier and I were speaking from our own experiences while you were not engaging us with yours.

    I want you to know that I am against oppression. I am actively anti-racist, actively feminist, and an active ally. I am trying my best to actively end oppression.

    I believe that the dominant groups in the United States have to end oppression. Racism will only end if white people actively give up privilege and power. Sexism will only end if men give up privilege and power. Ableism will only end if the temporarily able bodied give up privilege and power.

    I do not think that these thoughts are liberal or conservative. I think the fact that this turned into a liberal vs. conservative debate instead of 3 white guys talking about their experiences shows how difficult it is for white folks to talk about their privileges. I don’t think there is a winner or a loser in a discussion where folks are not willing to be honest about their own experiences. Poor Boy, I believe that your story is unique. I would have loved to know about your experience as a white person who grew up poor and who now is in college and administering a blog. Your movement from lower class to middle class is unique because your story is your own, just like Fournier’s story or my story. We all have different experiences.

    Thank you for taking time out of your life to engage us in dialogue.

  • sqzinator

    There were some interesting points made by people not by books that I can relate to, can’t relate to, and understand. When I was younger, like in high school; I was in a culturally diverse school in a very well off neighborhood. I had as many white friends as black friends. Being black was not at all a problem until after graduation. white privilege became astonishingly revealed when I went to look for jobs and do tasks of everyday life that required interacting with those at the front-line of whatever goods, services, and resources that I was looking for. I was always thought to be very educated as told by any race of peers or adults. My problem at the time was that due to a couple of black friends who were militant caused me to develop an increasing level of racism towards whites which was never there in high school. I stared falling for it as white privilege situations became more visible among my black friends. After some arguments, fights, name calling, and two years of developing a dislike for whites; things changed for me based on my goals of always educating myself even though I could not afford college. In 4 months my outlook of whites changed and my argument about white privilege lessened. My ghetto attitude dropped. Only intelligent thoughts came from my mind. The journey not to be more white , but be more intelligent consumed my efforts. Soon after, my desire to be with anyone of a non intelligent way of being fell like a landslide. I began to strategically drop certain people off of my daily interaction list, and put on more intelligent friends until the company that I kept was about 50% white, 25% black, and 25% other. Afterwards I can truly say that the 90% of times I thought that white privilege was keeping me from accessing or gaining things that I needed changed to 5% of the time I thought white privilege coming into play. Those who cannot educate themselves to an acceptable intelligent level will be a victim of white privilege. That is allot of people, especially young black men and women. I used to produce rap music. It was about educating our own and telling them key things to motivate them to better themselves. Today I can’t even listen to the same music that I used to love because it’s ignorance is not only poisoning young blacks and keeping them below the standard, but the white kids have been affected too. Ignorance can be seen before it is heard. 90% of people who I profile as ignorant usually are. I don’t pre-judge someone and I always give a person their chance to prove me wrong. I had a white friend who had a racist family. A year later he took me to his home for the weekend to play video games and work on artwork. His father was immediately rude to me and his mom avoided me. At dinner he interrogated me, but I never got offended because I knew he was a racist, and I never disrespected him because his son told me that it was how his dad was raised. After dinner his mom began to speak to me and his two sisters were allowed to come around and the father disappeared for the night. Since I had been a good cook at a young age I asked his mom if I could help cook breakfast and she agreed to let me help. In the afternoon the father had called me to his study to show me some books on art that he had collected over a span of about 25 years. He never said anything about his racist actions, but he did give me the permission to come back to his home. At a later visit he told me that the majority of blacks that he met were ignorant and that he had a black co-worker who was his only black friend. For me I took it as that black youth was fuckin it up for the others to come. If more blacks would shed the materialism, learned ignorant behavior, unhealthy desire to do anything to be notice by being flashy, and the thought of that this is how I was raised and this is who I am, then they could take steps to elevate their consciousness, and intellect. I don’t walk around being intimidated by white privilege because my intelligence shines so bright that I give off an inviting personality which confidence has allot to do with it. I believe that white privilege is very real, but I don’t worry because I am smart enough to obtain whatever I need due to my connections with other people. For racism to be broken down, minorities have to take advantage of all education and pass it on to their kids. Society has to outlaw what is killing the progress of young minds. Certain oppressive material has to be made off limits to those whose minds have not fully developed so their learning cannot be hindered. Education material and practices have to be the same nationwide. Sexism is brought to a halt when women grab more power, like Hilary Clinton becoming president, Oprah Winfrey donating more to the advancement of women, more women owned industries, and TV, rap videos, porn, and other demeaning practices involving women are suffocated……………………………………………………………….. I would love to add more but I must go Thank you for reading

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  • mark

    Wow, I stopped by here to learn something about white privilege and instead learned something about people who cannot engage in a discussion. Poor Boy made some interesting points and presented them well. Two other individuals failed to respond to the cogent argument and instead attempted to blatantly change the subject. It kind of reminded me of sitting in a university class and hearing, “You argument is good and your logic impeccable, but…”

    It’s too bad, because I think both sides would have benefited if an actual discussion had taken place.

    btw, fournier, this is an utterly false statement, “qualitative studies can be just as rigorous and reliable and are often more appropriate in the realm of the social sciences.”

    Qualitative studies are not and are not intended to be “rigorous,” nor are they “more” appropriate in social sciences. Qualitative studies are valuable for discovering new areas of investigation and that investigation frequently leads to quantitative study. In other words, qualitative studies are most often a starting point.

  • Antonieta

    It is amazing this outcry for “quantitative hard data” an issue that is no more ideological than thinking white privilege does not exist. ¿do you want some data? Just from the top of my head, Blacks in higher education account for about 2 percent of the University population, while Blacks count for about 13 percent of the American population. This is a stark contrast with people in jail, where 41 percent of the population is black.

    What do you say about rhetoric and media discourses. what about institutional racism in the welfare system? why are pensions linked to white people and food stamps linked to welfare queens? what is the color of a welfare mother? I was surprised when my students told me that a welfare mother was in fact a black person (I am an immigrant to this country and although I have heard of the term “welfare queens” and “welfare mothers” I never imagine them as black, or as Latinas.

    I am sure that content analyses exist that account for popular media representation of blacks and whites in different lights regarding their race. do you want to try to find more “hard data”? There is plenty. We just need better arguments and less ideological thinking. I agree with Fournier, It is hard to think outside white privilege, or outside privilege in general. Divisions among members of the citizenry and distinctions of entitlements by the state are a fundamental problem of our democracies. We can pre-divide people into belonging and not belonging and unconsciously de-humanize a good portion of the population and then do not feel we are privileged, but just fair. This has been a dilemma for citizenship since ancient times. The Greeks were free, but only a handful of men that were slave and property owners. Women, foreigners, children and slaves were not citizens. We operate under pretty much the same model, although former slaves have emancipated, and women now gain the suffrage, our system is still finding ways to keep semi-slave work (just visit an orchard in Central Valley California or a poultry or meat packing plant in North Carolina) and we still debate if the weakest members of our society have rights? are they human?

    Are we really against oppression or against being the ones oppressed? Besides good legislation acts, we also need more human empathy, something hard to get. Oh, and I am really dissapointed that we still cannot quantify empathy (we are close though). Any bets?


  • Marissa

    First of all I would just like to say that I agree with poorboy. There is no such thing as white privilege. There is also no such thing as racism, only ignorance. It’s because of the way people represent themselves that they do not get where they want to be in life. It does not really matter what color skin you have. Are people sometimes racist, yes, but not all of them are. If you were to say that the reason many races do not succeed is because of white privilege, that would be sterotyping because not all white people share that quality.

    • marine 1

      so if racism doesn’t exist then tell me what is it that white supremecists are teaching to other whites? i think you need to take a trip down south and learn your history.I think you should have discussions with white and black people about your non racist views. I guarantee they’ll paint a different picture.and while your they’re you should seek out and talk to a man named john metzger.

  • Wow. Marissa, I guess it is both a bummer and an opportunity that you feel this way. I think it is a bummer that a college student who is presumably in courses that discuss the history of oppression in this country has such views. I also feel that there is an opportunity for learning and growth given the fact that you are in college and are reaching out to comment on sites like mine.

  • Marissa

    I do not think it is a “bummer” I feel this way, nor do I think it is an opportunity. What I stated in my last comment is what I truly believe. And while I have an open mind and am willing to admit that I have many faults at times, I am sticking with that belief until someone makes me believe otherwise.

    I am tired of people in general saying that African Americans are forced to be white. They are not forced to be white. During the time of slavery, of course, African Americans were uneducated and had (this may be a bad choice in words) a reason to act and talk in that particular manner. In present times, there is not one reaoson i can think of. One may say it is because of their upbringing that certain people talk and act the way they do. And the “talk” that im referring to by thew way is eubonics. If a white person were to go to say a job interview and speak in a sort of slang, they would get the same treatment as an African American would, which is disrespect. Poorboy made an excellent point on the “white trash” comment.

    Also, Eric if it I have this opportuinity to learn and grow, then teach me and tell me your views on exactly what I have said instead of just telling me that how I feel is basically wrong.

  • Teehee… these conversations always tickle me pink. I always wait for the people claiming that white privilege doesn’t exist to offer up criteria for white privilege/racism, so that we could gather data to see if white privilege/racism is made up or real. Or hell, even offer up an idea as to who decides when something could be considered racist (white people? people of color?). Never, ever seen a response to this, which makes me laugh at any and all arguments that come afterward.

    If you argue that racism doesn’t exist, or that white privilege doesn’t exist, then please offer up a definition for both of those terms so we can test it. If you can’t, or if you are unwilling to work with the definitions provided, then please: move on. You failed logic.

  • Marissa

    White privilege does not exist. Racism yes, wihite privilege absolutely not. There are many white people in this world who must work hard for what they have and black people must do the same. And if there is a such thing as white privilege, explain affirmative action. That is not a privilege to whites at all. It is a privilege to minorities. Nobody should get any special privilege based on their race, no matter what race you are. Basically if white privilege does exist, there shouldn’t be a problem because afirmative action gives privilege to non-whites.

  • Marissa – It’s interesting to me how you float from black people to minorities to “non-whites” as if there are only black people and white people. First off, there are people of color (e.g. African American, Native American, Asian American, and Latino.) and then there are white people.

    I agree with you that there are a lot of white people in the world (although I have more knowledge of issues in the U.S.) who have to work very hard to survive. This is due in large part to the fact that we live in a classist society. White people are definitely impacted by classism.

    People of color in the U.S. also have to work hard to be successful. However, classism as well as racism are institutionalized hurdles to that success.

    White people in the U.S. have never been targeted en masse due to the color of their skin. Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans in the U.S. have been subjected (by a white majority) to slavery, genocide, discrimination, internment camps, etc.

    I put up a post on Housing Discrimination that occurred from the 1930’s into the 1980’s. The post links to an article on reparations for housing discrimination:

    “The average black American has only about 15 percent as much wealth as the average white American, even though black Americans earn about 60 percent as much as white Americans. And at every income level, white Americans have much more wealth than black.”

    The reason that African American wealth is so low is due to the history of racism in this country. White people have been able to amass wealth, go to school, buy homes, etc. while simultaneously causing harm via racism to people of color, in this example, African Americans.

    Affirmative action exists to try to regain some sense of equity in federal and state hiring practices. Affirmative action benefits people of color by providing one institutionalized policy that can help to partially offset white privilege. White people, white men in particular, get upset about affirmative action because there are not many policies that actually take aware their unearned group privilege.

    You are so right that nobody should get special privileges for their race. However, that has not been the case in this country since day one. White people have institutionalized special privileges for themselves since the inception of the United States of America. To ignore historical context and its impact on marginalized racial groups in this country is a perfect example of white privilege.

    By the way, saying that people of color are “non-white,” centers whiteness and relegates being a person of color to being less than white. Affirmative action is a small part of what needs to be done in the U.S. to eliminate racism. Until white people are aware of their own privilege and power, racism will continue (unfortunately) in overt and covert ways.

    Did you go through the white privilege list (1 – 50). It’s near the end of the post. I can answer “yes” to every single question. If you read through the list, do you end up answering yes to a lot of them too? If so, why do you feel that is so?

    ps: Sometimes it is difficult to find non-dominant paradigm rhetoric when one attends a predominantly white, private institution.

  • SarahMC

    I stumbled upon this website a couple weeks ago and I really enjoy it.

    Marissa, please learn the actual defition of “white privilege” before you claim that it’s non-existant. It’s clear that you are opperating under some false assumptions.

    The book Why Do All the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria gave me a lot of insight into the formation of racial identity, and the framework with which to understand and talk about race and sex privilege.

  • Marissa… I don’t know how much of my post you read, but I’ll try and restate a request I’m making of you more clearly:

    1) Please provide a definition of white privilege and racism.
    2) Please let me know how we can gather evidence either for or against these ideas existing.
    3) Please let me know who is allowed to determine if these terms exist.

    I haven’t really seen you do this yet. I think it would help me tremendously to understand what you’re trying to say if you could do this for me.

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  • Charles

    Despite the proliferation of the study of whiteness and the implications of white privilege, very few scholars seem to recognize the vital role that ‘white trash’ culture and aesthetic play in the reproduction, reconstruction, and even reinforcement of white power and privilege in today’s society – in order to construct a new paradigm of dominant white ideology. White trash images and behavioral identifiers are currently circulated throughout our society as objects of cultural consumption, reproduced in many ways as socially acceptable and significant – consumed within the market economy as commodities which are both figuratively and literally, bought and sold as culture. But the negative stereotypes that have historically defined the placement of white trash as a marginal and racialized culture-class category within the U.S., have since become muted, morphed, and metastasized into the public sphere of everyday life. White trash is now embraced as part of the collective norm; “an acceptable, multicultural form of white racial identity” (Wray and Newitz , White Trash: Race and Class in America, 5) and an element of popular culture. Affirmative white trash images flood popular media and popular culture, and serves only to emphasize society’s assertive, positive investment in whiteness.

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  • When I first entered the arena of higher ed, I made a point to speak to my freshmen students about white privilege.  I came across a great speaker by the name of Tim Wise, and I show one of his speeches during my FYS class.  WIse makes a great point when he talks about white privilege as it is broken down by each class system.  It provides a perfect rebuttal to Marrissa’s comment:

     “There are many white people in this world who must work hard for what they have and black people must do the same.”Take a moment to watch this YouTube video, and you will see what I am talking about.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UJlNRODZHAI was naive about the effect that white privilege has on people because I am a product of that privilege.  I learn more every time a read a post like this.  Thanks for sharing Eric, and providing me with something to really think about!