If presidents were selected in a statistically unbiased way from the population, the chance of selecting 43 white men in a row would be less than 2 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s consistent with what we already know: the selection of U.S. presidents is far from fair.
We calculated a rough numerical measure of white supremacy and male supremacy in the U.S. presidency. White males have been chosen for the presidency as if they constituted 98% of the population.
For the record, I believe that writing about white privilege and patriarchy is a positive thing to do. I feel very positive when I write about these particular barriers to social justice.
I feel that working towards the elimination of racism and sexism is a positive thing. It’s not an easy thing to do. It often hurts. There are comments that make my heart pound as I attempt to digest scattered remnants of thoughts that have been buried beneath piles of words. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night as I try to negotiate how to respond. It hurts to see comments from friends who say that I only talk about negatives. It is challenging.
I’ve been mulling over a few subjects that have been making appearances on my site as of late. The subjects are white privilege and the meritocracy myth a.k.a. “pull yourself up by the bootstraps and inequality vanishes as soon as the laces are tied.”
In addition to D’s encouragement, I received this comment/email today (which actually encouraged me to create this post):
…yes, I am white, and no nothing was given to me. The scholarships I had in college – academic (i.e., merit-based) based, not because they were promised to white people. The grades I earned – because of hard work, not because the professor favored white people. The job I hold now, I earned because of my experience and background, not because I am white.
…And if you do not believe in pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, then perhaps you should more attention to the people who have achieved success in this country by their own hard work.
In response to that sentiment, I present the following comic, excerpts and links regarding the meritocracy myth…
Jason Kottke has an excellent post about the gender disparity amongst several of the most popular (successful?) web conferences and their featured speakers.
Women make up less than 25% of the featured speakers at the majority of the conferences (TED, PopTech, An Event Apart Boston 2007, Future of Web Apps – San Francisco, etc) that Kottke analyzes.
According to Kottke:
it seems to me that either the above concerns are not getting through to conference organizers or that gender diversity doesn’t matter as much to conference organizers as they publicly say it does. The Future of Web Apps folks seem to have a particularly tin ear when it comes to this issue. For their second conference, they doubled the size of the speaker roster and added only one woman to the bill despite the complaints from last time.
I think I have a social justice crush on Angela Davis. More than 1,000 people attended her talk at Oregon State. Two professors from OSU had the privilege of being her students at UC Santa Cruz. Angela Davis could have talked for a week and I think we all would have listened.
Angela Davis‘ talk covered many topics including: historical memory, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Condoleeza Rice, George Bush, Affirmative Action, Diversity, Marriage, Activism, Racism, Critical Awareness and Prison Systems.
Davis talked about the importance of “historical memory” and the Civil Rights Movement. “The figure of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been set aside and isolated and represented as the lone historical figure, so everyone else who participated in the Civil Rights Movement falls away.”
Davis mentioned that she took umbrage with the term “diversity.” She said that “Diversity is difference that doesn’t make a difference.” Her comments were extremely relevant for institutions of higher education. Enrolling students of color, women, students with disabilities, lgbt students, and students with high financial need does not mean that racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia/heterosexism, and classism will simply disappear. However, “diversity” is thrown around as if it’s a magic anti-oppression elixir. Without social justice oriented, anti-oppression oriented, anti-racist oriented educational efforts, diversity cannot affect change amongst members of the dominant paradigm.
Apparently, both Condoleeza Rice and Angela Davis grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Davis mentioned that people often attempt to refer to Rice as her “homegirl” (cue laughter from 1,000 people) because they share the experience of growing up in the Jim Crow south.
According to Davis, “Rice narrates her life as triumph over racism.” Davis said she needs to constantly “disassociate her story” from Rice’s story. “How can I claim my story is a triumph? We’ve won some victories..some important victories…, but from the time I was quite small, I learned from my mother that it was about collective victory…community triumph, not about an individual rising above the rest. Affirmative action was a strategy designed to enable communities to move forward, collectives to move forward.”
I attempted to record her entire talk, but my pda wasn’t working correctly so I have over an hour of audio that I pieced together from 40 audio snippets.
The fidelity isn’t the greatest but the message is amazing.
“The victories that we win are not always the victories for which we fought.” — Angela Davis