Privilege, a brief summary (language)

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  1. #1
    Global Moderator velo's Avatar
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    Privilege, a brief summary (language)

    There is often confusion, usually among those who benefit from it, as to what white privilege actually is. Privilege doesn't mean your life is easy or that you get things handed to you, but it does mean that you have to overcome fewer challenges on your road to whatever your definition of success is.

    Being born into a working class or even poor white family absolutely comes with obstacles. I grew up with an absent father and a mother who had to work as a waitress until I was a teenager to keep a roof over our heads. We didn't have a lot but I never went hungry and always had a place to come home to.

    It's probably hard to see any privilege in that story but I assure you it's there. We moved quite a bit. I never went to the same school two years in a row until 8th grade. So, Mom was apartment hunting quite a bit. As a white woman, this presented no problem as long as the bills were paid. If we were a brown-skinned family, however, that might not have been so easy.

    Housing discrimination is a well-documented fact in the United States and it's rarely overt. No landlord will call out someone's race in denying their rental application but the white applicant is statistically much more likely to get the apartment even if the majority of applicants were not white. The minority applicant will simply be told that another family was selected or perhaps never hear back at all.

    Now, there is no guarantee you're going to get the apartment if you're white. This is where I think some people get stuck on the idea of privilege and what it actually is. Privilege simply means you don't have the box next to 'black' or 'Mexican' checked in the mind of the landlord.

    Those labels come with centuries of inherent bias that is sewn into every part of our society. In The Condemnation of Blackness, Khalil Gibran Muhammad makes a clear case that many of the stereotypes of black people in the United States were a direct result of political and statistical spin that came about after the 1890 census. After the end of slavery there was still not free and open access to American society for blacks. They still dealt with job discrimination, housing discrimination, and often lived in abject poverty because of the lack of access to resources. Many black people had to turn to crime in order to survive.

    So thus comes the myth of the inherently lazy or criminal nature of the black man. The 1890 census showed that black people had higher unemployment than whites and were convicted of crimes more often. Despite the fact that these numbers were directly traceable to policies and actions of white people, black people were blamed and still carry those stigma to this day.

    This is why black parents have to teach their children how to act around police; we are still dealing with the hysteria and urban myths that were born in the misanalysis of the 1890 census.

    In my wife's office a few weeks ago, a woman inadvertently left a ring on a table. As she left, she saw the next client who happened to be a Latino man. Later, the woman called my wife asking about the ring and voiced that she hoped the Mexican man who came in after her didn't steal it. Not only is he Guatemalan but he did find the ring and had immediately brought it to my wife so it could be returned. This is not an isolated incident, this often unconscious bias is everywhere in this country. This woman would probably never think she has any bias yet this incident clearly shows she does. That's not even her fault, in all probability, she's just been exposed to so much nonsense about brown people that she reacted the way she's been trained to.

    Privilege is not about being handed freebies, it simply means you don't have to deal with all the extra shit a brown-skinned person does. You don't have to deal with being followed by security in a store when you're shopping for a birthday present for your wife. You don't have to be that much better than any white candidate when you're applying for a job. You don't have to be that much more attractive to a landlord than a white person to get an apartment in a good school district. You can live your life and not have to worry about being looked down on and denied opportunity for the colour of your skin.

    White people can have hard lives full of hard work and struggle, no one is trying to take that away from them. The only thing the discussion around privilege is trying to do is make it common knowledge that the quiet, unspoken biases in this society are real and that they cause a lot of added pain and struggle to people of colour.
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    "When a child is abused, he or she will often internalise that abuse as deserved. It is a cruel reality that a child needs the parent so much, is evolutionarily programmed to trust them so implicitly, that when a parent is abusive the child will take the blame rather than completely upend their world and blame the person they depend on for survival." -velo

  2. #2
    Wɾ°ʇ°∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Interesting and topical, erm ... topic. Though this:

    Quote Originally Posted by velo View Post
    T We didn't have a lot but I never went hungry or never had a place to come home to.
    doesn't seem right to me. You never had a place to come home to, or did you? Just say "I never went hungry and always had a place etc..." if that's what you meant.


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  3. #3
    Global Moderator velo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Interesting and topical, erm ... topic. Though this:



    doesn't seem right to me. You never had a place to come home to, or did you? Just say "I never went hungry and always had a place etc..." if that's what you meant.
    Thanks, awkwardness fixed.
    My blog- Hidden Content thoughts on trauma and healing through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

    "When a child is abused, he or she will often internalise that abuse as deserved. It is a cruel reality that a child needs the parent so much, is evolutionarily programmed to trust them so implicitly, that when a parent is abusive the child will take the blame rather than completely upend their world and blame the person they depend on for survival." -velo

  4. #4
    This is very well done. Most of the critiques I thought of while reading ended up being answered a sentence or two later. The only thing I am wary of is your assertion, "many black people had to turn to crime to survive".

    It isn't untrue, but it isn't the most persuasive thing to say. A biased reader would see that and simply feel justified they are right and black people are criminals, and ignore the rest of what your trying to say.

    I don't think that it doesn't have a place in the narrative, but a discussion about the drug war explicitly being created to target black people, biased sentencing, the effects of poverty on crime, or the military industrial complex is sorely needed.

    Overall, this is a good overview. The personal anecdotes were excellent, and I think the section about WHY the woman with the missing ring reacted the way she did is the star of this piece. People hate being told they are racist because racist = evil. So a little reassurance that they are programmed by society is well received. The way you described it was perfect imo.

  5. #5
    This was a good piece, solid on its basis. I also think that the comment about crime needs to be more carefully put, and that your use of "shit" doesn't fit the tone of the piece, but those were my only two gripes. It's a fine piece, added by a dimension of personal experience.
    ďAs far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being,"

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