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Thread: White Privilege

  1. #1
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    Default White Privilege

    [IMc - Best essay on white privilege I've read.]

    Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person

    Gina Crosley-Corcoran grew up in the type of poverty Americans like to pretend doesn’t exist, so it was hard for her to believe she had any privilege.

    By Gina Crosley-Corcoran

    Years ago, some feminist on the internet told me I was “Privileged.”

    “THE F*CK!?!?” I said.

    I came from the kind of Poor that people don’t want to believe still exists in this country. Have you ever spent a frigid northern Illinois winter without heat or running water? I have. At 12 years old, were you making ramen noodles in a coffee maker with water you fetched from a public bathroom? I was. Have you ever lived in a camper year-round and used a random relative’s apartment as your mailing address? We did. Did you attend so many different elementary schools that you can only remember a quarter of their names? Welcome to my childhood.

    So when that feminist told me I had “white privilege,” I told her that my white skin didn’t do **** 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. For example:

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

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

    “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.”

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

    If you read through the rest of the list, you can see how white people and people of color experience the world in two very different ways. 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 do understand McIntosh’s essay may rub some people the wrong way. There are several points on the list that I felt spoke more to the author’s status as a middle-class person than a white person. For example:

    “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.”

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

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

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

    And there are so many more points in the essay where the word “race” could be substituted for the word “class” which would ultimately paint a very different picture. That is why I had such a hard time identifying with this essay for so long. When I first wrote about white privilege years ago, I demanded to know why this white woman felt that my experiences were the same as hers when no, my family most certainly could not rent housing “in an area which we could afford and want to live.”

    And no, I couldn’t go shopping without fear in our low-income neighborhoods.

    The idea that any ol’ white person can find a publisher for a piece is most certainly a symptom of class privilege. Having come from a family of people who didn’t even graduate high school, who knew not a single academic or intellectual person, it would never occur to me to assume that I could be published. It is an absolute freak anomaly that I’m in graduate school considering not one person on either side of my family has a college degree.

    And it took me until my thirties to ever believe that someone from my stock could achieve such a thing. Poverty colors nearly everything about your perspective on opportunities for advancement in life. Middle-class, educated people assume that anyone can achieve their goals if they work hard enough. Folks steeped in poverty rarely see a life past working at the gas station, making the rent on their trailer, and self-medicating with cigarettes and prescription drugs until they die of a heart attack. (I’ve just described one whole side of my family and the life I assumed I’d be living before I lucked out of it.)

    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 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:

    Citizenship — Simply being born in this country affords you certain privileges non-citizens will never access.

    Class — Being born into a financially stable family can help guarantee your health, happiness, safety, education, intelligence, and future opportunities.

    Sexual Orientation — By being born straight, every state in this country affords you privileges that non-straight folks have to fight the Supreme Court for.

    Sex — By being born male, you can assume that you can walk through a parking garage without worrying you’ll be raped and that a defense attorney will then blame it on what you were wearing.

    Ability — By being born able-bodied, you probably don’t have to plan your life around handicap access, braille, or other special needs.

    Gender — By being born cisgendered, you aren’t worried that the restroom or locker room you use will invoke public outrage.

    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. But this is not to imply that any form of privilege is exactly the same as another or that people lacking in one area of privilege understand what it’s like to be lacking in other areas. Race discrimination is not equal to Sex Discrimination and so forth.

    And listen, 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.

    Tell me, are you a white person made uncomfortable by the term “white privilege?” Does a more nuanced approach help you see your own privilege more clearly?

    This story was originally published on TheFeministBreeder.com and republished on The Good Men Project.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Of course, if you are white and publicly atheist, all that privilege disappears, and even non-whites shun you...

    Might it be Christian white privilege?

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by George. View Post
    Of course, if you are white and publicly atheist, all that privilege disappears, and even non-whites shun you...
    Nonsense--Christopher Hitchens, q.e.d. Being openly atheist might limit your access to privilege in some ways, but white atheists have PLENTY of privilege.

    Tom
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Wikipedia notes:
    A 2009 survey showed that atheists were the most hated demographic group in Brazil, among several other minorities polled. According to the survey, 17% of the interviewees stated they felt either hatred or repulsion for atheists, while 25% felt antipathy and 29% were indifferent.[4]

    However, there are plenty of respected "irreligious" Brazilians. If one does not wish to be scorned, it's considerably easier to keep quiet about one's atheism than it is to whiten a dark skin.

    Maybe swapping in the term "intersectionality" for "privilege" will help, always remembering that many intersectionalities can be gained. If you have the intersectionality of the right talent you can reverse the intersectionality of being born in poverty. But what we call "race" is permanently visible.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Ah--I was thinking of primarily the U.S. I still think the privilege of being white is not erased by public atheism there. When I taught in Kuwait, school policy was that it was fine to be openly Christian. It was not allowed to be openly atheist. I don't discuss my religious beliefs with my students anyway, so that was no problem for me.

    "Intersectionality" smacks too much of jargon to me.

    I'd also say that talent is no guarantor of opportunity no matter what your skin color is. Not even sure it exists in the abstract--perhaps what we tend to call "talent" would be better labeled "results of early opportunity combined with mindful attention and practice within that opportunity."

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 01-12-2020 at 10:53 AM.
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    The first & greatest privilege, George, is that on being simply seen, skin color generates a preconception.. one 'against'.. and one 'for' - 'us' & 'them'.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Good. Thanks.
    David G
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    on another forum a couple of years ago, there was an engineer with a few degrees behind his name who could not get beyond sending in resumes. Nobody was calling him back even though his field was/is in demand. While he was white.. he had a black sounding name. As soon as somebody suggested this and told him to include a pic, businesses got interested in him
    "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito"

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Art Haberland View Post
    on another forum a couple of years ago, there was an engineer with a few degrees behind his name who could not get beyond sending in resumes. Nobody was calling him back even though his field was/is in demand. While he was white.. he had a black sounding name. As soon as somebody suggested this and told him to include a pic, businesses got interested in him
    Same experience with a friend who was a systems analyst. He absolutely rejected that notion at first. Finally, his wife convinced him to give the foto a try. He assured her it would make no difference. Bang... several interviews, and a nice job with Intel.
    David G
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Nonsense X 2

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Nonsense--Christopher Hitchens, q.e.d. Being openly atheist might limit your access to privilege in some ways, but white atheists have PLENTY of privilege.

    Tom

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Maybe a linguistic quibble, maybe not. I have never liked the term 'white privilege', because it implies one is getting something one does not deserve, and by implication should not get. While being white in the US most certainly gives one certain advantages, more than most white folks realize, the vast majority of the things listed in that article are 'privileges' that should apply to everyone, regardless of who they are - basically, to be treated fairly. It is not 'privilege' to not get crapped on unjustly.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by George. View Post
    Of course, if you are white and publicly atheist, all that privilege disappears, and even non-whites shun you...

    Might it be Christian white privilege?
    Made the mistake of saying I was non religious when on a job in Turkey, the atmosphere turned very awkward very quickly. Thankfully the female (Turkish) engineer managed to change the subject quickly.
    Lesson learnt, next time I'll pretend to be christian.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Nonsense--Christopher Hitchens, q.e.d. Being openly atheist might limit your access to privilege in some ways, but white atheists have PLENTY of privilege.

    Tom
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Ah--I was thinking of primarily the U.S. I still think the privilege of being white is not erased by public atheism there. When I taught in Kuwait, school policy was that it was fine to be openly Christian. It was not allowed to be openly atheist. I don't discuss my religious beliefs with my students anyway, so that was no problem for me.

    "Intersectionality" smacks too much of jargon to me.

    I'd also say that talent is no guarantor of opportunity no matter what your skin color is. Not even sure it exists in the abstract--perhaps what we tend to call "talent" would be better labeled "results of early opportunity combined with mindful attention and practice within that opportunity."

    Tom
    I have noticed the 'believers' are most upset by religious debates. Many simply don't want their beliefs questioned.
    How do we form a mutiny? Our new captain is navigating poorly.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Thank-you, Keith. The things described as "privilege" are, pretty much, just the way everybody should treat everybody else. The term muddies the discussion by, implicitly, suggesting that the white person can take off the privilege like a raincoat. Further it places the responsibility on the recipient of the privilege, rather than on the backward bigots not according the "privilege" to the nonwhite, where it belongs

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    Maybe a linguistic quibble, maybe not. I have never liked the term 'white privilege', because it implies one is getting something one does not deserve, and by implication should not get. While being white in the US most certainly gives one certain advantages, more than most white folks realize, the vast majority of the things listed in that article are 'privileges' that should apply to everyone, regardless of who they are - basically, to be treated fairly. It is not 'privilege' to not get crapped on unjustly.
    nonwhite, none privilege?
    How do we form a mutiny? Our new captain is navigating poorly.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by David W Pratt View Post
    Thank-you, Keith. The things described as "privilege" are, pretty much, just the way everybody should treat everybody else. The term muddies the discussion by, implicitly, suggesting that the white person can take off the privilege like a raincoat. Further it places the responsibility on the recipient of the privilege, rather than on the backward bigots not according the "privilege" to the nonwhite, where it belongs
    Privilege = private law.

    So, by definition, it is NOT 'just the way everybody should treat everybody else'.
    Rattling the teacups.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    If one does not wish to be scorned, it's considerably easier to keep quiet about one's atheism than it is to whiten a dark skin.
    Granted. But here is a thought experiment: suppose a person of color could use a cloaking device that made her look white to others. With this amazing device turned on, would she be freed from the evil of racism, and would she feel "privileged"? Or would she feel like an impostor that has to hide her true self in order to be accepted?

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    I'll make a cup of tea and we can discuss the subject.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Don't forget " Able Bodied "and "Male "!
    I try not to.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    Don't forget " Able Bodied "and "Male "! I try not to.
    Indeed. Most of us writing here have all sorts of things going for us that we had nothing to do with. Born in the USA in the later 20th century, born into at least moderate prosperity, a decent education, pretty good genetics, a reasonably functional family, one year too young to get drafted in the Vietnam war, not too much bad luck . . .
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Racism is real. Sexism is real. Ageism, ableism, heightism, etc. all are demonstrably real. Not absolutely, 100% definitive, by any means. But they are structural barriers that we should understand and work to reduce.

    And there are structural impediments embedded in or current political & economic landscape as well. For a fuller exposition of how being 'white' alone is no guarantee...

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...-dysfunctional
    David G
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Real privilege is having bone spurs when you don't. Blacks in the US or Brazil have indeed being so horribly exploited and scorned that one cannot even imagine compensation. But it was done overwhelmingly by a privileged few, who would have exploited someone else if Africans were not available. Enslavement by rich Europeans has a long and sordid history.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Then again women don’t have to sign up for mandatory selective service upon reaching 18.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    Then again women don’t have to sign up for mandatory selective service upon reaching 18.
    Are you suggesting that the 'silver linings' that sometimes accrue to the oppressed somehow negate or offset that oppression?
    David G
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Nonsense--Christopher Hitchens, q.e.d. Being openly atheist might limit your access to privilege in some ways, but white atheists have PLENTY of privilege.

    Tom
    Interesting, this is an enlightening thread and not necessarily in a religious way. NZ, my home, is officially by UN survey the least religious country on the planet, Atheists are our largest demographic by census, and that includes the "Christians" who just tick that box even though they've not been to church since they were able to have an opinion of their own.
    We dont have our politics coloured by religion to any degree, in fact one prominent political figure said, justifiably, that "telling the electorate that you were a Christian is political suicide".
    Its really interesting to read of the experiences of others in such a different society.

    John Welsford
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Are you suggesting that the 'silver linings' that sometimes accrue to the oppressed somehow negate or offset that oppression?
    no, what I am suggesting the fairness in modern society is based on historical roles. I don’t see any woman or transgender asking to break down that barrier on being first to be drafted and sent to the line. Do you think it is right to discriminate do to sex identity in drafted military service? - sure sounds like you are.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by John Smith View Post
    I have noticed the 'believers' are most upset by religious debates. Many simply don't want their beliefs questioned.
    This, but I've been a 'public ateist' since I was about 7 or 8 I think. Upset a few individuals, had a few interesting (for me) clashes with clergy of various stamps, but then this is Aus. where till recently no one cared except a fdew nutters. I once wen out with Jewish girl, her dad was a Rabbi. He was great to talk to on the subject of belief in general. He said that he thought Australai's indifference was a greater threat than discrimination to the community.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    At least one judge has found that male-only selective service registration is unconstitutional https://www.npr.org/2019/03/01/69948...-and-the-draft

    I thought the following excerpt was interesting:
    Three years ago, Congress took up legislation requiring women to register for the draft, but it was scuttled after running into a buzzsaw of opposition. "The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat, to my mind makes little and no sense," Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, an Armed Services Committee member and father of two girls, said at the time during a Senate floor debate. "[It is] a radical change ... being foisted on the American people."

    I'd like to see Cruz explain why it is better to forcibly conscript (his words) young boys than girls.
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    Maybe a linguistic quibble, maybe not. I have never liked the term 'white privilege', because it implies one is getting something one does not deserve, and by implication should not get. While being white in the US most certainly gives one certain advantages, more than most white folks realize, the vast majority of the things listed in that article are 'privileges' that should apply to everyone, regardless of who they are - basically, to be treated fairly. It is not 'privilege' to not get crapped on unjustly.
    Perhaps I misunderstand the term 'white privilege.' I would use it to describe those who believes for whatever reason a white person that they are entitled to tangible or intangible items. Often that is at the expense of others - nonwhites, not being entitled for whatever reasons.

    Deserving, or more deserving than others, is the belief. Lack of privilege is due to not deserving. The reasoning behind "deserving" or not can be rather subtle or simply wrong. Admission to magnet high schools and subsequent admission to college is based on merit - a white privilege created by placing undeserving people in lower quality schools.
    Life is complex.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by john welsford View Post
    Interesting, this is an enlightening thread and not necessarily in a religious way. NZ, my home, is officially by UN survey the least religious country on the planet, Atheists are our largest demographic by census, and that includes the "Christians" who just tick that box even though they've not been to church since they were able to have an opinion of their own.
    We dont have our politics coloured by religion to any degree, in fact one prominent political figure said, justifiably, that "telling the electorate that you were a Christian is political suicide".
    Its really interesting to read of the experiences of others in such a different society.

    John Welsford
    Damn it John... ANOTHER reason to move to NZ.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    Then again women don’t have to sign up for mandatory selective service upon reaching 18.
    Americans are still required to sign up for the draft?
    R
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Williamson View Post
    Americans are still required to sign up for the draft?
    R
    only males over 18. Young men can not receive college assistance fund or loans if they do not. Females need not do anything in regards to selective service to get financial aid. Even male immigrants who seek education coming to this country must sign up.

    we are always preparing for war.

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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Faaaaak!

    Y'all can't get along with anybody...
    R
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    Default Re: White Privilege

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    Maybe a linguistic quibble, maybe not. I have never liked the term 'white privilege', because it implies one is getting something one does not deserve, and by implication should not get. While being white in the US most certainly gives one certain advantages, more than most white folks realize, the vast majority of the things listed in that article are 'privileges' that should apply to everyone, regardless of who they are - basically, to be treated fairly. It is not 'privilege' to not get crapped on unjustly.
    Maybe a little more than a linguistic quibble.
    A discussion of white privilege often devolves into the accusation that those who are white and privileged are somehow at fault, while those who are not are (possibly helpless) victims.
    But the real issue here is economic inequality, as others have suggested. It is a systemic failure of our economic system. Racism is certainly real and a better awareness of it by clueless white people can't hurt. But until we fix our economic system, we cannot really fix our racial problems.

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