Print Friendly, PDF & Email
white privilege

white privilege (Photo credit: EliasSchewel)

{Published in the Colorado Springs Gazette as “White Privilege Conference at CC oppresses capitalism“, Sept. 28, 2011}

The bumper sticker says “Just because God is a bigoted *$#@! doesn’t mean you have to be.” It’s going to be an interesting day.

I’m walking through a Colorado College parking lot, preparing to register for the White Privilege Conference Symposium. The WPC is designed to teach me about all the things being white entitles me to. I’m guessing most attendees believe Michael Moore’s films are too objective. This makes me an underrepresented minority.

But I like to push my comfort zone, and people I respect take this movement seriously. So I get in line at the registration table.

I have signed up for Orientation to Whiteness, an all-day workshop for “beginners”. After this I can take advanced classes like “Identity Theatrics”, “A Trans Historiography”, and “Abortion: A Form of Black Genocide or Pro-Lifers Playing the Race Card?”

It’s impossible to sum up the key concepts of White Privilege in a few inches of space, but here’s the basic idea. Being white is part of a race just like any other. Because we are the dominant culture, we don’t notice it any more than fish notices water.

Being white entitles us to the advantages of “White Privilege”: A set of benefits bestowed upon people classified as white. It is impossible for anyone other than whites to be racist, because racism is “a system of oppression involving systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups by those who have relatively more social power”. Everybody got that?

Capitalism, in turn, perpetuates racism, and has to be overthrown in order for racism to disappear. Of course nobody comes out and says that, but you’d have to be a few million neurons short of a cerebellum to not pick up the vibe. We’re supposed to organize in “Communities of Change,” and workshops talk about disrupting the systems that “serve to further legitimize white privilege and racism”.

The anti-capitalist vibe is particularly jarring at a conference full of presenters hawking their swag. $100 for a “best of” White Privilege DVD? Give me a break. And what am I supposed to make of the baby onesies for sale that say “got privilege?” Effective, I suppose, but kind of creepy.

The sad thing is, behind all the jargon and lefty politics, I think the White Privilege movement has a lot to offer. Whites really do enjoy a lot of perks that come with being members of a dominant social group. It does no harm and maybe a lot of good for us to admit it.

How often have you had a teacher of your own race? How often is someone of your race held up as an ideal of beauty? How much does your skin help you fit into the realities of life in America? What would it feel like if the answers to those questions were different? These are questions that I don’t think whites ask themselves enough.

I believe the people involved in the White Privilege movement are genuinely and sincerely committed to doing the hard work necessary to end racism in America. More so, perhaps, than anybody else I know.

But they lose people of good will with all the lefty jargon and political baggage. After all, humans in group A have dominated, enslaved, and slaughtered humans in group B since the dawn of history. Whites enslaved blacks under capitalism, Arabs enslaved whites under monarchy, African tribes routinely slaughtered one another (before, during and after colonialism), Jews were oppressed in socialist Russia, Muslims oppress Hindus in Pakistan and Hindus oppress Muslims in India. The list goes on.

Group oppression and brutality are the norm in human history, not the exception. They happen regardless of how any given society is organized. That doesn’t make them right. It just means that ending them will be very, very hard.

I would like to help. But is there room in the White Privilege sandbox for a minority child to play, one who thinks racism is bad but capitalism is good?

Time will tell.

Enhanced by Zemanta