The Pardu

The Pardu
Watchful eyes and ears feed the brain, thus nourishing the brain cells.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sensitive Topic: White Privilege and White Guilt..A Mere Exploration

The following article is a cross post from the progressive website posted an article a few days back that relates to issues of race. Before, you click off this diary I can assure you that it could be a read worth of a few minutes.  If you are one who does not care for long reads, go ahead and click off. The Addictinginfo link was posted in a noble effort to generate comments or dialog about a topic that few in the nation will discuss. The topic is not often discussed on the LT ( and I, as a member, am not the most comfortable with the topic. I have been involved in but one dialog related to 'privilege' since joining the site 1.5 years ago. That dialog was with my friend SPIRAL.

The author of the article delves into the topics of: White Privilege and White Guilt. Needless to say but I will say it anyway the article generated two comments.  One comment was written by me and I took 'the fifth' based on a lack of space for proper exploration of the topic.

I am going to post the author's work here (in part) and a link for the article.

Let me first state that I do not believe that any white person in the nation should expend any mental energy on the business of 'white guilt'. Privilege on the other hand is another story.

Why do we frown upon taking pride in being white?

Justin "Filthy Liberal Scum" Rosario
– June 2, 2011

So I have been asked a question by a reader: “Justin, I want your honest opinion on this. Why is it that society in general is usually ok with people saying they are proud to be everything else other than white, but people usually frown or raise eye brows when someone who is white says they are proud to be white? I know there is the whole KKK and White Nationalist in our past, but why do you think this is such taboo? As a Mexican woman, I am curious to know what you and others think. I think this is a good conversation we need to have.”

Well, I think there are three main answers: White Privilege, White Guilt and unavoidable racism.

White privilege, for those not familiar with the concept, is the fact that being white in America (and throughout the world to varying degrees) automatically conveys a higher status that is completely unearned. A less qualified white candidate will often be chosen over a more qualified black one. That sort of thing. I was unfamiliar with the concept until a few years ago myself but I was aware of its effects. Despite being half Puerto Rican, I am, as I have mentioned before, unmistakably white. Not just white but WHITE. There is not a person on the planet who would think I had a drop on Hispanic blood in me. Because of this I have been treated with a deference by customers at my retail jobs that baffled me at first. My first few jobs were with almost all white co-workers and there was nothing noticeable. Once I went to work for EB Games though, my manager (and almost all of the staff) was black and suddenly I started to see a peculiar pattern. Despite being older than me (not a lot but enough to be obvious) and a much sharper dresser, customers would approach me, the assistant manager, first with questions for the “manager” and ignore the actual manager. It didn’t matter the race of the customer. Black, white and Hispanic would all assume I was in charge. The look on their faces when I pointed out the actual manager was was always the same: eyes would widen followed by a quick sheepish glance over at my boss. Fortunately, Steve was very graceful about it.

Another disturbing example was the night several years later when my (Hispanic) boss, my (Hispanic) co-workers and I (Whitey Mc

White) worked a late shift at the store and they were giving me a ride home at 3 AM. I was stuffed into the back seat and was not visible from the outside. A car full of Hispanics at three in the morning caught a policeman’s attention and we were pulled over. As the officer started to grill my (nervous) boss, I poked my head out and said “Good evening, officer! Is there something wrong?” I quickly told him that we had been working and they were dropping me off and I swear to you, he nodded, told us to have a good night and let us go without another word about why he pulled us over. Everyone in the car was staring at me as I sat back and said only half-jokingly, “That’s why you should keep a white boy on hand. Cops don’t bother us.” Now THAT’S privilege!

So that’s White Privilege in a nut shell. We live in a country where being white is the “norm” and we are conditioned to look “up” at Caucasians. Most people are not even aware of this on a conscious level. Chris Rock said it best: “ain’t a White man in this room who’d trade places with me, and I’m rich!”
Full Article

My thoughts and comments.

Justin uses two very basic examples to illustrate his (or her) perception of White Privilege. I am very familiar with the looks that show on people who are surprised when their paradigms are shaken by evidence that shatters generally accepted stereo-types. The first example comes as no surprise.  The second example seems a bit far fetched to me as many many police officers would have probed a bit more before releasing the triad to move on. I do accept Justin's examples as relevant illustration, however.

As one who has facilitated workshops on diversity and inclusivity, I want to offer a few more examples of White Privilege. I am going to state emphatically, that 'privilege' (in the stated context) is not something that we can lobby for, request, or purchase. When I teach about 'privilege' one key premise is critical to the subject: conferred privilege. Conferred Privilege means, privilege granted via the simple act of being born into a group that society may have granted rights not shared by other groups. (A dire example that goes back through the millenniums is being born into slavery. The birth carries with it the fact that the new born has been birthed into institutional slavery and is, thus, a slave).

Why do I feel that Justin's examples are illustrative but almost too basic for proper illustration of 'privilege'?  A few examples from me and other sources might help with my reasoning.

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

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

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

The Pardu:
I can speak in normal voice without the reaction of surprise that I can be literate and well spoken. (Worse, yet without being told I am well spoken. Hence, Joe Biden and Harry Reid and Senator Obama)

The Pardu:
I can vie as an aspirant to the US Presidency without suffering thorough the maze of comment and concern with race. (David Gergen once commented about candidate Obama that he will have problems with some in the nation because of his 'blackness'. Roland Martin was sitting next to Gergen, so I assume that for Martin Gergen's example and choice of words was fine.)

The Pardu: Experiencing television shows with a predominate minority (black (African-American), Hispanic, Asian) characters that is not developed around humor.

The Pardu: one more, I just (as I am typing) heard Newt Gingrich do the very thing that many are guilty of.  As he recapped the Republican debate candidates form last Monday Evening's Debate, he states that Herman Cain is an entrepreneur, managed a large corporation and is a very articulate guy. Well, he shared the stage with the a couple of the least articulate people in US politics and he dares give
Cain the (unconferred) label of articulate.

There are thousands of additional examples.

While 'privilege' in some societies is conferred, and its harmful affects can be exacerbated by another more serious human failing: the Fabric of Oppression.

The Fabric of Oppression is often illustrated via use of a grid and strategic placement of groups within the society. The groups are placed onto the grid based of a set of guiding topics LEFT COLUMN of the grid. Working from left to right for possible impact on various groups.  Please know that during workshops each grid cell  receives much group discussion with participants providing examples of the facilitated topic.

Fabric of Oppression in the U.S.

Read for Left categories (Privileged Class – Form of Oppression

Identity Categories (examples)Privileged ClassOppressed ClassesForm of Oppression
RaceWhite/Anglo/European descentPeople of Color, including people whose ancestors came from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Arab world.

Bi/tri/multi-racial people.
Sometimes white people who “appear nonwhite.”
Racism/White Supremacy
SexMenWomen, Intersex people, Transsexual people.Sexism
Gender Identity, Gender Assignment, & Gender PresentationMen and Women who conform to cultural gender norms.Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex, and Genderqueer people.

People who do not or cannot conform to societal gender norms.
Gender Oppression
ReligionChristians, especially ProtestantsJews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Pagans, and followers of other “smaller” religions.Anti-Semitism, Religious Oppression, Racism, White (Christian/Aryan) Supremacy
Sexual OrientationHeterosexual peopleLesbians, Gay people, Bisexual people, poly-folk.Heterosexism/
Socioeconomic ClassRich people/Ruling class people (inc. Upper Middle Class)Poor people, working class, middle class.Classism
Physical, Psychological, & Developmental AbilityTemporarily Able/TAB (temporarily able-bodied)Disabled/differently abledAbleism
AgeMiddle-agedYoung, OldAgeism


The Fabric of Oppression stretches far beyond simple impact on minorities, it does on close inspection show how 'privilege', extrapolates to just about everyone who will read this diary. Eventually even the least discriminated against group (White males under age 40) fall into a category.

Justin of clearly illustrated the basics of privilege.  Justin also delved into something called 'white guilt'.  As I go about my diversity consulting and facilitation, I am very careful in helping workshop participants understand that a desired outcome is not any form of guilt. It is often an outcome that literally 'blows-up' such workshops thus relegating the session to possible resentment and content rejection. The critical outcome is recognition that despite our wishes to the contrary, we do not live in a color blind society. We should therefore educate ourselves on how best to become more tolerant of differences.I often ask my participants, 'what good do I accomplish by placing you, via your mind, into a state of 'guilt'. It serves no meaningful purpose.

So, I will leave 'white guilt' to people who will allow their minds to go there vs. a stark reality check that going forward, I can have positive impact on the world in which I live.

When I do assail the GOP's 'Southern Strategy' it is for purpose of recognition of the strategy and its dangers vs. placing people who grew up in the south into some state of unproductive guilt.

"..pride in being white". Anyone who falls for that premise has in and of themselves doomed themselves to ease of manipulation and placed their mind in a place that fosters the very differences they wish to avoid.

Justin ends his article.....

But still, guilt is a powerful emotion and easy to manipulate. After the onslaught of political correctness was done, there was a distinct feeling that being white was tainted by history. On top of this, it’s almost impossible to celebrate being white without coming off as racist, which is the third main issue with white pride. How does one celebrate being “white” (as opposed to Irish or Australian) without make it very clear that the alternative is “not white”? “White” is not a single ethnic group, it’s a mish-mosh of different cultures so it’s hard to celebrate it without contrasting it to something else. Once you start contrasting you inevitably drift into the “I’m better than you” zone so it becomes racist even if you’re trying NOT to be.

I really appreciate Justin's exploration of the topic. It is a far greater topic for exploration than blogs can do justice.  Yet, blogs and social media are wonderful media that was unavailable to people 10-15 years ago.

The genesis of Justin's work is a bit perplexing as I am not aware that the very topic is a problem among the populace.  (I am left wondering, why did the Latina ask him the question? The only time that I see such references are with far far RIGHT or anarchist groups who are using race clearly for purpose of dangerous and guttural racial differentiation.

I would love to think this is a complete non-issue but that might be unrealistic.

It is easy and may be worthy to throw the topic out there for discussion. I have always believed that if a person is going to throw a topic out there, at least spend a moment of contemplation and comment of the full impact of the topic. Again, thank Justin for throwing the topic out there and I hope Justin does not mind my expansion of the topic.

For the couple who may endeavor here, is this an issue that is widely discussed outside of the ears of minorities?

I am seriously interested in knowing.

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