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Mon Mar 28, 2016, 01:54 PM

White Privilege Shapes The U.S.



Robert Jensen

Here's what white privilege sounds like: I'm sitting in my University of Texas office, talking to a very bright and very conservative white student about affirmative action in college admissions, which he opposes and I support. The student says he wants a level playing field with no unearned advantages for anyone. I ask him whether he thinks that being white has advantages in the United States. Have either of us, I ask, ever benefited from being white in a world run mostly by white people? Yes, he concedes, there is something real and tangible we could call white privilege.

So, if we live in a world of white privilege – unearned white privilege - how does that affect your notion of a level playing field? I asked. He paused for a moment and said, "That really doesn't matter." That statement, I suggested to him, reveals the ultimate white privilege: The privilege to acknowledge that you have unearned privilege but to ignore what it means. That exchange led me to rethink the way I talk about race and racism with students. It drove home the importance of confronting the dirty secret that we white people carry around with us every day: in a world of white privilege, some of what we have is unearned. I think much of both the fear and anger that comes up around discussions of affirmative action has its roots in that secret. So these days, my goal is to talk open and honestly about white supremacy and white privilege.

White privilege, like any social phenomenon, is complex. In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves. There are general patterns, but such privilege plays out differently depending on context and other aspects of one's identity (in my case, being male gives me other kinds of privilege). Rather than try to tell others how white privilege has played out in their lives, I talk about how it has affected me.

I am as white as white gets in this country. I am of northern European heritage and I was raised in North Dakota, one of the whitest states in the country. I grew up in a virtually all-white world surrounded by racism, both personal and institutional. Because I didn't live near a reservation, I didn't even have exposure to the state's only numerically significant nonwhite population, American Indians.

http://occupywallstreet.net/story/white-privilege-shapes-us

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Arrow 33 replies Author Time Post
Reply White Privilege Shapes The U.S. (Original post)
MrScorpio Mar 2016 OP
Jackie Wilson Said Mar 2016 #1
MrScorpio Mar 2016 #2
Jackie Wilson Said Mar 2016 #3
TygrBright Mar 2016 #7
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #9
Jackie Wilson Said Mar 2016 #13
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #14
uponit7771 Mar 2016 #27
JonLeibowitz Mar 2016 #26
sheshe2 Mar 2016 #4
FrenchieCat Mar 2016 #5
BumRushDaShow Mar 2016 #6
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #8
JustAnotherGen Mar 2016 #24
uponit7771 Mar 2016 #28
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #29
Promethean Mar 2016 #10
JustAnotherGen Mar 2016 #23
passiveporcupine Mar 2016 #11
Kind of Blue Mar 2016 #15
JI7 Mar 2016 #17
spooky3 Mar 2016 #12
ananda Mar 2016 #16
Number23 Mar 2016 #18
brer cat Mar 2016 #19
OneGrassRoot Mar 2016 #20
The Polack MSgt Mar 2016 #21
1StrongBlackMan Mar 2016 #22
Lisa D Mar 2016 #25
ismnotwasm Mar 2016 #30
UMTerp01 Mar 2016 #31
Jackie Wilson Said Mar 2016 #32
Tarheel_Dem Mar 2016 #33

Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 02:05 PM

1. "That doesn't matter" sums up white privilege, beautifully.

Thank you, Mr. Scorpio, for this.

I wish more people could see it.

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Response to Jackie Wilson Said (Reply #1)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 02:10 PM

2. That conversation was a clear example of the cognitive dissonance that's in most wingers..

Last edited Tue Mar 29, 2016, 01:15 PM - Edit history (1)

If they're ever confronted by inconvenient truths which run counter to their beliefs, they feel both obligated and privileged to ignore them.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 02:17 PM

3. I have a relative who I lover dearly, who I believe is a decent person.

So I challenged him and asked him if he would expect compensation were he to have had land taken from him or money taken.

He said of course he would.

Then I asked what if you found out your father had land stolen from him when you were a teenager, 15 years ago, would you think you should be able to address compensation somehow?

He said yes, again.

Then I asked what if the relative that was robbed lived 100 years ago. He then figured out where I was going and said "no, that is too far back".

Bullshit, I told him. And then explained how his white privilege made that decision for him.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:05 PM

7. I wish it were just wingers...

...but alas, I know otherwise "liberal and/or progressive" white people who are still completely blind to white privilege.

If you point it out very slowly in words of one syllable, they'll still find rationalizations and justifications for why they've never experienced the challenges most people of color have to live with on a daily basis.

wearily,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #7)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:17 PM

9. Yes, agreed and that is plain

this election cycle.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #9)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:45 PM

13. I was just observing someone showing support for Trump over Hillary and one

of that group posted a very ominous warning to me.

He deleted it before he could be alerted on, as it was very threatening.

Then I pm'd him and told him I considered it a threat so he treated me to a PM of a lot of rage and anger and so on.

Very angry they are. Scary too.

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Response to Jackie Wilson Said (Reply #13)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:49 PM

14. Yeah, they're the scariest to me, JWS,

because I'd rather have peoople out with it instead of frenemies. So creepy, too

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #2)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 11:50 AM

27. +1

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Response to Jackie Wilson Said (Reply #1)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 09:27 AM

26. I disagree.

You have white privilege whether you recognize it or not, whether you think it matters or not. Many who do recognize their privilege also recognize that it matters. They are still privileged.

Or do you think that everyone who has white privilege dismisses its importance? Because that's what "sums up white privilege" means.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 02:23 PM

4. Yes.

Thanks MrScorpio.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 03:04 PM

5. excellent read!

Thank you for it!

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 03:53 PM

6. Nails it.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:16 PM

8. Yup, "solidarity based on race."

Listening to a panel interview of both black BS and HRC supporters. One of the panelists said going back to Reconstruction, white Northerners made peace with white Southerners. Therefore, leaving PoC as the enemy because no deal was brokered with us. Nothing, just refugees, as a panelist termed it - and not the nice word migration - moving from South to North and still seen as the enemy affecting their income.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #8)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 04:10 AM

24. This post and concept

Blow my mind away.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #8)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 11:51 AM

28. " still seen as the enemy affecting their income"

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #8)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 12:28 PM

29. JAG and Uponit7771, the conversation

is more rewarding for me when PoC are in the discussion. There was no rancor between the sets of supporters of HRC and BS.

If you're interested in listening to the 2 discussions, each about 45 minutes, here are the links. How do you say "Black Lives Matter" on the 2016 ballot? "We’ve convened our favorite commentators of color to discuss the big issues beyond the election — and maybe the election, too: from Barbara J. Fields, the formidable historian against race; organizers old and new, Bill Fletcher, Jr., and Mychael Denzel Smith; and brilliant friends like Jacqueline Rivers and Calvin McCrevan. http://radioopensource.org/race-and-the-race-for-the-white-house/#

And discussion with one of the above panelists, Bill Fletcher, Jr., who was involved in the Jesse Jackson campaign that Sanders was also a part of. The interviewer and Fletcher are both Sanders supporters. How does Bernie’s campaign fit into building a larger movement for the future. Comparisons with the Jesse Jackson “Rainbow Coalition” campaign. Bernie as “movement-exciter” rather than “Bernie-creator.” Jackson’s relationship with the Democratic establishment. The fact that elections focused on individuals do not necessarily lead to ongoing movements. The difference in the political environment the Jackson and Sanders campaign. How to bridge between Sanders’ rhetoric and policies: energizing the base. Hillary Clinton’s fluency in discussing racial politics. The importance of electoral, mass movements, and legal considerations in winning power for progressive people.

You can skip thru the jibber jabber and start at 05:30 http://majority.fm/2016/02/23/223-bill-fletcher-jr-making-a-movement-of-bernie-2016/#

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:28 PM

10. That racism exists and still needs to be addressed is obvious.

One need only look at the rhetoric coming from half of our politicians (republicans) to see that.

We definitely need to end the societal problems that propagate racism. End the drug war. Disarm and retrain police to not immediately resort to violence. Reform the judicial system and establish rules and punishments for unequal sentencing.

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Response to Promethean (Reply #10)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 04:09 AM

23. Don't forget

Equality in health care - a wealthy black woman is far more likely to die than a poor white woman from breast cancer.

Don't forget - a true end to red lining so black middle class citizens have access to working class white neighborhoods (setting the bar low).

National education funding to even things up so "Puff Daddy" doesn't HAVE TO open a charter school in Harlem. That would hurt those in middle class white neighborhoods because it would be for example - a property tax grab from Manville NJ to pay for elementary education in Camden NJ.

For those already harmed by America's policies but approaching high school - identify the districts where black and Hispanic children were marginalized and transform education so they come out of high school with certification for solar panel installation, nursing assistant, lab assistant, book keeping, plumbing - electrician - HVAC licenses.

Time for white working and middle classes to see that their kids have opportunities just based on where they live and their wives/daughters/sisters etc etc have access to a health care system that is far superior to the one that black women pay a premium for.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:35 PM

11. WOW

So, if we live in a world of white privilege – unearned white privilege - how does that affect your notion of a level playing field? I asked. He paused for a moment and said, "That really doesn't matter."


This really blows my mind. I would think that most people against affirmative action would not be able to honestly admit they have white privilege.

I'm literally stunned by this.

This is an important talking point to remember. I've heard people here on DU talking about affirmative action and thinking it's wrong, and I keep wondering how do some people call themselves Democrats when they have so many Republican ideas?


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Response to passiveporcupine (Reply #11)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:55 PM

15. Well, I suspect he was comfortable and being honest

while talking to another white person, the author.

As far as Dems with Republican ideas, don't you think that it goes right back to privilege constantly maintaining supremacy? Political affliation, as far as I'm understanding, does not matter. It's supremacy at work.

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Response to passiveporcupine (Reply #11)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 05:13 PM

17. not only that but many of them claim to be liberal and progressive

 

And complain about others being too conservative

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:38 PM

12. The author raises good points, but it is unfortunate that he used a photo of a woman in her

underwear to illustrate it. Ironic, given that he even acknowledges male privilege in his text.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 04:59 PM

16. Jensen is a real jewel.

Thanks for posting!

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 05:16 PM

18. What an amazing find. I wish you posted here more often.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 05:59 PM

19. Excellent read, MrScorpio.

K&R

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 06:36 PM

20. I really appreciate Jensen's work. Huge K&R n/t

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 07:20 PM

21. This.

Thanks Mr. Scorpio

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 11:09 PM

22. Posted to for later.

 

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 09:23 AM

25. Great read!

Thank you for this.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 02:13 PM

30. K&R

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 05:00 PM

31. I appreciate when White people can acknowledge their privilege

 

If I as a fair skinned Black/Latino male can acknowledge my privilege in terms of being treated better than a darker skinned Black/Latino male is generally treated, I don't get why so many White people try and deny that they have privilege; the basic privilege of Whiteness that is unearned but rewarded in many ways. Great article. Thanks for it.

Just like how I brought up the white folks who say "Bernie or Bust" is such an example of it. You don't hear POC talking about "I won't vote if he doesn't win".

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Response to UMTerp01 (Reply #31)

Tue Mar 29, 2016, 07:17 PM

32. White people (many, not all) are so used to having privilege, that when the

economy took a turn for the worst, it was near impossible for them to admit they still have it.

How can they when they have such woes!!

When you have something your entire life, it gets easy to pretend you dont see it.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Wed Mar 30, 2016, 03:29 AM

33. The "anger and fear" arises from the notion of the privileged that if you give something to "those..

other people", you must naturally be taking something away from me. It's not true, but it scares and angers them just the same. There's a very thin line between privilege and feelings of supremacy.

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