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Member since: Wed Jul 24, 2013, 01:10 PM
Number of posts: 1,930

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why I don't think it's (necessarily) about white privilege

There's been a lot of discussion about the protestor who jumped on the stage featuring a discussion with Kamala Harris. This person - a white male - grabbed the microphone out of Senator Harris' hands and started to talk about an issue other than what was being discussed. That this person is a white male, and Senator Harris is a woman of color, has led a lot of people to point at this as an example of white privilege.

I'm not going to say it isn't - but I AM going to say it might not be.

Case in point - there was a "town hall"-style forum with our University president, who had been hired less than a year previously. Of the finalists for the position, he was the only one with no academic administrative experience whatsoever. A lot of us felt that the Board of Regents organized a sham interview process to hide this person's direct hire. Hence, his presence on campus was controversial, and the forum was not as even-tempered as one might hope.

Toward the end of the forum, a young man walked to the front of the lecture hall. There was no stage per se, but he walked right past a line of people patiently waiting their turn to use the microphone, stepped up to the podium, and began a lengthy and, frankly, meandering soliloquy.

I thought it was extremely rude. But some of my colleagues told me I should not think so badly of it. The person who cut in front of everyone was African American, and he was interrupting a white male. My objection to his behavior, I was told, reflected my own white privilege.

No, it didn't. It reflected my concepts of courtesy and decorum. Want to say something? Wait your turn, like everyone else.

What I saw in the incident with Senator Harris reminded me a lot of the incident at my university. A protestor who wanted to call attention to his cause interjected himself at the expense of others. That he's white, and the woman he interrupted is of color, didn't necessarily enter into my reading of what happened.

I fully acknowledge that, being a white guy, I'm less likely to pick up on subtle racism. But I honestly think this reflects a sense of entitlement held by activists lacking the ability to se beyond their own causes. Male/white privilege may or may not have played a role, but I've seen people act this way who weren't white men.

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