Getting away with murder: white privilege vs. black privilege

“Racism is an ism to which everyone in the world today is exposed; for or against, we must take sides. And the history of the future will differ according to the decision which we make.” Ruth Fulton Benedict

I was lucky enough to be born in a multicultural society where race did not really matter; we were all “brothers”and “cousins”. Whether you were white or black, everyone was treated equally; everyone had pretty much the same opportunities. However, there was another type of discrimination which relied upon the amount money you had in your pocket. Our system was designed to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class. It was ok, I must confess. I never felt outlandish for being “whiter” than my dad or “darker” than my mom. I was taught I had to work really hard if I wanted to see and change the world. I never felt bounded for being “mixed” or middle-class. Unfortunately, the world was bigger than my little town. There were places out there were both racism and classism converged harmoniously as a single malady and people had to live with it.

Although I am white I got to a school that is split almost evenly white and black. We are a very diverse school. However I feel whenever I make a comment to a black student or a student of any other race I’m told I’m a racist. I don’t try to be, but for whatever reason I’m told I’m a racist, because I’m white. So aren’t the kids saying this just as much of a racist as me? Jackson Macdonald – Burlington, VT.

Privilege is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “a special advantage or authority possessed by a particular person or group.” [1] Privilege is constructed and standardized by the established schemes of our society – narratives that have been elaborated based on the power struggles of history. Since these societal spectators are so influenced by the constructed norm, the classification may be a clueless and unwitting act. Privilege is clearly an important phenomenon within our system, because privileged and advantaged groups hold power and thus can create society’s framework of laws, values and institutions. However, I see “privilege” simply as the absence of negative bias and prejudice— and of the boundaries that arise from them. According to Kendall (2002): “Privilege, particularly white or male privilege, is hard to see for those who were born with access to power and resources. It is very visible for those to whom privilege was not granted. Furthermore, the subject is extremely difficult to talk about because many white people don’t feel powerful or as if they have privileges others do not. It is sort of like asking fish to notice water or birds to discuss air. White people’s privileges are bestowed prenatally. We can’t not get them and we cannot give them away, no matter how much we do not want them. For example, if I walk into any drug store in the country that carries hair products, I can be sure that I will find something that was designed for my hair”. [2] Well, I don’t agree quite yet. The internet is taking hazardous attitudes where e-activism is the open-door for a new of judgement and discrimination: victims against victims.

 


Once I was told that white privilege was a horrendous misconception created by black people who just wanted a free meal – a very brutal statement indeed. But I never imagined that in my very first trip to NYC I was going to be a victim of the so-called “reverse racism” (and I am not even white). I didn’t say much to boost the anger of a black street artist. As a free individual, I am not obliged to buy music if I don’t want to. Yet this guy verbally assaulted me in front of everyone by highlighting my image. It was not very amusing! I must say that this can definitely be an isolated event and that generalizations should always be avoided. However, as stated by Graham & Dutton (2014):  “those who doubt that racism is still a serious problem or who believe that it is “personal” rather than pervasive throughout societal institutions need only look to the Internet for proof that this is not so”. [5] I believe that the issue relies on the fact that our society tends to minimize and undermine hate speech when it comes from a minority. According to Google top search results, “minorities are incapable of racism against white people” because “the usage of the word racist relative to a hate speech by blacks on blacks or whites is incorrect. A subjugated group cannot be racist – they can only be prejudicial.” [3] Again, this sounds a bit too wrong…

A few weeks ago, I found a video on YouTube that made me think about America’s idea of “white privilege” once again:

 

 

White Americans are shamed and guilted simply just for being white. No matter how much misfortune a white person can experience they will always be considered “privileged.”

What is “black privilege” then? “In Ferguson, black privilege meant that a drug-using 300-pound black man was entitled to walk into a convenience store, brazenly steal merchandise and physically assault a tiny store clerk. It means he was entitled to walk down the middle of a street taunting traffic. It means that when a police officer told him to get out of the street, he was entitled to punch the officer through his patrol vehicle window and attempt to take the officer’s weapon. It means that he was entitled to defy lawful police orders to stop when he turned and charged toward that officer to assault him again. It means when the officer shot that black man, it was, by default, racist. It means that you can adopt a “hands up” symbolic gesture, though the assailant’s hands were not up. It means that race trumps facts, even as determined by a grand jury. It means that, in the name of “civil rights,” black people are entitled to riot and loot small businesses, most owned by responsible and hard-working black residents”. [4]

 

 

As Harriot (2016) ironically exposed: “black people get to say anything they want about white people. They get to have Historically Black Colleges and Universities exclusively for Black people. They get to go to meetings with the NAACP. They even get their own TV network”. [6] Los Angeles Times asserts on this that: “African Americans receive a bonus of 230 SAT points” at Princeton University just for being a part of a minority. [7] #BlackLivesMatter‘s guidelines principles go even further:

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. [8]

In response, Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani stated that: “It’s inherently racist because, number one, it divides us. … All lives matter: White lives, black lives, all lives. Number two: Black Lives Matter never protests when every 14 hours somebody is killed in Chicago, probably 70-80% of the time by a black person. Where are they then? Where are they when a young black child is killed?”[9]

It is time to start thinking more carefully. People and activists in general ought to understand that opinions and viewpoints on Twitter and Facebook could be as influential and persuasive as the stances of political leaders. Children should not feel ashamed because of their skin color. No human race is superior; no skin color is inferior. All collective judgments and prejudices are wrong and we need to stop entitling people after their racial and ethnic identity. White and Black Americans need to acknowledge that privilege is something that society gives you thus both privileges ought to be tackle equally. Negro, white-trash, redneck – they are all pejoratives terms that reminds us today of the difficult times both White and Black Americans went through. It looks like Americans are building too many walls but not enough bridges.

 

#RESIST

 

[1] Cambridge Dictionary: Meaning of “privilege” in the English Dictionary.
[2] Kendall, F. (2002). UNDERSTANDING WHITE PRIVILEGE.
[3] Prestigiacomo, A. (2016). Can White People Be Victims of Racism? Here’s What You Learn If You Google That.
[4] Alexander, M. (2014). Black Privilege: From Suppression to Supremacy.
[6] Harriot, M. (2016).‘Black Privilege’ Is Nothing More Than a Figment of the White Imagination
[7] Shyong, F. (2015). For Asian Americans, a changing landscape on college admissions.
[8] Black Lives Matter. Guidelines Principles.
[9] Lim, N. (2016). Rudy Giuliani: Black Lives Matter ‘inherently racist’.

Literature:

[5] Dutton, W., Graham, M. 2014: Introduction, in: M. Graham & W. Dutton (Eds.): Society & The Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing our Lives. Oxford: Oxford University Press,

 

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