Let’s Talk About Privilege

I just posted a comment on Facebook in response to a comment made by someone I don’t know to a link posted by someone I do know. To summarize, the comment made by the person I do not know stated that a white person not voting for someone who is black is the same thing as a black person voting for someone because they are black.  The direct quote was “racism works both ways.”  I cry bullshit.  It certainly does NOT “work” both ways.  How can a minority oppress a majority? How can a group with so little power have any control over a group with almost all the power?  And how in the fuck is it “racist” for a member of a marginalized group to want power when they have so very little? 

I have seen serious racial discrimination in school and in my careers. Being white, I have no experience with being at a disadvantage based on the color of my skin. In fact, I have no doubt that I have received better treatment in all aspects of life simply because I am white.  I also know that I have been more poorly treated for simply being female. And sexism, in case you didn’t know, is still very much alive and kicking. 

It is all well and good to say, ‘well, we have laws against discrimination now, so everything is equal.’ Well, again, I cry bullshit. So fucking what if you ‘allow’ everyone theoretical access to the same things.  That doesn’t do shit.  How can you be an “equal” when you had and have no input in how the system works? How much access do you truly have?  Let’s look, e.g., at the basic structure of a law firm. Law firms were basically created by white males, with education and money and connections and stay-at-home wives. Women have been graduating from law school in equal or greater numbers than men for almost 2 decades now.  More than long enough for us to trace career trajectories. And yet, 20 years later, the partners and shareholders of law firms are almost entirely white and male. People bitch about affirmative action, but tell me how equal “access” has given us substantive equality? It hasn’t.  And let me tell you – it is so SO easy to hide discrimination.  If a company or school does not want “diversity,” it has an infinite number of ways to keep diversity at bay. And it will continue to do so until it is forced to do otherwise.

So don’t give me this crap about “reverse racism.” White males created the power structure. They wrote the rules, crafted the procedures, and STILL hold all the reins. The fact that we can all go in the front door now doesn’t mean that we can all get in the elevator and make it to the proverbial corner office. And if you DON’T think there is a white male privilege, just take a look around you. Look at the distribution of wealth.  Or land ownership. Or incarceration. Does our Congress reflect our various racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, and gender demographics?  Hell no.  Until our positions of power are held with a diversity that reflects the diversity of the citizenry, privilege will continue to exist.  And though we are equal, we will not have substantive equality until that happens.

 

The Lady's Not For Burning.  Or For Racism.

The Lady's Not For Burning. Or For Racism.

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2 Comments

  1. Snad said,

    October 3, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    You had me in the first paragraph, ma’am.

  2. Dr. Monkey said,

    October 4, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Well said. As a white male who grew up poor and was one of the few white families in my neighborhood in the projects in Detroit, I saw racism first hand and even among us poor white trash who lived in the ‘hood, some of our elders told us, “You may be poor but at least you’re not black.” It was insane. And while I’m at it, the parts of Michigan I lived in when I was young were waaaaay more racist than the parts of the south I have lived in.


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