White Liberals Have White Privilege Too!

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martin dufresne
White Liberals Have White Privilege Too!

 

martin dufresne

[url=http://www.alternet.org/story/71290/]Provocative Alternet article by Alex Jung[/url]

quote:

"It often seems that the only way liberals can talk about race is to encircle the "racists" and point at them -- either for a laugh or a morality tale.(...)

Jung, an Asian-American, invites us to consider a funny AND suversive on-line challenge to liberal consciousness:
[url=http://www.blackpeopleloveus.com/]Black People Love Us website[/url]

quote:

(...) Part of the site's subversion -- and subsequent confusion -- comes from the fact that its humor is not so separate from liberal Americana.(...)

CMOT Dibbler

quote:


White Liberals Have White Privilege Too!

And in other news, fire is hot and water is wet!

CMOT Dibbler

The white middle class left is very smug. The second most privilaged class in North America has come to view racism so shallowly(many of us believe that racism is only present when one utters racial slirs and is no more sutble then a boot to the head) that we refuse to consider its more covert aspects and are to incapable of being humble in the face of our flaws.

[ 25 December 2007: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

lagatta

I very much dislike the discourse of privilege and humility of all things. It has nothing to do with building solidarity and fighting discrimination and injustice.

Even today, I heard a management spokesperson pontificating about transport workers here not accepting their measely offers, saying there were lots of unemployed and minimum-wage workers who would be glad to. Historically, it is a rightwing discourse.

Moreover, I have no idea whatsoever what "middle-class" is supposed to mean. In North American bourgeois discourse, it means practically anyone who isn't utterly destitute, as well as uneducated.

Sure, there are lots of forms of subtle racism (and sexism, etc), and people have to be self-critical, but there is something very pernicious and friendly to the established order (the REAL bearers of privilege) about this strange new use of that term.

spillunk

Do you mean as a divide and conquer strategy?

martin dufresne

quote:


...the established order (the REAL bearers of privilege)...

AS IF our privilege as Whites wasn't real?...
[img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]
[url=http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf]White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack[/url]

[ 25 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

CMOT Dibbler

Discussions of privilage on this board have been divisive. In fact I sincerely doubt that truly revolutionary discussions can take place here because people are constanly tripping over their various privilages(sure, your a gay tansexual disabled guy with a hair lip and pubic lice, but your problems aren't as serious as mine because you're a white man!) but the middle class (shrinking though it maybe) is still privilaged and a lot of people within it are still blissfully unaware of how bigoted they are.

To me the word middle class describes a class of teachers, doctors laywers and shopkeepers, people who aren't the corporate elite, but aren't horney handed sons of toyle either.

[ 28 December 2007: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

lagatta

martin, I usually agree with you (about feminism, prostitution, etc) and suspect I do about racism, though I haven't read much by you on that topic.

I mean the ruling class, the privileged elite, the "fortunate sons" (old Bob Seeger song). Yes of course this involves race, sex and "breeding" aka old money as well as $$$$$$$$$$.

I'm very suspicious of this postmodernist stuff.

Moreover, why do you assume that I am white?

Actually, I'm mostly white, with a "touch of the tarbrush" (les Antilles). Not pure white as per Aryan standards. And a lot of Aboriginal relatives. And sure as hell not from a stable, "middle-class" (whatever that means) background.

Can't stand the term "middle-class". In at least 90% of cases, it is referring to salaried workers.

CMOT Dibbler

I should in fact say that it's the white middle class LEFT that can't confront their bigotry. The right is at least honest in its hatred.

lagatta

Well, at least you are speaking of the left, not of "liberals", a US term. Still don't know what "middle-class" means. Usually it is a ruling-class term used to defuse class, and class struggle.

But what on earth has that got to do with fighting racism? The point is eliminating racial (and other) discrimination, not more self-indulgent browbeating.

[ 25 December 2007: Message edited by: lagatta ]

martin dufresne

I would suggest there is more indulgence in dismissing as mere "browbeating" any substantive acknowledgement of race privilege and work at dismantling it. The point is you are less efficient at dimantling racism if you don't see yourself as practising it.
As for the "middle class" or even "the left", please note that Jung and McIntosh are quizzing readers not as much as liberals as they do as Whites, a much more controversial proposition since we Whites generally resist thinking of ourselves as racialized.
But doesn't racism racialize us all, some as subordinate, some as dominant?

Are you really identifying liberals with the left? Not much left left in the left if you do? [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 25 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

[ 25 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

lagatta

Bien sыr que non, mais "libйral" au sens de progressiste, c'est typiquement Йtats-unien.

Зa revient а l'absence de conscience de classe comme fondation nйcessaire а la construction de solidaritйs et la lutte contre les discriminations et oppressions.

And no, of course I'm not excusing racism or sexism among the working class... [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img]

CMOT Dibbler

[ 25 December 2007: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

lagatta

?????

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

quote:


Originally posted by lagatta:
[b]I very much dislike the discourse of privilege and humility of all things. It has nothing to do with building solidarity and fighting discrimination and injustice.

Even today, I heard a management spokesperson pontificating about transport workers here not accepting their measely offers, saying there were lots of unemployed and minimum-wage workers who would be glad to. Historically, it is a rightwing discourse.

...

Sure, there are lots of forms of subtle racism (and sexism, etc), and people have to be self-critical, but there is something very pernicious and friendly to the established order (the REAL bearers of privilege) about this strange new use of that term.[/b]


Lagatta, I understand where you are coming from, and it is not long ago that I took a similar position in a thread in the anit-racism forum. However, I have challenged my views on this matter in the last couple of months, and my current position is as follows:

If the ultimate goal is a socialist, post-capitalist world, the struggle that will get us there is the class struggle against capitalism and the captalist class. The struggles against sexism and racism, on their own, cannot defeat capitalism and usher in a post-capitalist, socialist world. However, to suggest to women and poc that the fights against sesixm and racism are not vitally important, is, IMO, deeply offensive. At the same time, those of us who are white and/or male, need to recognize our priviledges as white people and/or men, and the the lack of certain priviledges by women and/or poc. Doing so helps us to understand why it is much much harder for women and/or poc to actively engage in the fight against capitalism, and why the fights against racism and/or sexism are so vitally important to these groups. Also, recognizing the priviledges that we have allows us to check those priviledges at the door when we work with women and/or poc activists. Checking our priviledges at the door is the only way that we can truly engage in solidarity with women and/or poc activists, and the only way in which we can get them to engage in solidarity with us in our common struggle against capitalism.

quote:

Originally posted by lagatta:
[b]I mean the ruling class, the privileged elite, the "fortunate sons" (old Bob Seeger song). Yes of course this involves race, sex and "breeding" aka old money as well as $$$$$$$$$$.[/b]

I agree completely that the only class that is truly "priviledged" is the ruling class, for they are the only class that does not have to sell their labour in order to survive. However, that does not mean that all members of the working class are devoid of any priviledges at all. I've already said above that we need to recognize any priviledges we have, and check them at the door when working with activists who do not have those same priviledges, in order that we may all work together against capitalism.

martin dufresne

Race, gender, ableness, heterosexual privileges are just as "true" as class privilege, even if we are less aware of them. Indeed they are more than mere privilege, an apparent inconvenience in our identification with The Oppressed. They are, demonstrably, positions of oppression of people deemed of colour, of women, of the disabled, of lesbians and gays - and one wishes it were as simple as respectfully "leaving them at the door" before entering interactions. Hearing and believing the voices of "othered" people and understanding the extent to which these various positions of dominance build an identity invisible to our eyes are probably more of a challenge than we like to think.
Has Peggy McIntosh's "Invisible Knapsack" theory been discussed on Babble before? An Archives search says no, which I find hard to believe.

[ 26 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

quote:


Originally posted by CMOT Dibbler:
[b]I should in fact say that it's the white middle class LEFT that can't confront their bigotry. The right is at least honest in its hatred.[/b]

Which drew this response:

quote:

Originally posted by lagatta:
[b]Well, at least you are speaking of the left, not of "liberals", a US term.[/b]

I would respectfully disagree. While there may well be residual racism among the self-described 'left' (in a society where racism is so institutionalized, there's bound to be some everywhere), but it is far more the vast public that feeds on the corporate media and thinks of themselves as the political 'centre' that perpetuates racism while being blissfully unaware.

They are very often Liberal (rather than 'liberal'). They share many mainstream Canadian values that could be considered 'left', but rather unconsciously. Within the NDP membership that I've encountered, structural racism is reasonably well recognized.

Makwa Makwa's picture

quote:


Originally posted by lagatta:
[b]Actually, I'm mostly white, with a "touch of the tarbrush" (les Antilles). [/b]

lagatta, I am rather taken aback by the casual use of such a racist coloquial term, although I am convinced that you had no conscious racialized intent. This sounds like something my openly racist grandmother would have said. Ironically, this perfectly illustrates the problems of unacknowledged racism among otherwise progress people.

CMOT Dibbler

quote:


Originally posted by lagatta:
[b]?????[/b]

It was a silly post.

martin dufresne

LTJ wrote:

quote:

I should in fact say that it's the white middle class LEFT that can't confront their bigotry. The right is at least honest in its hatred.

I disagree. Right-wing hatred of political minority groups will usually express itself not as such but as blame, wherein the speaker's position is obscured in favour of discourse centered on the othered party, what he or she is doing wrong, "bringing on himself" an allegedly objective and compassionate criticism. For instance, look at the way Muslim women who choose to wear some kind of identifying garment are being attacked "for their own good".

From CMOT Dibbler:

quote:

Discussions of privil(e)ge on this board have been divisive.

Isn't that word "divisive" rather rhetorical? There are actual divisions among people over key political issues; is it being "divisive" to foreground them in order to move forward?

[ 26 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

CMOT Dibbler

quote:


Isn't that word "divisive" rather rhetorical? There are actual divisions among people over key political issues; is it being "divisive" to foreground them in order to move forward?

Well, yes, but they've been more divisive then they have had to be. This is mainly because Babblers are so intent on 'othering" people who would in most circumstances be their allies, that no substantive discusion of these issues actually takes place.

CMOT Dibbler

Of course, that happens in the other identity based forums too.

martin dufresne

IMO, these "most circumstances" are shrinking; more to the point, work therein is held back by the absence of potential allies who find their issues constantly pushed to the back burner or merely patronized - as when gatekeepers from the dominant group decide just how much "divisiveness" can be allowed by giving these issues a fair hearing.
This has been my experience of the demise of the left in Quebec, when male leaders attempted to run hodshod over the budding feminist movement and its challenge of systemic sexism and attempt to foreground women's issues in leftist organizations.
In response to your reversal of the issue, confronting people over their denial of their privilege is not "othering" them, it is attempting to wind down their othering of people and censorship of their voices about it and attempting to rebuild true, inclusive community.
(Off the soapbox... for now)

[ 26 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

CMOT Dibbler

Actually, I believe it is the case that no one right or left wing, brown or white, gay or straight, will admit to their racism. It's become taboo to express ethnocentric views. Because of this situation people find other more insidious ways to give voice to their bigotry.

martin dufresne

There is only one thing worse than having to admit privilege... the prospect of being stripped of it! [img]tongue.gif" border="0[/img]

lagatta

Of course I think fights against racism and sexism are vital. Have been involved in same for many decades (including orgainising immigrant workers, fighting for refugee claimants, being on a union conditon fйminine committee, the union international solidarity committee, fighting or Morganthaler and later for Chantal Daigle...

I just don't like PoMo discourse.

And Makwa, I forgot about the rule about "ironic racism". Of course the "tarbush" is an expression bigots would use, but I first heard it from relatives of colour. It is true that on a board you don't get someone's tone of voice.

martin dufresne

OK, I'll bite... Where do you see "post-modernist discourse" in what Jung, McIntosh or I have been saying? In my admittedly limited understanding, acknowledging ingrained systemic oppression, lodged in dominant folks' sense of identity, and protesting/organizing against that, is Modern, not Post-Modern.

Lagatta wrote:

quote:

I'm very suspicious of this postmodernist stuff.

[ 28 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

CMOT Dibbler

quote:


There is only one thing worse than having to admit privilege... the prospect of being stripped of it!

But even Babble's anti oppresion campagners, swept up as they are by the adrenaline rush caused by their various struggles, can temporarily loose their humanity, and end up denying the suffering of others, while also ruining their chances of connecting with people outside of their own group.

[ 26 December 2007: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

[ 27 December 2007: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

martin dufresne

Wary of any isolation-inducing myopic adrenaline rush, I went back to Alex Jung's piece, who gently points out [url=http://www.alternet.org/story/71290/?page=entire]ten misunderstandings white liberals have about race[/url]
I dare say you may want to look into 3 and 7 yourself... [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

quote:

1. White supremacy? You mean white men in white sheets?
2. I'm not racist, but ...
3. Colorblind as a bat.
4. Kumbaya, multiculturalism!
5. It's not a "[insert racial group here]" issue as much as it is a "human" issue.
6. One of my best friends is [insert nonwhite group here]!
7. How could I have white privilege? I'm poor/female/gay/Polish/disabled!
8. The white savior complex.
9. "Good" people of color
10. All that guilt.


[ 26 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

CMOT Dibbler

quote:


How could I have white privilege? I'm poor/female/gay/Polish/disabled!


Such white people have privilage, that's true, but at a certain point, if you focus too much on the privilage of such individuals, you minimize the very real challenges that people with those disadvantages face. Left wing politics shouldn't be about oppresion contests.

[ 27 December 2007: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I think that the test is a valuable exercise, but I have to wonder, what exactly is the point at which people of color would say to a white person who was trying to support them "Ok, we accept that you're REALLY with us. Your on our side and we'll never doubt you again"? Is the message here that that simply isn't possible?

I think back to the mid-1960's, when most white supporters of the U.S. civil rights movement were told that they weren't welcome anymore, that no matter what they'd done, they were suddenly just as much the enemy as any Southern sheriff. Did that mass expulsion of allies do any good whatsoever?

If there are white people who are at least trying to be antiracist, how much suspicion should they expect?

I'm open to self-examination, but doesn't there have to be SOME point at which you're simply accepted as having proved your sincerity and commitment?

I just want to get some sense of what is expected out of this process.

martin dufresne

Wow... you really do a good impersonation of the Blacks you hang your straw men onto!
(Do you use blackface or just wing it?)

Maysie Maysie's picture

Moderator here.

martin, that last comment was out of line. Ken S's question was sincere and did not warrant such a snarky response.

martin dufresne

I can't speculate about his sincerity, but his summation of common cause between Black and White anti-racists in the seventies is highly misleading.
His post doesn't show any attempt to grapple with the excellent questions raised by Jung. He just wants to be told when he'll be told he's OK.
Well, that's not for me to say but, given his whiny attitude (can I say whiny?), I wouldn't hold my breath if I were him.
The project of understanding and learning to live with doubt and even, yes, some suspicion until oppression is wound down seems more relevant and challenging to me than his demand.

[ 27 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Makwa Makwa's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Ken Burch:
[b]I have to wonder, what exactly is the point at which people of color would say to a white person who was trying to support them "Ok, we accept that you're REALLY with us. Your on our side and we'll never doubt you again"? Is the message here that that simply isn't possible?[/b]

I have known non-aboriginal people (not necessarily white) who were very in touch with aboriginal values, who had lived on reservation or were very closely related to aboriginal persons, believed in traditional teachings, and worked regularly to support aboriginal causes. At that point, I would relinquish my defensiveness and accept them as an ally, not before. I have been fucked around too many times, as most FN people have.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

That's an eloquent expression of the kind of answer I was looking for, makwa. Thanks.

As to martin's posts, I didn't mean to be demanding anything. I was just asking. Sorry if I expressed that badly.

I can live with doubt, and I can examine myself.

And fine, of course all white people have stuff to work on as far as race goes.

What I'm asking is, why have a greater emphasis on challenging white allies on their shortcomings, rather joining with those allies to fight the enemy? Isn't changing the overall society what really matters?

And probably, there isn't a simple answer to that.

No, I don't have an obsessive need to be absolved.
And I'm willing to be called on any bullshit people want to call me on. I'm also willing to join the larger struggle to change society and the world. I guess I think that the latter project is at least as important as the former.

[ 27 December 2007: Message edited by: Ken Burch ]

[ 27 December 2007: Message edited by: Ken Burch ]

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Ken Burch:
[b]I think that the test is a valuable exercise, but I have to wonder, what exactly is the point at which people of color would say to a white person who was trying to support them "Ok, we accept that you're REALLY with us. Your on our side and we'll never doubt you again"? Is the message here that that simply isn't possible?

I think back to the mid-1960's, when most white supporters of the U.S. civil rights movement were told that they weren't welcome anymore, that no matter what they'd done, they were suddenly just as much the enemy as any Southern sheriff. Did that mass expulsion of allies do any good whatsoever?

If there are white people who are at least trying to be antiracist, how much suspicion should they expect?

I'm open to self-examination, but doesn't there have to be SOME point at which you're simply accepted as having proved your sincerity and commitment?

I just want to get some sense of what is expected out of this process.[/b]


I do believe there is a point at which white people are clearly sincere enough to be accepted into the anti-racist struggle, just as I think there is clearly a point at which men are sincere enough to be accepted into the feminist struggle. That said, there are certain aspects of those struggles in which poc/men will not be welcome, and we will never be welcome as leaders of any aspect of those struggles. For instance, I know that as a man I will never be welcome at take back the night marches, even by women who accept me as an ally in their feminist struggles. There are some roads that women/poc must walk alone, and where white people/men cannot walk beside them.

Where we white poeple/men can make a big difference is when we are in the company of other white people/men who make racist/sexist comments. In such a situation, when no women/poc are present, we can make a big difference by challenging those comments, because poc/women are simply not there to challenge the comments. Also, white people/men can make a big difference by checking our priviledge at the door when we work together with women/poc towards common goals.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Left Turn:
[b]Also, white people/men can make a big difference by checking our priviledge at the door when we work together with women/poc towards common goals.[/b]

Several people have said this before. What does it mean, exactly, to "check your privilege at the door"?

martin dufresne

"I have met the enemy and it is us." [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

Ken asks:

quote:

...why have a greater emphasis on challenging white allies on their shortcomings, rather joining with those allies to fight the enemy?

Because it's not shortcomings, it's being on top of them. When it comes to race - and I could say the same for men vis-a-vis women -, we Whites cannot become allies of those we racialize until we recognize ourselves, in our present denial of the problem, AS the enemy, indeed the ones actioning the war. That against the racialized "minorities" you are criticizing for being suspicious. A rather vicious circular argument: "Agree that I'm you ally and I will, perhaps. Otherwise, you are the one making me an enemy."
It doesn't have to be that way, but it will as long as we diss them.
Indeed, "sincerity", understood as wholeness, self-identity, immunity to awareness that of our current make-up is part of what we need to fight, is the very problem.
bell hooks points out how surprised and angry Whites are when Whiteness is taken into account at all, when we are identified as Whites by non-Whites.
We have to share the load of what W.E. Dubois calls [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_consciousness]"double consciousness"[/url], by letting in a bit of awareness of how the people we Other perceive us.

quote:

There is a war between the men and between the women. There is a war between those who say there is a war and those who say that there isn't. (Leonard Cohen)

[ 28 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

martin dufresne

quote:


What does it mean, exactly, to "check your privilege at the door"?

I am afraid it implies that you can pick it up whenever you decide to leave the process... [img]frown.gif" border="0[/img]

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

quote:


[b]We have to share the load of what W.E. Dubois calls "double consciousness", by letting in a bit of awareness of how the people we Other perceive us.[/b]

Ok, I can accept the validity of that. And I wasn't saying that POC should ask NOTHING of their white allies.

I suppose this goes to the question of how trust is established.

And with that, I'll stop commenting in this particular thread, because I've probably tied it up too much.

[ 27 December 2007: Message edited by: Ken Burch ]

Erik Redburn

MD: " am afraid it implies that you can pick it up whenever you decide to leave the process... "

Post modernist drivel. You cannot be an "ally" when you by definition are "The enemy". Yes, I "get" your point, but sadly cannot accept it all. "We" are not bigots by "race" even if we happen by "race" to be personally immune to the bigotry of others who happened to share our "race". Either learn to distinguish just a smidgen between the active individual and historical "group" (and maybe try some other useful linguistic modifiers and markers) or stop pretending that regurgitating this stuff back on other "whites" somehow makes you any less responsible for dealing with this mess. Responsibility, not "white liberal guilt". And please stop lumping people in wheelchairs or poverty with the "privileged", white or not. That accomplishes nothing positive as others have rightly pointed out.

[ 27 December 2007: Message edited by: Erik Redburn ]

martin dufresne

quote:


You cannot be an "ally" when you by definition are "The enemy".

No, not by definition. I clearly wrote: "in our present denial of the problem" and "It doesn't have to be that way, but it will as long as we diss them."
The historical group has privilege, oppresses, denies the problem, blames the victim but each individual can break ranks, forsake the privilege, stop oppressing, accept awareness, share the load of double consciousness, become accountable, prove himself without asking the othered to renege on the analysis. Whether he does or not is the mark of whether he ceases or goes on being the enemy. What's post-modernist about that? It's just a matter of divestment or not, as traditional as the Rich Young Man Bible story (Mark 10, 17-31)...

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

quote:


Originally posted by M. Spector:
[b]Several people have said this before. What does it mean, exactly, to "check your privilege at the door"?[/b]

I believe it's known as "shutting the fuck up and listening", and it's damned hard.

I know, I tried it once.

N.R.KISSED

quote:


I believe it's known as "shutting the fuck up and listening", and it's damned hard.

exactly

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

So, white privilege consists of not listening to others? Surely there's more to it than that.

jrootham

No, white privilege consists of a lot of things. Shutting up and listening is the beginning of what we (speaking as a white male) should do about it.

martin dufresne

quote:


Surely there's more to it than that.

See hyperlink to Peggy McIntosh "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" essay above. This piece is stupendous.

[ 28 December 2007: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

CMOT Dibbler

quote:


Originally posted by M. Spector:
[b]So, white privilege consists of not listening to others? Surely there's more to it than that.[/b]

No, it consists of being able to walk down the street without being racially profiled by the cops

It consists of seeing people like yourself in the Mainstream media.

It consists of not having your life governed by a draconian government Beuracracy that tells you who you are, where you can live, who you can marry etc.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

That's what I thought.

So, to get back to my question, what exactly does it mean to check your privilege at the door?

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