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“What Is White Privilege?”: Something You Would Barely Notice Unless It Were Suddenly Taken Away

Taking it for granted that when you’re shopping alone, you probably won’t be followed or harassed.

Knowing that if you ask to speak to “the person in charge,” you’ll almost certainly be facing someone of your own race.

Being able to think about different social, political or professional options without asking whether someone of your race would be accepted or allowed to do what you want to do.

Assuming that if you buy a house in a nice neighborhood, your neighbors will be pleasant or neutral toward you.

Feeling welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

What is white privilege? It’s the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it were suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place.

In 1988, the professor Peggy McIntosh used the paper White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack to describe it as a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious. The concept has been percolating in academic circles ever since and is nearing widespread use among young people on the political left. Yet as Post reporter Janell Ross noted earlier this week, it’s also a term that many Americans “instinctively don’t trust or believe to be real,” despite reams of evidence to the contrary. Black children– 4-year-olds! — comprise 18 percent of preschool enrollment but are given  nearly 50 percent of all out-of-school suspensions. Job applicants with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called in for an interview. Black defendants are at least 30 percent more likely to be imprisoned than white defendants for the same crime.

Why does such a fraught piece of academic lingo matter now? Because people are finally beginning to talk about what it means in their own lives. At a time when minorities are becoming more vocal about the ways in which their experiences in America differ from those of their white counterparts, the term might be finally entering the mainstream. On Monday night, at a forum for presidential hopefuls held in Iowa, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton was asked by an audience member to explain what white privilege meant to her, and how it had affected her life. Her response? “Look, where do I start?

Yet for every instance in which white privilege is acknowledged, there is an inevitable backlash.

Commentators quickly jump in to remind us that “not all white people are privileged,” a clear (and perhaps willful) misreading of the term. Obviously not all white people are wealthy, and yes, there are minorities who have achieved this and other marks of status. But white privilege is something specific and different – it’s the idea that just by virtue of being a white person of any kind, you’re part of the dominant group, which tends to be respected, assumed the best of, and given the benefit of the doubt. That just isn’t the case for people of other races, no matter how wealthy, smart or hard-working they might be.

Others denounce the term as a weapon used to guilt, shame, and silence, pointing at presumably well-meaning students told by holier-than-thou faculty and classmates to “check their privilege.” Yet while the term can be used to silence, that’s more the fault of a rude terminology-wielder than of the concept itself. All sorts of normally harmless words have been deployed to guilt people and suppress speech — “unpatriotic” and “elitist” come to mind.  A reminder to acknowledge one’s privilege is just a reminder to be aware — aware that you might not be able to fully understand someone else’s experiences, or that the assumptions you were brought up with may be blinding you to certain concerns. That awareness that is key to any sort of civil discussion, about race, class or anything else.

Before everyone gets too defensive (and let’s be honest — it’s probably too late), a few notes of clarification: Pointing out that white privilege exists isn’t the same as accusing every white person of being a racist. Acknowledging that you might benefit from such privilege isn’t equivalent to self-hatred or kowtowing to detested “social justice warriors.”

The thing about white privilege is that it tends to be unintentional, unconscious, uncomfortable to recognize but easy to take for granted. But it’s that very invisibility that makes it that much more important to understand: Without confronting what exists, there’s no chance of leveling the field.

 

By: Christine Emba, Editor of In Theory; Opionins Section, The Washington Post, January 18, 2016

January 18, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Minorities, White Privilege | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“We’re Not There Yet”: On This Martin Luther King Day, How Far Have We Really Come?

Martin Luther King Day honors the birthday of our nation’s 20th century conscience. MLK Day also serves as a benchmark against which to measure the extent to which three plagues cited by King — racism, poverty and war — have been eradicated.

Some judgments come easy. George Wallace’s cry, “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” is a sound of the past.

The Martin Luther King-led civil rights movement changed the political landscape of the United States. When the landmark Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965, seven months after King launched the Selma march that spurred its passage, African American political office holders in southern states were near zero. By 2013, the number of southern black elected officials had blossomed to more than 300.

Since January 2010, a president who is African American has delivered the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress.

Without question, there has been change and forward movement in the political arena. But we’re not there yet. Yes, Wallace, is off the scene. However, today we have Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

There have been other achievements in the uphill struggle for equality. More African American students are graduating from high school and college since King’s assassination. The black middle class has grown. African American professionals are contributing to virtually every aspect of society.

Progress against racial oppression, however, does not equal victory over the inequalities that prevent African Americans from assuming a rightful place in this country. Glaring disparities exist. Academic achievement, graduation rates, health-care status, employment, incarceration — vast racial gulfs persist.

Then there’s war.

Vietnam broke King’s heart.

What would he think of the more than 6,000 U.S. military personnel and hundreds of U.S. civilians dying due to direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan between October 2001 and April 2015? How would he view our 21st century flooded with millions of war refugees? Could he come to terms with an Iraq war federal price tag of $4.4 trillion?

But I believe that man of peace would be most troubled by the extent to which our scientifically advanced world has outdistanced our moral values.

Sixty-two years ago, in a sermon at his uncle’s church in Detroit, King delivered a sermon in which he said the great danger facing us was not so much the nuclear bomb created by physical science, but “that atomic bomb which lies in the hearts and souls … capable of exploding into the vilest of hate and into the most damaging selfishness.” A perfect reference to the toxic violence of Islamic terrorists such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda — and haters here at home.

How far have we really come?

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 18, 2016

January 18, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Martin Luther King Jr, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Leader ‘Offended’ By Establishment Label”: It’s Hard To Get More “Establishment” Than John Thune

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), after nearly two decades on Capitol Hill, has been called a lot of things, but Roll Call reported this week on the one label he considers “offensive.”

Real estate mogul Donald Trump has been the front-runner for months, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who touts himself as a political outsider even though he is a sitting lawmaker. Cruz regularly refers to congressional leadership and other politicians as “the Washington cartel.”

Thune said he resents that characterization. “Well, I’m personally very offended to be called the establishment,” he said.

Note, he’s not just offended; he’s very offended.

For those unfamiliar with Thune, let’s note some of the basic details of his c.v. He’s currently the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the #3 position in the GOP leadership. The South Dakota senator, in his 12th year in the chamber after three terms in the House, is also the chairman of the Commerce Committee and the former chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

I hate to break this to the senator, but it’s hard to get more “establishment” than John Thune.

But the fact that the GOP lawmaker would make a point to distance himself from the “establishment’ ” he helps lead says a great deal about the state of Republican politics in 2016.

Traditionally, the party’s inside-the-Beltway power players reveled in their status, confident about the role they played in guiding the GOP’s direction and choosing its nominees.

The word “establishment” wasn’t used much – it was instead, simply, “the party” – and when it was used, the word certainly wasn’t an epithet to be avoided.

How much has the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz influenced the state of the GOP? Enough to make prominent members of the Republican establishment pretend otherwise.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 16, 2016

January 18, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP Leadership, John Thune | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The Republican Field Is Incapable Of Challenging Trump”: No Candidate Is Grounded In Authenticity And Truth

Tying in to what Martin just wrote about the Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy, I’ve long felt that, even though the GOP has put up a large number of candidates this time around, the quantity doesn’t make up for the lack of quality.

A general consensus seems to be forming after last night’s debate that Republicans are in the phase of resigning themselves to a Trump candidacy. I’m seeing that noted in a variety of places. For example, Jonathan Chait, Greg Sargent and Steve Benen all have pretty good round-ups on that sentiment. While I was watching the debate last night, I had a growing sense of how the lack of quality in the field has enabled the ongoing dominance of Trump.

For all of his faults (there are too many to name, so don’t get me started), one of the things that Donald Trump is pretty good at is having a nose for hypocrisy as well as the ability to locate and exploit the weaknesses of others. One of the reasons his attacks work is that they usually contain a twisted sense of truth. The example that springs to mind from last night is that he outright called Jeb Bush “weak.” In a field where bullying is assumed to demonstrate strength, that’s pretty spot on.

Part of the reason why none of the current candidates can effectively challenge Trump is that there is not one of them who is grounded in authenticity and truth. For example, one of the things Jeb has become known for in this campaign is saying something and then having to call it back or revise it 3 or 4 times before he’s done. Everyone knows that Rubio is simply spouting lines that he has practiced and rehearsed. As we saw last night, Christie can hardly speak without lying. These days all Carson seems capable of is rambling incoherently. And Cruz is the closest thing we have to a sociopath in this race (with Carly Fiorina running a close second) – twisting his agenda to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The one candidate who exudes even a hint of authenticity is John Kasich. But all he seems to be able to do is flail his arms around, talk about his record, and extol the virtues of trickle-down economics.

In order to take on a bully like Trump you have to look him in the eye and stand your ground confidently – without prevaricating or attempting to out-bully the bully. In order to do that, you have to know what you believe and be able to articulate it authentically. Short of that, Trump will find the opening and exploit the hell out of it.

None of these candidates can do that because what the Republican Party is about right now is all a farce based on fear-mongering and out-dated policies that have proven themselves to be a disaster. They’re putting on a show and Donald Trump is making that obvious to everyone by simply putting on a bigger show.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 15, 2015

January 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nikki Haley Living In Fantasyland”: Comfortably Indoctrinated In A Kind Of Civic Mythology

Nikki Haley’s 44th birthday is this week. You would think her a little old for fairytales.

But a bizarre, little-reported remark the South Carolina governor made last week suggests that, age notwithstanding, Haley lives in Fantasyland, at least insofar as American history is concerned. The comment in question came the day after her Tuesday night speech in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which she cuffed Donald Trump for his strident anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant bigotry.

Haley told reporters, “When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.”

Some observers found that an astonishing thing for her to say as chief executive of the first state to secede from the Union in defense of slavery, a state that embraced segregation until forced to change by the federal government. Others observed that any fair reading of Haley’s quote makes it pretty clear she was speaking only in the context of legal immigration.

They’re right. The problem is, even if you concede that point, Haley is still grotesquely wrong. She thinks no immigration laws have been passed “based on race or religion”? What about:

The Naturalization Act of 1790, which extended citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person…”?

Or the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, whose title and intent are self-explanatory?

Or the Immigration Act of 1917, which banned immigrants from East Asia and the Pacific?

Or Ozawa v. U.S., the 1922 Supreme Court decision which declared that Japanese immigrants could not be naturalized?

Or U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the 1923 high court ruling which said people from India — like Haley’s parents — could not become naturalized citizens?

So yes, however you slice it, Haley is wrong and Haley is ignorant. But one wonders if Haley is to blame.

Americans, the historian Ray Arsenault once said, live by “mythic conceptions of what they think happened” in the past. And as school systems, under pressure from conservative school boards, retreat from teaching that which embarrasses the nation’s self-image, as ethnic studies classes are outlawed, as textbooks are scrubbed of painfully inconvenient truths, as standards requiring the teaching of only “positive aspects” of American history are imposed, we find those mythic conceptions encroaching reality to a troubling degree.

Suddenly, slaves become immigrants and settlers. The Civil War has nothing to do with slavery. Martin Luther King becomes a tea party member. And America has never passed laws “based on race and religion.”

Yes, Haley’s ignorance might be willful. There’s surely a lot of that going around. But it might also be that she’s simply part of that generation which has been taught fairytales under the guise of history. Such teaching will leave you comfortably indoctrinated in a kind of civic mythology — and wholly unprepared to interpret or contextualize what’s happening before your eyes.

To wit: What makes Donald Trump’s proposed restrictions on Muslims troubling is not that they represent the coming of something new, but the return of something old, a shameful strain in the American psyche that we have seen too many times before. It is not a deviation from America, but the very stuff of America, an ugly scapegoating that has too often besmirched our character and beguiled us away from our most luminous ideals.

This is something all of us should know, but do not. As a state official, perhaps a candidate for vice president, perhaps eventually a president of the United States, Nikki Haley might someday change history. It would be good if she understood it first.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 17, 2016

January 18, 2016 Posted by | American History, Civil War, Nikki Haley | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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