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“The White Entitlement Of Some Sanders Supporters”: If You’re Young, White And Privileged, You Don’t Expect To Lose

“Killary Clinton is stealing the nomination and the system is rigged against Bernie Sanders,” said the two young white guys standing behind me in line. They rambled incessantly about how she was cheating and could not be trusted. Superdelegates were their greatest frustration. Unelected delegates who could “decide” the nomination proved that the process was a sham that was intentionally set up to prevent Sanders from winning.

At first I tried to ignore the conversation and thought they were Trump supporters (“Killary” is usually a right-wing thing). But once it became clear that these guys were Sanders supporters, I had to jump in. For years, these guys had been “my people.” I have been a fan of Sanders long before his presidential run and have made many friends due to our mutual admiration of his policies. Surely, I’d be able to have a civil, rational conversation with these guys, right?

When, I chimed in it was evident that we were speaking different languages. We agreed on most of the substantive policy issues, and I told them how I even interned for Sanders about a decade ago. We should have been able to see eye to eye, but we could not. The main source of their frustration was merely the fact that they had lost. The fact that she is ahead in the popular vote, has won more primaries and caucuses, and has earned more delegates was to them a minor nuisance. They had their absurd talking points and were unwilling to deviate into reality.

The more I reflected on them, the more I realized the key point: They felt entitled to win, and a defeat meant that someone must have cheated or that their opinions did not matter, which of course couldn’t be true. They preferred to suspend reality and fabricate injustices rather than concede that Sanders has lost fair and square.

Essentially, we disagreed on what America supposedly promised or owed us. They felt success was promised to them. The entitlement to believe that you should always win allowed them to overlook how the system in many ways has always been unjustly rigged in their favor because they’re white. I brought up race during our conversation and how I’m very aware of how a system can be rigged against you. These guys acknowledged my point, but it was obvious that this reality did not factor much into their thinking. They felt aggrieved and cheated, and that was all that mattered.

They could not understand the perspectives of blacks, Latinos and other minorities in America who are regularly treated as threats to society before their voices can be heard. We are often silenced before we even have the chance to win. And as a result, we know that losing is a reality we will confront and that success can be a difficult and long process that may only show its face in the lives of our children or grandchildren who have more opportunities because we’ve spent a lifetime fighting for positive change.

These guys could not understand this struggle. They wanted immediate success and gratification, and they were not used to things not going their way. The issues and the lives of others had become irrelevant. All they wanted was for me to agree that they had been unjustly cheated, and that “Killary” and the DNC had rigged everything against them. I could not agree, so I had to walk away.

Sanders’s message has resonated mostly with a younger, predominantly white electorate like those two guys. Their message and frustrations have been heard loud and clear, but their electoral defeats have resulted in an intensified pack or tribalist mentality that unfortunately has similarities to the white tribalism that has guided Trump’s campaign. Sanders and Trump are mining similar disaffections amongst the white electorate.

On Face the Nation, Sanders recently attempted to pour cold water on some of the rage and rhetoric of his supporters, “I wouldn’t use the word rigged…I think it’s just a dumb process which has certainly disadvantaged our campaign.”

Trump on the other hand regularly feeds and emboldens these sentiments. He is speaking to voters like a commenter to The Atlantic whose perspective was so striking that the publication published his unsolicited comment in their Notes section, which regularly incorporates a more conversational and untraditional approach to covering the news. The commenter is a Midwestern, working-class white male in his late 30s who intends to vote for Trump if Sanders does not win the nomination because “if it is all going to be tribal politics, then well, I guess you have to go with your own tribe—if not for your sake, then for the sake of your kids.”

Sanders has broadened the Democratic electorate to include voters who may not normally participate in the primaries and caucuses, but now they need to combat the tribalism that could negatively impact Clinton and other Democrats in the general election. Sanders, unfortunately, has said that he has no obligation to convince his supporters to throw in with Clinton.

A beguiling component of Sanders’s campaign is how the unintentional white tribalism that has been forged on shared economic hardships has boosted his campaign, while at the same time rendering him unappealing to the minorities he needed to win the nomination.

Sanders’s class-based, inequality and economy focused agenda was not intended to stoke racial divisions, but even progressives are impacted by the class and race-based structures that American society has been built upon. Minorities agree with Sanders’s commitment to crack down on big banks and Wall Street, but many of the economic and social injustices we face exist on Main Street and within the police precincts that are supposed to protect us. And while Sanders may see this distinction, some of his supporters appear not to.

As an African American I could not join the tribe of Sanders’s belligerent, incensed supporters. But I should not have to as long as both they and I are committed to working together to combat structures that disenfranchise Americans electorally and economically. The fact that we could not should be incredibly disconcerting to Sanders, Clinton, and the DNC.

White entitlement is shaping up to be a critical issue during this election for both the Democrats and the Republicans. Trump and the GOP are championing the entitled white life of yore. But the Democrats have another dilemma and must figure out a way for their diverse electorate to converse and unite around the shared goals of equity and progress without the archaic divisions and privileges of the past. Thus far it looks like the Democrats and the Sanders campaign still have a lot of work to do.

 

By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daily Beast, June 5, 2016

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters, White Privilege | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“History Is A Nightmare”: Why The Conversation About Race Can’t Be The Only Conversation

From sea to shining sea, college students seem determined to make us argue about race to the exclusion of all else. So here’s something I learned in college: Virtually every ugly stereotype applied to African-Americans by white racists was applied to my Irish-Catholic ancestors as well. Their English oppressors caricatured Irish peasants as shiftless, drunken, sexually promiscuous, donkey-strong but mentally deficient.

The Celtic race was good at singing, dancing, lifting heavy objects, and prizefighting. Red-haired women were thought sexually insatiable. We Celts also had an appalling odor.

Little historical imagination is required to grasp why slave owners needed to call their victims subhuman. Yes, I said slaves. During the 17th century, many thousands of native Irish were transported to the Caribbean and North America and sold into indentured servitude. During the Potato Famine of the 1840s, England sent soldiers to guard ships exporting food crops from Irish farms while the native population starved or emigrated.

Feeding them, it was believed, would compromise their work ethic.

But here’s the thing: At no point was I tempted to wonder if my ancestors were, in fact, inferior. Not once, not ever. Nor did I see any point in holding it against the Rolling Stones or The Who (although my grandfather Connors pretended to). It was ancient history to me, fascinating but of little import to my life as a first-generation college student.

My father, a donkey-strong man of fierce opinions, had a slogan he’d often repeat. It was his personal credo, a bedrock statement of Irish-American patriotism.

“You’re no better than anybody else,” he’d growl. “And NOBODY’S BETTER THAN YOU.”

It’s become my personal motto as well. You see, I don’t believe it of you or your ancestors either. That they’re inferior (or superior, for that matter). Never have. I used to joke that being Irish, I only looked white. But hardly anybody gets it anymore, so I quit saying it.

“History is a nightmare,” said James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, “from which I am trying to awake.”

I understand that it’s easier to resign from being Irish (in the political sense) than it is to resign from being black or Asian or Hispanic or whatever. But to me, the freedom to redefine yourself is the essence of being American.

We used to sit around in our freshman dorm at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, all us first-generation college boys with immigrant ancestors, comparing notes about the crazy stories our grandparents told us about the old country. Me and Czyza and Finelli and Sussman and Piskorowski and Sugarman and Grasso and Maloney… Well, you get the point.

Hardly a WASP in sight, although I’d actually dated one in high school.

So no, I won’t apologize for my “white privilege” either. Nor will I turn myself inside-out trying to prove my good faith to somebody who doubts it. I’m no better than you, and you’re no better than I am. If we can’t agree to meet in the middle, then maybe it’s best we not meet at all.

It will be seen that I’m temperamentally unqualified to be a college administrator, compelled as they are to remain solemn, as impassioned nineteen-year-olds demand — demand, no less — an immediate end to not only “white supremacy” but to “heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.”

That’s from a recent list of grievances presented to the president of Amherst College. Somehow, they left out the designated hitter rule.

Writing in The Nation, Michelle Goldberg complained about “left-wing anti-liberalism: the idea…that social justice demands curbs on freedom of expression.” She met fierce resistance from Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper in (where else?) Salon, who countered that “[T]he demand to be reasonable is a disingenuous demand. Black folks have been reasoning with white people forever. Racism is unreasonable, and that means reason has limited currency in the fight against it.”

No it doesn’t. Quite the opposite.

My view is that they’re being intellectually defrauded, all these idealistic kids who are being taught their race is destiny, and destiny is race.

Better by far that they should study entomology, urban planning, or 18th-century French literature — anything that fascinates them — rather than waste their college years pondering the exact color of their navels and compiling lists of fruitless demands.

End xenophobia? Wonderful. Tell it to ISIS.

However, the way it seems to work on many campuses these days, is that a tenured commissar like Cooper gets to make both ends of the argument: yours and hers. Needless to say, you’re wrong by definition.

Anyway, here’s what I’d tell her students if they asked me:

Yes, race can still be an obstacle. However, most Americans want to be fair. People will meet you more than halfway if you let them. As President Obama has shown, bigots no longer have the power to define your life.

Unless, that is, you give it to them.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, December 2, 2015

December 3, 2015 Posted by | College Campuses, Race and Ethnicity, White Privilege | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“How Long Can This Go On?”: There’s No Such Crime As ‘Driving While White’

The shooting of Walter L. Scott in South Carolina prompts the question:

When is the last time you heard of a white man in a Mercedes-Benz being pulled over for driving with a broken taillight?

It has probably happened somewhere, sometime, but there’s a better chance of your car being hit by a meteor.

Getting shot dead during a minor traffic stop also isn’t a prevailing fear among white males in America, no matter what type of vehicle they own.

Scott himself didn’t imagine he was going to die when he was pulled over. Unfortunately, he happened to be a black man driving a Mercedes, which is what got him noticed. He was behind on child-support payments and probably didn’t want to go to jail.

Something happened at the scene, Scott got Tased and then tried to run away. Officer Michael Slager fired eight times, hitting the unarmed 50-year-old in the back. The killing was caught on cellphone video by a bystander.

Slager told the dispatcher that Scott had snatched his Taser, but the video shows the officer dropping an object that looks just like a Taser near Scott’s handcuffed body. Slager has been charged with murder and fired from his job.

The shooting was shocking to watch, as the whole world has, yet the sequence of events leading up to it is sadly familiar to black men in this country. They can’t afford to drive around as carefree as us white guys.

In September, a South Carolina state trooper shot and wounded another unarmed black motorist after pulling him over because he allegedly wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.

I’ve got white friends who rarely buckle up, yet I don’t know of one who has been ticketed for it, or even stopped and warned. Maybe they’re just lucky.

The black comedian Chris Rock uses his Twitter account to record his traffic-stop encounters. In a recent seven-week period, he was pulled over three times (once as a passenger).

It’s possible he and his friends aren’t very good drivers. It’s also possible they’ve been targeted merely for “Driving While Black,” an unwritten offense that still exists in many regions of the country, not just the Deep South — and not just in high-crime areas.

The odds would be fairly slim for a black man driving a luxury car not to be pulled over at least once on a road trip between, say, Utah and North Dakota. Even in a ’98 Taurus he’d need to be watching the rear-view mirror for blue lights.

Generalizing about traffic stops can be problematic. The numbers often spike in certain neighborhoods at certain times of day, and a small number of officers can account for many incidents of racial profiling.

Still, the evidence that it exists is more than anecdotal.

Using a “Police-Public Contact Survey,” the U.S. Justice Department analyzed traffic stops of drivers aged 16 or older nationwide during 2011, comparing by race and weighting by population.

To the astonishment of hardly anyone, black drivers were about 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, and approximately 23 percent more likely to be pulled over than Hispanic motorists.

A series published by the Washington Post in September reported that minority drivers had their cars searched (and cash seized) at a higher rate than white drivers. That jibed with the Justice Department’s conclusion that vehicle searches occurred substantially more often when the driver wasn’t white.

Another unsurprising fact: Compared to other races, white drivers were most likely to get pulled over for speeding. Black drivers were statistically more likely to be stopped for vehicle defects or record checks.

Which is what happened to Walter L. Scott in North Charleston.

Never in almost five decades of driving have I been pulled over for a busted brake light or a burned-out headlight, even though I’ve had a few.

It didn’t matter whether I was in a Dodge, Oldsmobile, Jeep, Ford, Chevy or even, for a while, a Mercedes SUV.

The only thing I’ve ever been stopped for is, like many impatient white people, driving too fast.

And every time a police officer walked up to my car, I knew exactly why he or she wanted to chat with me. It was no mystery whatsoever.

That’s not always the case for a black man behind the wheel of a car in this country. This is not just a perception; it’s a depressing reality.

If it had been me or Matt Lauer or even faux Hispanic Jeb Bush driving that Mercedes-Benz in South Carolina, Officer Slager wouldn’t have stopped the car. Not for a busted taillight, no way.

Which prompts another question: How long can this go on?

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 14, 2015

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Police Shootings, Police Violence, White Privilege | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Privilege Of Arrest Without Incident”: Take A Moment And Consider This, Take A Long Moment

The day after Christmas, a shooter terrorized the streets of a Chattanooga, Tenn., neighborhood. According to the local newspaper, the shooter was “wearing body armor” and “firing multiple shots out her window at people and cars.” One witness told the paper that the shooter was “holding a gun out of the window as if it were a cigarette.”

There’s more:

“Officers found two people who said they were at a stop sign when a woman pulled up in a dark-colored sedan and fired shots into their vehicle, hitting and disabling the radiator. Then more calls reported a woman pointing a firearm at people as she passed them in her car, and that she fired at another vehicle in the same area.”

When police officers came upon the shooter, the shooter led them on a chase. The shooter even pointed the gun at a police officer.

Surely this was not going to end well. We’ve all seen in recent months what came of people who did far less. Surely in this case officers would have been justified in using whatever force they saw fit. Right?

According to the paper, the shooter was “taken into custody without incident or injury.”

Who was this shooter anyway? Julia Shields, a 45-year-old white woman.

Take a moment and consider this. Take a long moment. It is a good thing that officers took her in “without incident or injury,” of course, but can we imagine that result being universally the case if a shooter looks different? Would this episode have ended this way if the shooter had been male, or black, or both?

It’s an unanswerable question, but nevertheless one that deserves pondering. Every case is different. Police officers are human beings making split-second decisions — often informed by fears — about when to use force and the degree of that force.

But that truth is also the trap. How and why are our fears constructed and activated? The American mind has been poisoned, from this country’s birth, against minority populations. People of color, particularly African-American men, have been caught up in a twister of macroaggressions and micro ones. No amount of ignoring can alleviate it; no amount of achieving can ameliorate it.

And in a few seconds, or fractions of a second, before the conscious mind can catch up to the racing heart, decisions are made that can’t be unmade. Dead is forever.

It’s hard to read stories like this and not believe that there is a double standard in the use of force by the police. Everyone needs to be treated as though his or her life matters. More suspected criminals need to be detained and tried in a court of law and not sentenced on the street to a rain of bullets.

It is no wonder that whites and blacks have such divergent views of treatment by the police. As The Washington Post noted recently about a poll it conducted with ABC News, only about two in 10 blacks “say they are confident that the police treat whites and blacks equally, whether or not they have committed a crime.” In contrast, six in 10 whites “have confidence that police treat both equally.”

Michael Brown was unarmed. (Some witnesses in Ferguson, Mo., say he had his hands up. Others say he charged an officer.)

Eric Garner was unarmed on a Staten Island street.

Tamir Rice was 12 years old, walking around a Cleveland park and holding a toy gun that uses nonlethal plastic pellets, but he didn’t shoot at anyone.

John Crawford was in an Ohio Walmart, holding, but not shooting, an air rifle he had picked up from a store shelf.

The police say Antonio Martin had a gun and pointed it at a police officer in Berkeley, Mo., but didn’t fire it.

And last Tuesday, the police say, a handgun was “revealed” during a New Jersey traffic stop of a car Jerame C. Reid was in.

But none had the privilege of being “arrested without incident or injury.” They were all black, all killed by police officers. Brown was shot through the head. Garner was grabbed around the neck in a chokehold, tossed to the ground and held there, even as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe; it was all caught on video. Rice was shot within two seconds of the police officers’ arrival on the scene. Crawford, Martin and Reid were also cut down by police bullets.

In the cases that have been heard so far by grand juries, the grand juries have refused to indict the officers.

Maybe one could argue that in some of those cases the officers were within their rights to respond with lethal force. Maybe. But shouldn’t the use of force have equal application? Shouldn’t it be color- and gender-blind? Shouldn’t more people, in equal measures, be taken in and not taken out?

Why weren’t these black men, any of them, the recipients of the same use of force — or lack thereof — as Julia Shields?

 

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 4, 2015

January 12, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Police Abuse, White Privilege | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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