08 August 2013

privilege...a couple of words...

What I have figured out is I have way more desire to rant about things than time to actually transcribe them into some cogent medium. And sometimes, my rants are just that: rants. Me venting about some thing that bothers me and hoping that putting it here means I don't have to cuss out a random woman in a McDonald's or a Safeway for saying something racist/sexist/classist/just phucking stupid. But sometimes, these vents have resemble something like an argument- I can only hope this is one of those....

1) White Privilege and it's prevalence in all that we do. I teach a class on Argumentation, and one of the discussions we always have in class is one of Affirmative Action- the idea that, based on previous exclusion, that underrepresented peoples should get preference over others, assuming most other factors as equal. I also work at a Catholic School, where ideas of social justice aren't just words said on campus, but is actually part of the mission statement of the school- indicating that we not only should recognize instances of social injustice, but that we have an affirmative obligation to make attempts to rectify these injustices. This seems like the perfect set of people to be for the idea of Affirmative Action- yet, every semester, approximately 2/3 of the class is against this. The main reason: "I didn't do anything, so I shouldn't be punished"- in reference to today's students not being the ones who excluded these underrepresented peoples from education, or jobs or whatever they happen to be trying to achieve. This is the sentence that I use to explain White Privilege.

Of course YOU didn't exclude anyone- it would be stupid to say that you did, as you weren't even born. But to say you, currently, don't BENEFIT from that, is a specious and actually, just ludicrous claim. Let's come up with a couple of ways it may matter to you.

a) Your parents were allowed to go to college where they wanted to go, thus being able to choose to get a top tier education and all the things in society that generally line up with that (higher paying job, better housing, better education for your kids, healthier food options, lower rates of crime, etc). These are things that your parents/grandparents didn't have to compete in the same marketplace as those who were EXCLUDED from playing in that market. This gives you a vast array of options that just my parents just didn't have.

b) You get presumption in initial interactions. I have a relatively unique perspective about this. When I need to do something, I almost always call the people I need to interact with before I actually interact with them. I did this a ton when trying to find a place to live. I would call, tell them about my wife and I (both teachers, both with long term, steady local employment and we make enough to rent any place we looked at because we're not stupid). I would speak to people on the phone, and the degree of excitement I could hear in their voices was confidence building. I then agree to meet with them to look at the apartment/house. (Note this happened at EVERY house I went to look at). I usually arrive early (the responsible thing to do) and when the person arrives they look at me with a confused look on their face. I introduce myself and it HITS them. I'M the person they talked to on the phone. I've felt handshakes go limp. I've seen people who NEVER looked me in the eyes. I've had people tell me they rented houses after showing them to me and then REPOST THE SAME HOUSE THE NEXT DAY. Can I prove these interactions would have been different had I been white? No, I can't. But I can tell you, having been black for my whole life, when racism happens in front of me, I'm pretty good about noticing it.

c) Louis CK says it pretty well....

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