Check Your White Privilege?
That is the title of an outstanding critique of the "white privilege" meme that has been tossed around recently:
But a significant question facing progressives today is whether the use of the term "white privilege" helps or hurts building the kind of solidarity needed to promote racial justice and reverse runaway inequality.
The danger is that "white privilege" still comes across as an accusation, whether it is meant that way or not. It suggests that you as a white person are harboring racism deep within you, a kind of original sin. Because of your white skin, the power structures consider you normal. You get the benefit of the doubt while others do not because you are born into society's white in-crowd.
This kind of dialogue can also generate defensiveness. No one wants their own sense of justice and fairness called into question. And it raises the perplexing question about what you actually can do to address these privileges.
That italicized question is exactly the point I raised in the comment section of a previous post that generated a terrific discussion:
So now what? What can Miss America or "all you white people" do about it?
That's exactly why I suggested Chauncey was shooting at the wrong target. The political elites are the only individuals, and groups, who can make changes at the economic, legislative, judicial and administrative levels that actually impact people's lives.
Getting back to the article, the author, Les Leopold, covers some interesting history of the term "white privilege" that includes how it was used abusively by the lefty radical Weathermen. Then he points out that we need to reject the divisive results of identity politics and fight for solidarity:
What is the progressive dialogue today that is comparable to unionized workers rejecting the racial work hierarchy and fighting instead for solidarity? At the very least, we should be clear about what we are asking for. Our goal is not to integrate more people of color into the billionaire plutocracy. We are not asking that Anglo drivers be stopped more often by the police for no reason. Nor do we wish that white suburban schools be degraded.
Rather, we should be demanding that the basic human rights enjoyed by the white motorists and their children be enjoyed by everyone. We should be demanding income and housing policies that reverse runaway inequality, eliminate poverty and promote real integration.
Les Leopold offers a way forward:
Sustained movement building requires a positive vision and an inspiring call to action. It also requires difficult conversations including a frank and open dialogue about the utility of the term "white privilege."
Open dialogue and continuing the conversation is what c99p is all about.