Re: the hand we've been "dealt"

Date: Fri Feb 25 2000 - 11:43:17 EST

  • Next message: "RE: the hand we've been "dealt""

    In reply to:
    >"Helping out others when weakness becomes apparent" is so NOT the issue.
    >I don't want HELP. People of color don't want HELP, gay people don't want
    >HELP. That doesn't mean we don't appreciate it when we receive it, or that
    >we haven't received it in our lives, as everyone has. But what we want
    >is for people to work to lesson the privileges those who AREN'T in > the

    This comment reflects some troubling implicit assumptions. First, a
    positive difference in economic, social, and other circumstance seems to be
    the equivalent. The empiricial fact that a person has more of something
    than another, is different in circumstance, makes them more "privileged."
    Having more may simply be a difference and have nothing to do with

    Second, the "white privilege" of which you write, if it exists at all, is
    the privilege of a minority. Certainly, "whites" do not make up the
    majority of world population. So you're really analyzing the privilege of
    one minority against the privilege of other minorities. The analysis of
    privilege is never so easy as setting the "privilege" of the white majority
    off against underprivileged minorities.

    Third, the use of "white' as a racial category in this sense is racist, in
    that characteristics of indiviudual members of the group are generalized,
    quite often inaccurately, to the group at large. Presumably "white" is
    meant to capture a variety of European ethnic groups ranging from fairer
    skinned Scandinavians to darker skinned Latin, Spanish, and Greek peoples.
    Indeed, I suspect that "white" in your analysis applies most directly to
    peoples of Anglo, Irish, German, and Scandinavian origin (though not
    necessarily limited to these European peoples). Of course, these groups
    have done more-or-less well in the US, so by definition, white are
    privileged to various degrees according to their ethnicity.

    Fourth, there is a variation of privilege within groups, often greater than
    variation of privilege between groups. Certain white females are more
    privileged than most white men. Certain gay white men are more privileged
    than many straight white men. And so it goes. "White privilege" is at best,
    a theoretical construct, rarely represented in a particular individual.

    Fifth, "people of color" is a phony category descriptive only of it's
    negative, "whites." As such, certain underprivileged groups can be
    collapsed into this category, while other non-white groups, Japanese
    Asians, for example, can be excluded, when their "privileged" status
    threatens cherished generalizations. Blacks and American Indians are
    generally recognized as the most underprivileged groups. The root cause of
    black lack of privilege is thought to be a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and
    racist white attitudes. The root cause of American Indian lack of privilege
    is considered to be the loss of ancestoral lands and culture and white
    racism. The case of HIspanic people of "color" is complicated by the fact
    that such a great percentage of Hispanics have blended into the larger
    culture and found "privilege." Asian people of color have found greater
    "privilege" than whites. So the used of the term "people of color" is so
    problematic as to make it useless.

    Sixth, what "white privilege" seems limited to STRAIGHT whites, since
    you've separated out gays as a special category. Since the majority of gays
    are "white," it would be a non sequitor to separate white privilege from
    gay white privilege.

    So in sum, the desire to identify oneself as underprivileged in
    relationship to more privileged groups, as presented, seems an exercise in
    envy and jealousy. To wit, the "generalized other," is a largely the
    creation of persons feeling that life hasn't dealth them a fair "hand."
    They're convinced that they've been cheated of what is rightly theirs. But
    precise identification of the "generalized other," the oppressor, is never
    easy. There is not a single group or groups to whom the status of the
    underprivileged can be attributed, so the oppressor must be created. Thus,
    the category "white" is invented, the embodiment of greater privilege than
    the other invented category, "people of color." It's all very simple, very
    neat, very tidy, and very pernicious in that individuals are judged not on
    the content of their character and day-to-day actions, but by their status
    as members of an underprivileged group.

    The suggestion that the underprivileged must work to tear down the
    privilege of others is repugnant. Folks who advocate such a course of
    action shouldn't be surprised that their efforts are actively and
    vigorously opposed. For what could could be more negative and contribute
    less to human happiness and progress than a person who is the spoiler? What
    coulld be less useful to the individual and society than the activist who
    wants to destroy?


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