pic link and h/t to Cynical Nymph for randomly sending me this
This post is a paragraphs long whinge about Black History Month and why don't I get Irish History Month blahblahblah. It's offensively tone deaf and borderline bigoted and I see a post just like it about once a month. (Quick answer: every day is White Guy Day.) So, being deeply concerned about educating the ignorant masses*, I suggested he take a quick look at Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, the invaluable guide to white privilege.
Renaissance Guy apparently ignored my advice. Or he has terrible reading comprehension. (ETA: As it turns out, he did eventually read it, and feels that Will Smith means there is no privilege. There are none so blind as those that do not wish to see and all that.)
In response, he posted this, in which he says that being poor never made him feel privileged, and he had this one black friend who was rich, therefore no privilege, QED.
Please feel free to headdesk repeatedly.
In the interests of education**, I actually hand wrote this post last night. During the Eagles/Redskins game. (Did you see that game? Wow!) Yes, I was that
annoyed concerned with education.
(For the purposes of this discussion, I am dividing the world into black people and white people. I am well aware that race is not binary, nor is privilege binary, nor is white the privileged race in every culture. However, it makes the issue significantly easier to write about, so simply assume "white" means "whatever racial group is privileged in the particular culture" and "black" means "whatever racial groups are not privileged in the particular culture.")
Let's assume RG is being honest in his second post. RG presents that he experienced poor nonprivilege, which canceled out all possible white (male, straight, cisgender, able) privilege and his black friend, Angel, experienced rich privilege, which canceled out all black and female nonprivilege . . .
RG is being disingenuous. At best. In his case, poor nonprivilege canceled out white privilege, but in Angel's case, rich privilege canceled out black nonprivilege. You can't have it both ways, RG. Either privilege cancels out nonprivilege or nonprivilege cancels out privilege, but not both. Those two things are mutually exclusive. I don't need to explain "mutually exclusive", do I?
As always, however, the truth is more complex.
Privilege is not a guarantee. White privilege exists, but that doesn't mean every white person's life is all candy and puppydogs all the time. Nor does every person experience every type of privilege simultaneously. For example, my privilege and nonprivilege:
privilege: white, cisgender, straight
nonprivilege: poor, disabled, female
I am privileged in that I can marry whom I actually want to marry, I can use the bathroom that suits me without upsetting anyone and that whole white privilege thing sure makes life easier.
I am nonprivileged in that doors are frequently too heavy for me to open, I am always the bitch, and poverty sucks.
All at the same time. Life is complicated, get used to it.
Let's examine RG's (possibly hypothetical) "friend", Angel. We are presented with a rich, black woman. That's two nonprivileges and one privilege. (We'll ignore issues of gender, able, etc.) Let's take a few examples of white privilege from Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and see if being rich changes anything for Angela, or if being poor changes anything for RG.
I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
I can, off the top of my head, think of four different sections of the city that I live in where this is possible. It happens every day at work for me. Also at the Dunkin Donuts, the pharmacy, the grocery store. My town isn't especially white, either. We have a higher proportion of minorities than the average city in the US.
So, more than likely, poor RG can do this, rich Angel cannot.
I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
Poor RG gets shows and movies filled with white people. Rich Angel does not. Rich Angel gets the token black guy and maybe one or two movies a year featuring a majority black cast. Poor RG gets all the rest.
When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of mycolor made it what it is.
When I was little, I honestly thought minorities didn't arrive here until the 1960s. You know, when the Civil Rights Movement started. Things have gotten a little better, but not much. So, a win for Poor RG, a loss for Rich Angel.
I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of theirrace.
My (black) nephew used to start the year by flipping through his textbooks to see if there was even one black face in them. Most of the time, there wasn't even one. He's 16. White privilege wins again.
Have we had enough?
People like RG fight long and hard against the concept of privilege. For one thing, privilege is invisible if you have it. That's just the way the world is. You only see it if you don't have it. Imagine privilege as the removal of doors. To me, as a white person, there is no door. There is just an open space in the wall. I don't ever see the door that keeps the black person from entering. The same goes for any other type of privilege. RG keenly sees the rich privilege Angel enjoyed, but is, apparently, unable to see the white privilege he himself enjoys. You only see the doors closed to you, not the doors closed to others.
People like RG are also very opposed to Affirmative Action. It upsets their sense of fair play. "Those black people are getting something I am not getting, and they're getting it just for being black! That's not right!"
White privilege, any kind of privilege, ensures that you get things other people are not getting simply for being born a certain way***. Simply being white removes barriers, doors, if you will, that bar the way for black people. You cannot ignore the fact that being white entitles a person to opportunities and removes barriers and that being black removes opportunities and creates barriers.
In other words, white people, as a matter of course, get the benefit of a culture-wide affirmative action program their entire lives. Most people do not want to admit that their successes are at least partly due to the benefits of affirmative action. This does not change the facts: Every day is White Guy Day. Put your hands over your ears, close your eyes and sing LALALALA as loud as you can, it's still true.
*Not actually true.
**Or serious annoyance.
***Leaving aside the privilege of wealth for the purposes of this discussion. Not that I'm willing to cede that wealth is generally "deserved" in our form of capitalism, or that such wealth should entitle one to privileges above and beyond the common person. Another discussion for another day.