White privilege

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Dec 2 2011 13:29

I like the distinction between privilege and structural racism jesuithitsquad makes. To me the following simple schema seems appropriate: Structural racism is a downward pressure on a particular racially defined group or groups. Privilege is upward pressure on a particular group. In the UK (and, I'm guessing, the US) the main dynamic is therefor structural racism. People aren't treated particularly well cos they're white, they're treated particularly badly cos they are black/latino/etc. However, in, say, British India, there was a very significant amount of structural white privilege: white people would be actively helped out by virtue of being white. In the west bank, both forms operate at once in important ways (in this case Jewish Israeli structural privilege and structural racism against Palestinians). The last example illustrates the fact that privilege is always structural, since it needs consistent material effects to be meaningful where as racism can be 'subjective' or structural. There is not a huge amount of structural racism against Israelis in the west bank but loads of subjective racism.

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Dec 2 2011 14:18

Well people seem to take this whole white privilege to an insane level, like thirdworldists seem to do with first world privilege.

It is counter productive, a black man in Britain cannot help that he is better off than a third world peasant, same as a white man cannot help he is not racially or gender oppressed.

Does this mean black first worlders are privileged, or does it mean they are not in as terrible conditions as a third world sweatshop worker, its all relative and white guilt is not a particularly helpful thing when trying to unite workers.

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Dec 2 2011 14:36

I don't think 'guilt' is really helpful. But there are still interesting questions there. I also think we should talk less about 'race' and more about racism.

Your critique of relativity is pretty weak and contains an implicit right-wing 'put up or shut up' attitude. If that is the way you think about struggles at home (comparing to the lowest variable abroad) then what is the point in class struggle at in western metropoles? Are slaves in China oppressed in the same way as a seven pound and hour bar worker in london. No of course not. What is counter productive here is these rubbish comparisons. It makes it impossible to talk about anything. It is the inverse of the proverbial 'there is always someone better' because, there is always somebody worse off as well! (especially if we take the globe as our frame of reference).

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Dec 2 2011 14:39

Just another thought. Though guilt isn't helpful, pride, especially national pride can do one as well. A modicum of shame and humility can actually be productive.

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Dec 2 2011 14:57

I am not proud of my nation or race as both mean fuck all.

I do not harbour some right wing grudge on multiculturalism or whatever I just think its wierd how you seem to think telling white people that they are oppressive because minorities have the least opportunities, as if this is due to white working class people.

I mean I am seeing a girl atm who is of indian heritage and is a practising muslim, she is going to college, I never went college, her family have more money than mine, so the statistic arguement is kinda bullshit because what it does is treat all non whites as one and all whites as another without taking into account the fact that while discrimination and racism are very real and ever present, how can there be some structural racism is some black people go uni, college get good jobs where as others are unemployed.

I think under capitalism there is an element of luck as to how a working class persons life will turn out, for example factors like being raised in a single parent house because the dad bailed, being raised in an estate that has conditions that breed crime.

There are white people full time unemployed who are looked at as council dole scum, surely this cancels out any white privilege?

I just think race is no where near as big of a factor in life as far as opportunities go as in the whole spectrum of chance breaks some kids get growing up that others do not regardless of colour.

Again though I am not saying I am 100 percent sure of this I am saying I think this is overlooked for a simplistic analysis of its because of their colour which is kind of an easy copout that liuberals for example will employ instead of a class analysis.

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Dec 2 2011 14:59

Race and national pride are fucking annoying and some leftists seem to think either is ok, for example when slagging off racism, nationalism and britain in general, its fine until an immigrant or black person does it then some leftists seem to get hostile as fuck.

Seeing as white people are the majority and hold societal power due to their majority, racial pride cannot be in any way good as it is inherently oppressive, this is why I for example say black power and white power are not the same, which gets me called a self hating white alot grin

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Dec 2 2011 15:03

BJJ, the thing about generalisations is that they are an abstraction intended to help understand trends and the bigger picture. Yes, they need to be applied with caution, because there will always be exceptions, but this doesn't invalidate the generalisation. So I think it's wrong to use generalisations to determine attitudes towards individual cases, but it's right to use them to understand larger movements in society.

I say this because it seems you are reacting against a generalisation used in the latter way by bringing up your specific cases. I don't think it's a powerful argument.

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Dec 2 2011 15:09

OK point taken, and I promise to look into this more, but I mean don't you think the generalisation is a bit misleading, I mean the girl I am seeing is a muslim,the minority probably the most affected by racism in the UK.

She has doctors, infantry soldiers, university students aswell as unemployed and minimum wage workers in her family, so I think for one her and her family would kind of have the exact same arguement as me, and the fact is even though they have the same view because I as a white dude am saying this I automatically get accused of nationalism or racism, I am just putting forth a very simple Idea that race is but one small factor in a working persons life that determines how shit their life as a wage slave is.

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Dec 2 2011 15:13

Well I don't know if either you or I are well placed to measure how significant race is as a factor in people's oppression and in any case I'm sure it varies hugely depending on circumstance, where someone is located in the country for a start. But I don't think anyone would argue that it is not one factor amongst many.

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Dec 2 2011 15:36

your not getting automatically accused of racism and nationalism (if that is a comment toward me). I just bought up pride as an inverse of guilt, then suggested humility might be more productive.

You still haven't really taken heed of what i was saying. your lowest denominator arguments are problematic, and will lead you into all sort of messes if this is the way you deal with things. Some members of the Tory party have relatively 'working class' backgrounds, does it follow class isn't an issue?

I don't have time for a longer reply here, but check out this site for some interesting articles on how racism still affects people today.

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Dec 2 2011 17:16
Arbeiten wrote:
your not getting automatically accused of racism and nationalism (if that is a comment toward me). I just bought up pride as an inverse of guilt, then suggested humility might be more productive.

You still haven't really taken heed of what i was saying. your lowest denominator arguments are problematic, and will lead you into all sort of messes if this is the way you deal with things. Some members of the Tory party have relatively 'working class' backgrounds, does it follow class isn't an issue?

I don't have time for a longer reply here, but check out this site for some interesting articles on how racism still affects people today.

Thanks I will look at it now and seriously to anyone who may be offended or think I am being purposely divisive I am not trying to be, Will look the subject up a little more then if I am clearly wrong will say so.

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Dec 3 2011 05:51
BrazillianJiuJitsu1992 wrote:
Actually race seems to have very little to do with opportunities,

If that is true then explain this quote from a 2008 BBC article (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7353738.stm):

Quote:
Nearly half of black and ethnic minority children live in poverty - nearly twice as many as white children.

About three-quarters of white people are in work - compared with 60% for black and ethnic minorities (BME).

If race has "very little to do with opportunities" then the only explanation is that the higher rates of poverty and unemployment among "blacks and ethnic minorities" are due to their being stupid, lazy, or generally inferior.

Either racism has a lot to do with "opportunity", or people of color are to blame for their lower position in society. Which do you think it is?

(I hope I don't sound harsh, and I'm not accusing you of believing the racist shit above, but want to point out that when racism is denied, only racist explanations remain for the disparities between whites and people of color.)

And as I tried to point out in my first post, the harms of racism go beyond economic issues -- they include treatment by the cops and courts, psychological trauma, body image issues, identity and self-worth, etc.

(I purposely picked Britain in response to anyone who thinks racism isn't that big a problem in Britain.)

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Dec 3 2011 08:23

BJJ- respectfully, I think you are significantly wide of the mark on this. As others have said, I'm sure racism manifests differently in different areas, but claiming, based off anecdotal evidence, that structural racism isn't a factor in determining one's lot in life puts you about an inch from racist territory In my opinion.

Here in the States, denying the effects of structural racism is pretty much a pillar of the so-called soft racists. To be clear, I'm pretty sure--based on the things youve said--you're not a racist, but I think in an attempt to argue against the notion of privilege you've bent the stick too far in the other direction leaving you in a really nebulous, grey area usually populated by those I think you'd probably rather not be associated with. IIRC, a similar line of reasoning left you in some murky water in the thread dealing with the Occupy rapes.

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Dec 3 2011 12:51

Again I am not arguing thatr alot of black/brown people and other minorities suffer racism, both widespread and rooted into society, what I am saying is this does not affect every single black or minority and it does not benefit working class white people.

Racism exists, white privilege does not, It is not a privilege to not be discriminated against because of the colour of your skin, racism is just another evil piled on non white workers on top of wage slavery.

Emma goldman was against sufferage and said why bother fighting for a womans right to vote, will that end exploitation, no, so why focus on race and national politics rather than fight for every worker to be free in every way?

Race politics is divisive a it leads to a view of two different groups when we are one, does any anarchist not advocate total equality, if we do advocate total equality why use identity politics rather than politics based on total liberation rooted in the emancipation of our class as a whole?

I am not trying to erect a strawman but you gpo to any rally or occupation and you see so many different groups fighting for their races or sexes liberation under capitalism, which is stupid.

is there ingrained racism in society? yes of course.
Does this equal white privilege or non white underprivilege?

martinh
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Dec 3 2011 13:34

Hi BJJ
If you think of structural racism as being like institutional racism then you might see how it exists here (UK). The reason the MacPherson report found the Met POlice institutionally racist was because they responded to Stephen Lawrence's murder with less effort than they would have if it had been a white kid. There'd been several racist murders in the area before but nothing much was done. It was the persistance of his family and their supporters that made it a much wider known case. In part this is down to class - Doreen Lawrence was an acceptable face of a campaign to middle class England because she is well spoken and respectable.

The Met is still like this (as are prob most police forces in UK). They stop and search people based on racial profilling etc. If you take this across all areas of life, it adds up to structural racism (black kids more likely to be poor and go to shit schools, hence more likely not to get more qualificaitons).

I'll leave this for now

Martin

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Dec 3 2011 13:44
ultraviolet wrote:
Either racism has a lot to do with "opportunity", or people of color are to blame for their lower position in society. Which do you think it is?

Its clearly not that simple and an anarchist should recognise class has just as much to do with it. Recent immigrants from developing countries are obviously going to be way less established than the white british population and much poorer. They are going to lack the networks that the white working class have to get employment and opportunities because they are starting from scratch. That might imply privilege in a sense but it doesn't necessarily imply racism in the clear-cut way people on this thread are suggesting. Its impossible to seperate the effects of current and historical racism from class position without examining individual circumstance, the generalisations people are making here are pointless. A class only analysis isn't 100% accurate, but its a lot closer than this privilege shit and promotes the unity we need rather than division.

jesuithitsquad wrote:
things generally listed as being privilege are things "privileged" people can do nothing about (should I start turning myself in for unreasonable search and seizure? refuse the house/job?), it only serves as white guilt for some and furthers alienation for others.

This. What is the point besides providing a stick for white people to beat themselves with?

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Dec 3 2011 21:07

TBH i agree with the concept, disagree with the term.

I don't know why I am arguing over semantics, I just think privilege comes off as a middle class white guilt trip.

Would the phrase ingrained societal racism not better sum up the subject better?

white privilege seems to imply a complicity that made me hostile, it sounds like an accusation of complicity on my part for being white, I do not act racist, I do not agree with racism out of politeness and I actively combat racism when it comes up wether in work, at training, socialising or from my family, so I get a stigma of being a hippie and a dogooder, there is not advantage for me in society because of my colour because my adopted colour is red and black smile

But yes minorites suffer discrimination etc, however im gonna say this, black rich people may suffer racism, but they so not suffer the same as a working class minority so class analysis of white privilege should be employed too and not some broad application across class lines. You can buy whiteness so to speak, like the irish and italian american community.

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Dec 3 2011 21:11

for anyone who unmlike me does not just have a problem with the terminology but the idea of white privilege as a concept, watch bloods and crips made in america, its an amazing look at american race relations.

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Dec 4 2011 00:42

Ok, I understand the dislike of the term privilege, even though I don't mind it... though I do mind how it's sometimes interpreted... that's the thing for me, is that it depends on how you interpret the word. Like I said in my first post, white people do suffer absolutely from racism, but benefit relatively. If you're just focused on the former aspect of it, then the word privilege doesn't make sense. If you just focus on the latter aspect of it, then privilege is an accurate term. We should be looking at the whole, seeing both sides at once. If we are then I think we can be comfortable with the term white privilege (because we see that it's a fact that whites are privileged / given higher status / given advantages, within an overall shitty context), but opposed to how this term is often interpreted -- which is in a way that ignores the fact that racism is harmful to whites in absolute terms, and like was mentioned, it can also be interpreted to mean that individual whites have a choice over whether they are privileged or not.

I think it makes more sense to argue for a re-evaluation of how the term white privilege is understood rather than to argue to drop the term altogether, because then we look like wankers who deny racism!

And by the way there are many people who have a decent interpretation of white privilege, including many who focus their activism on identity politics... you'd be surprised! The first several times I heard the analysis that racism is bad for whites (in absolute terms -- because it prevents class unity, and creates false identification with white ruling class) it was not from anarchists or Leninists but from lefty identity politics folks.

I think that if we admit that racism exists towards non-whites, then this is de facto admitting that whites are privileged. As far as I see it -- if one exists both exist; if one doesn't exist than neither can the other. Yes, it shouldn't be a privilege to not be discriminated against at a job interview or whatever, but as long as racism exists, things that shouldn't be a privilege, sadly, are.

As an analogy, if I'm running a race (hah) and all my opponents have a weight tied to their leg, I am privileged in that race. Now, it shouldn't be a privilege to run a race without a weight on my leg but as long as it's just me without the weight then yes it is a privilege.

This youtube video gives a shocking demonstration of racism / white privilege: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIVgMvuCM_k

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Dec 4 2011 00:59

I think you are probably right, maybe the term is correct, I think maybe I just became super hostile because it certainly does feel like an attack on your character because of a skin colour I did not choose, however I think the fact that most of my political inspirations when I was younger were mostly black and asian, the fact that I have minority family members and partner means I am more aware of racism built into the system and how it affects the people I know and love.

If you talk to a totally unpolitical man on the street about him being privileged in that sense it will do nothing but create hostility so in that regard maybe a name change would be an ideal remedy, however I think white privilege maybe the only way to sum it up, as non white discrimination is nowhere near as snappy smile

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Dec 4 2011 10:56

How do you counter arguments when parts of the white working class say that they are discriminated against because of the colour of their skin? You may just laugh at them for being daft little racists, but they can also come up with anecdotes which prove their points. There is a lot of sociological evidence, and much in vogue in the UK at the moment that says that the new outsiders are the white lower working class. The mainstream view is openly discriminatory about them, take the piss out of their culture, the way they dress the food they eat. You just wouldn't be able to get away with that about poor blacks and poor asians. The evidence suggests that in the UK people discriminate more on social class than they do along ethnic lines. No suprise given the almost caste like quality of the UK class system.

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Dec 4 2011 11:08

well, the evidence isn't the working class are discriminated against 'more'. It is difficult to measure in any meaningful way two different types of discrimination. I fact evidence suggests that some ethnic minorities (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis for instance) from working class backgrounds actually face more discrimination (in the labour market for instance). But yeah, class is an issue, I don't think anyone is saying it isn't Mr. Jolly (in fact, futility index just a few posts ago mentions class).

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Dec 4 2011 18:25
Arbeiten wrote:
I fact evidence suggests that some ethnic minorities (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis for instance)

I agree with that, and I mentioned it on another thread the other week. My basic point is that the concept of White Privilege is far too simplistic, the simple 'White' vs 'The rest' does not mirror reality. The concept amongst some of the thick middle classes that all the white working classes are all EDL/BNP supporters this denies the fact that the working class has always mixed more freely and without prejudice irrespective of skin colour than the middle classes. For example a quarter of working class black kids in the UK being born today have a parent that is white. Thats not to say its some sort of racial Shangri-La. But social policy over the last twenty years or so has emphasised 'White Privilage' and discrimination of ethnic minorities and the pushing of top-down multiculturlism, which I can only assume is to assuage middle class guilt, but on the ground does nothing but fragment solidarity along religious and cultural lines. See the BNP's use of multicultural discourse. They are only now waking up to the fact that there are significant and I would say more important class story going on here.

one example
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2151025/White-working-class-boys-becoming-an-underclass.html

dohball
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Dec 7 2011 19:41
Quote:
I live in the UK and I think importing whole-heartedly this theory in a society where lynchings, ethnic cleansing and involuntary migration are not part of our collective conciousness would be pretty silly. There aren't major language barriers (were an island) and migrants and those descended from them have as far as can, chosen to be here. And in some parts of the UK its clearly safer being black/minority ethnic, than being catholic.

wanted to respond to this... the thing is the above highlighted are part of our collective history in the UK. The british empire and all the other involvement the UK had in the colonial process (eg helping to establish the USA, Australia etc.) and now has in neo-colonialism both did and does involve genocide, forced re-location of people/s and destruction of peoples cultures. the thing is the history and the economies of the uk and the usa aren't seperate but are actually especially closely interlinked; there really is a 'special relationship'. so in this context to speak of choice when it comes to migration seems inappropriate - its not to say that people haven't made active decisions for themselves but they haven't determined the larger pressures etc. surrounding them. an example would be the role the british partion of india/pakistan has played in the emigration of asians to the uk.
an good read on all of this is The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire by John Newsinger.

i have noticed a tendency amongst people from the Uk (& i'm not referring soley to libcom posters here) to dismiss concepts relating to analysis/ admission it even exists racism! that have developed in the context of the us struggle against racism and white supremacy. i don't know the origins of the term white privilege but i don't see how its use either leads to or automatically involves a liberal political approach, excessive white introspection or guilt, foregoing recognition of the evils of capitalism or general lack of vision. there is plenty to critique about tim wise but he is not the only person to make use of the term.

BJJ (and everyone) - i would recommend watching a film called the color of fear i have heard reliably you can get it @ pirate bay for free.
there is a wee clip here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vAbpJW_xEc
i found it very moving. it really shouldn't be so fucking expensive tho but with all hands to the deck/tilller/helm doesn't have to be a problem!
ps i am in a mixed race relationship too but it doesn't mean that i or anyone else who is white and is in a close relationship with a person of colour has done all of their thinking or personal changing around race - it seems to me to be best as an ongoing process. all the best for you n yr squeeze xx

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Dec 7 2011 23:22

jesuithitsquad already suggested good reasons why the white/black dichotomy isn't that helpful. But my problem with the thrust of the responses on this thread is that your only seeing 'white privilege' as an analysis of how oppressed black/me are, rather than seeing it as an over-arching strategy.

'White privilege' it seems to me has a strategic orientation which implies, whites are more likely to side with whites, blacks/me confront more of the system than whites, and even when some of those whites involved are revolutionary and take up common aims with blacks/me they are likely to falter on racial lines. It then implies we can debunk this by pondering over our privileges as whites.

tastybrain seems to take up my previous question and talk about the encroachment and abuse of an individual. I want to see how this dynamic plays out in social/political movements. Where have class based movements fragmented on racial lines because whites have shown conservatism due to their status and how would navel-gazing over racial oppression resolve this issue?

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Dec 7 2011 23:42
dohball wrote:
The british empire and all the other involvement the UK had in the colonial process (eg helping to establish the USA, Australia etc.) and now has in neo-colonialism both did and does involve genocide, forced re-location of people/s and destruction of peoples cultures.

Host and migrant populations in the UK, whatever prejudices may have arisen from our colonial past, have not in a civic sense engaged in ethnic cleansing. Likewise black people in the states historically are trapped there and not on their terms, this is at total odds with the Windrush experience and dropping references to colonial history does not exactly square the fact that the US and the UK have vastly different racial dynamics.

dohball wrote:
BJJ (and everyone) - i would recommend watching a film called the color of fear i have heard reliably you can get it @ pirate bay for free.
there is a wee clip here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vAbpJW_xEc

What is a white, a red or a black continent? And what role does this nonsense have to do with building a movement to bring about a free society? I want to subvert nonsense about the primacy or primordial nature of 'race', not entrench it!

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Dec 29 2011 17:16

Hi Joe,

Quote:
I want to subvert nonsense about the primacy or primordial nature of 'race', not entrench it

I think it would probably be useful if be both do each other favour of assuming that our intentions are good (not that hell etc.!) i.e. we both want racism and the false ideas that promote it to be brought to an end...

I'm not sure what you mean by the 'primacy' of race - i see racism as an oppression that interlocks with the capitalist system and historically seems to have grown and emerged from it into its current varied forms and functions. it also intersects with the patriarchal nature of society/sexism in a variety of ugly and particular ways.
i certainly don't believe in the 'primordial' nature of race. neither does the guy describing the now usa as a red continent; from what i remember of all he says in the course of the film. i think he is a passionate and eloquent speaker and is using those words to vividly summarise the fact that the now USA was once entirely lived in by american indians until it was taken over by white settlers. this is so often overlooked, denied or misrepresented in the glorfication of the usa as a nation state. anything that both undermines patriotic bullshit and serves to promote the liberation of american indian, south american indigeneous peoples and first nation peoples by saying something of the historical truth of their current situations seems relevant to creating a free society. i would still recommend watching the full film itself.

it can be fucking confusing trying to make sense of all of it - intellectually and otherwise.

i am happy to be challenged by you and others on libcom - i'm here to hone my thinking, clarify my beliefs a bit and think about how i want to organise politically in the future. (i haven't stopped being actively engaged in organising, but i am in the process of re-considering things...)

maybe we will have to agree to disagree on the principal of whether terms and words that have originated in the states can have relevance in the uk. i think there are sufficient similarities in how racism and white supremacy play out in both countries that the terms 'white priviledge' and 'people of colour' have validity and relevance in each place.

but just to argue a bit more!

i.e.

Quote:
whatever prejudices may have arisen from our colonial past

- prejudices have defintely arisen from our colonial past & now britain continues to have neo- colonial present from which people in the uk benefit in immediate material ways and which is maintained, in part, by a host of contemporary predjudices. (& brute force etc. of course..) i know its a brief email post but my intention wasn't to 'drop references' to colonialism. i mentioned it because i think it really is relevant.

Quote:
Host and migrant populations in the UK.......... have not in a civic sense engaged in ethnic cleansing

. I agree that there hasn't been ethnic cleansing within the borders of the uk along racial lines (although it is interesting to contemplate the highland clearances) which is of course a big difference with the usa. but the UK has engaged in genocide and other atrocities, that were at least partially justified on racial grounds, in order to maintain and create itself as a nation state. these matters fundamentally shape our collective reality in the UK.

But possibly more usefully i am up for trying to engage with your concerns about the term white priviledge itself. i have to say i don't really use it much myself if i'm trying to explain my thoughts about racism. i'm not sure why...having said that as a white person i think it does help to concentrate my mind around the fact that i have automatic priviledges in comparison to people of colour, to allow the reality of the broad sweep of racism to come home and have personal ramifications in my thinking. i guess it kind of serves as a reminder to consider how race might be playing out in a situation and of the fact that there are divisions of experience between white people and people of colour. How i suppose what might be less useful about it is that it seems quite easy for the term priviledge to be interpreted in an individualistic sense rather than as applying to a social grouping as a whole. then again i think that would be a misinterpretation of the intent/meaning of the term. i think it has power as a term because it spans the reality that white people have a whole variety of individual experiences but that we are undeniably located somewhere within the white race (socially constructed tho this is - as humans we build things and make them real and we hold the potential power to tear them down or dismantle them) that as a social group hold power, priviledge at people of colour expense and i would say has accrued a particular social responsibility to try to end racism.

when you speak of navel -gazing i'm just not sure what you mean in this context?

Quote:
'White privilege' it seems to me has a strategic orientation which implies, whites are more likely to side with whites, blacks/me confront more of the system than whites, and even when some of those whites involved are revolutionary and take up common aims with blacks/me they are likely to falter on racial lines. It then implies we can debunk this by pondering over our privileges as whites.

i am interested to hear you say this...it may be that i don't have an accurate understanding of the term. historically i don't know where it originated from..but i don't understand why the term implies all these different political outlooks to you? you'd need to 'unpack' (tragic verb i know) that for me. hope that's not annoying.
i'd always just assumed that it is being used by people with some kind of interest in racism but who hold different political opinions and approaches to racism. kind of like the word racism itself... meaning different things to different people because of how its located in their overall political ideas.

more generally political movements and unity between people (in whose best interests it would be to be unified) are repeatedly stymied by racism, racist prejudices, cultural prejudices and misunderstandings. those amongst many other obstacles. many thoughtful people of colour have requested that white people do just that - ponder over our priviledges as whites - not as some isolated fruitless activity or to wallow nervously (& probably briefly!) in white guilt) but to bring an end to our unthinking racist assumptions and ignorance that hinder collective revolutionary endeavours across racial lines. and of course ultimately revolution for all can't occur unless it is across racial lines. isn't pondering to political consciousness what wakefulness is to sleep - one can't come without the other?
love, dohball

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Jan 1 2012 12:44
dohball wrote:
I think it would probably be useful if be both do each other favour of assuming that our intentions are good (not that hell etc.!) i.e. we both want racism and the false ideas that promote it to be brought to an end...

I am not trying to make a personal judgement here. Race and racism are social constructs, and while there is no easy way to blur something thats pretty entrenched in society and many peoples thinking, we can pursue ideas which, while claiming to be anti-racist etc etc. actually centralise and give a great quality to an identity we want to challenge.

The classic example for me would be the expansion of communalism within the 'national-liberation' of India.. C&P from a previous thread.

Quote:
Neil Gray wrote:
Drawing sustenance from constructed ‘identity slots' and ‘... authorised by the colonial state', communal groups began to experiment and contest their status more systematically in the public sphere.39 Frietag argues that the cow protection movement of 1880 - 1920 shows how early public expressions of shared religious precepts ‘... evolved into larger ideological statements about imagined communities'.40
Neil Gray wrote:
The colonial government's need for a pragmatic incorporation of elite segments of the Indian middle class led to an indirect, though partial, agency for client groups such as the zamindari (agricultural) landlords, literate elites, and leaders of sects, petty kingdoms, and religious communities. These groups, the indigenous ‘pillars of colonial rule', were granted some license in cultural matters, if not matters of governance.
Neil Gray wrote:
Cementing these divisive procedures, the Raj treated Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities as separate, with little in common. Official favour was extended to communalists over nationalists; the communal press was endowed with extraordinary freedom in comparison to the nationalist press; and communal leaders were readily accepted as spokespersons for their ‘communities'. Nationalist spokespersons, by comparison, were treated as representing only a small minority. These strategies combined to engender client groups - position-seeking middle classes - who were dependent on the colonial elite, at the same time as they created religious and ethnic voting blocks which were previously non-existent.

Basically the thrust is simple. You have these socially-constructed identities within society. Black and ME people suffer a myriad of oppressions due to this, and the identity is both reproduced by the oppressors, throughtout society and also amongst the oppressed, who invert it.

The state and other actors give these constructs concessions because of injustices and oppressions they suffer, which are then utilised by power-brokers within that identity to garner their own agenda. So the perpetuation of race is clearly an important construct within Black and ME middle class identity, and unfortunately this filters through on every level ("the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas" - Marx) I would simply point you to people like Trevor Phillips for proof of this. His status as a race and 'community advisor' seems to be to enflame issues further to perptuate his own crony career.

The central problem for us, is that (i) we want to abolish that identity - and our own, and (ii) class politics alone, is no guarrantee of challenging other forms of oppressions because they either predate capitalism or can still be reproduced unconciously.

Joe wrote:
'White privilege' it seems to me has a strategic orientation which implies, whites are more likely to side with whites, blacks/me confront more of the system than whites, and even when some of those whites involved are revolutionary and take up common aims with blacks/me they are likely to falter on racial lines. It then implies we can debunk this by pondering over our privileges as whites.
dohball wrote:
i am interested to hear you say this...it may be that i don't have an accurate understanding of the term. historically i don't know where it originated from..but i don't understand why the term implies all these different political outlooks to you?

Again, 'white privilege' as far as I can see is not simply an analysis or a term, but has stratergic and tactical considerations. And the bits I talk about I recall were picked from this article.

dohball wrote:
more generally political movements and unity between people (in whose best interests it would be to be unified) are repeatedly stymied by racism, racist prejudices, cultural prejudices and misunderstandings. those amongst many other obstacles. many thoughtful people of colour have requested that white people do just that - ponder over our priviledges as whites - not as some isolated fruitless activity or to wallow nervously (& probably briefly!) in white guilt) but to bring an end to our unthinking racist assumptions and ignorance that hinder collective revolutionary endeavours across racial lines.

This is where I think we can probably agree, but, Black and ME people asking for solidarity and chiding white/male activists for their poor cultural understanding and response, is the anti-thesis of 'white privilege'. Why do I say this? Because, firstly its not whites discussing with whites their status, secondly its attached concretely to activity and therefore is not abstract navel-gazing and thirdly this is, or very well could be, attached to material, i.e. class orientated demands.

The centrality of race, if its to be contested anywhere, would be by (i) Blacks and ME organising automously to challenge things that oppress them as Blacks and ME, with support anticipated from others (ii) unified struggle on material issues and (iii) critiquing any short-comings from the former two. 'White privilege' doesn't appear to advocate any of this.

dohball
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Joined: 1-11-11
Jan 4 2012 01:37

Ok so I’m mostly directly engaging with what JoeMaguire wrote quite a lot (hi joe) but I move in and out of the third person a bit, that’s not meant to sound unfriendly its because it seemed easier to try and sort out my response that way and also because I am indirectly responding to things other posters have said previously in the thread. And I also swop back and forth a bit at the end cos my brain is going into meltdown with such a long post.

Quote:
ultraviolet: I think it makes more sense to argue for a re-evaluation of how the term white privilege is understood rather than to argue to drop the term altogether, because then we look like wankers who deny racism!

To summarise I agree with the above. I also thought the below link to a fairly succinct definition of white privilege might be useful.

https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/gjay/www/Whiteness/whatiswhiteprivilege.pdf

[quote]Joe : I hate to begin by answering a question with a question, but, is 'white privilege' - just white people discussing their privilege? If so, do you think this is progressive?

I included the below links to illustrate that in my observation the term is out there being used by both people of colour and white folks. It is doubtless being used and interpreted in a variety of ways but I don’t think it is going to go ‘back in the box’ even if you want it to. I appreciate that this is a different matter from endorsing the term or choosing to use it yourself but undeniably it will come up. My partner said it cropped up sometimes in discussion in an online group (solely UK based) for queer people of colour that ran for a while about 5 years ago.

Most terminology that surrounds various forms of oppression becomes limited if it is cut adrift from an acknowledgement and active engagement with the realities of class and contemporary capitalism. Some people who use the terms womens liberation or feminism obviously do so with no/little/a crap understanding of class. This limits but does not necessarily render useless their insights, thoughts and analysis. The same applies to race and racism and vice versa to class.

http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/i-saw-the-sign-but-did-we-really-need-a-sign-slutwalk-and-racism/
“hip hop generation feminists of color, queer and straight”

http://www.peopleofcolororganize.com/analysis/opinion/10-conversations-racism-im-sick-having-white-people/#more-1596

site/project run by people of colour (including black anarchist Lorenzo Komboa Ervin) which contains many articles including this one by a black gay guy called neo prodigy on the net

http://www.tolerance.org/blog/literature-breaks-silence-privilege

teaching material from a project run by the southern poverty law center, which is an organization run by both white people and people of colour (don’t find this article overwhelmingly inspiring, more included it to illustrate that the term gets used)

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/09/12/shall-we-talk-about-privilege/from the blog of a black woman called renee

I appreciate the link that joe gave in his post above (cheers joe) cos I found the article interesting. It is a critique of the political analysis of race and racism advanced by the editors of a journal called race traitor. Fortunately I had read some issues of the journal before otherwise I might have had to post a reply in a couple of months not days!

So to try and break my thoughts down.
I am willing to engage with the possibility that there is problematic political baggage attached to the term white privilege or that it may not be a useful term to communicate about racism with. However nothing anyone has said on this thread so far has actually illustrated or argued this in an effective way so far. The fact that ‘politicised’ people of colour request that white people engage with their white privilege (as illustrated in some of the links above) seems to negate some of what is contested in the first quote (above) from Joe.

Also specifically Joe previously said:

Quote:
'White privilege' it seems to me has a strategic orientation which implies, whites are more likely to side with whites, blacks/me confront more of the system than whites, and even when some of those whites involved are revolutionary and take up common aims with blacks/me they are likely to falter on racial lines. It then implies we can debunk this by pondering over our privileges as whites.

Later Joe said: A

Quote:
gain, 'white privilege' as far as I can see is not simply an analysis or a term, but has strategic and tactical considerations. And the bits I talk about I recall were picked from this article.

But you have still not actually explained (as far as I can understand) why the term holds these associations for you.

The article, which joe cited as arguing that the term has “negative strategic and tactical considerations”, does not actually criticize the term itself but appears to recognize ‘race privilege’.

In the fourth paragraph Wright (the author of the article) says, included in a list of points upon which he and the editors of race traitor have agreement,

Quote:
“The main feature of racism in the U.S. is ‘white supremacy’ or white-skin privilege or what some call ‘whiteness’ (and I think the terms represent some political differences). ……….We agree that race privilege entails more than a simple ‘social control formation’, a la Theodore Allen, foisted upon working class people from the outside, but that ‘white’ workers participate in the production and defense of whiteness/white skin privilege.”

Later in the section entitled ‘What Is Race?’ wright writes: “

Quote:
You can reject whiteness all you want, but the privileges of whiteness are not so easily shorn.”

Again Wright says:

Quote:
“…I feel that RT (race traitor journal) misses some important aspects of how workers produce whiteness (or race privilege, taken internationally).”

Later wright hopes that more people will explore and write about understanding

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“race privilege as an international, capitalist phenomena, as a historical process with a definite relation to class struggle.”

He points out

Quote:
“ Race may have taken uniquely ‘white supremacist’ forms in the colonial settler states of the United states, south Africa and Australia, but who would deny the existence of race privilege in Latin America , the Caribbean , Asia and Africa, themselves products of colonialism and slavery?. The forms of race privilege exist in rather different ways.”

It doesn’t seem to me that Wright has a problem with the term white privilege and no-where that I can I read does it actually criticize the term white privilege. (although he may have doubts about the term white skin privilege - I personally also would criticize the use of that term for various reasons). Instead he accepts, as far as i can understand, that in nation states where white supremacy is the rule white privilege exists amongst white workers.

Wright also contends something I have thought myself – that too much emphasis can be placed on ‘racists’, namely far right racist organisations rather than on structural racism and on the fact that white people en masse participate in the creation of racism and indeed whiteness itself. I remember Lorenzo komboa Ervin saying that sometimes the problem with anti- racist groups in which white people predominate is that they were like two stags facing off at each other, neither of them paying reference or attention to or co-operating with people of colour themselves. Certainly the two AFA groups with whom I had limited contact were plagued by macho behaviour although people (including women) from groups elsewhere in the UK said that their groups didn’t have those problems. Strategically however I didn’t get the impression that they invested much if any time or energy trying to engage with the groups of people to whom most of the facists bile was directed. (& by engage I don’t mean recruit)

Also when Joe mentions what he considers to be the ‘

Quote:
strategic orientations’

located within the term again I feel that I need elucidation. Does this mean believing that the term implies that this is the truth of the matter in terms of what is happening in the US and that people should respond to/take into account this reality when they are organising politically? What does it mean that people from a variety of backgrounds (racial, politically, class, etc.) with presumably a variety of opinions on these matters are using the term? Are these generalisations deemed to be false and therefore problematic? Because point by point I think:

Quote:
whites are more likely to side with whites

–well in general this is could be used a slightly blunt summary of what is predominantly happening within the UK and the US

Quote:
blacks/me confront more of the system than whites

–this would be quite a complex matter to study I guess, I think it would certainly be a problematic thing to assume tho for many reasons

Quote:
and even when some of those whites involved are revolutionary and take up common aims with blacks/me they are likely to falter on racial lines

. – well sadly that does happen on an all too frequent basis although certainly not invariably. To not address it as a real possibility kind of guarantees it happening tho…

I found the following quote from Wikipedia interesting as well:

Quote:
Within an educational context, Dan J. Pence and J. Arthur Fields observe resistance to the idea that white privilege of this type exists, and suggest this resistance stems from a tendency to see inequality as a black or Latino issue. One report noted that white students often react to in-class discussions about white privilege with a continuum of behaviors ranging from outright hostility to a "wall of silence." A pair of studies on a broader population by Branscombe et al. found that framing racial issues in terms of white privilege as opposed to non-white disadvantages can produce a greater degree of racially biased responses from whites who have higher levels of racial identification. Branscombe et al. demonstrate that framing racial inequality in terms of the privileges of whites increased levels of guilt among white respondents. Those with high racial identification were more likely to give responses which concurred with modern racist attitudes than those with low racial identification. According to the studies' authors these findings suggest that representing inequality in terms of outgroup disadvantage allows privileged group members to avoid the negative implications of inequality.

A slight repeat from my previous post, but I think this indicates what is useful about the term. It invites a level of personal self-reflection amongst white people that can potentially increase our empathy and understanding of the racism and various difficulties that people of colour experience. It helps to begin a process whereby it becomes difficult for white people to distance themselves from the racist social system that we are embroiled in. A tendency seems to be for white people never to ask ‘what does it mean to be white?’ and I think the term white privilege pushes us towards asking that, and maybe even more useful, questions. I always had a problem with the race traitor approach that it was possible or desirable to opt out of being white (and therby hasten the end of the social construction of whiteness by non-co-operation with it via non–identification with whiteness). Instead I think we need to take responsibility for what it means to be white (which includes pointing out that it was all made up and doesn’t ultimately have to be!) and only then do we stand a chance of ‘whiteness’ coming to an end. Undoubtably that process would take generations no matter how completely we reorganized things in terms of economics and decisions making powers.

Joe:

Quote:
……Black and ME people asking for solidarity and chiding white/male activists for their poor cultural understanding and response, is the anti-thesis of 'white privilege'. Why do I say this? Because, firstly its not whites discussing with whites their status, secondly its attached concretely to activity and therefore is not abstract navel-gazing and thirdly this is, or very well could be, attached to material, i.e. class orientated demands

Joe names whites discussing with whites their status as a problem. However over and over people of colour say that their patience for discussions with white people about their perceptions of race/racism/cultural complexities has been stretched to its limit and beyond. The number of white people in the US and UK who are floundering around trying to make sense of it all (cocking up whilst they/I do so) or who are in fact just sort of wallowing around in their racism must far outstrip numerically the amount of people of colour who would have the time or desire to engage with us on any very prolonged basis around these matters. Which as white people leaves the onus on you (as they used to say at my high school tho they certainly weren’t talking about racism!) to self educate yourself e.g. read the books, zines and blogs that are recommended on countless sites with an anti racist angle, watch films, talk with people of colour who are up for it and try to bring an anti-racist perspective to your everyday life and any political organizing you may be taking part in.

The next paragraph in wikipedia says:

Quote:
Heidi A. Zetzer categorizes white privilege as an "institutional and individual manifestation of racism, however indirectly or unintentionally." Zetzer argues the indirectness of white privilege is what makes it so prevalent. If people are not educated about white privilege, it is unlikely that they will take note of it. Whites who are aware of it suffer under the stigma of benefiting from an unfair system. Zetzer asks "How can I see myself as a just person when I willingly participate in a system that is inherently unfair?" The guilt formed by this opinion creates a spirit of inactivity in solving the problem. "White guilt", as Zetzer deems it, is an impediment to change. Zetzer argues that honest and multicultural dialogue is the first way to build alliances which can then "transform people and systems and turn intention into action,"

The thing is that I find the continual process of political reflection, living in this amazing but pain filled world to be not without emotion. Learning is often improved and supported by a shared aspect. So isn’t it necessary for white people to talk with other white people about their confusions, insights, questions and share their emotions as part of an ongoing process of undoing their own racism and learning about the huge variety of human experiences. Is that not what the word status implies – our current status in all its fullness?

Personally I am not very prone to guilt in general. I speculate that individual experiences shape how much somebody tends to feels guilt; for instance being raised in a strict religious household or in a family with a reproachful atmosphere? Some people have said that they find guilt to be a motivating factor in trying to bring about social change although I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to be a very sustaining state of mind. However it may well be that as part of a process of coming to a fuller consciousness about racism or other types of oppression that people may experience guilt in a useful way. like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsgbcYnmR6Y

Ok kinda lame I know – I find the concept funnier than the film clip itself. God I would just love one ….but imagine if it fell into the wrong hands?...

But I have felt grief, sadness, anger, shame and defensiveness in the course of thinking about racism. And it is good to be able to talk about these things with friends or people your co-operating with politically.

In relation to the quotes from neil greys article and the thread that Joe linked to ( I read a bunch of it) I think we both agree that both racial categories and identities based around religion or partially shared cultural backgrounds are socially constructed. They may be more or less influenced or constructed by the ruling class, such as the distortions of (an already obviously less than perfect) indian society by british rule. It seems to be the case that all creation of all nation states has involved the violent suppression and/or eliminaton of entire peoples in order to mold them into their current s forms.
However I still don’t see how these facts specifically relate to the term ‘ white privilege’.

Joe:

Quote:
The state and other actors give these constructs concessions because of injustices and oppressions they suffer, which are then utilised by power-brokers within that identity to garner their own agenda. So the perpetuation of race is clearly an important construct within Black and ME middle class identity, and unfortunately this filters through on every level ("the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas" - Marx) I would simply point you to people like Trevor Phillips for proof of this. His status as a race and 'community advisor' seems to be to enflame issues further to perptuate his own crony career.

Maybe significantly I am not sure I entirely agree with you interpretation of Trevor Phillips position. I remember bell hooks saying that the most conservative people are always being selected by the white establishment to be token ‘spokespeople’ for their ‘communities’. I am on very uninformed ground here as I can’t remember the last time I ever heard trev phillips say anything as I get my news off the net (or sometimes I succumb to reading newspapers I collect from recycling to put on the fire!). whilst he probably does indeed have a minority career niche I am pretty sure that he would not see the perpetuation of racism as benefiting his situation. I’m also pretty sure that on a human end he would want it to end and probably thinks that his be-suited presence is contributing to its demise. I appreciate that you are talking about race per se rather than racism but the thing is that the two are not separate. I think I understand what you are saying but that its more complicated than black middle class power brokers benefiting from the existence per se of the black race. Whatever a minority of peoples individual delusions and personal economic dependence may or not be on the existence of small section of industry that focuses on creating projects that depend on the existence of racism there seems something bizarre in your emphasis (maybe unintentional?) on their role in the perpetuation of race. Does this logically mean that any acknowledgment, celebration or defense of the particular racial group of which somebody is a member is problematic because it perpetuate the falsehood of race? Also the Greenloaning report (I think it was called) mentioned in a book called the revolution will not be funded : the non-profit industrial complex edited by INCITE points out that only a tiny proportion of government and funding bodies monies go to ‘minority led’ organisations so actually not many people of colour actually directly benefit financially from existence of an NGO/third sector based around appeasing the social difficulties to which people of colour are subject.

What do you see the statement ‘

Quote:
we want to abolish that identity - and our own

,’ as entailing?

But hilariously enough we actually seem to agree on larger tactics! Having been around the bloc and back again…

Joe:

Quote:
The centrality of race, if its to be contested anywhere, would be by (i) Blacks and ME organising automously to challenge things that oppress them as Blacks and ME, with support anticipated from others (ii) unified struggle on material issues and (iii) critiquing any short-comings from the former two.

love dohball

soyonstout
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Joined: 25-12-08
Jan 4 2012 07:18

That the whole "white privilege" discourse primarily discusses racial histories within the US (and loses coherence rapidly when transplanted to other climes to explain racial oppression) belies it's nature as a basically bourgeois-democratic nationalist ideology. It seems to have grown up among an academic class of democratists for the purpose of diverting any kind of a class response to institutionalized racism (which is a far better way of describing how the ruling class in different nations divide up the exploited than any notion of a "privilege" for some of the exploited) into guilt-based politics for the purposes of sidelining the class issue (for both whites and non-whites). It strikes me as functionally a piece of the road from campus leftism to the NGO/non-profit sector, to the Democratic Party in the US, and as far as I can see, can't really contribute to any real politics other than that of the loyal opposition to that party or the left wing of the basic democratist/nationalist project.

The working class fighting for itself as the working class has generally had an interest in eliminating great differences in how easily its members are exploited (demands of this sort serving the dual purpose of eliciting solidarity and deterring strike-breakers and/or general downward pressure on wages), and dismantling institutionalized racism in the US is something I think can only be accomplished by the international working class, so I don't really get how "white privilege" literature (especially when the name itself kind of precludes the sort of historical perspective that could connect the experiences of discrimination felt by a class with no country that has been emigrating for work and/or forced into penal labor for engaging in various survival-based criminality for as long as its existed) helps that happen. It does, however, help immensely in guiding politicized students from anarcho-maoism (or something like it) to the non-profit sector, "radical" academia*, the democratic party itself, or some other illusion that they can make a career out of making exploitation or imperialism fairer.

*(meaning that part of academia which is paid to be political, not pro-revolutionaries who happen to be academics)