HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Definitions and Solutions...

Sat Apr 11, 2015, 03:55 PM

Definitions and Solutions for White Privilege

I've read several threads which are asking for 'solutions' and suggestions on ways to address the issue of 'white privilege' in America. These are certainly important questions worthy of consideration and debate. I hesitate to express even small criticisms of characterizations of what white privilege means - most often with these definitions coming from white individuals, which isn't something I feel is damning or seriously inappropriate. That said, I do feel it's much more important to listen to the expressions of non-white individuals who feel subject to negative aspects and consequences of disparities in treatment, opportunity, or other realities of our existence in society.

Of course, while correctly pointing to the sometimes condescending or subjugating attitudes of some white people toward black individuals, it should be remembered that there are also stereotypes made and perpetuated against white Americans. The difference, of course, is the consequence in a majority white society in which black people are regularly discriminated against, judged, repressed, or attacked in a disproportionate measure by many in that white majority. Still, we should refrain from assuming these patronizing and subservient attitudes are universal and inherent in all white individuals; just as it's imperative to refrain from stereotyping black individuals.

Many black Americans, myself included, grapple with the way racism is so ingrained in all of our everyday insecurities about ourselves and others; and how its almost impossible for black Americans today to put aside those insecurities when so many perceptions of us and so many actions and attitudes of us are still so negatively skewed in ways which allow whites opportunities to define black lives outside of the boundaries of opportunity, acceptance, and understanding that they afford their own.

I had the opportunity to illustrate this to a former white soldier who had experienced verbal abuse upon his return home. He regularly characterized blacks who had run afoul of the law as 'thugs' and 'criminals' and I asked him to put himself in their place by questioning whether he thought he had served honorably and was a good soldier. When he replied in the affirmative, I pointed out that he was able to remove his uniform and avoid the stereotyping that had motivated the people castigating him for his service; but that blacks had no way of removing their 'uniform' or changing the color of their skin which compels so many to associate them with the worst our society has historically labeled our race with.

Point is, we need to avoid entering into interactions with each other assuming the worst of what we believe or assume about each other. It's, perhaps, naive and disarming, but that's the only way we'll be able to move beyond these barriers of perception; on either side of the racial divide. Easier said, then done, I know - but, we can all do our part to push past these artificial and contrived images of ourselves. Our national history has affirmed this possibility. There's no reason at all to second-guess ourselves or become overly cynical about our respective intentions now.

What I'd really like to express here is that it's not reasonable to expect black Americans to respond to acts of racism directed toward them - or to racism directed toward other black Americans which has been highlighted recently with the increased profile of disproportionate killings of black individuals at the hands of white law enforcement officers - with an analytical focus on solutions; solutions like engendering trust between police and our community. It just seems, to me, strange to expect that black Americans should be expected to generate attitudes like trust, acceptance, understanding, or respect in white individuals harboring the worst of instincts, beliefs, or fears toward their black counterparts.

The reaction which has come from Ferguson residents to the killing of Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, for example, has been more of an expression of anger and frustration, than an overall petition for redress. That's not to say that there aren't specific demands for justice associated with the protests. There are detailed and enumerated demands for justice coming from that very organized community of individuals.

However, there's also a conscious and deliberate effort to make the community uncomfortable in their daily lives and livelihoods in an attempt to transfer some of the angst and frustration black residents feel to the consciousness of white citizens who are not likely subject to the same level of abuses and injustices which have led to far too many killings by authorities and other violence directed disproportionately against the black community. That deliberate transference of angst is what I would consider a natural reaction toward injustice; more than I would expect victims to reflexively concern themselves with persuading white officials and authorities to trust or treat them equitably.

We are, after all, imbued with as much personal pride and self-respect as the next person. We don't necessarily regard ourselves as subservient to anyone else's prerogative or initiative in every interaction. We should expect that we would be treated equitably in our interactions with others; in our interactions with authorities. It's perfectly understandable that we would act defensively when we are not, and we all know that defensiveness isn't always rational or accommodating.

I'll attempt some rationality in my response to the issue of institutionalized racism and offer some solution...

One of the remedies I'd suggest in response to advantages (and disadvantages for black individuals) which come with white privilege would be the elevation of more black individuals to positions of authority in businesses and institutions which confer or arbitrate rights which come into question. Since that occurrence is, in and of itself, leveraged and dependent on an equitable system of judgment and opportunity, the problems and neglect in providing those rights is likely to persist.

For centuries, the realities of patronage, wealth, and political power have been impediments to social changes which would level the playing field for minorities and blacks in America. Yet, these are only a part of the privileges afforded white individuals, as blacks often find that even these advantages fail to insulate them from denial of opportunities and protection from discrimination at all levels of interaction with society.

Racism certainly isn't practiced today like it was when slurs, slights, and outright discrimination were allowed to flourish under the umbrella of segregation and Jim Crow. But, it has still been used by some, over the years since the dismantling of that institutionalized racism, to manipulate and control the level of access and acceptability of blacks in a white-dominated political system. Open racism hasn't been in fashion for decades, but the fear and insecurities which underlie discrimination and prejudice still compel some to draw lines of distinction between black and white aspirations and potential for success. What is often unspoken is the reluctance some Americans have in envisioning blacks in a position to make decisions for a white majority, resulting in attempt to set boundaries and define the roles blacks must assume to achieve success and approval.

The gains blacks have made in our political institutions have not kept pace with even the incremental gains which have occurred in the workplace, for example. We may well have an abundance of black CEOs, military officers, business owners, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. However, Americans have yet to support and establish blacks in our political institutions with a regularity we could celebrate as 'colorblindness.' And, to be fair, not even many blacks would likely agree that we've moved past a point where race should be highlighted (if not overtly emphasized), in our political deliberations and considerations.

I watched and listened as the highest official in the country, a black man, responded to the Eric Garner decision against prosecution of the officer involved by raising concerns over 'trust.' Trust in our justice system; trust in police practices; is such a remote and unlikely possibility to me right now that I'm almost ready to just tune the those sentiments out from any public official or officer who purports to speak down to me from their positions of authority and influence.

Yet, there was something refreshingly direct in President Obama's statement which, perhaps, wasn't made as clear in the snippets offered along with news reports of the non-indictment of the cop filmed committing what was ruled a homicide, a murder of Eric Garner, by the city coroner. There was something in his statement which finally connected with my own thoughts and determination. The president used the word, "accountability," to buttress his concern about Americans "being treated equally under the law."

"I'm absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everyone believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law," President Obama said at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

"We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement," he continued.

"When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that's a problem. It's incumbent on all of us as Americans ...that we recognize that this is an American problem and not just a black problem. It is an American problem when anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law."

That sentiment, so eloquently expressed, I believe, is directly on point. To me, there is nothing short of accountability from these police officers and police departments which will assuage my concern and commitment. I don't see any way that 'trust' will ever be achieved without a clear avenue for accountability, both within the institutions and from our courts. Standards, training, and even cameras on officers are essentially meaningless without accountability for the actions of these officers and officials of the law. In the case of Eric Garner, strangleholds were already against police policy, and it's clear that filming the killing did little to effect accountability and justice for the assailant.

Moreover, there really isn't any provision of law which mandates 'trust' - or even understanding, or respect for each other - as a condition of our rights to equal treatment under the law. Those are certainly fine aspirations, but our rights are inherent in the Constitution which (improbably, at the time of its inception) asserts that we are all created equal. That's where our rights are drawn from, not from any expectation that we love or respect each other before they are administered fairly.

The only way to ensure proper management of departments and policy is for individuals employed to 'protect and serve' to fear for their own liberty or job security if they violate provisions or laws in their duties. There's far too much comfort in these police departments and impunity in the actions of their officers, creating an authoritarian atmosphere where officers feel safe in using excessive force without repercussions or serious rebuke.

That effort is going to require individuals in positions of power who respect those rights and who are committed to enforcing them. There's really nothing less which will bring about the changes many want to see in the disposition of these rights. The law is where our protests and demands originate and reside; the rest of those aspirations should flow from that demonstrated understanding of equal treatment in any legal reprimand from police or adjudication in court. We begin with our demands and exercise every instigation of democracy (and civil disobedience) to achieve them.

I believe we're long past the point where blacks need to prove their worth to anyone to expect equal justice under the law. We need to force the system to adhere to justice, to respect our rights, no quarter. That effort isn't always going to be rational, accommodating, or solution based. We're only human, and there are consequences which can arise from angering a people or backing them into a corner. I don't expect the black community to stand still or just genuflect in the face of oppression. If the white community is uncomfortable with that, perhaps it's time to consider how they're going to modify the ways they interact with the black community. If not, perhaps they'd better buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

6 replies, 1276 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 6 replies Author Time Post
Reply Definitions and Solutions for White Privilege (Original post)
bigtree Apr 2015 OP
annabanana Apr 2015 #1
bigtree Apr 2015 #2
ananda Apr 2015 #3
bigtree Apr 2015 #4
bigtree Apr 2015 #5
bigtree Apr 2015 #6

Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sat Apr 11, 2015, 04:01 PM

1. excellent post

Thank you.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to annabanana (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 11, 2015, 04:18 PM

2. thanks, annabanana

...thanks for reading.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sat Apr 11, 2015, 04:22 PM

3. Good point about considering the views of non-whites ...

... on what white privilege means.

One aspect of white privilege is taking up space, and this
includes conversational space.

We need to listen more.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ananda (Reply #3)

Sat Apr 11, 2015, 07:40 PM

4. always a good idea, ananda

...to listen more.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sat Apr 11, 2015, 09:13 PM

5. One day they are gonna wish that all we did was talk

Taurean @TheBlackVoice

One day they are gonna wish that all we did was talk in response to racism. When we stop being peaceful, watch them want to talk then.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Apr 12, 2015, 03:07 AM

6. And here's video of the police in STL stopping a metrobus

deray mckesson @deray

And here's video of the police in STL stopping a metrobus and forcing everyone to put their hands up. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1441295622835095&pnref=story

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread