What We Go Through || Racism and Privilege doesn’t work the way Rebecca Bradley thinks


I was poking around the net when I came across Skeptic Ink’s Rebecca Bradley and her take on “privilege” when it comes down to race and indeed sexism.

And I don’t think she gets it.

Privilege, we’re told, comes in many flavours, all of them bad.  White privilege.  Male privilege.  Heterosexual privilege.  Cisgendered privilege.  Ablebodied privilege.  First World Privilege.  Etc.  We’re supposed to check our privilege frequently, or—even better—unpack it from the invisible knapsack we carry it around in.  Those who have it are advised to shut up and listen to those who haven’t.  Those who don’t have it are entitled to be royally pissed off at those who do.  What none of us is supposed to do is question whether the invisible knapsack actually exists.

We don’t get royally pissed off.

Most of us live our lives quietly and make changes to make up for the privilege the majority has. Some of us point it out. We only tend to get angry when someone does something stupid like claim there is no privilege.

Me, I’m skeptical.

The privilege meme is not new, but its current incarnation comes out of Critical Race Theory, a politically hypercorrect socio-legal analysis that emerged in the 1970s, in part as a radical critique of the civil rights movement.   At the heart of CRT is the claim that Western society lies under a great miasmic pall of minority oppression, where simply to be born a member of certain in-groups confers valuable privileges that are denied to others, including the privilege of being normal.  And, since the system was designed to protect and perpetuate the interests of the white-skinned patriarchy, it cannot be changed from the inside.  It is unsalvageable, rotten to the core.

Yes. Yes it does.

See the reason I “got mad” is this notion that many people have that there is no racism left.

They system’s issue is that it has to recognise a problem with privilege before it can act on it. If people such as Rebecca refuse to see the privilege they have then the only way to solve the problem is to keep making a noise about it.

If you think you have no privilege as a white person then that’s fine. Let’s not call it privilege let’s call it a lack of understanding of benefits you have within society and things you take for granted that end up causing discrimination not by an active process but often by cultural, social and ingrained ones.

In Critical Race Theory, the unforgivable sin is being born in possession of a white skin.  According to its tenets, all whites are automatically racists of one subspecies or another—and, as with beetles, many subspecies of racism have been identified: individual, institutional, structural, old-fashioned, polite, aversive, everyday, environmental, democratic, new, liberal.  But CRT’s overarching definition of racism goes something like this:

No. It means that white people in society have an advantage in society at the level that they are in that society that doesn’t extend to a person of colour who is part of the same economic demography.

Racism is a set of ideas that are socially constructed to establish and maintain the superiority of one social group – usually white Europeans – over another because of perceived physical, intellectual, emotional and cultural differences, together with the historical and institutional power to put these beliefs into practice in exclusionary ways.

Or, more concisely:  RACISM = PREJUDICE + POWER.

It can also be more subtle as I will demonstrate later.

Racism also includes the unconscious biases of the majority that they don’t even recognise their action as “racist”. It’s not the KKK Wizard or the father who disowns his daughter for loving you. But the person’s unconscious actions that create a society that it is difficult to be “not white”.

Let’s ignore race for a second. The majority of us can see. There are a few partially sighted people and there are even fewer blind people. Let’s take american currency as an example.

See American currency is all the same size and same colour. Partially sighted people would struggle to use it. WIthout my glasses I cannot tell them apart.

Now let’s take British currency. They increase in size from £5 to £50. In addition? They each have a different colour so you can tell what note you have even without seeing the denomination on it. Greens are 5s, Orange/browns are tens, Violets are 20s and Red/pinks are 50s.

The American currency makes it harder for partially sighted people to use while the British currency (while not perfect) was designed with this in mind. Now I don’t think America doesn’t teach Three Blind Mice as a rhyme normalising violence to the blind. It is not a society that “hates” the blind.

It just didn’t think about the design of the currency when it came down to them. The privilege of sight ironically blinded people to the needs of the blind. Honestly? Simply changing the currency from “green” to “different colours” would help a lot of people including the normal sighted who would be able to count currency faster. Little changes can go a long way.

So this formula, virtually a holy mantra of Critical Race Theory, differs from the dictionary definition of racism by including “power” as a necessary element.  And, since CRT maintains that only whites have power in Western society, it is only whites who can be racist.  People of colour (POC) may be prejudiced, but by definition they cannot be racist.  (By the same reasoning, women cannot be sexist.)  Therefore, there can be nothing racist about the Europhobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Asian, pseudoscientific, pseudohistorical and all-around vile sentiments and actions of groups like, say, the Nation of Islam.

No. That’s stupid. There are plenty of racists who aren’t white.

However the problem is in western culture they themselves lack any serious power so don’t affect white people as much as white people affect them. Nation of Islam may preach a spiel of hate but frankly they lack the power to do anything through society. By contraast? Look at the Tea Party and the “Birther” movement. The relatively milder racism of the Tea Party towards black people had more far reaching effects than the Nation of Islam’s. If black people were the majority and Islam were the dominant culture and religion then you would take them a lot more seriously.

But how realistic is this Manichean view of power?  Very few of us are personally in any position to oppress anybody, even if we wanted to, since we’re all too busy being oppressed by the economic elites.  Honestly, is it valid to equate the power of the CEO in the penthouse, the office boy fifty floors down, and the panhandler on the street outside, just because all three are white?   That is clearly absurd.

Yes, but the panhandler, the office-boy both have a higher chance to become the CEO if they were white and male than if they were Indian or indeed Black or GLBT.

And so, it seems to me, the idea of privilege was reincarnated from its earlier formulations in order to rationalize the hostility that is requisite to Critical Race Theory: white privilege, a mystical quality that magically infuses each and every white skin with power, whatever the owner’s actual circumstances; and incidentally turns the owner of that white skin into a by-definition racist, regardless of his or her personal beliefs or behaviour.  (For the critical feminist version, substitute “sexist” for “racist”, and “penis” for “white skin”.)

And I repeat it doesn’t turn you into a racist, it just nets you benefits that you take for granted.

An example? Well look at Barack Obama. Born on American Soil proper people still claim he is some sort of Kenyan super spy set to bring America down to it’s knees from the inside.

John McCain ran against him. John was born outside the USA. Not a single word about John McCain being a secret Panamanian set to seek revenge for the Invasion of Panama.

You know as well as I do that if Barack Obama was called Barry O’Brian and was a white anglo-saxon protestant we wouldn’t be discussing his birth certificate.

See the wild accusations aren’t the problem. It’s the CREDENCE given to them. The Nation of Islam said crazy stuff but no one gave any credence to them. The Tea Party said crazy stuff and we had to do stuff to prove it wrong as their argument while crazy was given more credence and value.

It gets worse.

No privilege-holder (PH) can ever understand or empathize with the experience of a non-privilege holder; even the effort to do so constitutes a form of oppression.  A PH’s positive impulses, even his or her activism in support of equality, are considered to be, not just condescending, but as racist and injurious as any Klanner’s negative impulses and activism in support of bigotry.  This is because even a PH’s positive feelings are inextricably mired in a system structured on white male privilege.

You can understand or empathise with our plight. However the problem is quite often people dismiss it.

As you just have. And no we can distinguish between the casual racism of “You are a credit to your people” and the racism of “Fuck You, You Smelly Paki”. There is a difference, we aren’t stupid and we know the difference. And we can distinguish between people who support us and people who don’t or are trying to tick boxes.

And it gets worse.  Any members of visible minorities—or women, for that matter—who are successful by normal criteria are liable to be ideologically suspect; this is because they can only have succeeded with the blessing of their privileged overlords, and are therefore helping to shore up the white patriarchal power structure.  This makes them collaborators, Uncle Toms, chill girls, traitors, bad role models.  They are not helping.  Unless, of course, they are Critical Theorists with book contracts and tenured academic positions, in which case they are above reproof.

I am Indian. We don’t denigrate our “Uncle Toms”, but we understand that people have made sacrifices to make it.

Farrokh Bulsara, Kalpen Suresh Modi, Krishna Pandit Bhanji… don’t google these names. Just keep them in mind. Can you guess their “more famous names”?

Overall, it seems to me there is no room in this analysis for actual goodwill and an sincere desire for social equality.  People of perceived privilege can do nothing right, except perhaps shut up and wallow in collective and historical guilt.  People without perceived privilege are obliged to be angry, to wallow in victimhood, to view every person born with a white skin and/or a penis as an oppressor.  In my book, the latter is not “reverse racism” – it is just racism.  It is not “reverse sexism” – it is just sexism.

Just remember the names up there.

I think there are two opposing metaphors for Western society in operation here.  The first involves a monolithic skyscraper: from the outside, it is a “shining city built on a hill;” on the inside, it is a battleground.  The lower floors are a seething warren of the unprivileged, kept in their place by barred doors, armed guards, and whites-only signs on the elevators.  The upper floors are the preserve of the privileged, who fight floor-by-floor to keep their sanctum inviolate, though a few tokens are allowed upstairs now and then to give the others false hope.  In this model, conflict is de rigueur, and the skyscraper cannot be saved.  It can only be torn down. But isn’t society less like a monolith, and more like a collection of buildings in various states of construction and repair?  Some of them may resemble the skyscraper described above; others may have different signs on the elevators; some may have no signs on the elevators at all.  Messy, diverse, both horribly and hopefully human, with areas where terrible things happen, and areas where the effort to build together is honestly undertaken.  In this model, the city on the hill may gradually be rebuilt into something better.

It’s not that there are “No Coloureds/ Whites Only” signs on these elevators. It’s that we get security checked when we walk through the door. Our offices are consistently not as nice and the cleaning staff don’t vacuum our floors…

The issue we have is not that racism is overt but people don’t even realise they are being racist.

CRT, along with its feminist and other counterparts, constitute an ideology that erects obstacles between people who might otherwise work together.  This ideology assigns collective guilt, with no hope of absolution.  It slaps pejorative labels—racist and sexist—on great segments of the population on the grounds of the skin colour and genitals they happened to be born with, and aims to radicalize other segments into a state of perpetual victimhood.  It holds cheap the observable progress of the last half-century.  As an ideology, it is as racist and sexist as any other we have suffered from in the long, painful history of our species.  It is not helping.

No. It is helping. The problem is YOU aren’t helping us. You have basically told me that the things me and my people face isn’t racism.

Farrokh Bulsara, Kalpen Suresh Modi, Krishna Pandit Bhanji…

They all changed their names because no one took them seriously with their “real” names. They aren’t “lightweights” in the realm of fame either.

Freddie Mercury was a Parsi. His studied in Mumbai as the Parsi’s last survivors are in India and they have lived in India for more than a thousand years. His real name was Farrokh Bulsara. He chose a stage name because no one came to see him perform. He pretended to be a white guy in order to be taken seriously.

Kal Penn is the stage name of Kalpen Suresh Modi. It was a “joke” that worked. He never got any work as an Indian actor (Remember. Traditionally Indian roles were played by Hispanics. Hence Khan…). People wouldn’t hire a man called Kalpen. So what would happen if he anglicised it to Kal Penn? His callback rate went up by 50%. So he kept it.

Ben Kingsley’s real name is Krishna Pandit. A man who has won Oscars has to pretend to be “white” to get jobs initially.

I do the same thing. Most people know me as Amy or indeed as Avicenna. And it’s seen in other ethnicities too.

It’s just thoughtlessness and innate discrimination rather than a distinct plan not to “hire” us. However this sort of racism is very real when you are on the receiving end. You may think it’s wallowing in our victimhood but frankly a 50% increase in call backs? How many jobs and interviews and opportunities have I lost due to my name alone? We won’t know…

By the way, that invisible knapsack?  It’s not invisible, it’s imaginary.  And forget about checking your privilege.  Just chuck it.

Yes, why bother realising you have it easier than someone else and making steps to be more accepting of others.

Comments

  1. says

    So a white girl and self-declared skeptic decided to ignore the empirical evidence to wallow in her race privilege. Quelle Shock. Thanks for the response, Avicenna.

  2. LeftSidePositive says

    Pitchguest–he DID listen to her. He clearly laid out her argument and thoughtfully disagreed with her. There was no implication that her argument was wrong simply because she was a woman. He didn’t use her womanhood to insult her. He used logic and evidence to show why she was wrong, and provided a thoughtful and well-balanced counterpoint to her reality-denying smugness.

    YOU seem to be the one who thinks that “listening to women” means unconditionally agreeing with them (and, you are perfectly happy to try to enforce that faux-PCness if and only if it benefits you!). If you’d actually stop strawmanning for a moment, you would learn that we want to be treated like PEOPLE, not like Chill Girls that can be dismissed or statues on pedestals to be revered.

  3. LeftSidePositive says

    And another thing, Rebecca Bradley clearly has only the most immature concept of privilege, racism, and sexism. For one thing, saying that racism is about the cultural assumptions of superiority of white people in no way means that only white people can be racist. People of other races often internalize the same beliefs about white people being better or more trustworthy, and may show similar behaviors of preferring white people for jobs or pulling them over less. Similarly, people of color may perpetrate racial stereotypes and racial animosity against those of different (or perceived to be different races). Similarly, women can call other women sluts and body-shame them, and that is still sexism–and it holds up the dominant power paradigm.

    Furthermore, pointing out that someone still enjoys privileges does not make them a bad person. Being an ally is not bad in itself–but it becomes a problem when privileged people appropriate a cause or place themselves front & center (see all the criticisms of “The Help”). Furthermore, if you actually go to the link that Rebecca thinks shows that social justice advocates think all privileged people contribute to oppression, it really shows a very coherent description of how people with privilege continue to benefit from that privilege even when they speak up for others. It gave a clear description of how elevating privileged social-justice warriors marginalized equally-talented people from the group in question, and centered largely on how the rest of the privileged society was reacting to them, NOT saying that these people were trying to be oppressive in their own right. But I guess that would take some time to actually learn about privilege, and Rebecca has a vested interest in insisting to herself that the invisible knapsack is illusory (although how she could read that piece about Tim Wise and NOT see how he was getting advantages strictly on the basis of his race and gender, and see how his whiteness was being used as a cover for ignoring other activists, and not understand that this is what privilege MEANS, and not consider this as evidence of privilege being A Thing…is completely beyond me!).

  4. VeganAtheistWeirdo says

    I can’t believe you responded so calmly to that garbage. She appears to be willfully ignorant of the irony of her arguments. Maybe she thinks her audience will take her seriously because she’s a woman and ought to have noticed if people were oppressing her…? Like the commenter above.

    pitchguest, you come off as a person who tries to sound insensitive or “anti-PC” because he heard it was the cool way to be. I don’t know if that’s actually sadder than sincere ignorance, but it might be. Are you really confusing the concept of taking women’s word for how they are treated with accepting a woman blogger’s opinion about a theory as valid and well-reasoned? Or are you just being an asshole?

  5. Klang says

    Are you really confusing the concept of taking women’s word for how they are treated with accepting a woman blogger’s opinion about a theory as valid and well-reasoned? Or are you just being an asshole?

    For the likes of Pitchguest, the need to attack FTB overrides any actual compulsion to do some thinking. To him, FTB supports feminism therefore if any FTB writer criticises a woman, it’s some kind of ‘gotcha!’.

    A completely shallow understanding of…pretty much everything involved.

    And then Pitchie weighs in with ‘haha, a woman’s name!’ too. Jeez.

  6. CaitieCat says

    My privilege as a white person is most obvious to me when I interact with American security theatre in one plce or another – a US airport, or crossing the border to visit friends.

    I crossed on a train once, and it was hard not to notice that when the security actors came around, the only people they took off the train were people who weren’t white. They were also the only ones subjected to dog-sniffing. Grim irony resides in the fact that, I’m not even a born Canadian, but an immigrant myself, and yet my partner and I hardly got a second glance from the TSActors.

    So, you want to tell me that as a white person you don’t have or benefit from privilege? Tell me, please, how you’re going to make the TSA treat you the same as they treat brown people. Tell me how you’re going to make that constant low-level suspicion of anyone brown. Tell me how you’re going to change your name so Sandeep Choudhry to show how not-real prejudice is.

    Show me, in other words, that you’re really a skeptic, and not just an intensely overprivileged jackass. The only thing worse than white privlege is white privilege wielded by someone who denies it exists.

    Great post, Avicenna.

  7. Eristae says

    Short, somewhat related story:

    Some years back I, a white, upper-middle class, native English speaking, able bodied, educated woman was returning from Europe. In my carry-on bag I had some rocks that I had picked up in Europe. In the airport terminal in the USA, I learned that I wasn’t actually supposed to take rocks from Europe to the USA (anything to do with soil was a no go). But I had dragged those fuckers back from Europe and I didn’t want to dump them into an airport trashcan. So I kept them while worrying that someone would search my bags.

    Did anyone search my bags? No, they did not. They searched the bags of brown men with accents.

    Privilege isn’t real? Psssssh.

  8. Eristae says

    I guess someone didn’t get the memo about “listening to the women”, eh, Avicenna?

    *eyeroll* Really, that’s all this sentence deserves. Off topic, derailing, strawmanning, useless. I’m only addressing it at all because . . .

    But hang on. Amy? I didn’t know you were a transsexual.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/amilliongods/2013/03/21/ouchy/

    . . . what the fuck? What could possibly make you think that this kind of comment is appropriate?

  9. says

    pitchguest @#3
    But hang on. Amy? I didn’t know you were a transsexual.

    Did you work hard to make such a stupid comment? Or was that intended to be a smart comment and it was the best you could do?

    As someone whose name gets mangled occasionally* I can only imagine how – as Avicenna points out – it can be frustrating to have a choice between playing to the lowest common denominator or hearing your name wrecked.

    (* I find that people who are less literate have trouble pronouncing words they haven’t heard repeatedly on television. So, uncommon names for a particular culture are often a problem for them. I’ve worked with people from Thailand, India, and Finland in the past, and often – rather than hearing their name garbled – a shortened nickname is how they’ll introduce themself. It’s courtesy from that point on to call them how they ask to be called. If someone named Simo Häyhä, for example, tells you, “just call me Jane” it’s a good idea to call them “Jane” and not worry about your name/gender preconceptions. I used to work with a Thai gentleman who asked us all to call him “Charlie” because our attempts to pronounce his name made him come out sounding – to a Thai – as something like “lampshade grey wood” One of my Chinese co-workers in the 80s explained that it was literally impossible for most Americans to pronounce his name – which is a problem because most Chinese names have meaning i.e.: someone might be named “good fortune” and it really sucks to have that mangled into “good pizza”; there are subtle sounds in Chinese that the vast majority of Americans simply cannot discriminate. For example, there are 5 words in Chinese that all sound like “way” to an American’s ears but mean completely different things to someone who is attuned to the subtle differences in intonation.

    But I’m sure you knew that.)

  10. VeganAtheistWeirdo says

    . . . what the fuck? What could possibly make you think that this kind of comment is appropriate?

    Like I said, he knows it’s not appropriate. He’s portraying some sort of dudebro anti-anti-antihero persona. It’s not even authentic enough to be interesting.

    And of course, he completely ignored the content of this post. Does he have an opinion on whether privilege is imaginary? We may never know. (Not that we would value it, absent any evidence of thoughtful consideration as his input has been thus far.)

  11. Stacy says

    Bradley’ is so far from understanding the term “privilege,” she’s not even wrong (as the scientists say.)

    Between her inability to grasp the concept and poor Pitchguest’s inept attempted gotcha, looks like Strawmanapalooza day here at A Million Gods!

    Thanks for your patience in correcting that nonsense, Avicenna. Be nice if they were honest enough over there to admit when they’re wrong.

  12. Stacy says

    he knows it’s not appropriate.

    Sadly, I doubt it. I’ve seen him around, read a number of his comments. I think he really is that stupid.

  13. stanbrooks says

    I’m assuming from her name (Rebecca Bradley) that this is a woman speaking. And she is “skeptical” that privilege exists? Really? I do not have a degree of any sort, but I was a reader for the Seattle branch of Antioch University’s Disabled Student Services, and one of the students I read for (books to cds) was studying privilege. A child of the 60’s and, I like to think, astute, I was aware of much of what I read, but not by a long shot all of it. Some of it made me uncomfortable: VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. As I mentioned, I had no degree, my mother died while I was young, my father was an alcoholic and I became one for a while, what privilege did I have? Well, to to honest, some I was always aware and ashamed of. I was, and still am, truth be told, a white male. This was my world. It wasn’t my privilege’s fault that I chose not to take full advantage of it. Some of that advantage I simply could not escape.

    I have hitchhiked over much of the North American continent multiple times. When I, long haired, skinny, greasy and usually loaded on one substance or another, walked into a day labor hall such as Manpower or Labor Works, I always got a job, and I do mean always. There were men and women, occasionally, of color that might have been there hours longer than I. They most often had skills I did not possess. But when a job came up, SURPRISE, the white hippie got it. At first I didn’t notice, or at least pretended not to, but I eventually had to acknowledge that it was my skin color and gender that got me the work. A few times I tried to protest, and that garnered me a place at the bottom of whatever list there happened to be. I could go on and on, anecdote after anecdote, but to what purpose? Preachin’ to the choir so to speak. It is uncomfortable to recognize our privilege, and even more difficult to confront it. I, and I expect most of us, fail miserably even when we try. But if this is ever to be a different and better world we must not only try but succeed.

    In some prison cell in Louisiana or refugee camp in the Congo or Pakistan, or in some hotel working as a maid or a busboy, or some daycare or some rich persons home as a nanny is a young woman or young man, not white, or in any way privileged, that holds the key for eradicating poverty, or cancer or diabetes, but if we refuse to recognize our privilege and their lack of it, and thereby refuse to do anything to change it, we will all loose. And this is and will be our shame.

  14. says

    I have to second Stacy’s comment above, PitchGuest really is that dim, he has a history going back years of making clueless comments. I was going to respond to his attempt at a gotcha but it was so bad I couldn’t be bothered, it stands by itself.

  15. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Great article Avicenna. Thankyou.

    Farrokh Bulsara, Kalpen Suresh Modi, Krishna Pandit Bhanji… don’t google these names. Just keep them in mind. Can you guess their “more famous names”?

    I guessed wrong. Guessed one of them might have been Salman Rushdie for some reason. Three new things learnt from this today at least and thought provoking. Cheers.

  16. thumper1990 says

    Wow, great article Avi. I would never have the patience to debunk all the wrong in Bradley’s post; I’d probably have just sworn at her a lot. I literally had no idea that Freddy Mercury was Parsi. I knew that wasn’t his real name, obviously, but I always believed he was white… as he intended.

    For those of you still wondering, based on his commenting history I would say that Pitchguest really is that stupid.

  17. says

    Just yesterday found your pingback in my email, and I hope you will permit me to answer so long after your posting—with apologies in advance for the length of my reply. Life is too short to point-by-point your post, but I would like to comment on a few of your claims.

    You seem to think I misrepresented or exaggerated the claims of Critical Race Theory. If you check them out, you will find I did not. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the literature? The redefinition of “racism” is fundamental; the denial that POC can be racist, the automatic stuffing of all whites into some category of racist, the suspicion regarding those who succeed within the system – all those are textbook-axiomatic. The subtext is a great white conspiracy to oppress minorities in defense of a white patriarchal power structure. I do, in fact, understand the concept of “privilege” – I just don’t buy it as it’s defined in CRT, or by you.

    See the reason I “got mad” is this notion that many people have that there is no racism left.

    Being skeptical of “white privilege” is not even in the same ball park as denying that racism lives on. (It is interesting, however, that you would make that equation.) I see instances of racism in Canada, going both ways; have been the target of it in other parts of the world, have studied its long, tragic history, and track it currently. And I continue to maintain that divisive, grossly simplistic models like CRT actually promote racism rather than the reverse.

    Yes, but the panhandler, the office-boy both have a higher chance to become the CEO if they were white and male than if they were Indian or indeed Black or GLBT.

    Really? You’ve just encapsulated the lunacy of white-privilege theory. You honestly believe that a white panhandler or office boy has a higher chance of making CEO than any Indian, Black or GLBT person? That a white panhandler enjoys more systemic privilege than, say, a well-dressed lesbian? Or the university-educated son of a middle-class black? Statistically speaking, there are indeed many more white than black CEOs at the moment, but they are drawn from a very, very small pool; the overwhelming majority of white males have exactly the same chance of cracking the executive ceiling as the majority of POC – vanishingly small to zero.

    See the wild accusations aren’t the problem. It’s the CREDENCE given to them. The Nation of Islam said crazy stuff but no one gave any credence to them.

    No one? The people who give credence to them are young people of colour – the same demographic targeted by the melanin scholars, the Portland Baseline essays, the ludicrous theories of people like Frances Cress Welsing, and other pseudoscientific expressions of black supremacy. (And, for that matter, the pseudohistorical underpinnings of CRT.) The result is to promote racial resentment and scientific illiteracy, and ultimately to hold back advances towards equality and social justice. But I am not surprised that you would so easily discount them, because they do not fit well into CRT’s assumptions.

    And no we can distinguish between the casual racism of “You are a credit to your people” and the racism of “Fuck You, You Smelly Paki”. There is a difference, we aren’t stupid and we know the difference.

    And I’m sure you can recognize a false dichotomy when you see it. Are those honestly the only attitudes you consider possible? As for CRT attitudes towards white would-be allies, did you follow the link provided?

    Farrokh Bulsara, Kalpen Suresh Modi, Krishna Pandit Bhanji…They all changed their names because no one took them seriously with their “real” names.

    I recognized two of them – why did you assume I wouldn’t? The third I hadn’t heard of under either name, possibly because of my age. But presenting them as evidence of systemic racism is very close to dishonest, for two reasons. The first is just misrepresenting the specific back-stories. Freddie Mercury? Freddie was Farrokh’s preferred nickname from his schooldays in India; Mercury was assumed at the same time as he changed the band’s name from “Smile” to “Queen”, and for the same reason other musicians of the time changed their names: to be hip. Ever hear of Paul Gadd? Gordon Sumner? Reginald Dwight? William Broad? Arnold Dorsey for that matter, another singer with a subcontinental heritage? As for Ben Kingsley, the way he tells it, he wanted a name that was more pronounceable after a casting assistant mangled his at an audition; the suggestion came from his Gujerati-origin father, aka Ben.
    .
    The second reason? You’re way out of date. Non-Anglo-Saxon names are no longer a bar to success in the entertainment world. In fact, quite the reverse. What did Chiwetel Ejiofor, for example, change his name to? That’s right, he didn’t. Indeed, the name changes may now go the other way. Who is Dana Owens? Sean Combs? Caryn Johnson? Shaun Carter? Marshall Mathers? Tracy Morrow? Which of these is white? Like many of the ridiculous items in the vintage “invisible backpack”, the under-representation of POC in the media, advertising, and entertainment is thankfully a thing of the past. Which fits in with other visible, measurable progress, from the halving of poverty rates among POC, all the way up to the advent of black CEOs in the Fortune 500.

    How many jobs and interviews and opportunities have I lost due to my name alone?

    You’re Indian? Congratulations! In the US, the wellspring of CRT, you would be a member of the most favoured demographic of all, as measured by income, employment rate, and educational level. So perhaps the answer would be none – but you apparently feel comfortable in using the hypothetical as evidence of victimization.

    And I repeat it doesn’t turn you into a racist, it just nets you benefits that you take for granted. // The issue we have is not that racism is overt but people don’t even realise they are being racist. // The problem is YOU aren’t helping us. You have basically told me that the things me and my people face isn’t racism.

    I’ve gathered these three sentences together because they illustrate nicely the invidious “othering” at the heart of CRT and white-privilege theory. Certainly privilege exists, as it does in all classed societies – but, like the separate issue of racism, it is complex, situational, geographically diverse, and not tied to one ethnic group. I note you skipped over without comment my alternate model for the “city on the hill”, but it is a far more accurate reflection of the state of Western society than the monolithic model you tinkered with.

  18. says

    Honestly, is it valid to equate the power of the CEO in the penthouse, the office boy fifty floors down, and the panhandler on the street outside, just because all three are white? That is clearly absurd.

    What those people never understand is that privilege works like a scientific experiment:
    You change one variable at the time.
    So, if everything else equal, of two office boys, one black, one white, who do you think has the “better” life (like not being harassed by the police)?
    If you were still you, except that you went from straight to gay, would you think that your life just got more or less complicated?

    Freddie Mercury was a Parsi. His studied in Mumbai as the Parsi’s last survivors are in India and they have lived in India for more than a thousand years. His real name was Farrokh Bulsara. He chose a stage name because no one came to see him perform. He pretended to be a white guy in order to be taken seriously.

    I knew I heard the name recently.
    And it got me thinking exactly that: How, as Freddie Mercury, he was white.
    But you can clearly see how Farrokh Bulsara isn’t.
    Just like I’m white except when I go shopping at the Turkish supermarket.
    How what makes me and my dad white isn’t so much our physical appearance but our names, our language, us being known to be white.

  19. says

    Just for some quick empirical evidence:
    Nonlanguage factors affecting undergraduates’ judgments of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants
    Rubin’s experiment was to play the exact same record to two groups of students. One group was shown an image of a white woman, the other one that of an Asian woman. In arts as well as in science, the lecture apprently given by the Asian woman was rated much lower in terms of intelligiblity and content that the one students thought were given by a white woman.
    It’s not like we’re making shit up, we have evidence.

  20. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Rebecca,

    You seem to think I misrepresented or exaggerated the claims of Critical Race Theory. If you check them out, you will find I did not. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the literature? The redefinition of “racism” is fundamental; the denial that POC can be racist, the automatic stuffing of all whites into some category of racist, the suspicion regarding those who succeed within the system – all those are textbook-axiomatic. The subtext is a great white conspiracy to oppress minorities in defense of a white patriarchal power structure.

    1. The definition of racism that CRT scholars use is “prejudice + the power to enact.” (This is simplistic, but we will leave it at that.) You are correct that this is a fundamental part of CRT and that is is different than the dictionary and colloquial use of the word “racist.” But the inclusion of power is important. It changes the focus from one-on-one examples of prejudice to larger patterns of exclusion and racism. It might be edifying to deplore a particular act of violence against a POC, but to point out that in my state, a POC is 18 TIMES MORE LIKELY to get pulled over by a police officer than a white person is important as well, because it points to a structural problem that needs to be solved.

    This is not to say that prejudice doesn’t exist, or that its not important, or that it can’t effect people’s lives. But my white sister not be accepted by her husband’s family because she in not Mexican is not the same as her Mexican husband getting pulled over nearly ever time he goes out because of his color. Not the least because one has vastly different consequences than the other.

    2. “The denial that POC can be racist…” They can’t be. Avi explained why–because, while they have the power to be prejudiced towards a white person (or another POC), they lack the power ON THE WHOLE to put their prejudice into action in any concrete or structural way. I don’t think you misunderstand this point (and it doesn’t seem that Avi says that you do)–you’re just wrong.

    3. “the automatic stuffing of all whites into some category of racist” —No no no. What CRT says is that ALL OF US are complicit in a system that is racism–white and POC together. We ourselves might not feel prejudice towards anyone. But by failing to dismantle the system, we participate in a system that *is* racist. That doesn’t make me, a white person, racist towards anyone. But it makes me a collaborator in a racist system. It puts a moral onus on me to dismantle that system. Again, this is what makes CRT so powerful–because it does implicate those of us who are well-meaning to do more than just mean well. We also have to do something about it.

    4. “The subtext is a great white conspiracy to oppress minorities in defense of a white patriarchal power structure”–Again, no. In fact, much of CRT literature is devoted to an attempt to make people understand that there *is no conspiracy.* That there is no shadow cabal of racists running the show. That the system is powers itself, moves itself along and WE ALL PARTICIPATE IN IT. We do this, for the most part, unwittingly. Most people do not have conscious prejudices against POC. Instead, they have unconscious attitudes that affect the daily lives of POC (for instance, TV cop dramas regularly portray “violent killer” as a person of color. Many people internalize that to the extent that, when they see a person of color, one of *many thoughts* in their head might be, “Violent killer.”)

    You know, I think this is where your greatest misunderstanding of CRT lies. I suggest reading Racism Without Racist by Eduardo Bonito-Silva for more on this.

    You honestly believe that a white panhandler or office boy has a higher chance of making CEO than any Indian, Black or GLBT person?

    No, just a similarly situated one.

    the under-representation of POC in the media, advertising, and entertainment is thankfully a thing of the past.

    Reeeeeaaaaly?

    “Statistics on ethnic inclusion in local television programming overall are disturbing. Despite the need of stations to broaden the scope of their coverage, ethnic minorities in 2001 held fewer than 25% of jobs in television…People of color, the vast majority of humankind … are 18.3 percent of the major network prime time cast.”

    Source

    “The Writers Guild of America West 2013 TV Staffing Brief, the organization’s analysis of who was hired to write American television shows during the 2011-2012 season, is out, and as usual, the results for women and people of color are not encouraging. Of 1722 writers who wrote for 190 shows […] 269 of them were people of color.”

    Source

    Most media is owned by white men. Source

    How many black directors has won an Oscar? (none) How many black women have for Best Actress? (1–halle Berry) How many black men? (4, since 1958) How many Hispanic-Americans have? (4 total, since 1954, all categories)

    “Movie producers are often reluctant to cast more than a few minority actors in otherwise race-neutral movies for fear that the White audience will largely avoid such films. Two experiments were conducted to test the idea that the racial makeup of a cast could influence White audiences’ selective exposure to movies.” They found that, on the whole, white audiences do not want to watch movies with black casts, especially romantic movies. Source

    Commercials show black people more than any other minority (Hispanic, Asian) and even then–when was the last time you saw a black man not married to a black woman in a commercial? (Privilege check: I didn’t even notice this until I started watching BBC and noticed that interracial couples were shown all the time in commercials there. It now seems really weird to me that its almost always black man/black woman, white man/white woman [to say nothing of the cis and straight privilege]).

    BTW–it took me 10 minutes to find those examples on Google. There are whole books written about this stuff. It’s hilariously stupid of you to say that the race gap in entertainment is a “thing of the past” when its so obviously untrue.

    So perhaps the answer would be none – but you apparently feel comfortable in using the hypothetical as evidence of victimization.

    Wow. It is particularly revolting to have a white person tell a POC that their experiences of racism aren’t real. Oh, and BTW dumbass–white sounding names are 50% more likely to get a call-back on job applications than non-white sounding names. Source This study has been replicated numerous times.

    Which fits in with other visible, measurable progress, from the halving of poverty rates among POC, all the way up to the advent of black CEOs in the Fortune 500.

    Do you really think that having only 6 black CEOs in the Fortune 500 (and only 13 EVER) suggest equality? Do you think that 35% of black people, as opposed to 13% of white, are impoverished means that structural racism just don’t exist? I’m really flumoxed to how you would even explain this information (much less how you would use it as an example to try to prove that racism is “out of date” or some thing that’s not still happening. Wow.

  21. says

    Being skeptical of “white privilege” is not even in the same ball park as denying that racism lives on

    Uh, yes, actually, those are the exact same thing. ‘White privilege’ refers to not having to deal with racist bullshit. The only way for it not to exist is for there not to be racist structures that hurt non-white people.

    You’re Indian? Congratulations! In the US, the wellspring of CRT, you would be a member of the most favoured demographic of all, as measured by income, employment rate, and educational level. So perhaps the answer would be none – but you apparently feel comfortable in using the hypothetical as evidence of victimization.

    You do realize ‘Asia’ is a big place and that ‘Asian’ means things besides ‘Indian’, right? Jesus christ.

    The second reason? You’re way out of date. Non-Anglo-Saxon names are no longer a bar to success in the entertainment world.

    Only if you define ‘success’ as ‘manage to play second banana’.

    Which fits in with other visible, measurable progress, from the halving of poverty rates among POC, all the way up to the advent of black CEOs in the Fortune 500.

    Ah, another twit acting like progress means that we’re done, in effect (No, I don’t care if you say ‘I know racism is over’ if you’re going to act like it is over).

    Really? You’ve just encapsulated the lunacy of white-privilege theory. You honestly believe that a white panhandler or office boy has a higher chance of making CEO than any Indian, Black or GLBT person?

    Intersectionality, lackwit. Learn it. And for the discussion of white privilege, it simply doesn’t matter whether the white panhandler has a better chance (also, you clearly did not understand the example at hand, but no matter). There are white office people, who DO have a better chance at advancement and recognition than their non-white counterparts, on average, even when their performance is equal or inferior.

  22. says

    Uh, no, POC can be racist. Just not against white people. But white people do so love to crow about it whenever black and hispanic people feud, for instance. Propping up structures that hurt other minorities is pretty easy, since it’s ultimately supported by the majority.

  23. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    @ Rutee–Also, intraracial squabbling actively helps keep the racist system in place. It’s a great distraction (much like the Republicans trying to convince the middle class that the poor are to blame for our economic troubles, rather than the ultra-rich.)

  24. says

    the under-representation of POC in the media, advertising, and entertainment is thankfully a thing of the past.

    statements like this are prime evidence of the existence of privilege: they’re not true, but they look true if you don’t really actually have to deal with them in any way other than a casual glance.

  25. says

    Per leggere Bio di Trina e più dei suoi articoli, si prega di cliccare sopra la sua foto. Gli appassionati di scarpe, si prega di sottoscrivere gli articoli scarpe nazionali di Trina. Per ricevere gli articoli di scarpe locali nella zona di Dallas da questo autore, iscriviti qui.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Those who are thus rebuked have developed a fun new pattern of congregating to lick their collective wounds and lash out at those who have applies such ugly and hurtful labels to them. To them! Of all people! To be called such a hurtful thing! It’s beyond the pale! […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>