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Nov 11 2011

And now for something completely different

Or is it? I’ve just been introduced to the work of Tim Wise, and it’s fabulous stuff: all about how we view race through the distorting lenses of denial and privilege and class. He’s a terrific speaker, I guarantee you that it’s worth your time to take an hour and listen to this lecture.

Oh, yeah, a white guy lecturing on race…shouldn’t we be listening to a person of color on these issues? Of course we should, but if you just listen to the first five minutes you’ll get his confession: there’s an esthetic to who people will listen to, and the neatly groomed white man is right at the top of the list. Deeper in, one interesting point he makes is that the use of the word “underprivileged” is endemic, but “overprivileged” isn’t even in the dictionary (hey, he’s right, too: as I wrote that, my convenient electronic spellcheck highlighted the word with a red underscore. I must have made a mistake…that concept doesn’t exist).

People are selfish bastards. If you have privilege — and I do to a high degree — it’s always a tendency to cling to it and hold it tightly to ourselves and rationalize our entitlements, which perpetuates the divisions. The “underprivileged” aren’t the source of the problem, it’s the overprivileged who work constantly to maintain our position. We are the problem. To think that we can tell the oppressed that it’s their responsibility to fix their problem is doubly wrong: it’s our responsibility to fix our problem.

(Also on Sb)

117 comments

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  1. 1
    Ace of Sevens

    I love Tim Wise I once saw a racist blogger freak out when he realized he was arguing with Tim Wise in his comments section and accused him of being a race traitor, as if that meant anything to anyone but ethnic nationalists.

  2. 2
    Nangleator

    Love his lectures. Very educational stuff. My first time through some of his stuff, I felt like a fish that had just discovered that water existed.

  3. 3
    SallyStrange

    Oh boy. Yeah, Tim Wise is pretty great. I can’t wait to see the white supremacists crawling out of the woodwork to lecture you on how this isn’t really science, and we ought to be more skeptical of the factual framework of anti-racism and privilege.

    Today I’m visiting my parents and in the local paper they have a screed by the white supremacist Pat Buchanan about how “diversity is diluting what makes America great.” Apparently what makes America great is whiteness, and letting the browns and the blacks be included in the grand democratic experiment is ruining the whole thing. I’ll be sure to tell StrangeBoyfriend that he’s diluting America’s greatness. I’m just so angry that my hometown paper is giving this racist bigot a platform to spew his hate. I feel a letter to the editor coming on…

  4. 4
    John

    I stumbled on to Tim Wise’ site about a year ago when I started exploring race and feminism blogs. Your synopsis:

    “The “underprivileged” aren’t the source of the problem, it’s the overprivileged who work constantly to maintain our position.”

    is dead on. Us white guys have a lot of privilege to overcome, and becoming aware of that privilege is the first step. It’s much like overcoming the whole god thing. Removing the veil is a first step, but then you must adopt a new world view.

    Check out Raving Black Lunatic’s site (http://ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com) as well as Racialicious (http://www.racialicious.com). They’ll help keep the veil lifted on the racism front.

  5. 5
    Rebecca Raven

    I love Tim because he just lays it out so clearly without preaching….

  6. 6
    richardelguru

    Not to detract from the lecture or your comments, but “overprivileged” is in the dictionary: the OED.
     

    overprivileged, adj. (and n.)

    Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌəʊvəˈprɪv(ᵻ)lɪdʒd/ , /ˌəʊvəˈprɪvlˌɪdʒd/ , U.S. /ˌoʊvərˈprɪv(ə)lɪdʒd/
    Etymology: < over- prefix + privileged adj.

    Possessing or enjoying too many privileges. Also as n. (with the and pl. concord): people who are too privileged as a class.
    1912 S. Mathews Gospel & Mod. Man iii. 255 To get justice for others by compelling the over-privileged to give it to them may be the very quintessence of love.
    1930 L. M. Gilbreth in C. A. Beard Toward Civilization xii. 247 An increasing percentage of women as well as men, privileged and overprivileged, as well as underprivileged, want economic independence.
    1973 Nature 16 Mar. 210/2 The weak and the poor are under-privileged because we are over-privileged.
    2000 M. Barrowcliffe Girlfriend 44 vi. 180 The worst that can happen to you on a camp site is that you camp next to some bunch of underprivileged teenagers with a ghettoblaster or, worse, overprivileged teenagers with a guitar.

  7. 7
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    You know, I am loathe to say it but I’m going to anyway: Just as (some) feminists have been saying that men need to get involved in fighting sexism, white people need to get involved in fighting racism.

    And sometimes, using a bigot’s prejudices is the only way to get through to him.

    Its a simple fact that people listen to white men first. Their privilege means an unearned trustworthiess, authority and presumed expertise on whatever subject they’re talking about (and some believe this to be true of themselves, hence mansplaining).

    So, if its a “well groome white man” speaking that will get other privileged people to listen about white privilege and race issues, then use it. Just as, imo, it should be men talking to other men about male privilege, it should be a white dude talking to other white people about white privilege.

    Bigots and the cluelessly privileged only hear one of their own, at first. Break through that first layer of privilege – the thickest of the layers, I think – and perhaps they’ll be capable of listening to everyone.

  8. 8
    FeministWhore

    I also left this comment over on the scienceblogs version of this post, if it looks familiar :D

    Ian Haney Lopez of Berkeley Law teaches about race and constitutional law and has many publications available for download on the history of the social construction of race. It’s actually way more interesting than you might expect.

    http://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/faculty/facultyPubsList.php?facID=30

  9. 9
    God

    butbutbut but, I just want as much privilege as I can get, just like everyone else.

  10. 10
    Shane

    Damn, that’s good stuff. I am basically incapable of watching more than 3 minutes of video under any normal circumstances, and I watched this whole thing, and am about to go looking for more.

  11. 11
    Mr. Fire

    Hopefully the following is relevant:

    Privilege, Power, And Difference by Allan G. Johnson. Chapter: “Getting On The Hook”.

    Each and every one of us who is privileged needs to ‘get on the hook’, as regards our particular set of privileged circumstances.

  12. 12
    Mr. Fire

    By my #11 I did not mean to imply some kind of level playing field.

    The hook is most certainly bigger for some of us (e.g., me) than it is for others.

  13. 13
    robertberger

    Tim Wise is a racist huckster. He represents political correctness at its worst, and I say this as a confirmed liberal !
    Of course racism exists in America, just as it exists everywhere in the world. But Wise stereotypes, scapegoats and demonizes ALL white people for the despicable racism of SOME of them.
    The fact that there is so much poverty among blacks in America and that SOME white people mistreat them and discriminate against them is deplorable. But to call this “White Privilege” is absolutely racist .
    The U.S. government has failed to do enough to help them, and this is deplorable. But this does not mean that all or even most whites in America like this or want things to be this way.

  14. 14
    john@skeptivus

    @robertberger

    Well said.

  15. 15
    lobotomy

    I must agree with illuminata:

    “You know, I am loathe to say it but I’m going to anyway: Just as (some) feminists have been saying that men need to get involved in fighting sexism, white people need to get involved in fighting racism.”

    This is the classic “prodigal son” or “only Nixon could go to China” situation. Only someone who has the privilage can speak to those with the privilage who do not yet get it. No one else has any credibility with the privilaged than the privilaged.

    Then, frustratingly, they often get the credit for all the work that the less privilaged have been doing for eons…

    Such is life…

  16. 16
    Ing

    This is the classic “prodigal son” or “only Nixon could go to China” situation. Only someone who has the privilage can speak to those with the privilage who do not yet get it. No one else has any credibility with the privilaged than the privilaged.

    On the other hand, did anyone listen to Warren Buffet when he said “No really…we are horribly under taxed”

  17. 17
    Rey Fox

    WHY DO U HATE WITE PPL

  18. 18
    Don Quijote

    @13 & 14

    Tag team?

  19. 19
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    congrats robertberger and john@skeptivus for being today’s Embarassingly Stupid Dumbass Crackers.

    Go back to Stormfront.

  20. 20
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Then, frustratingly, they often get the credit for all the work that the less privilaged have been doing for eons

    It was the whole of that post I was loathe to post, but the quote bit above is really the meat of the worry.

    Yes, dipshit white people like robertberger and his sockpuppet might be more willing to listen to the Well-Groomed White Man (you know, if they had even the slightest fucking clue what white privilege means), but, in the end, its Well-Groomed White Man who will get the credit.

    Which is why having a Well-Groomed White Man spokesperson is so not desired by minority social justice movements.

  21. 21
    John

    @13 This is a difference between Micro and Macro. You are saying that there is no Micro-Racism problem that comes in the form of white privilege and the entire problem of racism (and sexism for that matter) should be solved at the Macro level. The problem is that there is no silver bullet, or any number of silver bullets that will fix the problems of racism at a Macro level as long as the micro-racism problem exists, once facet of which is white privilege.

  22. 22
    Robert B.

    @ robertberger, john@scepticus:

    Strawman. That’s not what privilege means at all.

    Privilege refers to the way society is set up so that white people (or men, or straight people, or Christians, etc. etc.) are given certain advantages, whether or not they do anything biased themselves. If I look more trustworthy to a hiring manager than a black man, I might get a job instead of him. Ihave done zero racist things here, in fact I would hate and despise what just happened if I knew about it, but I still have privilege. Heck, the nature of bias is such that even the hiring manager might not have thought anything explicitly racist. He might just be subconsciously correlating me with a slew of media images of fine upstanding tall white guys with good vocabularies.

    A key fact about privilege is that to describe privilege, in and of itself, is not to assign blame. To have privilege does not mean you have done anything wrong. There are things that you can do wrong if you have privilege, and there are ways that it does unfortunate things to your perspective, but that’s not the same thing. Privilege is not the same thing as prejudice.

    Read this essay, which explains it all better than I could. Or, for that matter, actually read Tim Wise instead of reacting to what you assume he means. You may be speaking as a liberal, but you’re speaking as a complacent armchair liberal who thinks his good intentions mean he doesn’t have to actually fix anything.

  23. 23
    Mr. Fire

    @robertberger

    Well said.

    Mr. Right Hand: “I agree with you, Mr. Left Hand!”

    Mr. Left Hand: “I agree with you, Mr. Right Hand!”

    Both (in stereo): “Let’s shake hands! HAHAHA!”

  24. 24
    John

    Illuminata, If the problem to be solved is racism then who cares who gets the credit. If it takes a white man to remove the blinders of other whites, to lift the prejudice that privilege has bestowed to them, then.. in the end, who cares what the color of his skin is. The problem isn’t a black problem, and it isn’t a white problem, and it’s not a Hispanic problem, it’s an everyone problem.

  25. 25
    myeck waters

    …and it took all of 13 posts before the first racist and his sockpuppet showed up.

    Good going guys.

  26. 26
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Mr. Fire, 11: I just bought that book. It’s in line after The Moral Landscape which is not turning out to be the turd I suspected it would be.

    [meta]Pharyngula has pretty much ruined my meaningful participation in my book club. I have too many good books to read to bother with the ones that my book club chooses.[/meta]

  27. 27
    SallyStrange

    Yep, and as usual, it’s the “ZOMG political correctness is out of control, I didn’t do anything wrong I’m not racist so how DARE you accuse me of having privilege WAAAAHHHHH I’m not responsible!” crowd.

    Same shit, different day.

  28. 28
    One Eyed Jack

    Agree or disagree, it’s amazingly small-minded to immediately label Robertberger as “racist” or a “dumbass cracker” just because he has a different opinion.

    Throwing about insults is for kindergarten and politics. Maybe we could aspire to higher standards and have an actual discussion.

  29. 29
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    If the problem to be solved is racism then who cares who gets the credit.

    The not-white and/or not-male people who have been working for centuries to accomplish these goals.

    YOU might not care if its Well-Groomed White Man that gets the credit, those of us who aren’t Well-Groomed White Man DO.

    While I agree that its “an everyone problem”, that problem isn’t fixed if only Well-Groomed White Man is given credit, if he’s the only one people will listen to, and if we don’t care about that.

  30. 30
    john@skeptivus

    @One Eyed Jack

    Also well said.

  31. 31
    myeck waters

    jonh@skeptivus: When you enthusiastically agree with every post that supports you, oddly enough it makes all of your “supporters” look like sockpuppets. If you want your ideas to be taken serious AT ALL, you need to stand on your own two feet and make solid arguments.

  32. 32
    Mr. Fire

    I just bought that book.

    Then you’ll have soon read more than I: I have only ever read that chapter! :)

  33. 33
    john@skeptivus

    @myeck waters

    Well said

  34. 34
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Agree or disagree, it’s amazingly small-minded to immediately label Robertberger as “racist” or a “dumbass cracker” just because he has a different opinion.

    Throwing about insults is for kindergarten and politics. Maybe we could aspire to higher standards and have an actual discussion.

    I see. So, posting an intensely stupid, ignorant and uneducated post on a thread about racism is a “different opinion”, and is totally apsiring to a higher standard and having an actualy discussion.

    But being sick to death of stupid turds who talk without knowing what the fuck they’re talking about, telling them to FOAD, AND THEN CONTINUING ON WITH THE ACTUAL CONVERSATION, is wrong.

    Congrats on making yourself look stupid.

  35. 35
    John

    While I agree that its “an everyone problem”, that problem isn’t fixed if only Well-Groomed White Man is given credit, if he’s the only one people will listen to, and if we don’t care about that.

    I like the way you said that, and it makes me want to rephrase and/or rethink my first response. I would agree that if all of the problem of racism goes away, and the person to get the credit for it is a white guy, and he is given this credit even though, for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the people that have been suffering tremendously to get that message out have been non-white guys, then there is a problem. That problem is different then racism in that it’s a ‘credit’ problem, but it is racism in the sense that the folks giving the white guy the credit are still being racist by ignoring the amazing works of the non-white guy that rival anything the white guy may have ever done.

    My rethinking is this. There are two main problems. First is the problem of racism which no one person will solve or be credited with solving. We already have many heroes on the racism front and they are both white guys and non-white guys. The second problem is one of the causes of racism, white privilege, and it does make sense that the best person to help raise the veil of white folks affected by white privilege is the Well-Groomed White Man.

    Perhaps, once the problem of white privilege is gone, racism will still be with us and a well-groomed white man will get the credit for leading the fight on the white privilege problem, when, in fact, for hundreds of years it’s been mostly non-well-groomed-white-men that have truly been leading that charge.

    In other words, the Credit problem may be dependent on the Racism problem, and therefore it will not be solved by the eradication of the Privilege problem. My hopes would be that the credit problem is so closely tied to the racism problem, that it isn’t even considered once racism goes away. Perhaps not though.

    At any rate, the Credit problem reminds me of the recent deserved backlash against the movie ‘The Help’. Racialicious had a great post about it and the whitewashing of history by Hollywood. Akiba Solomon wrote I just can’t bring myself to pay $12.50 after taxes and fees to sit in an aggressively air conditioned, possibly bed bug-infested New York City movie theater to watch these sisters lend gravitas to Stockett’s white heroine mythology. I’m sorry, but the trailer alone features way too many group hugs to be trusted. Just dead on.

  36. 36
    Epicurus

    Can we just throw one more log on the fire, and declare once and for all that the concept of white and black people being of a different “race” is complete and utter bullshit? We are both of the same species and genus; “race” is an artificial construction made by those ignorant of the scientific facts. As the late, great Jimmy Cannon once wrote, we all belong to one “race,” the human variety. Having said that, let’s now educate people that a fraction of extra melanin-producing cells in your skin does not make you any less (or more!) of a human being??

  37. 37
    Ing

    Skeptivus sounds familiar. I think we have a rerun.

  38. 38
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    but it is racism in the sense that the folks giving the white guy the credit are still being racist by ignoring the amazing works of the non-white guy that rival anything the white guy may have ever done.

    Bingo. There’s no “may” about it. There are activists who have suffered horribly trying to accomplish these goals – torture, rape, imprisonment, murder. If Well-Groomed White Man were given the credit for fighting racism, its just one more example of him standing on the backs of POC to get noticed. Even if he, himself, didn’t intend for that to happen.

    The second problem is one of the causes of racism, white privilege, and it does make sense that the best person to help raise the veil of white folks affected by white privilege is the Well-Groomed White Man.

    And this is what I was trying to say in my first post. Well-Groomed White Man *IS* the best person to introduce the concept of White Privilege to people so poisoned with it that they can’t see it. They’re only going to listen to someone who looks like them. Maybe later, if he can break through the thickest wall of bigotry – the first encounter – they’ll listen to someone else. I really don’t know if that’s reasonable to hope for or not, but its what was on my mind earlier.

    Its not really about credit (as no one will get the credit for defeating a form of bigotry on their own), so much as a run-of-the-mill racism problem. If the person who gets the spotlight for fighting racism is a white dude, the problem of racism isn’t being fought at all.

  39. 39
    ghoti

    While on the whole I agree with what he has to say, I’d caution him on use of statistics, and supporting his arguments with data which may or may not do such a thing.

    For instance, I could say (correctly) that white males are imprisoned more in this country than any other group.

    However, this above statement totally ignores the relative percentages of groups…in other words, a truer statement would be to say that minorities are over-represented in jail because the correct stat to use is percentage in jail vs. percentage in society…which actually illuminates a problem…
    _____

    The reason why I brought this up is that certain arguments used looked like they were not comparing like with like…for instance the terrorist arguments. If a population consisting of a very small minority contributes ANYTHING to the total, the net percentages will look worse relatively speaking to whatever a representative of a larger group does something.

    I’m not sure if there is a way to distinguish this type of sampling error with privilege, but it seems dishonest or lazy thinking to automatically assume something supports what you want it to.

  40. 40
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Can we just throw one more log on the fire, and declare once and for all that the concept of white and black people being of a different “race” is complete and utter bullshit?</blockquote.

    You're right, of course. "race" is as much of a bullshit construct as "gender" is.

    I wonder how that would figure into robertberger's "Its so hard out there for a clueless privileged white dude" schtick.

  41. 41
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I can haz editing function pls? kthxbai

  42. 42
    myeck waters

    I wonder how that would figure into robertberger’s “Its so hard out there for a clueless privileged white dude” schtick.

    I dunno, but when he does, I’m sure one of his sockpuppets will immediately agree with it.

  43. 43
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    just because he has a different opinion.

    Opinions don’t magically become valid, correct or non-stupid just by being different.

  44. 44
    Nick Gotts

    He represents political correctness at its worst, and I say this as a confirmed liberal ! – robertberger

    You’re a liar. No-one who uses the phrase “political correctness” as if it meant anything other than “I don’t want to be called on my racism/sexism/homophobia/etc.” is a liberal.

  45. 45
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Opinions don’t magically become valid, correct or non-stupid just by being different.

    Or as Dawkins put it: “when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.”

    in this case, the stupendously uninformed Mr. Berger & Sockpuppet Associates are simply wrong.

    That I lack the ability to tolerate bigotry-spewing morons is my own failing, I admit. My patience for people’s dunning-kruger vis a vis bigotry is worn to the nub. With the world wide web at your fingertips, you have absolutely no excuse for posting something so painfully dumb as #13.

    So, when someone does post something as painfully dumb as #13, or any of our misogynistic/homophobic/etc trolls, it says to me three things:

    1) They know they’re wrong and are trolling; or
    2) They are bigots and are trolling; or
    3) They are utterly clueless and have absolutely nothing to contribute to the “actual discussion”.

    While I am all for taking advantage of teachable moments, I’m also sick to fucking death of having every single “actual discussion” derailed by dipshits who lack even the most basic 101 knowledge of the topic.

  46. 46
    John

    Maybe later, if he can break through the thickest wall of bigotry – the first encounter – they’ll listen to someone else. I really don’t know if that’s reasonable to hope for or not, but its what was on my mind earlier.

    I believe, that if a white person is willing to lift the veil of privilege and see that they are a cog in the machinery of racism, if they are able and willing to take that rather large step, then they will be much more apt to listen to a non-well-groomed-white-man and, furthermore, will see that this it was not the well-groomed-white-man that has been fighting this fight, he was merely their catalyst.

  47. 47
    Ze Madmax

    Epicurus @ #36:

    Can we just throw one more log on the fire, and declare once and for all that the concept of white and black people being of a different “race” is complete and utter bullshit?

    While I agree that there is no biological basis for racial classification, I wouldn’t be as quick to chuck the concept of race out of the window. Race is very much a real thing, albeit a socially constructed thing rather than a biologically constructed one.

    Personally, I think highlighting the socially constructed nature of race may be more helpful at overcoming privilege than simply saying that race is a bullshit concept.

  48. 48
    John

    Speaking of willing to listen to a non-well-groomed-white-man about the Privilege problem, Big Man over at Raving Black Lunatic writes often about it. In one of his latest posts he does a beautiful job of defining bigotry and racism.

    That’s because for white people racism resides in the realm of feelings and preferences and they are often ignorant, willingly and unwillingly, of the power structures that augment and magnify the personal preferences endemic to all racial groups. In my definition of racism, stolen from a more erudite source, I see it as a system of advantage based on race. It’s not about feelings, it’s about results.

    Basically, bigotry starts with a feeling, racism involves developing a system to validate and propagate that feeling. Everybody is a bigot to some degree. People with power, directly or indirectly, or racists.

  49. 49
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I think highlighting the socially constructed nature of race may be more helpful at overcoming privilege than simply saying that race is a bullshit concept.

    . . . . isn’t that the same thing? Race is a socially constructed concept. It’s also bullshit.

    Elaborate?

  50. 50
    Robert B.

    They meant that to say race is bullshit sounds like you mean that race doesn’t exist, which does not accurately describe the experiences of people of color who live their whole lives on the wrong end of a racial (i.e., racist) system.

  51. 51
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    AAhhhhh, I see. In that case, co-sign.

  52. 52
    godlesslib_CB

    You’ve just been introduced to Tim Wise, PZ? wow, that’s shocking to me. Glad he’s entered your life, though :)

  53. 53
    tariqata

    I think highlighting the socially constructed nature of race may be more helpful at overcoming privilege than simply saying that race is a bullshit concept.

    This.

    They meant that to say race is bullshit sounds like you mean that race doesn’t exist, which does not accurately describe the experiences of people of color who live their whole lives on the wrong end of a racial (i.e., racist) system.

    And this.

    I’d also add that emphasizing that race is, biologically speaking, a bullshit concept, though true, invites the ugly argument that anyone who tries to call out and counter racist behaviour is, by definition, being racist or “playing the race card”.

  54. 54
    John

    The semantics! Races exist both biologically and anthropologically. It’s a different definition. It’s like arguing that the anthropological “race” is a bullshit term because a runner can’t win one.

    I think we are all very VERY familiar with the same misconception surrounding the word “Theory”… as in “It’s just a theory”. There are better things to argue about.

  55. 55
    robertberger

    You think racism is confined to America ? Of course not. Look at China today, where there is rampant “Chinese Privilege ” if you happen to be Chinese in its far west Xinjiang province ,which borders Afghanistan and the central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union.
    The indigenous people are the ethnically Turkish Muslim Uygurs, who tend to have Caucasian features and are an eastern branch of the Turks.
    They are being horribly oppressed by Beijing, and Turkish language and culture are being ruthlessly repressed.
    If you’re a Turk there your chances of getting a good job anywhere in Xinjiang, which the Uygurs call East Turkestan, are pretty much non-existent. Many Uygurs have been arrested,tortured and executed for trying to stand up for Turkic culture. Uygur kids are being forced to learn Chinese and forbidden to speak Uygur Turkish in class.
    Beijing has settled millions of Han Chinese in East Turkestan and the Uygurs are being treated horribly.
    Tim Wise tells blacks exactly what they want to hear, and is fostering stereotyping of whites in America. He is contributing to the poisonous notion of collective guilt. It’s one thing to condemn those whites who are actually guilty of racist statements or actions, and such whites certainly exist, but “institutionalized racism” does not exist in America any more. It certainly did in the past, when blacks could not vote, were subject to Jim Crow and racist whites could lynch them with impunity.
    Wise is a kind of left-wing Joe McCarthy, paranoid about racism the way McCarthy was about communism .I repeat – I’m anything but a right-wing Republican and I wouldn’t vote for a Republican Presidential candidate if some one offered me a billion dollars, but
    Left-wing scoundrels should be condemned as much as right-wing ones.

  56. 56
    Zerple

    I don’t think it’s possible to be overprivileged. More opportunities and privilege for everyone!

  57. 57
    zxcier

    An hour? tl/dw. Well maybe I’ll watch the intro…

    (1 hour later) damn. Things many of us feel and try to understand, but presented so well. What’s missing (and probably expounded upon by him elsewhere?) is what we can do. It seems a little different than how he states the problem at the end, that those in the audience (and in agreement here) are necessarily shirking our duty because we feel the cultural baggage of our ancestors is not our responsibility. It’s more that this is an enormous problem not solvable in a short time or a small scale.

    We know that over time increased awareness and generational attrition will improve the societal biases, as we have seen in the last century; here individual behavior certainly contributes to the slow crawl of progress. And certain large scale mandated programs, like Affirmative Action, can have the positive effect of bringing those to the table that were previously excluded, changing the landscape of normalcy in schools and the workplace. But even that is a gradual process for changing minds, and inevitably leads to its own problems. So while the Civil Rights Movement was able to make great strides against institutionalized racism in a fairly short time, I simply don’t know what tractable solutions we have for accelerating the repair of our cultural privilege.

  58. 58
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    robertberger,

    who said racism was confined to America? Are you an idiot?

    And it doesn’t put you in a very favourable light to point to other nations being engaged in racist practices, at though that would make racism in America somehow ok.

    Also if you’re going to raise issues far away, get at least the facts right:

    - Uyghur is not Turkish, it’s its own language. It’s part of the Turkic language family.
    - Look at a map some time and see where Turkey is. It’s true that there’s a number of languages and nations associated with them that all belong to the same language family, but you can’t just lump them all together, as you have done. Turkish foreign policy makers also had to learn that lesson after the fall of the Soviet Union.
    - East Turkestan was in its origin a Soviet term, as they laid claim to West Turkestan. The Uyghur independence movement seems to be split between East Turkestan and Uyghurstan. Traditionally, they used a term Qurighar, which was a calque of an older Chinese term, meaning “Western region”.

  59. 59
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    robertberger,

    Tu quoque is not an argument winner.

  60. 60
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    This is the first I’ve heard of Tim Wise. I’m impressed. I did not expect to find myself actually listening to the entire hour, but here I sat, riveted. He has a great engaging style that leaves you wanting to listen more. I’m definitely going to be sharing this.

  61. 61
    Anthony K

    Tu quoque is not an argument winner.

    It’s not even a starter. “Yeah, well, but what about those racist Chinese?” Seriously?

    Fuck right the fuck off, dipshit. Whoever in your life told you that you were a individual with something to contribute lied.

  62. 62
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    Mr. Fire, my bad, I should have said that was approximately the second half of the chapter. Precisely it’s the last three sections: “I’m one of the good ones”, “Sick and tired”, and “Getting off the hook by getting on”.

  63. 63
    Robert Berger

    Yes, I know, Uygur is considered a distinct language from Turkish, but the two languages are very similar. Danish and German are far more different from each other than Turkish and Uygur.
    Some say that there is only one Turkish language with dozens of dialects
    spread all the way from Eastern Europe to Siberia.
    I AM a liberal, and yet I’m disgusted by political correctness.
    And conservatives have their own P.C. too. I despise both.
    Calling America a “racist” country is like saying that the Pacific is a salty ocean. Of course it is. All the oceans are salty.
    Only individual people are racist,or groups of them. Racism is a universal phenomenon and is not confined to any one skin color.
    But it’s such a loaded word . There are some idiots who say that all white people are racist ? Really? Have they had the time to talk to every white person and determine that he or she is a racist ?
    What about bi-racial people ? Does that make them half racist ?

  64. 64
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    Robert Berger sounds like a racist.

  65. 65
    Ze Madmax

    It’s one thing to condemn those whites who are actually guilty of racist statements or actions, and such whites certainly exist, but “institutionalized racism” does not exist in America any more

    Of course not! I mean, if you don’t see institutionalized racism, it can’t be true! After all, the reason why minorities are overrepresented in prison populations is simply because of racist police officers!

    /snark

    I AM a liberal, and yet I’m disgusted by political correctness.

    And I am a social democrat, and yet I’m disgusted by peanut butter. Your point?

    Calling America a “racist” country is like saying that the Pacific is a salty ocean. Of course it is. All the oceans are salty.

    Thanks for the insight. Of course, I would personally like to point out that the level of salt in the Pacific was caused by physical forces, whereas the institutional racism in the U.S. was developed by social forces, and because of this, it can be changed by social forces. That is part of what Wise is talking about. There is a system in place that puts certain groups of people in a position of privilege, and in the long run, everybody else loses.

    Only individual people are racist,or groups of them.

    I think you are confusing racist agency (i.e., behaviors, attitudes or emotions that are biased toward or against certain groups based on their group membership) with racist structure (i.e., the institutional arrangements present in a society that have a differential impact on people depending on the individual’s group membership). You are talking about racist agency. Wise is talking (mostly) about racist structures.

    There are some idiots who say that all white people are racist?

    If an individual benefits from a racist system, then it is their responsibility to acknowledge that these benefits came at the expense of somebody else. To deny this, to deny that there are societal institutions that give preferential treatment (consciously or unconsciously) to white people is to support a racist system. What do you call someone who supports a racist system, if not a racist? (Yes, this “someone” is racist regardless of their race. Welcome to privilege)

  66. 66
    Qwerty

    As a veteran who is a white male, I just had a free meal at Applebee’s as part of their Veteran’s Day offer to veterans and current military.

    They never asked me for any proof that I was a veteran.

    One wonders if they would have asked me had I been an African-American or Hispanic or a female veteran.

    Yes, I am probably overpriviledged.

  67. 67
    truthmachine

    I AM a liberal

    That’s not mutually exclusive with being a privilege-blinded dimwit.

  68. 68
    Taran

    That’s not mutually exclusive with being a privilege-blinded dimwit.

    Indeed.

    Some of the worst idiots I knew were of the liberal/progressive types, thinking they knew how to run things for people of color than people of color did themselves.

  69. 69
    The Ys

    Just a comment on one thing, @ John’s comment:

    We already have many heroes on the racism front and they are both white guys and non-white guys.

    The heroes are all guys? Really?

    Rosa Parks, anyone? Harriet Tubman? Just to name a few?

    Sigh. :/

  70. 70
    Erulóra

    “What about bi-racial people ? Does that make them half racist ?”

    Are there suddenly just two races? Did the rest of us get wiped out?

  71. 71
    The Ys

    Are there suddenly just two races? Did the rest of us get wiped out?

    That too. I didn’t think my objection completely through, I’m sorry.

  72. 72
    John

    @The Y’s

    Oh geez. I was more focused on getting my hyphens right then I was on pulling my head from my ass. Thank you for pointing out my exclusion of half the world’s population.

  73. 73
    The Ys

    @ John:

    I did something similar with my comment. I was thinking of the U.S., slavery, and the civil rights movement of the 60s…and my mind went directly to Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. I have some work to do too.

  74. 74
    PRW

    With a number of the examples the lecturer raises, I’m left wondering how much race is a proxy for economic class.

  75. 75
    Crommunist

    If only there was a blog on this network entirely devoted to the discussion of race/racial issues… maybe from an atheist/scientific perspective. Gawrsh… wouldn’t THAT be something?

  76. 76
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    *ahem*

    that must be http://freethoughtblogs.com/blackskeptics since I see nothing else about race on the front page of http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist

  77. 77
    Ing

    who said racism was confined to America? Are you an idiot?

    Yes

  78. 78
    rorschach

    For too many people, privilege just seems to be one giant blind spot on their retina. Thanks for pointing out Wise, PZ, that was an interesting talk.

  79. 79
    Jadehawk

    but “institutionalized racism” does not exist in America any more.

    of course; that’s why (for one example) forms of the same drug more common in black communities net you several times as much jail-time as the form found more commonly in white communities.

    You are either a liar or a clueless idiot.

  80. 80
    The very model of a modern armchair general

    It’s a very important topic, but I don’t think I can sit through a full hour of this guy. His overdone, repetitious style of rhetoric irritates me too much. Maybe I’d prefer him in print.

  81. 81
    handcrank

    We are the problem indeed. And it’s our responsibility to work explicitly to fix the problem. One tool, which is admittedly controversial, is targets. I recently wrote about this:

    Equality targets as a leadership tool http://wp.me/p1xS1Q-hZ

  82. 82
    Rich Woods

    @illuminata #7:

    It does at first sound counter-intuitive, but I agree with you that straight white middle-class (etc) men of principle do need to get off their arses and stand up in support of those to whom society doesn’t give the same regard. I’m always reminded of this:

    http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/images/bill_bailey_l.jpg

    (Sorry, I’m not even going to attempt to remember what code this particular board needs to turn that into a hyperlink. It’s been a long day.)

  83. 83
    Rich Woods

    Ah, the link was created automatically. Cool.

  84. 84
    kijibaji

    There are many important points made in this talk, thanks for posting. Given the seriousness of the issues, I feel reluctant to gripe about technicalities of his argument, but seeing as he did bang on about it for a bit, I will too. The word “underprivileged” is not passive voice. Passive voice is a syntactic construction involving the verb “to be” and the past participle form of the lexical verb, with an optional “by phrase” denoting the agent of the action. For example, “The vase was broken (by the boy)”. It seems that the point Tim Wise wants to make is that agency is obscured by terms like “underprivileged”. But this is not the criteria that one uses to identify passive voice, and so his argument that white privilege is built into the very grammatical structure of the language used in these situations is simply wrong.* He is actually the one who needs to consult his 3rd grade teacher. And if his teacher was the one to provide this incorrect grammatical instruction, then they both need to consult The Cambridge Grammar of English. Apart from this, it was a great talk.

    (Self-righteous linguist exits stage-left.)

    * This is not to say that the words people use aren’t indicative of privilege, bias, racism, etc. But words do not equal grammar.

  85. 85
    elmo14

    I was in total agreement with him until he became an apologist for islamic fascism. He may know a lot about the systemic racism in America and he was correct to point out the the idiocy of assuming all muslims are terrorists or support terrorism. But to imply that 9/11 was somehow the fault of America is to show complete ignorance of the motivations and goals of al qaeda.

  86. 86
    elisabetht.

    I can see areas both where White Privilege theory is insightful as an analytical tool and others where it is deeply flawed. In particular the pervasive tendency to racialise what are really broad economic matters seems particularly problematic.

    The social sciences seem to produce theories that overreach and seem oddly intent to explain disparate matters under one construct. On top of that WP theory and Critical Racial Theory in general seem to offer little in terms of solutions for a democratic context.

    In terms of debate, White Privilege theory is largely a vehicle for self-righteous posturing with no intent of inviting critical discussion. When addressed to whites it is often seeking to illicit feelings of shame and thus win an argument by appeals to emotion. I expect more of a genuine policy debate, but again the theory is long on criticism, short on solutions.

    This later tendency is not surprising to me as anti-racists in my experience are often bullies, who exhibit traits similar to the white racists they supposedly juxtapose. You can see some this tendency in letters here that instantly deride people as the worst kind of white (and note how they assume) racist for holding a contrary opinion. illuminata, No. 19, is such an example when she attacks someone as being from “Stormfront”. That is not helpful behaviour in encouraging critical debate.

    *I am am a woman of Belgian and Japanese parentage, before anyone explodes in sexist or racist assumptions when responding to me.

  87. 87
    SallyStrange

    Your Belgian and Japanese ancestry do not alter the fact that you are totally mischaracterizing the idea of privilege.

    I don’t experience guilt when I think about white privilege. Today I was going over some old family photos and heirlooms and I thought to myself, African Americans don’t have access to family histories that go this far back (to the 1500s and beyond). This is a form of white privilege. I tweeted it, and immediately one of my followers tweeted back that she was experiencing “black jealousy”–she doesn’t have pics even of her grandparents. I said, yup, this is white privilege here, and she said, true, but it’s still pretty cool. And that was the end of it.

    I have also heard Dalit (Harijan/Untouchable) activists in India employing privilege theory to explain how the obstacles put in their path to liberation and equality have changed over the years. It seems extremely predictive. And it’s also helpful in AVOIDING hanging guilt over the necks of those who possess privilege.

    So basically, elisabetht, your image of privilege is 180 degrees from my image of privilege. One of us has to be wrong, and I don’t think it’s me. Obviously, or I wouldn’t say it. So, you know, can you explain how you came to your understanding of privilege? That would be interesting and helpful.

  88. 88
    Ze Madmax

    elmo14 @ #85:

    But to imply that 9/11 was somehow the fault of America is to show complete ignorance of the motivations and goals of al qaeda.

    And he does that where? He merely points out that white privilege causes people to be completely stumped when an event occurs that runs counter to the social reality constructed based on white privilege. Specifically, white privilege presents a reality where a) the United States can do no wrong and b) the United States’ military might is sufficient to keep it safe.

    Regarding point a), one can argue that the actions of al Qaeda are a reaction to Western imperialist policies in the Middle-East (specifically, American monetary and tactical support for oppressive regimes such as Iraq and Egypt, to counter other oppressive regimes set up or supported by the Soviet Union). Wise alludes to this when he explains that only white people (i.e., those with white privilege) ask the question “Why do they hate us?”.

    Regarding point b), clearly all the military might in the world won’t keep a country safe from sufficiently determined individuals, with financing and technical know-how, particularly if the country is blinded by hubris.

  89. 89
    SallyStrange

    islamic fascism

    I don’t trust anyone who puts those words together in a non-ironic fashion.

    Fascism has to do with corporate control of government. Political Islamic fundamentalism bears little resemblance to genuine fascist movements and governments. Islamic totalitarianism would be more accurate. Anyone who strings those words together, thinking it means something useful and concrete, has likely been listening to jingoistic propaganda.

    But to imply that 9/11 was somehow the fault of America is to show complete ignorance of the motivations and goals of al qaeda.

    And there’s the jingoistic propaganda.

  90. 90
    Amphiox

    But to imply that 9/11 was somehow the fault of America is to show complete ignorance of the motivations and goals of al qaeda.

    He did no such thing.

    What he did point out was that many white americans had the privilege of not having to routinely worry about what other people thought of them or their actions, and this contributed to them not anticipating Al Qaeda’s attitude towards America. This same privilege also contributed to many of them misreading how the average Iraqi would most likely respond to an invasion. And this in turn led them to support governments and policies that ran counter to their own self-interest.

    It was an example of how privilege also harms the privileged.

  91. 91
    Douglas

    I only made it through about 7 minutes of the lecture, though I do plan to finish watching it. I got really hanged up on the health aspect. I think this is more appropriately viewed in terms of socio-economic status as opposed to just an issue of race. Forgive me please my ignorance if he later goes into a more nuanced argument. And, I’m in no way denying systemic racism nor my privilege simply for being white in so many an area of my life. However, as a white person who’s very poor, I still live in a neighborhood that’s just walking distance from the ship channel. I still have a great view of all the refineries from my front yard. I’m exposed to just as much carcenogenic air and my health insurance is just as non-existant as the next person’s. I believe that race is often a divisive device deployed amongst the poor and ignorant that keeps them often from working together. Again, I’m not referring to the prison system, the enforcement of drug laws, the passing over of a CV simply based on someone’s name, the list goes on and on. And, I’m aware at least that the systemic racism as expressed in these symptoms greatly affects the socio-economic status of many black people (eg, the unemployment rate). All that said simply to say in terms of access to healthcare and communities that aren’t rediculously toxic, poor white peeps are in the same boat as poor black folks. Sorry so verbose, but people do seem a bit prickly on here at times, and I’m trying to express an opinion without garnering any, what I would feel to be, undue ire.

  92. 92
    elisabetht.

    Sally, I suppose I ultimately reject the notion that racism is manifest by mere inequality instead of active prejudice. Inequality has roots in many issues, which may or may not relate to race. I am a socialist and think many of these issues have to do with economic policy in particular. Obviously CRT and I part ways there.

    You mention the Dalit. The caste system, however illegal in theory, is brazenly and actively discriminatory. Discussing privilege as an actively maintained phenomenon in that context makes sense.

    ***

    Taking your example of the family heritage vis-à-vis guilt, you were for some reason inclined to racialise a casual activity that, barring details you have not mentioned, had nothing to do with race. And then on top of that you announced your thoughts to your social circle. You might frame that as ‘racial-consciousness’ but that sounds like an exemplar of ‘white guilt’ to me, complete with public demonstration?

    On that note I also find it interesting that your mind focused immediately on an African-American rather than say a Japanese-American who might have lost everything (i.e. including family photographs) when rushed to an internment camp. Critical Racial theory has another flaw in that it is very much defined by the unique experience of people from West Africa in the United States and their relationship with European-Americans specifically. Racist attitudes towards black Africans are wide spread among Asian peoples, for example, so a concept like “white privilege” looks myopic.

    Elisabeth

  93. 93
    elisabetht.

    Sally, just to clarify I am not intending to mock the concept of being conscientious in everyday activities, but merely to question the specific seemingly forced focus on race.

    For example, I often think of the poor access to clean drinking water for billions. Does the fact the person with no clean water is probably much darker in skin tone than me really the operative factor in my consciousness? No. Is it “white privilege” if the chemistry and technology behind water treatment comes exclusively from European/white efforts until very recent times?

    And speaking of privilege, what about the privilege of race over sex, gender and sexuality in terms of consciousness about discrimination? One reason I hold anti-racists in such poor esteem is that I find them shockingly hostile to efforts to address homophobia and sexual inequality among non-white immigrant groups in Europe, chiefly Muslims.

    Just some final thoughts as I need to work, not internet.

  94. 94
    Douglas

    Whew. In regards to my previous post, I’ve finally watched the “talk” in it’s entirety. Tim Wise is definitely not my favorite speaker in the world, but overall I think it was great. I think it would have been better if he were less broad, relied less on rhetoric, and was less glib while making giant, sweeping generalizations, but the message was spot on and he highlighted some fascinating and vitally important issues.

  95. 95
    Caru

    Anecdotally, I’m a lady who has always been something of a feminist, since I was like 5. But there was something about feminism which nagged at me, made me feel slightly guilty, and like I was being oversensitive. It took this article, by a man, to make me feel fully comfortable about my views: http://thecurrentconscience.com/blog/2011/09/12/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-%E2%80%9Ccrazy%E2%80%9D/

    I don’t even like the Current Conscience all that much, but the acknowledgement of someone with privilege empowered me to take the works of female feminist writers without a grain of salt. It was also a wake-up call to my own subconcious prejudices.

    Anyway, back to racism. I think every anti-racist needs to read about Steve Biko, a South African anti-Apartheid activist – who was particularly critical of white liberals in that, rather than helping black people in their fight, tried to fight for them. “The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves.”

    Even though he made these criticisms, he was still close friends with Donald Woods, a white liberal reporter. Basically, Woods got the idea out to other white liberals that it is not up to them to decide what is and is not racist, and what black people do and do not deserve. I believe a white ally’s role in the debate is to tell other white people to sit down, shut up, and listen.

    Also, the Black Conciousness Movement is freaking awesome, and cannot be explained in a comment.

  96. 96
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    Yes, I am definitely in moderation hell. Help, PZ!

  97. 97
    Jadehawk

    Sally, I suppose I ultimately reject the notion that racism is manifest by mere inequality instead of active prejudice.

    why are you against acknowledging the realities of implicit attitudes and structural/institutional discrimination?

    Racist attitudes towards black Africans are wide spread among Asian peoples, for example, so a concept like “white privilege” looks myopic.

    how does the fact that even non-whites have prejudices against other non-whites more than against whites make “white privilege” myopic? it seems to fit the situation like a glove.

  98. 98
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    Douglas, the health study he cites is:

    “The Health Impact of Resolving Racial Disparities: An Analysis of US Mortality Data”, Steven H. Woolf et al, American Journal of Public Health, December 2004, Vol 94, No. 12

    Abstract: “The US health system spends far more on the “technology” of care (e.g., drugs, devices) than on achieving equity in its delivery. For 1991 to 2000, we contrasted the number of lives saved by medical advances with the number of deaths attributable to excess mortality among African Americans. Medical advances averted 176 633 deaths, but equalizing the mortality rates of Whites and African Americans would have averted 886202 deaths. Achieving equity may do more for health than perfecting the technology of care.”

    I’m having trouble with links. I’ll try including a link in my next comment, but if it doesn’t work, hopefully the above will be sufficient.

  99. 99
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    Yeah, I can’t link.

    how does the fact that even non-whites have prejudices against other non-whites more than against whites make “white privilege” myopic? it seems to fit the situation like a glove.

    Elizabeth is probably reciting from an SWP handbook. Good luck.

  100. 100
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    another try for Douglas

    ajph dot aphapublications dot org/cgi/content/full/94/12/2078

  101. 101
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    The thing to understand about people like Elizabeth is they see everything in relation to a single question. Is X likely to result in international communism? If not, then I must oppose X as a source of false consciousness.

    Worse yet, the single question is not even evaluated in empirical terms, but only according to ideology. Did someone in the good graces of the party argue that X is likely to result in international communism? If so, then it is indeed likely. If not, then it must be opposed.

    As I’ve indicated before, I favor international communism over anything else I can imagine plausible, so I do think Elizabeth’s single question is a very important one. But I am capable of recognizing other forms of utility.

    Elizabeth has to oppose talking about white privilege, because she cannot imagine how talking about white privilege will lead to international communism, and more importantly, because most people who talk about white privilege are not advancing international communism. Talking about white privilege brings the listener nearer a sphere of people who are not advancing international communism, thus the concept of white privilege is understood to be in ideological competition with Elizabeth’s ideology.

  102. 102
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    I’ve found, rather, that acknowledging the empirical reality of white privilege presents an opportunity to leave links like these:

    barefootbum.blogspot dot com/2009/03/economic-roots-of-oppression.html

  103. 103
    Jadehawk

    The thing to understand about people like Elizabeth is they see everything in relation to a single question. Is X likely to result in international communism? If not, then I must oppose X as a source of false consciousness.

    feh. there’s a reason I prefer intersectional analysis to such silly singlemindedness.

  104. 104
    John Phillips, FCD

    Thanks PZ, he explains the real dangers of privilege to society as a whole so clearly and so well that the time simply flew by while watching it. Sadly, some of those criticising him on here appear not to have understand a single point he was making. Ironically, in the process, they underline his main point about the often invisibility of privilege to those who benefit from it. In doing so, they highlight this very invisibility by exhibiting a complete lack of awareness of their own privilege and the advantages it procures them, however unknowingly.

  105. 105
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    I wonder if anybody can get me a copy of DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2010.195537

  106. 106
    outside_observer

    I wonder if Tim Wise has ever heard of the Hispanic Paradox

    In short, the Hispanic Paradox is that, from an epidemiological point of view, Hispanics are FAR healthier than one might expect, given their income and status in American society. Obviously too, they are also subject to prejudice.

    Point is, the simple claim that differential rates of poor health between racial groups (however one wants to define race) aren’t exactly definitive proof of out-of-control racism.

    But does Tim Wise care about facts of science? Indeed, do those commenters here who have embraced Wise’s views so uncritically care about them?

  107. 107
    Ing

    Some public health researchers have argued that the Hispanic paradox is not actually a national phenomenon in the United States. In 2006, Smith and Bradshaw argued that no Hispanic paradox exists. They maintain that life expectancies were nearly equal for non-Hispanic White and Hispanic females, but less close for non-Hispanic White and Hispanic Males

  108. 108
    Ing

    The “Barrio Advantage”

    The “barrio advantage” is the phenomenon that the sociocultural benefits conferred on Hispanic Americans living in high-density Hispanic-American neighborhoods outweigh the disadvantages caused by the high poverty rates of those neighborhoods. The results of a study done by Eschbach, et. al indicate that in older Hispanic Americans, the negative health effects of neighborhood poverty are less influential on health than the positive health effects due to the community of highly ethnically concentrated enclaves.[21] Furthermore, health was shown to decline has the diversity of a neighborhood increases.

    Seriously, did you READ the article you linked?

  109. 109
    Ze Madmax

    outside_observer @ #106:

    Point is, the simple claim that differential rates of poor health between racial groups (however one wants to define race) aren’t exactly definitive proof of out-of-control racism.

    Well, of course. That wouldn’t make sense. However, Wise is not arguing “minority health is bad, thus racism”. He is pointing out that differential health outcomes are a symptom of a larger system of inequality.

    From the Wikipedia article you quote:

    Though they are often at lower socioeconomic standing, most Hispanic groups, excepting Puerto Ricans, demonstrate lower or equal levels of mortality to their non-Hispanic White counterparts.

    The fact that Puerto Ricans don’t seem to be affected by the Hispanic Paradox is telling, as Puerto Ricans are the one Hispanic group whose numbers are not likely to be affected by migration and deportation i.e., Puerto Ricans who live in (or return to) Puerto Rico are all included in data gathered by the U.S. government.

    Also, I would like to point out an article by Smith and Bradshaw* who point out that the “Hispanic Paradox” is merely an artifact caused by improper surveying of Hispanic populations (an issue less likely to occur with Puerto Ricans due to what I mentioned above).

    Furthermore, even ignoring the health outcomes, the evidence of a systematic process of discrimination against people of color is staggering. Minorities are overrepresented among people living under the poverty line and among prison populations. Educational outcomes are worse for minority students in mixed-race schools.

    The data is there. If you choose to ignore it, then maybe you are the one who’s being uncritical.


    *Smith, D. P., & Bradshaw, B. S. (2006). Rethinking the Hispanic Paradox: Death Rates and Life Expectancy for US Non-Hispanic White and Hispanic Populations. American Journal Of Public Health, 96(9), 1686-1692.

  110. 110
    outside_observer

    “differential health outcomes are a symptom of a larger system of inequality.”

    Do you really not see how absurd this claim is, in the light of the potential explanations of differential health outcomes? The point of the Hispanic Paradox is that the rate of mortality, for example, certainly at first blush, appears to have NOTHING to do with racial prejudice. Do you in any way doubt that Hispanics ALSO suffer from racial prejudice? Why, then, should they have mortality rates AT LEAST AS GOOD AND SOMETIMES BETTER than that of whites? Indeed, when controlling for social economic factors, it seems that Hispanics — apparently especially those of Mexican origin — have distinctly LOWER mortality rates than whites, especially in the upper range of ages.

    Now, if in the face of this kind of evidence, you don’t start to question the simplistic notion that differential rates of health should be automatically accounted as “symptoms of a larger system of inequality”, then I wonder how deeply your respect for science really goes.

    And, of course, the fact of the surprising results with Hispanics should go counter to prevailing ideological views has engendered any number of attempts to explain away these results — of which the paper you cite is just one. Suffice it to say, such papers and accounts have their own scientific critics.

    For those, however, who wish to think scientifically first and ideologically later, and in the light of science, I suggest that they go to the Wikipedia link I posted above, and get a better sense of the controversy.

  111. 111
    outside_observer

    One other thing.

    It should be obvious, from a scientific point of view, that differential rates of mortality might, in principle, be due to genetic differences between races (or, if you prefer the more neutral term, population groups).

    I don’t think that these days even the most ideologically driven of fanatics might argue that, say, the increased prevalence of Sickle Cell disease in African-Americans might be due to something other than genetics. Somehow, though, it is considered by many to be transparently wrong to believe that diseases whose genetic and environmental origins we don’t yet fully understand might also be due to genetic differences among population groups.

    For the life of me, I can’t think of why a scientist might ever believe such a thing. If, in one case, there are clearly are genetic differences between groups related to disease, why not in others? How can we possibly exclude that hypothesis a priori?

    And yet when we declare that the ONLY explanation for differential health rates must be a “system of inequality”, that is EXACTLY what we are assuming.

  112. 112
    Ze Madmax

    outside_observer:

    For those, however, who wish to think scientifically first and ideologically later, and in the light of science, I suggest that they go to the Wikipedia link I posted above, and get a better sense of the controversy.

    And yet that same Wikipedia article points out potential explanations for the so-called “paradox” that are congruent with issues of systemic racism.

    But allow me to re-state them, for those who are a bit slow on the uptake:

    1. The paradox is an artifact created by the flaws present in gathering demographic data among Hispanics in the U.S. This means that the “Hispanic Paradox” DOES. NOT. EXIST. (See Smith & Bradshaw article I mentioned).

    2. The “Barrio Advantage”: Living in ethnic enclaves appears to have a beneficial effect that overcomes the negative impact of socio-economic status on health.

    3. The “Salmon Bias” hypothesis: As Hispanic immigrants age, they return to their countries of origin, artificially skewing the death rate among Hispanics in the U.S.

    And allow me to restate another point: Even assuming the “Hispanic Paradox” is real (seems unlikely), there are several other instances where the issue of systemic bias against minorities is glaringly obvious (see my comment regarding prison population and educational outcomes).

    But thanks for trying to disprove evolution by going “SEE? YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN IT, ERGO IRREDUCIBLY COMPLEX!”

  113. 113
    ad hominum salvator ॐ

    Any bets outside_observer is the banned troll Hyperon? I’m paying out 10:9 odds.

  114. 114
    Yet another reader

    Almost make me depressed that the only thing new/”interesting” in that hour long video for me is about that kid flipping soldiers the bird. I so did not know that – US newspapers actually printed an image like that?! Giant research-failure, to the point where it seems more like almost epic IRL trolling than unintentional error. I didn’t know that was the meaning, but even so, to just assume it means the same… What.
    I wouldn’t really be as pessimistic about the increased housing discrimination reports as he was, though – for the same reason an increase in rape-reports in my country wouldn’t make me automatically assume more people get raped. I would more of assume the stats need to get investigated, but that it’s probably partially because more people actually think reporting actually is worth doing. Which is great and needs to be followed up.

    “What about bi-racial people ? Does that make them half racist ?”
    That line is so stupid in so many different ways it almost gave me an aneurysm.

    Sally Strange @ 87: (Not really important, and mostly just meant as an aside, not only “whites” have extensive records. My “family” on one parent’s side has records going back to far before 1500. It chills me to the bone, always has. It creeped me out far before the internet ever got around to having problems with that sort of privacy issues. Being easily tracked by a giant group of people – some of whom will happily report any “socially unacceptable” to your jailers err parents is fucking terrifying for a little kid to realize. Fucking toxic. Before the age of eight I already dearly valued anonymity and pseudonyms. What they don’t know they cannot punish you for – which is a whole different ballgame if rather than you doing illegal or hostile shit just are trying to find some space to breathe and be your queer self in.)

  115. 115
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    On that note I also find it interesting that your mind focused immediately on an African-American rather than say a Japanese-American who might have lost everything (i.e. including family photographs) when rushed to an internment camp. Critical Racial theory has another flaw in that it is very much defined by the unique experience of people from West Africa in the United States and their relationship with European-Americans specifically. Racist attitudes towards black Africans are wide spread among Asian peoples, for example, so a concept like “white privilege” looks myopic.

    Elisabeth,

    that’s easy. IIRC, there are 13% African Americans, and their experience of slavery and discrimination has lasted for a much much longer time. I say this as a European of partial Asian ancestry who has spent a number of years in the United States. As horrible as the Japanese-American experience was, it pales in comparison.

    Also, now, Japanese-Americans are among the most successful groups of immigrants. Asian Americans in general, but especially the Japanese-Americans among them. This is also due to changing patterns of Japanese migration to the US since WWII.

    BUT I’m aware that Asian-Americans still face racist attitudes by white people too. It starts with the “model minority” talk, and the white parents in California being upset about the UC system being flooded with Asian people, and even restaurant tables being denied to some of them (anecdotal evidence here!) in the Midwest.

    For example, I often think of the poor access to clean drinking water for billions. Does the fact the person with no clean water is probably much darker in skin tone than me really the operative factor in my consciousness? No. Is it “white privilege” if the chemistry and technology behind water treatment comes exclusively from European/white efforts until very recent times?

    As someone who has actually spent an extended period of time in a poor region in a developing country with no access to clean drinking water. Yes, it is white privilege. The reason that the most advanced nations on this earth are almost all Western white-majority nations (certain east Asian examples plus Singapore being notable exceptions) is also reflected in the fact that a certain level of infrastructure is a complete matter of course there, while this is not the case in developing countries. It’s not about where the technology COMES from, but where it is regarded as completely commonplace that you don’t really have to think twice about it.

    Now

    And speaking of privilege, what about the privilege of race over sex, gender and sexuality in terms of consciousness about discrimination? One reason I hold anti-racists in such poor esteem is that I find them shockingly hostile to efforts to address homophobia and sexual inequality among non-white immigrant groups in Europe, chiefly Muslims.

    this coupled with your initial criticism is way overgeneralised. You’re exhibiting the same tu quoque mentality many privileged people show when called out on their privilege. Just because another type of discrimination exists, doesn’t mean we should condone the type of discrimination currently being discussed. Also you’ve come to the wrong blog. PZ Myers has many many posts on other types of discrimination, including misogyny, if you didn’t know that, you must’ve being living under a rock since the summer. This time he happened to be blogging about white privilege. It doesn’t mean he forgot about misogyny or about the fact that Asians can be racist towards blacks too.

  116. 116
    SallyStrange

    The funny thing about Elizabeth’s response to me is that I’m explaining how I don’t experience guilt when I’m talking about the white privilege I possess, and she’s all like, “Look! You’re so guilty! Why are you so guilty?”

    Whatever. Too bad she didn’t come back.

  117. 117
    zaitsev

    Does anyone else find it funny how a large part of the skeptical community has glommed onto narrative / postmodern / critical theory-type philosophical ideas about e.g. “privilege”?

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