Tag Archives: White privilege

We have to talk about white privilege

tim-wiseBy Nicholas Evangelista

One of the major leaders of the anti-racism movement is a privileged, white male.

Let the irony of that statement sink it.

But it is true. Tim Wise is an author of the book White Like Me, and is a well-known activist who has had countless appearances on television. And at CCSU’s Bridging the Gap: A Dream Deferred event on Dec. 10, he made some great points that really stuck out to me.

  1. The very fact that he is a leader for this movement is ironic.

Even he knows that this is not how it should be. As paraphrased from his speech:

It is still easier for Universities to get me to come here and talk about these issues. We must continue to have these talks until a woman of color, for instance, could stand at this podium and say these things and more, and be taken every bit as serious as I am going to be.”

This is an important point. Why is it that a white male like Wise should be the leader in this? Of course, it is good for someone like him to be able to come out and admit that he has privilege. I am a white male, too and I am every bit as privileged as he is. But me coming out and admitting that does not solve the problem alone.

The truth is, we need to take the issues seriously. We need to stop pretending the issues don’t exist. People are talking to us, but we need to learn to listen.

  1. Race and poverty are tied together.

This is an obvious statement, but one that needs to be said again and again and again. We live in a system that abuses people and impoverishes people so that the rich can get richer. Race almost is less of the reason, and more of a result. The truth is, people of all races and ethnicities are suffering. Right?

Not exactly. While it is true that not all white people are wealthy and successful, there are still major disproportionalities between white and colored people. Being white means that statistically speaking, I am more likely to have a better education, more likely to have better jobs, and therefore more likely to make a good living. Even if that does not mean that it is true for everyone, it is still overwhelmingly true statistically speaking. Not only that, but African American men are significantly more likely to go to prison, and to serve longer sentences, even though they do not commit crimes at any worse rate than that of white people.

These disproportionalities are due to a structural system that is designed to keep certain types of people in place so that other types of people can stay in power. The simple fact is, white people start at an advantage, so it is no surprise that that is where we tend to finish.

  1. Having privilege does not make you a bad person, but it is to not abuse it that makes the difference.

Being white does not make someone a villain. Privilege simply means that you benefit from the system that you are born into. This is purely by chance–you do not choose where you are born. You have no say in your ethnicity, gender, or social class at birth. But by using your privilege to gain upward mobility, or even to stay at the top, could make you a perpetrator of the system.

Wise used an analogy of moving floors in an airport to explain privilege:

“Those moving floors are the advantage you get, and even by doing nothing you still move forward. We need to stop, and step backward. Only by moving backwards can we head towards equality.”

This is a difficult step for many people. Admitting and accepting that being indifferent is not good enough can be difficult. After all, we all just want a good life, and to be able to take care of our family. If it were right there in front of us, why wouldn’t we take it?

But that is what compassion is about. It means not taking for yourself when you can see others who are in need. It means that even though you are in a position of power, you choose to help those who are below you, and to think of them first.

And this is especially hard to do when we are all so separated from one another. This was the last major point that Wise made, which impacted me. White men–myself included–do not know enough about other people’s lives. We do not see what they see. We are, for all intents and purposes, blind to it. The action we need to take is to see. We need to open our eyes and see the abuse and turmoil that many people live through because of no fault of their own. This is what racial inequity is. It is a system that is rigged so that certain people win, and others lose for no reason other than how they were born.

And it would be truly despicable to stand idly by and let this continue.

The teachings of Tim Wise

By Nicolette Johnston

 

Author Tim Wise gives his speech titled "What do White guys know about race and gender?" on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at Kellogg Center. The speaker series was hosted by the Women's Resource Center. Justin Wan/The State News

Tim Wise is an activist addressing the issues of race and inequality in the United States. His experiences with race started early on, as his parents decided he would attended primary school in which most of his classmates and teachers were people of color.

He was able to realize that although as an individual he did not judge others according to their race, that he had reaped many benefits as a child growing up with white privileges.

He is a strong believer that if we are ever going to address racial issues in our country, we must first accept the idea that those who are “white” often experience advantages due to their race at the expense of others who may be “brown” or “black.

Even with an African American President, there is still a racial divide

1963_march_on_washingtonThere is no doubt that the United States has come a long way from the racial segregation and discrimination in the past, but it still does exist. Tim Wise explains a phenomena called “white privilege.” As a person of color, one would see its affects multiple times a day. However, those who are white have the privilege of ignoring racial issues. Since these issues do not seem to pertain to them, they tend not to acknowledge them. Further, since they benefit from being white, they may not even see the issues in which those of color face on a daily basis.

 “Why do black people run from the police?”imgres-1

Tim Wise explains that if you haven’t had enough personal interaction with black people in order to understand this question one woman asked him, then you are not mature enough to partake in the conversation.

SAD… BUT TRUE.

If he reviews the facts, Wise explains that black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for drug related offenses such as possession of marijuana. Further, that they are five to nine times more likely to be incarcerated for it.

WHY?

Wise blames these results on the disproportionate implication of drug laws. As more young men acquire records for drug- related offenses and felonies, it makes it harder for them to do the things that those with white privilege have an easier time doing. It takes an effect on their ability to find jobs and housing and to take part in voting. The proclaimed war on drugs has managed to take down entire communities that have high concentrations of colored families while other “white” communities experience the same type of drug- related issues.
imgresThis is the type of SCAPEGOATING that our country is inclined to practice. If we blame others for problems that they didn’t even create, we no longer have to deal with the real issues at hand. Wise finds the inconsistency astounding, as those who are “white” continue to make excuses for the problems they face in our country. For instance, “black people have taken all the jobs.” Yet, “black people are lazy and never want to work.” It makes no sense, but still seems to be a popular opinion of many in the country who just don’t understand their white privilege.

So, where is the EQUALITY?

The United States is a country in which African Americans age 22-27 are 2.25% more like to be out of work. Further, a typical white household headed by a dropout has TWO TIMES the net worth of a household headed by a black graduate.

Racial discrimination and segregation has not disappeared. We cannot be colorblind because in order to fix the issues we face we must be able to see color as well as the advantages and disadvantages that accompany race. Tim Wise explains that although this is a dangerous time, it is also a promising moment to deal with injustices. Only then can we experience a nation in which EVERY HUMAN BEING is considered an EQUAL.

SEE FOR YOURSELF!

WATCH TIM WISE’S DOCUMENTARY “WHITE LIKE ME”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NynTIaCM988