September 06, 2009

Exercising power:  individuals vs. groups

In Educating Stephen About White Privilege, I explained the concept to Newspaper Rock readers. But several of them didn't quite get it. So here's a further explanation.

DMarks wrote:Rob asked: "For instance, evidence that minorities dominate significant institutions in our society. Hint: Sports and music don't count unless minorities are the owners, not merely the players."

How about the executive branch of the federal government of the United States? A very significant institution, after all, and minority-run since January 21. The racist part of the electorate who opposed Barack Obama due to his challenge to "white privilege" was tiny and insignificant, and did not matter.
The executive branch of the US government is run by a few hundred thousand bureaucrats, many of whom are white. Obama doesn't give orders to or even interact with 99.9% of them.

Stephen mentioned Condoleezza Rice. He could've mentioned Colin Powell also. They both argued with Bush's warmongering policies many times and lost. They were so weak that they couldn't change one white man's mind--much less the course of the entire executive branch.

These are examples of minorities working within the white-privilege system. They aren't examples of minorities changing or ending the white-privilege system. Rice and Powell did next to nothing to change the gross disparities between whites and minorities in jobs, education, or healthcare.

An example of a minority's ending white privilege would be Obama's passing healthcare reforms that guaranteed medical access to the uninsured, most of whom are minorities. As we've seen, conservative whites are squealing like stuck pigs at the thought of some imaginary loss to their privilege. As they've indicated repeatedly, they think Obama is a socialist Muslim Hitler who's turning America into a Third World country.

For more on that subject, see GOP Healthcare "Plan" = Remove Obama and Healthcare Protests Are Race-Based.

Oprah proves anyone can do anything?

DMarks continued:Television? For years now, the richest TV star has been Oprah. She calls the shots in her influential multi-media empire (would count as a "mogul"), and is a business owner, not a mere player. Oprah's actual acting career (as a player) is but an asterisk on her resume.Similarly, the television industry is run by a few hundred thousand executives and middle managers, most of whom are white. Winfrey doesn't give orders to or even interact with 99.9% of them.

In short, you're missing the point of systemic racism when you focus on individuals. Individuals rarely change the structure of our institutions singlehandedly. The institutions and the system endure regardless of which individuals are in charge.Rob asked "Whites in general are privileged. Even poor whites have advantages over minorities. Especially equally poor minorities. If you disagree, show us some evidence to the contrary."

What sort of evidence? Would one minority-in-poverty who is better off than a white-in-poverty be enough?
What kind of evidence do you need to prove that minorities aren't disadvantaged? Studies and statistics, of course. The same kind of evidence social scientists already have used to prove minorities are disadvantaged.Affirmative action, where it includes quotas, preferences, or goals, demands racial discrimination. If it is in place and working, white people DO lose jobs to people who do not deserve them. Since that part of affirmative action demands that skin color trump actual meaningful qualifications.

That type of affirmative action is blatantly racist.
Affirmative action wasn't the point of this posting, since I was merely responding to Stephen's vague comment. But you're misstating the purpose of affirmative action. It's not about promoting unqualified candidates over qualified candidates. It's about finding and promoting equally qualified candidates that wouldn't get a chance otherwise because of their race or gender.

The Origins of Affirmative ActionMuch of the opposition to affirmative action is framed on the grounds of so-called "reverse discrimination and unwarranted preferences." In fact, less than 2 percent of the 91,000 employment discrimination cases pending before the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission are reverse discrimination cases. Under the law as written in Executive Orders and interpreted by the courts, anyone benefiting from affirmative action must have relevant and valid job or educational qualifications.Educating Stephen some more

Reader Stephen chimed in:"Even poor whites have advantages over minorities."

What advantages? Poor whites are stereotyped as 'rednecks'; a sectarian ethnic slur used to bash presbyterians (their ministers wore red collars) during the penal laws which was cultural genocide and oppression.
I'm talking about the mountain of evidence proving that minorities have a harder road in almost every field of endeavor. In general, despite the success of a few individuals such as Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, and Condoleezza Rice.

And all you can reply is that some poor whites are sometimes given one stereotypical label? You seriously think that's enough to rebut the mountain of evidence proving that minorities have a harder road in almost every field of endeavor?! Wow.

I'm not wasting my time educating you on the reality of racism in America. I suggest you read up on the subject until you're not as ignorant as you sound. When you have something intelligent to say about it, e-mail me and we'll discuss it."Not all whites, bright boy, but whites in general."

So the Jews, Irish, Scottish, Armenians, Italians, Polish, Greeks, Serbs (as part of 'whites in general') have had an easy time?
I've already acknowledged that whites didn't uniformly dominate in previous centuries. But that was then and this is now. Why do you stupidly persist in talking about the past when I'm talking about the present?

Here, read it again:

In recent years, other white people--Irish, Italian, Greek, Polish, Jewish, Armenian, et al.--have joined WASPs among the privileged. But blacks, Latinos, and other minorities are still on the outside looking in. To simplify it for you, white skins have power, brown skins don't.

But so what if the makeup of the white elite has changed somewhat over the years? What hasn't changed is that the elite are still white. In general, doofus.

Stephen doesn't understand percentages"In recent years, other white people--Irish, Italian, Greek, Polish, Jewish, Armenian, et al.--have joined WASPs among the privileged."

So have non-Whites.
Not in numbers or percentages approaching those of whites. It's the difference between a few minority individuals and the dominant white majority as a whole. You must be mathematically challenged since you show no sign of understanding the huge gap between the two sets of people.

Apparently you think a few exceptions disprove the rule. I guess this is a corollary to your stupid misunderstanding of generalizations. When I say white privilege, you think I'm saying "whites have absolute control over absolutely everything." Wrong. I'm saying they have control in general.

Later you posted a bunch of links to Wikipedia listings of minority politicians. You obviously didn't read these links, much less think about them. Here, I'll do the thinking for you.

Let's take Asian Americans politicians as an example. The Wikipedia entry lists exactly 29 of them. Since Asian Americans make up 5% of the US population, that would suggest there are 580 Asian American politicians total.

Are you freakin' serious? The United States must have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of politicians. But let's go with a minimal number of 100,000. Five percent of that is 5,000.

Yet the Wikipedia page lists 29 Asian American politicians, not 5,000. Instead of comprising 5% of the 100,000 politicians, Asians comprise 0.029% of them.

Get it yet, dummy? Asian American politicians are grossly underrepresented in American politics by the evidence you provided. Telling us about a few Asian American politicians doesn't disprove the concept of white privilege. Unless you can prove that Asian Americans have a proportional number of political positions, you lose.

When you can show us that 5% of all US politicians are Asian Americans, then we'll talk about whether they've achieved parity. Until then, you're so far off the mark that it's not funny. It's like teaching calculus to a baby: you literally have no idea what I'm talking about.

From stupidities to liesYou miss my point, Rob said that non-whites don't have any power; the sheer amount of non-Caucasian politicos proves that wrong.The "sheer amount"? What sheer amount? You mean all 29 of the Asian American politicians you listed?!

It's clear (to me) that you can't tell us anything about the amounts. I'm not even sure you know what "amounts" means.

Tell us the number of politicians in each minority category and compare it to that minority's percentage of the total population. E-mail me the results. If you do enough research, you may find a state (e.g., Hawaii) or city (e.g., Detroit or Atlanta) where minority politicians are overrepresented. But on the national level, I think you'll find that only white politicians are overrepresented."If you think you can do better, try disputing the 281,000 hits you get when you Google "white privilege." Good'll need it."

That's a very stupid argument, just because 281,000 people believe something doesn't make it true.
The only stupid arguments here are your misstatements of what white privilege means. For instance, your asinine claim that *I* claimed that every white American (even if Irish, Jewish, etc.) has held power throughout the country's 500-year history. Or your asinine claim that "white privilege" is something the Weather Underground fabricated out of thin air to score points against the establishment.

The point was that I'm citing and quoting sources and you're making stuff up. You haven't a clue about the volumes of writing on white privilege. My reference to the 281,000 Google hits was a way of making that point.

Summing it up

Reader AW saved me the trouble of stating the obvious conclusion:Rob's statement, that white people have the power, is perfectly correct as a general statement.

You are deliberately interpreting it as an absolute statement.

Nobody is fooled by your attempt at're as thick as a plank.
Right, AW. Let's recall that Educating Stephen About White Privilege was a response to a previous posting. And in this second posting, I explicitly wrote, "To simplify it for you...." Repeat: It was a second attempt to simplify and explain something simpleton Stephen didn't get the first time.

Yet Stephen has entirely ignored the context and claimed this is my fundamental position. Namely, that I believe every white person has power and no brown person does. Despite the fact that I've never used the word "every" and explicitly stated it was a generalization. intellectually dishonest can you get? Pretty dishonest if your name is Stephen.

Nice try at character assassination, you intellectual fraud, but you failed again. Next time you lie about my position, I'll be sure to delete your lie. In addition, I think I'll post your full name for everyone to see. "Stephen 'The Liar' _________" will look great in the Google results when anyone searches for you.

If you don't like that possibility, stop lying about my position when I've said repeatedly that these statements are generalizations. Or sit back and enjoy it when I permanently brand you a liar.

For more on white privilege, see Conservatives' Pro-White Agenda and Systemic, Not Aberrant.

Below:  White privilege in action.

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