From One White Guy to Another: An Open Letter About Our Privileges
By Max Ritvo
But during college I was exposed to the struggles endured by my peers who looked physically different from me. Simply put, it doesn't compare. You and I may very well be different from a white Protestant man in this country, we may very well have come from suffering, but we are camouflaged in a way people of a different skin tone or gender are not.
Day to day, we are the default option--we are the ones seen in commercials, we are the ones who shop-keeps are accustomed to attending to, we are the ones who teachers are accustomed to calling "confident" as opposed to "aggressive," and "inquisitive" as opposed to "obnoxious," and "in need of help," as opposed to "a lost cause." I know this might seem trivial to you, but I assure you it isn't. Your sense of self-esteem changes when you are an "other." Your sense of personhood changes when the majority of authors you read are of a different race, and are of a different gender. Others have to live in our world. You can imagine what it would be like being told every day of your life, as a young girl, that your deity wasn't your gender. That the thing meant to represent ALL of you, the sum total of your existence, has different genitals and hormones than you do, has different social and religious expectations placed upon him. As you seem to be of a literary ilk from the quality of your article, I urge you to read James Baldwin, Adrienne Rich, Lydia Davis, Tony Kushner--some people who faced or are facing a daily crisis because they are judged not upon the content of their character, but for very different reasons.
Your notion of your background as unprivileged can't easily be dismissed, in part, because the U.S. Jewry wasn't always completely homogenized into the mainstream identity. But at some point, neither were the Irish, nor were the Italians. At some point, neither were the Scots. I'm happy to discuss the rationale and timeline of our assimilation, but this isn't the main point of why I am writing to you. My point is this: the homogenization has happened--when you go out on the street, you are indistinguishable from any other white man. The evidence of this is presented in your article itself; people have asked you to check your privilege. Perhaps you have never categorized yourself as a privileged person, but that's because you have never had to categorize yourself as anything at all. The thing is, as white straight men--we never do.
Some social statistics contradicting those who claim they're self-made:
White privilege 101: Here’s the basic lesson Paul Ryan, Tal Fortgang and Donald Sterling need
Here's one way to fight back against ignorance: A refresher on how privilege works, and why race and gender matter
By Paul Rosenberg
Overall, the black unemployment rate averages around twice that of the white rate—just as it did 40 years ago. Part of that is due to educational differences, but black college graduates have an unemployment rate averaging 60 percent higher than white college graduates since 1990, with little change over time. In fact, black college graduates have a 15 percent higher unemployment rate than whites with only a two-year AA degree. In turn, blacks with an AA degree have an unemployment rate that’s almost 30 percent higher than whites with just a high-school education over this same period of time. What’s more, in 30 months since 1990, blacks with an AA degree had an unemployment rate equal to or higher than white high school dropouts!
The conclusion is inescapable: Blacks still face pervasive discrimination in the job market, regardless of whether it’s conscious or intentional. The fact that whites don’t see this constitutes a serious blind spot on their part. The same can be said about discrimination in housing, education and treatment by criminal justice system as well. In many cases, even blacks being discriminated against may not know that they are being targeted, so it’s not surprising that whites are also unaware.
For example, in the latest survey of housing discrimination for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Urban Institute found that minority home-seekers are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than equally qualified whites, both for rentals and home sales. This is true for all minorities in all categories (including Asian-Americans), except for home sales to Hispanics, where no discrimination was found—although Hispanics were actually more discriminated against than blacks when it came to rental units. Blacks were told about 11.4 percent fewer rental units, and 17 percent fewer homes, and were shown 4.2 percent fewer rental units and 17.7 percent fewer homes.
Statistics like these make it obvious that blacks continue to experience discrimination in virtually every walk of life. Not every black. Not every time. And certainly not from every white. But when the question is phrased “Do blacks have as good a chance as whites?” the objective answer clearly is “No, their chances are not as good as whites’” and supermajorities of whites are simply blind to this reality.
Thus, whites suffer from two distinct blind spots when it comes to racial bias. First, they are blind to their own individual implicit biases, which undermines the basic dispositionist assumption behind the logic of colorblindness. And second, they are blind to the sheer magnitude and pervasiveness of racial discrimination which black Americans continue to experience, even today.
And the racial resentment that arises when you tell whites they're privileged compared to minorities:
Why whites don’t see racism: Reagan Democrats are Stephen Colbert Democrats now
With different frames of reference, the perception gap on racial issues is widening--and affects policy choices
By Sheryll Cashin
Progressives are often perplexed at why blue-collar guys blame their economic frustrations on people of color and not Wall Street or corporate titans. This is a learned response. In the South, especially, ever since Reconstruction threatened to create a biracial democracy responsive to the working classes, economic elites have stoked racial tensions in order to avoid redistributive policies.
Our black president is the latest, most convenient wedge issue. Although working-class and poor people of all colors suffer greatly from this divisive politics, anti-government rhetoric has reached a frenzied screech in the Age of Obama. The angry black man has been replaced with the angry white one. Post-Obama, Latinos and blacks express optimism about their future chances while certain whites are deeply pessimistic and resentful. Old-fashioned racism has been supplanted by a much more subtle sentiment of racial resentment about not getting ahead. In the past, the primary emotion associated with negative racial attitudes was disgust accompanied by ideas about biological inferiority. Now anger is the primary emotional trigger for negative racial attitudes among whites who harbor them. Two political scientists find that “anger is uniquely powerful at boosting opposition to racially redistributive policies among white racial conservatives.” Nonracial ideologies and preferences for small government are not activated by these emotions.
These negative racial sentiments in turn influence policy stances. Racial resentment often correlates with opposition to any policies perceived as redistributive. For example, another team of political scientists found that whites who registered above average in racial resentment were three times more likely than others to choose the least extensive version of health care reform presented to them in a survey. Those who registered low levels of racial resentment were twice as likely to support a significant expansion of health care coverage. They attribute this difference to differing gut-level worldviews. Partisan attachments, they argue, are increasingly shaped by visceral perspectives, such that even ostensibly nonracial issues are now also about race. Not surprisingly, those who harbor racial resentments are more likely to support voter identification laws and other provisions that make it more difficult to vote. About thirty states have passed or are considering laws restricting access to voting, the vast majority of which have Republican governors or GOP-controlled legislatures.
Bill O’Reilly: I’m exempt from white privilege because I worked and can’t tan
Tucker Carlson and Lawyer Guest Whitesplain White Privilege, Get Schooled HARD (Video)
The most obvious response to these idiots is, "It's about whites in general, not you in particular. Grow up and stop complaining that every criticism of America or its history and culture is a personal attack on you."
For more on the subject, see Educating Princeton's Privileged Kid and The Science of Conservative Racism.