23 May 2011

White Privilege II

I was researching White Privilege when I fell on a post [ed: the link is broken now] I had to answer. This is what it said:

One cannot be a vocal advocate of Southern heritage and culture without encountering the topic of race on a regular basis. It shouldn't be that way but it is, so it must be confronted head-on.

[Rethabile: I agree with you. But just a small point, White Privilege is not only in the South. It is in the North, East, Centre and West, too.]

I have been reading recently about the concept of White Privilege – what our accusers define as an unearned, unmerited advantage that Whites have over other races. To that I answer, "Guilty As Charged."

[Rethabile: I agree with you on this, too. Except the fact that we're not accusing, but stating the obvious.]

Let's look at this White Privilege that gives me an "unfair" advantage over others:

[Rethabile: The inverted commas around the word unfair suggest you think the accusation (which it isn't, but is a statement of fact) is unfair. I disagree with you here. White people have most of their advantages because they're white. Full-stop. It is not inherent in them, as it is not inherent in any homo sapiens. But the system bestows it upon them. Are you going to tell me that white dogs have inherent qualities in them that are superior to dogs of other colours?]

I have the privilege of being raised by both my mother and my father in a stable home where drugs, alcohol, and crime never intruded.

[Rethabile: You mean "introduced". So was I. So were many people of colour. Let's scrap this item because it is moot. It seems to suggest that there are no white, single-parent homes and that there are no white drug addicts or alcoholics. Or no white criminals. Trust me, children from such white homes will get a better shot at life than children from hard-working, respeactable black homes. Trust me. Do you realise that the skies would have fallen on us and fire burned every living thing from here to Timbuktu if DSK were black?]

I have the privilege of being raised by parents who understood the value of education and insisted that I and my siblings take learning seriously.

[Rethabile: So was I. I went to primary school, high school and university (in America), where I excelled in studies and sports. I studied biology and chemistry satisfactorily. I now am immersed in poetry, and do recognise the need to apply myself in order to succeed. So I suggest we scrap this item, too. Like the previous item, it seems to suggest that by virtue of your whiteness you are more studious and more entrepreneurial. That is wrong and untrue.]

I have the privilege of being taught at an early age that making sacrifices today in order to have something better tomorrow is one of the keys to progress.

[Rethabile: Ditto. I hope we're not gonna have to scrap every item on your list, because that would doom your whole argument.]

I have the privilege of having grandparents who taught my parents these same values – and generation upon generation before them.

[Ditto. Why do you think my grandparents and/or my parents didn't instil in me these same values?]

I have the privilege of learning about the Western European culture – the music, the literature, the science, the art – that has enriched the lives of all who care to take advantage of that culture; freely bestowed on all who care for the finer things of mankind.

[Rethabile: Aha! You seem to be saying that Western/Occidental culture is superior. Now, we could go on talking about this, but all cultures are equal. My culture is equal to yours. But you do not have to make your living in my culture. I can assure you it would be uphill for you. Your culture -- what is your culture, by the way? Italian? British? Polish? German? Japanese? Chinese? Senegalese? Jamaican? Haitian? Eskimo? Cherokee? Nigerian? All have contributed to what you glibly call Western culture, as it has contributed to other cultures. I do not want to belabour the point. I'll leave you to explain what exactly it is you wanted to say here. The music, the literature, the science, the art, all are universal, for crying out loud. Picasso was a copier of African art. The blues is African music at the heart. Science was and is being advanced by all people of the world. Persian and Arabic and African science were flourishing when Europe was in the dark ages. What has enriched you has enriched me. But again, at the job interview, you go first. Why?]

I have the privilege of having a strong work ethic instilled in me from a young age.

[Rethabile: I have that privilege, too, as do many other people from sunny countries and every other country in the world. What in the world makes you think only you have it?]

I have the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and taught about the wholly undeserved love of a God who would sacrifice His only Son to pay for my sins.

[Rethabile: I was raised a Christian, too. My father was a high officer in the Presbyterian synod of our church, and he sat in committees ranging from The Christian Council of Lesotho through All Africa Conference of Churches to the World Council of Churches. My mother sang in the church choir. But on my résumé it doesn't say that, and I doubt it does on yours, either. And if it did on both, you'd still get the job, you'd still not be patted down for no reason, you'd still benefit from White Privilege. Wait a minute, do you think Jesus was white? I bet you do! Do you think Osama bin Laden was an A-hole because he wasn't white? I bet you do.]

All these privileges were given to me, completely undeserved and unearned. They were given to me by the generations that came before me because they put the best interest of their children above all else. If other races or other groups of people choose to live for their own immediate gratification with little thought for the fate of their descendants, then that is their choice. It is my fondest hope – and expectation – that one day my grandchildren, when accused of White Privilege, will proudly proclaim "Guilty As Charged".

[Rethabile: They were given to me, too, but not that last step of not being accused first of a crime because I was in the vicinity, of not being lynched, of not being granted a livelihood because my melanocytes are more active, of not being required to bear a "Christian name" in order to fit in, of not being left alone, inconspicuous and free to pursue my dreams, my education, my aspirations, free to be the president of the United States without being harassed about my birth certificate (by the likes of Trump and Palin), my grades, despite my successes in a prestigious college of your making, of not being called the Anti-Christ, a communist, a socialist, a monkey, these privileges were not given to me. These were given to you. And that is what White privilege is. You did not deserve them but for the colour of your skin. You would not have gotten them had you been dark like me.]

The day you empty your
Ethnographic museums
And send our souls back
To our homeland
Then we will know
You are for real
—from The sophisticated skinhead

Here ("The treatment of the slaves, on the whole, was good and indulgent") I rest my case, and admit I wasted my time on you.


Rommel Peter Fernandes said...

A nice tribute to your parents. Inspired me to write something about my lovely parents too. They are brown. We are from India.
Trip to Goa

Steve Hayes said...

The writer's greatest privilege seems to be ignorance and stupidity.

Rethabile said...

That's curt and accurate, and true, Steve. Like an arrow.

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