White Privilege: Still Struggling over What to Do with It

White Privilege: Still Struggling over What to Do with It

By Don Hall

John Capaul, at my final performance of BUGHOUSE! in Chicago, indicated that I “shift the goalposts, propagate misleading definitions, distort assumptions, and flop sweat false generalizations” when it comes to “the angry, poor me, picked on white guy schtick.”

While in the context of a show and a good faith debate, I respect John’s opinion and so I took a look at the body of my writing concerning whiteness and maleness and the call out culture. I took a mental microscope to my thoughts on intersectionality as it stands today, critical race theory, and identity politics to find these shifted goalposts and distorted assumptions as well as to see if, in fact and tone, I am claiming any version of an angry, poor me, picked on white guy.

I certainly could be rightfully accused of making light of certain issues and, perhaps a distortion here and there, but I pretty much stand by everything I’ve written. Hold it up to factual scrutiny and it still plays. And I’m anything but one who lays out a “poor me, picked on white guy schtick.”

Keep in mind that John hangs tight with a certain rabid local storyteller on the regular and is subject to her specific sort of bullying of a countless number of people who embraced her, advised her, and ultimately were attacked by her, myself included. We are the company we keep, after all.

As I’ve written before, I completely own the fact that white privilege exists and that I, as a white male, have benefited from it. No question, no argument, no avoidance of it. I don’t feel picked on nor do I feel guilty over it. That may be a true sticking point because as I followed up, without white guilt, the pseudo-religious movement to flagellate oneself in order to mitigate this privilege is one John wallows in and I eschew.

My issue is not, nor has it ever been, questioning the existence of white privilege but what to do about it. It isn’t fair that I have this unearned privilege, and I’d like to help in the dismantling of it. So far, no one seems to be able to give me a path toward sharing the privilege or shedding it aside from the Catholic admission of sin and continued confession.

As a secular humanist, I’m not convinced that this approach does a goddamned thing but give religious power and control over the liberal belief in the ethical primacy of the human being against the pressures of social collectivism, the same moral worth and status to all individuals, and the moral unity of the human species and marginalization local cultural differences in the wake of the greater good.

As the beneficiary of an institutionally racist societal model, I’m listening. I’m listening but what I hear is this:

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I’m listening and this sounds like a bunch of horseshit to me. Fine, numbers 4 and 7 are kind of obvious but the rest of this fucking list is so vague and unhelpful it merely proliferates the kind of obfuscated veil of comprehension used by snake oil salesman and priests the world over.

#1. “Take up minimal space?” What is “minimal space” and who defines it? If it’s a different definition every time, this is a set up for failure on all counts.

#2. Sometimes urban development results in gentrification and sometimes it results in better schools. The Good vs. Bad dogma is only helpful if you’re carrying the One Ring to Mordor.

#3. Microaggressions are only defined by those most offended by often innocuous comments meant entirely without aggression so that isn’t helpful in any way.

#5. Who are these people who use others as an urban dictionary? In the fight to reverse or do away with unearned privilege, this just seems petty and kind of dumb.

#6. Why not? As #8 states, all anti-racism work doesn’t look the same so why not lift up people who are focused on progress but aren’t assholes about it?

#9. Truth. Unless that discussion about race is about white privilege and white people and then it absolutely is both for me and about me.

And then we get to the entire point of the thing: “You’re still racist. No matter what.”

You are a sinner and only the Blood of Christ and continual confession can save you. The Rage Profiteers on the Fringe Left are looking for a power shift rather than a righting of things and tend to take any incidence, no matter how benign, and conflate it to racial hostility.

Tania Richards left this up for all on Faceborg to ponder:

“I was in an encounter where two men were discussing a woman who had hired us for a gig. She is Black. One of them was trying to identify her but didn’t know her name. They went back and forth a bit clearly doing everything they could not to just identify her as Black. Finally the one asking the question about her said, “The woman wearing the red scarf,” and the other one then named her and their conversation continued. 

“I appreciated their effort.”

Appreciated the fact that the easiest identifier was skin color and they struggled to find anything other than that? What!? As long as it isn’t used pejoratively or with discrimination in mind, why would saying “The black lady” be anything other than simple identification? While she appreciates the effort, would she rail against these two men if one merely said, “The black woman with the red scarf.”?

I applaud the fact that saying the n-word is pretty much socially forbidden. While I believe that it is simply a word, and subscribe to the Lenny Bruce approach to it, that word is hateful and abrasive and only dickheads use it. To expand that electric fence around even the mention of someone’s racial make-up as somehow in the same ballpark is silly. Moreover, it is no longer about justice but about flipping the paradigm.

Here’s the thing about privilege (of any kind): As long as you don’t use it in such a way that it crawls over those not endowed with the same privilege, that seems to be a pretty good start. Today, in addition to White Privilege, we have Thin Privilege, Youth Privilege, Beauty Privilege, Ableist Privilege, Hetero Privilege — there’s always going to be someone, somewhere who has more privilege than you. If the only way to dismantle privilege is for everyone with any sort to take up minimal space and apologize incessantly for their unearned advantages, only that one person who is the most disadvantaged human on the planet has any respite from the ideological flaying of flesh required for any sense of contrition.

At this point, three articles in, let me take a stab at this social justice crib sheet and see how I do.

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As I read my version, it seems to me that only people who would have issue with the list are people looking for power rather equality, revenge rather than justice. It’s also ten ways that don’t require shame and guilt over something you had no real hand in in perpetuity.

I’m not expert in all ten of my list but it gives me an approach that means I’m trying without kneeling before the sword in agonizing self-loathing, and I’m good with that.

As for John, perhaps he will see me proliferating his view of my “angry, poor me, picked on white guy schtick” and that is his prerogative. I mean, for about ten years, I blogged as an Angry White Guy (before Trump stomped on the joke) so I understand.

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