Sunday, September 24, 2006

Survivor redux

A couple posts back, I observed that a comment by one of the white Survivor contestants provided a crisp example of white privilege. (If you're not sure what that term means, the 50 "daily effects of white privilege" listed by Peggy McIntosh here provide one overview—I freely admit that I haven't studied the issue of white privilege, on accounta having white privilege and therefore not needing to think about my own race much.)

Yesterday, I received a long e-mail from a random blog reader I'll call Defensive White Chick. DWC writes, I agree that ‘the white race’ has no heritage- -we have truly forgotten our specific and unique pasts and blended together in forgetfulness. I'm not sure where the agreeing comes in, because that's not what I was getting at. (Irony much?) You seem to have no problem lumping us into a category of blobby whiteness, where no other identification is pertinent to you. Now, now. I do see differences among various white people. But I also see differences among people of other ethnicities, which was kinda one of my main points.

My benighted correspondent also complained of the so-called double standard in which we won't see a movie called "Black Men Can't Jump": comments are made against us [meaning white folks] on a daily basis in our media and the everyday populace and NOBODY blinks an eye. DWC also insists that something she saw on the TV show Black/White is wrong—that black Americans no longer need fear any violence from "anglos" on a regular basis, that such a fear is a 1950s artifact. That reminds me of college, when some students of color tried to raise awareness of racism on campus. I had a friend, a white guy who grew up in Mankato, Minnesota, who insisted that there was no racism. Now, how would the average white person know what non-white people might be experiencing? I knew a black guy there (mind you, this was a small college in a small town in Minnesota) who once said, "I have to shower twice a day so people don't think black people stink." That wasn't a stereotype I'd ever heard, but you know what? That discussion of white privilege has the following at #33: " I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race." If you're white, then no, you don't think about such things. (Is there any white person who can dispute that point?) People who aren't white, hey, some do worry about that sort of thing.

My jaw dropped when I read DWC's final paragraph: Regardless of whether you like it or not, we are the standard. We conquered the Indians and founded this nation. Many of this countries holidays are reflective of anglo heritage. I know it is not politically correct, but you and anyone else who pisses and moans about the anglo race wouldn’t be here enjoying your current lifestyle without us and our influence. Oh no, you din't! Can you believe that? "Genocide made this country what it is today! You should be grateful for the atrocities of the past, for they have made us great!" (I paraphrase, of course.) I just don't even have a good response to this (aside from things like saying "It's country's, not countries, doof."). Anyone have a pithy response to suggest? Maybe something like [irony] "African-Americans wouldn't be here enjoying life it weren't for the institution of slavery!" or "Can we outlaw all the holidays of non-anglo origin? Because they're just wrong." [/irony] or "Omigod, you're making this up, aren't you? This is parody...isn't it?" (It isn't.)

The last paragraph ended on a lighter note: if you are 'white' then i am sorry that you dislike your own people. if you are not then i would ask that you look at your own racism objectively. Isn't that a wonderful concept? The self-loathing member of the dominant culture? It's a great twist on the usual application of the "self-loathing" tag to people outside the tradition of privilege. I think the next step is to expand it to men. Do you know any self-loathing affluent straight white Christian men who loathe their own affluent whiteness? (Mr. Tangerine suggests that we may find them if we check S&M dungeons...but let us not psychoanalyze the folks who are into that.)


jp 吉平 said...

Regardless of whether you like it or not, we are the standard.

Dear DWC,

Chinese culture is only the standard for Chinese people. And French culture is only the standard for French people. And white american culture is really only the standard for White Americans.

I'm American, but I'm not white. To me, you are ethnic. It's too bad you don't see it that way, it makes you much more interesting. --jpv

ps. That 'conquering the Indians' thing was dispicable.

Mignon said...

Is it really worth arguing with the unreasonable and unintelligent? Isn't there some phrase, "paddling up shit-creek with a plastic spoon...?"

And thank you JPV for pointing out my (our) ethnicity. It reminds me of people that think the human race is the end of evolution, i.e. white Americans seeing themselves as the center of the race universe, with all the non-whites revolving around them in their weird/foreign ethnicity. As if everything should and will funnel into our culture eventually.

Orange said...

Mignon, I figured it'd be more fun to poke fun on the blog than to engage via e-mail, which I agree would be completely wasted effort. Plus it motivated me to find a decent link about white privilege and to do a little reading myself.

Charlie said...

That was a great article you linked. I've had the vague realization that I'm much more aware and active in feminist causes than I am of racial causes, and it has bothered me. That link is exactly the kind of thing I needed.

E. said...

I agree with JPV's p.s. Sickening.

I've long had a half-baked theory about white male submissive S&M lovers, very much along the lines of Mr. Tangerine's.

flea said...

I'll leave my faux-trolling behind in the Survivor post, and just say I just do not understand people sometimes. I mean, "conquering the Indians?" Did she get her history lessons from Gone with the Wind?

Anonymous said...

DWC is a racist, and uniformed. She is not just disagreeing with you but spreading the usual venom. It is good to expose her, but I hope that nobody will confuse her blatherings as the only criticism that one could make of arguments about whiteness as a concept.

Of course, folks who are white have privilege, but not all so-called white privilege is created equal. Think class. Your link to Peggy McIntosh reveals class privilege as much as white privilege. Those are not the same, no matter how much some folks want them to be. At an analytic level whiteness is a form of cultural privilege (since there no such thing as a "white" or caucasion biologically). Class is also cultural but at least one could argue that it has legitimate material underpinnings.

As an academic concept, the arguments and claims built about so-called "whiteness" have been overblown (imho). Among historians, for example, their are finally reasonable and interesting calls for more sophisticated, less reductive, and more evidence-based understandings of race and ethnicity. It is not that being white doesn't matter, its just that the evidence suggests that there remains substantive differences in how white folks understand themselves in time and place. I won't go on.

This is my first (maybe second). You're great. IT is too bad that DWC would use racism to distort what is otherwise a really interesting concept and debate.

TexInTheCity said...

I used to work as a phone sex operator and most of the sub S&M calls were from middle aged white excutive types. LOL!

We have a saying, here in the south for when we encounter the DWC's of the world. "Bless her heart, she just don't know."

Anonymous said...

wow. I think ignorance is a trait which exhibits itself across the spectrum of humanity, and her agony is her fear.
Still, it is very hard for the rest of us when any member of any race or creed (I am gay) exhorts thoughts and ideals based in hate, discrimination, egocentricity, etc, etc, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, which is not fit for public consumption, and becomes associated with that demographic, no?
Why is it that they know no better? LCD mentality, mixed with a superiority complex which identifies them (lucky for the rest of us) as the truly compassion worthy individuals they are.
Now, If only they could learn the same compassion....

Dharma said...

Wow, DWC has some things to work through, now doesn't she. Every time I encounter someone like this, though whatever means - like your blog, I am reminded why I keep challenging myself on such issues. Racism work is never done. Neither is classism, sexism, or heterosexism, and the rest of them. Gosh. This is helping me get inspired to finish my readings and write my paper for the "multiculturalism and family" course I need to finish. Thanks!

Lucky Star said...

I can't believe there are people out there who are so very clueless...I mean, HELL. I grew up in white-ass Maine and have spent the rest of my life in white-ass Utah, so I know I don't know anything about the realities of racism. But at least I know that I don't know. I know that there is racism. I don't get it, but I know it's there.

Anonymous said...

i think there are still alot of white people out there who think like that idiot DWC but they don't articulate it in the same way he does.(because most of them are too stupid and uneducated to do so.)

some days i lament this idiocy.

most days, i believe it is getting better. i think that skin color is a difference that is socially imposed in our brains. it is not an actual difference of any importance. the further we move forward away from our genocidal, racist, violent past and the more we educate the younger generations, the issue of racism will fade away.

the winner takes all attitude which has prevailed in the US and other countries is a result of our primitive attitudes. if the human race (all skin colors and ethnic backgrounds) becomes more enligtened, then oppression will not be acceptable. dominance will not be needed. and separating people by arbitrary differences will be less common.

Darren Mallory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
E. said...

P.S. A small crossword tatoo! Brilliant. You must do it.