Following the White Rabbit down the hole

It was a dark and stormy night weekend and sitting in front of the computer one click led to another and another and soon I had disappeared down a rabbit hole into the strange and curious world of ‘white privilege’.? It was some days later that I finally resurfaced.

Disclaimer: As a middle-aged (cough, cough) white male, this piece is written from a position of imputed extreme guilt in all matters hereinafter discussed.

The journey began with an article about the need for ‘white privilege’ to be taught in New Zealand classrooms so that Maori,?Pasifika and white children would understand the issue. Apparently, there are no other ethnic groups represented in our classrooms.

A few links further down the rabbit hole, the White Rabbit lead me to an article written, surprisingly, in 1989 which started off about male privilege and went on from there. Quote.

[…] men?s unwillingness to grant that they are over-privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. […]

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege that was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ?meant? to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks. […]

After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive.

I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don?t see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.? […] End of quote.

There is much more before she presents a list of situations or conditions that indicate white privilege: Quote.

  1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. {As can a citizen of Japan, China, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Iran, India, Pakistan etc etc}
  2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, …..}
  3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, …}
  4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed. {As can any citizen in any country where the rule of law is upheld.}
  5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  6. When I am told about our national heritage or about ?civilization,? I am shown that people of my color made it what it is. {Ditto for a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race. {As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege. {And this proves ….?}
  9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser?s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them. {As can any citizen in any country where the rule of law is upheld.}
  12. I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race. {Isn’t this more a ‘class’ issue? }
  13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.? {Scratch Pakistan and Iran from the earlier list – women cannot speak publicly to men}
  14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.?{Ditto for a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world?s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider. {Hmmm, is that simply an imputed attitude in play?}
  18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to ?the person in charge,? I will be facing a person of my race.?{Ditto for a citizen of Japan, China, ….} *
  19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven?t been singled out because of my race.?{Ditto for a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  20. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children?s magazines featuring people of my race.??{As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.?{As can a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race. {Presumably Japan, China etc are more sensible and don’t buy into the affirmative action malarkey?}
  23. I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.?{Ditto for a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.?{Ditto for a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  25. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.?{Ditto for a citizen of Japan, China, ….}
  26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in ?flesh? color and have them more less match my skin. {Use the transparent ones – they work for any skin tone!} End of quote.

*? When we applied for National Insurance numbers so that we could work in the UK, we were the only white faces in the building.? We were in the UK on ancestry visas but were being grilled (quite intensively) on our right to be there by immigrants.? It was a tad weird and there certainly was no white privilege being extended.

Do the Chinese suffer from ‘China privilege’ in China, the Japanese suffer from ‘Japan privilege’ in Japan, the Pakistanis suffer from ‘Pakistan privilege’ in Pakistan, the Mexicans suffer from ‘Mexican privilege’ in Mexico?

Are they exhorted to teach it in their schools?

Or is it only used on whites in the Western world who need to plead guilty by way of inheritance?? Anyway, it is not my fault and I blame my parents and their parents before them.

Scrambling back out of the rabbit hole, I read this about white privilege:?Quote.

You cannot measure it, and it has no specific concrete definition to provide a basis for proof of its existence, it has not, and can never be proven to exist, but if you question it you’re called “ignorant” (in reality you are a skeptic), and the fact that you questioned it in the first place is used as further proof that you have “White privilege”.End of quote.

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