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Are Responses to Obama Reflective of a Hidden Agenda, Paranoia, People's Inability to See Themselves, or Privilege?

What is really happening with our nation’s response to the Obama presidency? Since my professional reality centers upon challenging others/myself to recognize the biases we have that may be counterproductive to our being the best we can be, I need assistance unpacking some observations surrounding “our” first African American president that just don’t make much sense.

Public reaction to the collapse of our economy, our ongoing military presence in Iraq, and reaction to the Health Care plan are all complex. It is par for the course that these concerns are all very serious socio-political realities that leaders of powerful countries must engage. But a president’s legitimacy to serve her/his country is an unbelievable question to still be asking. Does anyone actually think a person named Barack Obama could have ever ascended to the presidency if he didn’t have the proper pedigree? Concerns over his birth/legitimacy even question the adequacy of our vetting process for the most prestigious position in our government. So, what could be the reason why President Obama is receiving treatment far different from other presidents?

The fact that America is no longer a racist society—now that we have elected a Black man to the presidency—allows us to put away the race card, right? Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency suggests that the reasons could no longer be racially motivated because all of us are so much more sophisticated about race relations, right?

Could the motivation be solely political? Does Obama’s presidency somehow threaten the sanctity of our political system, symbolizing the advent of different representation of traditionally disenfranchised voices? Are there concerns that a successful Obama presidency could cause a shift in who will lead us into new eras of our socio-political future? Granted, Obama’s election could be a paradigm shift of a magnitude too large for his opposition to fathom/manage. Is it acceptable that some might be attempting to manage the change through duplicity, questioning his worthiness to have access to our children, and accusing Obama of being a prevaricator? Is this just political posturing at the highest level or politicians who truly believe there are no subconscious motivations at work, or at least none they are capable of seeing.

A president’s privilege to communicate to her/his constituency should be a no-brainer. So, why isn’t it? Suggestions or belief that our elected leader would say something to harm our children are so ridiculous I can’t believe I had to use the keystrokes I just used to address it. That people would believe it suggests that some people’s ways of seeing Obama are heavily mired in not being able to overcome an insidious xenophobic indoctrination. What would have been the outcry if socio-economically deprived parents had denied Bush, Clinton, or Reagan access to their children because of those presidents’ excessive capitalists’ perspectives? Capitalist agendas don’t necessarily suggest immediate change/benefits for people who are often born into a proletariat that enables a bourgeois society to thrive. Why was there no outcry?

People can cloak their Obama dislike, disdain, or dismissals any way they feel necessary. But really listen and then unpack the utterly preposterous answers people give you about why they don’t want our elected “President” speaking to their children.

I was appalled at MSNBC’s Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough’s response to ex-President Jimmy Carter's assertion that many American’s reactions to the Obama presidency could be racist. Scarborough’s reaction was to dismiss the possibility of racism with sweeping generalizations atypical of someone wanting to avoid accusations of racism. It was rejuvenating to watch his colleague Mike Barnicle attempt to mentor him to be professionally responsible and not dismiss the possibility that "some" people "may be" responding to Obama because of their racism. Consider Congressman Joe Wilson’s outcry. Was it racist? We don’t have access to his motives, so asserting it was is problematic. On the other hand, it is possible that he is as racist as all of us are homophobic and sexist in a society that hasn’t figured out how important these types of conversations are to us overcoming our xenophobia.

I recall an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine had a new boyfriend whose racial identity Jerry, George, and Elaine couldn’t quite determine. They all wanted to talk/speculate about his race, but ultimately really didn’t know how to discuss it since they had never had to discuss it before. Eventually they discussed it ineptly by awkwardly attempting to not embarrass themselves by discussing it. Perhaps it is time that we found a way to really discuss our fears.


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So, I was just in the middle of e-mail to you regarding this very topic, coincidence? Being active in politics and a student of the US political structure I wanted to see your reaction to President Obama’s administration thus far, especially under recent events. This is just a piece of my email, I will formulate more of a response soon.

First question came from the Health Care debate. Where, before last weeks “you lie” outburst, I felt was completely political. The Democrats have a valid opinion; the Republican’s have a valid opinion; and the valid opinions from the far left, far right. I didn’t see race in the debate. Two days ago a Georgia representatives said there is no way a logical American can see the outburst as anything but a racist remark. I don’t see the racism, and I’ve been trying very hard to. I see the political side of it, the liberals vs. the conservatives, but I do not see the racism in the debate/outburst. I know it is a rare occurrence for a representative to yell at the President in such a formal setting, but it is not unprecedented. This is the first time in history that a representative has been publicly scorned (through a House Resolution), but if people believe this is the first time it has happened they would be mistaken. So am I just missing the point (very possible)? Or is there something amiss about their statements?

The second question came (as you say in your post) with President Obama speaking to the school children earlier last week. It was very disturbing hearing the pundits, representatives, and really the whole political right complain about how he will preach the liberal agenda (to put it mildly). There was nonstop complaining that the President of the United States will “corrupt”, “taint”, “disillusion” the American school children. Again, I did not see the racism in these statements until very recently. What other President went through this much criticism for speaking to American children? Who are we electing to the highest office in the United State that we cannot trust her or him with speaking to the children?

Has the country steered away from typical political debate and onto the racism debate? What is ‘typical political’ debate

Avery, a couple of thoughts for you on this issue...

First, this is beyond a rare occurrence. According to Dr. Richard Vatz, Towson University Professor of Political Communications, this has NEVER happened during a speech before a joint session of Congress before. Presidential addresses to joint sessions of Congress are not common (the annual State of the Union Address, plus an average of one every two years for the last century) but this is still a historical event.

Second, the comment itself was not racist, Joe Wilson's "you lie" was itself a lie. Rather, what former President Carter (not a representative, as you thought) said was that it was "rooted" in racism. Carter sees the blatant disrespect shown by Rep. Wilson as motivated by racism, and that is quite plausible. Casual racism is still pervasive in American society, and a Southern white male of Joe Wilson's generation is quite likely to have racist attitudes toward African-Americans. We can't know for sure whether that is true, but it is certainly not unlikely.

The issue for President Carter was one of respect, or the lack thereof in this case. I'm with him on this one, in that I don't think he would have responded the same way to a white president. Likewise, I doubt we would have our current political space infested with "birthers", "deathers", and the like to the current extent if we did not have a black president. They would still exist, because US society, like every other, has its share of crackpots, but they would be less visible and vocal.

Third, on the address to schoolchildren, the last such presidential address at the start of the school year was by George H.W. Bush in 1991. Some Democratic politicians objected at the time, but the criticisms were quite different. Rather than objecting to Bush addressing the children because he might corrupt them, or some other such silliness, they objected because they felt it was using federal tax dollars for campaign purposes. While that strikes me as also silly, it is certainly more defensible than how Fox News and Republican pols reacted to Obama's speech.

One week ago today Joe Wilson yelled " You Lie" during President Obama's health care speech to Congress. This outburst has prompted a media circus. Wilson has received criticism from the right and the left. Numerous politicians and political commentators have criticized Mr. Wilson for his lack of respect for the President. Many critics on the left including former President Jimmy Carter have stated that Joe Wilson's interruption had racial undertones. Numerous people have suggested that Mr. Wilson would not have interrupted the President if he was white. The question of whether or not this outburst was race related has been discussed at length in the mainstream press.

His outburst was most certainly a race based one though, but in the same way that Obama's speech contained an element of racism. This incident reveals just how racist our culture has become. The debate has centered on black and white racial tensions, but it ignores the most glaring element of racism in this incident. I am talking about American's deep seated hatred of Mexican immigrants. The media and most critics on the left have focused on whether or not Joe Wilson interrupted the President because he was Black. They have ignored for the most part that Joe Wilson and Obama are both working to ensure that millions of people living in the U.S. from one specific ethnic group do not have access to health care. Mr. Wilson accused Obama of lying about not covering illegal immigrants under health care reform. It is truly amazing that members of both parties are working to ensure that one specific ethnic group does not have access to health care.

First off, there is no such thing as an illegal person. The term itself is barbaric. Classifying an individual as an illegal person results in the dehumanizing of an entire ethnicity. This type of classification is what leads to some of the worst human rights violations around the world. We are talking about millions of PEOPLE here. The same "illegal" immigrants that Obama and Wilson are trying to prevent access to affordable health care, are the very people who provide the basic building blocks for the society we live in today. They provide some of the most back breaking labor in areas that are essential to America. I am talking about areas like agricultural. These people are good enough to pick our crops for far below the minimum wage, but god forbid we give them any medical treatment when they are sick. Many of the cheap goods we rely on as a society are the result of underpaid labor by undocumented workers.

I am not making the case that Joe Wilson's interruption didn't have anything to do with black/white racial tensions. I am simply stating that we cannot ignore the blatant racism that permeates the health care debate. We are talking about millions of people who work hard every day to make this country work. Is this the type of country we want to live in? A country where it becomes politically acceptable to deny health care to one specific ethnic group. We spent trillions bailing out a select few mega corporations, many of whom have recently handed out billions in bonuses to their executives. In this era of globalization does anyone actually think all stockholders in these companies are American citizens? Why has it become politically acceptable to bail out wealthy foreign stock holders, but unacceptable to even suggest we provide basic medical treatment to some of the poorest hard working people living in this country today?

John, that's an interesting point, but I'm not sure I completely buy it. I see two issues here:

1) Should those who enter the country illegally get the same benefits as legal residents?

2) Is the opposition to policies that provide benefits for those who are here illegally motivated by racism?

The second question is undoubtedly partially the case, but only partially. The provision of health care to illegal immigrants will most affect Hispanics, but since it does not actually target Hispanics (non-Hispanics are also affected, and most Hispanics are not affected since they are legal residents) it is not clearly racist. While some will support it because they object to Hispanics entering the country, there are also many who object in principle to providing government benefits to those who are not legally residents in the country.

That perspective is certainly defensible in the abstract, and even in some cases in the particulars. I don't personally favor this manifestation because I think denying health care to any resident of the US, legal or illegal, is both morally wrong and fiscally stupid. Those lacking health care (whatever their residency status) die earlier (a recent report estimated 45,000 annual deaths resulting from the lack of health care, which is more than the combined death rate caused by drunk driving and murder) and are prone to using the emergency room when sick, which is FAR more costly than caring for them within the main health care system. Who pays the cost of emergency room visits? We do, either through state subsidies, or more often through higher insurance premiums.

Oh, and don't think because you have employer provided health insurance you don't pay for your insurance. You do, in the form of lower wages.

Now, I do believe that countries have a right to regulate the entry of people. So, how do you deal with those who enter against the rules? They are an important part of our economy, and we should have more enlightened rules, but ultimately the government serves the people in this country, and the people are against large-scale immigration. That being the case, we are going to get restrictive and punitive immigration laws until the American people get their heads out of their keisters, regardless of the ethnicity of the immigrants.

"Suggestions or belief that our elected leader would say something to harm our children are so ridiculous I can’t believe I had to use the keystrokes I just used to address it."

This statement shocks me. President Bush - the last one we had - said many things I would in no way want my children to hear because they were outright lies and resulted in the deaths of thousands of American sodliers and hundreds of thousands of other innocents. He was basically teaching my children it is ok to lie to the people who elected you. That lying to get what you want is some sort of virtue. That is just the tip of the ice berg. Bush II said an array of things that were broadcast by the media, and I did not want my children to hear the crap and worked hard to explain the consistent lying.

That was all based on my value system though. Someone else may have a completely different value system and feel Obama is lying or not representing their values. To dismiss people who wouldn't want Obama to speak in front of their children as racists is RIDICULOUS as far as I am concerned. The same would be said despite the color of his skin. I would definitely say SOME of the people attacking him and dismissing him are racist, but to use that term so carelessly and in such a blanketing way is irresponsible.

*** Traveler, if you take the time to reread what I wrote you may notice that I never once said that people who don't want their children to hear Obama speak are racists. I did say that "some" people who hold the position are xenophobic, but that doesn't imply racism, necessarily. Also, at this point Obama doesn't have a track record of lying to the public, so your Bush I & II rationale doens't apply in his case either. So, was it me who was being RIDICULOUS, or you for carelessly unpacking the onslaught of questions I was asking? Oh, and here is a blanket that you can wear that I hope keeps you warm. I am a proponent of the fact that anyone socialized in America is racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, and classist, along with other isms that are too numerous to list. We succumb to these things because we've never had the chance to discuss them, understand them, and distance ourselves from that behavior. Funny though, most people will own the fact that they are sexist, but assert that they might be racist, and they are up in arms. Tells you something about how problematic racism has been in this country, doesn't it? *** -- J.W.

JW...I'll be honest. With our ongoing discussion lately, this post raised my hackles. Our conversations are always cordial, stimulating, and fun...however, at times I still get a trace of "if you don't see things the way I do, you still don't get it". I was irritated, and chose not to respond.

However...I was still thinking. And in the end...I think I may have stumbled on an intriguing idea. Do you think that much of what we discuss...and our disagreements, could simply be language based? Could it be be how we see and use certain words...and not necessarily the concepts behind the words?

For example...I don't consider myself a selfish person. My family is first and foremost in my mind. That's why I work...That's why I teach them what's important...That's why I provide. In this instance, I'm using the word selfish to mean "thinking of myself first" or "putting myself above others". I would say I'm not, and would also think others would interpret me as such by my actions.

However...I COULD be considered all people the sense that I see things from one perspective...MY perspective. I can't see things through your eyes, or anyone else's. I can only act based on what I've experienced or learned or saw or feel. In that sense, ALL my actions are Selfish...because they're mine.

That said...may calling certain politicians actions (i.e. "You lie") racist fit into this line of thinking? I might be able to interpret his outburst as an example of a rude, public, disagreement with a policy the President holds. There was nothing overtly racist about the words...or the topic. I don't think his actions were racist when using the word to mean "Joe Wilson hates black people".

Could it be possible that your use of racism might include acts performed by a white man? Like my example of being/not being selfish, could Wilson's remark be considered racist/not racist dependent on the use of the word? His words may be able to be interpreted as racist because they were given from the perspective of a WHITE man...much like my selfish actions are selfish because they come from the only perspective I have...mine.

Of course...this comes with a whole boat-load of other the fact that all actions would then be racist (by that definition). But then again...based on your comment to The Traveler...maybe that's exactly what you think? I'm anxious to hear back from you on this one, JW! :)

*** Whaler, I apologize for my contribution to making you feel as if your not "getting it" is problematic for anyone, other than you. It isn't problematic for me that we see the world differently on some levels. I am not so self absorbed to think that I have to totally understand the reality of everyone I converse with. I see that as virtually impossible. However, I can demonstrate my honest intention to understand the realities of others in an effort to be a better colleague, resource, or neighbor for whatever struggles they may incur. Most times I see you exactly that way, which is why we have been in conversation and had the rapport we have for over two years now. Everyone who is receptive to seeing the world differently from the way they've always seen it comes to their own personal epiphany in their own time. However, when we walk around steadfastly trying to hold onto our own opinions as if we might become "less than" if we relinquish one, or alter our perspective on something that we held a very contrary opinion on, we only hurt ourselves. I've been guilty of this myself and it took me a moment or two or three to learn I was ultimately stifling my intellectual growth.

It is possible that some of our disconnects are both semantics and conceptual. I appreciate the time you took to get inside of our communication, and the semantics piece at times can be large. But the conceptual piece is even larger in this instance. I have not once said that Wilson is racist. I have attempted to open a dialogue to see what others think about Wilson's comment, and other intriguing actions, to determine if others think any of the oddities associated with interpretations of Obama's presidency or performance could be racist. So, why is it that some people immediately go to a default position of being defensive when I am simply inquiring about different people's takes on the situation. Was it Shakespeare who once wrote "Me thinks that [they] protest too much?"

I won't say all actions are necessarily active instances of racist behavior. However, yes, I believe if you are socialized in this country you are racist. This isn't restricted to WHITE MEN, like so many of my colleagues around the country, and various scholars assert. Many of them hold the position that Black people, and other underrepresented racial groups can't be racist because they don't have the economic power and social leverage to institutionally oppress another group. Their position is that underrepresented people who have experienced racism at the hands of the hegemonic culture can only exert prejudice or bias towards WHITES, or even other racial groups, but not racism. Now that is semantics. It is as if the word racism must be reserved to leverage against whites only to clearly distinguish their brand of racial oppression. I challenge that notion and say to people who hold the position that only Whites can be racist that what they mean to say is that only Whites can be White Supremacists. Anyone can be racist, and most Americans are, but it doesn't mean that we actively or consciously go out of our way to practice racism. It is the subconscious dimension of racism that is the problem. People have asked me were Kanye and Serena's actions racist. (Stay tuned to the next blog to see my take on that.)

Conceptually, you struggle with seeing beyond your socialization possibly because you have always prided yourself on being fair and just. I grew up thinking I was at my core a very nice, fair, polite person myself. But none of that has anything to do with the fact that I have an unearned privilege associated with my sexual orientation being heterosexual that privileges me over gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons. I can unconsciously display my heterosexuality and not have to think twice about it (unless I date outside of my race, and then must process the consequences of that possible loss/gain of privilege, dependent upon whose looking).

This race thing has us, as a country, really discombobulated. But I know that being labeled a racist is the one thing that people want to avoid like the plague, and I don't blame them. However, I am a proponent of the fact that it is better for me to accept the fact that I am a racist. After all, I was born within the borders of a racist country that front loaded a great deal of its decisions with racists considerations, including its distribution of opportunities. As people who racially look like me have ascended in status due to socio-economic clout or political maneuvering, we have acquired a socio-political position that allows us to leverage our race against others who have not yet acquired a similar position. As the demographics of leadership of some of our vaunted institutions change the arguments of racism's institutional power should be changing too, shouldn't it? We have a Black president now. Is anyone naive enough to think that no matter how much this seeming enlightened man wants to do the right thing, he is going to make some decisions that are racially motivated, albeit subconsciously. Before anyone hits panic buttons we must recognize that White presidents have been doing it for years, so everyone relax. I think the hope of many of us in this nation is that because Obama better understands many of the dimensions of the underclass or underrepresented, he will be the president to affect change that will benefit the severely marginalized. If James' Loewen's assertion that "social class determines how we see social class" is correct, Obama's evolving social class status situates him with a unique way of seeing that other presidents may have been incapable of seeing.

The ism of racism is but a subset of prejudice, along with all the other "isms." It is one of the many ways we prejudge others. Until we find a way to immerse our children at a fairly young age in conversations about how they see differences, many of us will continue to rear racially inconsiderate children who upon reaching adulthood will only be seeing the world the way they are, not the way it is. *** -- J.W.

It's been a little while since I've weighed in on one of these blogs, but this just happens to be a topic that I've done a lot of thinking and reading about lately. I have a tendency to write until my fingers are numb and, so, I'm going to try and keep this as concise as I can. (Afterthought – this was as concise as I could be – sorry).

First, I'd like to say that I'm impressed with the responses thus far. I'm feeling what John put out there and, although Daniel may have phrased it slightly differently, I think they're on the same page. It's nice to see that the oppressive rhetoric that can be tied to nationalism based on the artificial boundaries of a particular nation-state has not corrupted everyone. The terms "illegal person" or "alien" are barbaric.

Secondly, I'd like to address Avery's inability to locate the racism that is infused with the health care debate that is going on right now. It should be noted though, that it is no surprise that Avery (and many, many others) cannot see the racial undercurrents that permeate this conversation. This is because they are, in fact, invisible to most of us who swim within the privilege of dominant culture (a.e. white, male, christian, temporarily able-bodied, heterosexual, middle to upper-middle class, etc.). The arguments posed by the most heated of the tea party protesters ( or tea baggers) at the onset seems to be completely political in origin. Upon further examination, we should be able to at least feel the presence of internalized racism or, at least, internalized white supremacy.
Before we go to the breakdown, one might want to hear some of the rhetoric that has been floating on the airwaves of what seems to be the national tea party television station, Fox news, in concert with what other conservative spokespersons like Rush Limbaugh are saying: - This is Rush telling his listeners that Obama and his administration hate white people and want to make them the “new oppressed minority”. (This statement is interesting in its own right because it may be the first time he has made the claim, albeit in a backwards manner, that people of non-white racial orientation are oppressed. They must be if whites will replace them?) - This is Glenn Beck stating that the Obama administration’s agenda is driven by a desire for reparations. More so, he directly relates health care to this. - This is Glenn Beck stating that Obama is someone who has a “deep seeded hatred for white people” or at least white culture.

Is it any surprise that you then find people at these events with signs like these:

Now, those are some outright hate inciting statements and signs. This is how the fires are started and flames fanned. This is the underlying current of the racist attitude that exists within a faction of those that are opposing the Obama administration’s agenda, but more specifically the health care debate.
However, it gets much more subtle than this and is infused in the daily rhetoric being shared by tea baggers. Here are some more common slogans and themes from the rallies (I’m not going to post links but you can find these just by searching “tea party signs” on google):

“Don’t spread my wealth… Spread my work ethic”, “Socialism doesn’t work”, “If you want to stop 1984, you’ll need some 1776”, “Patriots Against Pork”, etc., etc. etc.

I hope I don’t need to fully break down why and how those last two slogans are racialized or at least reek of white privilege. I have almost never heard any person of color refer to themselves as “patriots” and probably fewer that refer to Washington, Jefferson, etc. as their founding fathers. This is not to say that they are not patriotic or that they do not love this country, but that word in particular conjures a very specific image laced with whiteness. People that carry these signs and espouse these beliefs are a very specific group of people evoking a very specific image from our history. People of color recognize this as racialized subtext, but it is invisible to us because we, as white individuals, have been socialized to identify and align ourselves with these historical representations. This is pure white privilege at play. This is important when we look at how those two slogans juxtapose themselves with the first two.

“Don’t spread my wealth… Spread my work ethic” and “Socialism doesn’t work” are two dimensions of a major theme that has infected this debate about health care. The proposed programs are viewed as a government handout and de facto redistribution of wealth. This topic could be a chapter in a book all by itself, but let’s look at it fast. First, is the government hand-out line. This becomes racially coded when we, as white people and a nation, really examine who we stereotypically believe to be the recipients of government assistance programs. We all know the derisive term applied to these programs, the infamous “welfare”. And all you white people can, at this moment, look into your heart of hearts and, without telling anyone, picture the image that first comes to your mind when you think about the word welfare. I think that it’s so pervasive that I don’t need to describe the image and therefore will move on. Whites have almost completely removed themselves, at least in their own minds, as a group that relies on government funded programs. There is an overwhelming belief, either conscious or subconscious, that white peoples’ money will be robbed from them and given to undeserving and, if the above slogan is any key, lazy people of color with no work ethic. This is without even acknowledging that years of racial oppression (of people of color) allowed for years of racial preference (for white people) which created the vast gap in wealth and inheritance between these two groups.

All of these signs and messages work together to create a racialized subtext in the works. Patriots are white. Patriots don’t believe in “socialism”. Socialism is tax dollars paying for government programs which are all a form of welfare. Welfare is for poor, lazy, people of color, with no work ethic. This is how the debate carries a racialized undercurrent.

As another point of interest – Of the 32 states that receive more tax dollars than they contribute, 27 (84% are republican) or where a majority of the tea baggers are coming from. Of the 18 states which contribute more than they receive, 14 (78%) are democratic [Source:].

Lastly, for everyone that is siding with these tea baggers or for those of you white folk who think that your taxes are going to “welfare queens”, please feel free to never use one of these resources again:

• Social Security
• Medicare/Medicaid
• State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)
• Police, Fire, and Emergency Services
• US Postal Service
• Roads and Highways
• Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)
• The US Railway System
• Public Subways and Metro Systems
• Public Bus and Lightrail Systems
• Rest Areas on Highways
• Sidewalks
• All Government-Funded Local/State Projects
• Public Water and Sewer Services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)
• Public and State Universities and Colleges
• Public Primary and Secondary Schools
• Sesame Street
• Publicly Funded Anti-Drug Use Education for Children
• Public Museums
• Libraries
• Public Parks and Beaches
• State and National Parks
• Public Zoos
• Unemployment Insurance
• Municipal Garbage and Recycling Services
• Treatment at Any Hospital or Clinic That Ever Received Funding From Local, State or Federal Government (pretty much all of them)
• Medical Services and Medications That Were Created or Derived From Any Government Grant or Research Funding (again, pretty much all of them)
• Socialist Byproducts of Government Investment Such as Duct Tape and Velcro
• Use of the Internets, email, and networked computers, as the DoD's ARPANET was the basis for subsequent computer networking
• Foodstuffs, Meats, Produce and Crops That Were Grown With, Fed With, Raised With or That Contain Inputs From Crops Grown With Government Subsidies
• Clothing Made from Crops (e.g. cotton) That Were Grown With or That Contain Inputs From Government Subsidies
• If a veteran of the government-run socialist US military, fore go your VA benefits and insist on paying for your own medical care
• Smithsonian Museums such as the Air and Space Museum or Museum of American History
• The socialist Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Monuments
• The government-operated Statue of Liberty
• The Grand Canyon
• The socialist World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials
• The government-run socialist-propaganda location known as Arlington National Cemetery
• All other public-funded socialist sites, whether it be in your state or in Washington, DC


Good day.

There is so much going on here I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts...

-There are those so threatened by an Obama presidency that they are motivated to verbalize and otherwise convey publicly what used to be confined to dark corners of the American political scene. There is a segment of the population that believes Obama is not due the respect usually afforded the person who occupies the office of the President of the United States. Some people who feel that way don't believe that anyone with whom they disagree politically is due any respect. Others don't believe a black man is due the same respect as a white man.

-What passes for mainstream political debate these days looks more and more like the debate over abortion all the time. One side characterizes the other as immoral, evil, motivated by greed - even by the devil. One side believes that it is OK to work for the personal ruination of the other to the point of justifying killing a doctor in front of his children or, planting two explosive devices at a women's clinic so that the second one goes off just as first responders arrive to help the "evil doers" who were victims of the first.

-Fueling the political fire are right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh who tells his audience they should hope for the President to fail, and Glen Beck who calls the President a racist and says that he hates all white people. The language they and others use to describe people with whom they disagree politically is very much like the propaganda with which a country might characterize the population of another country with which it is at war...dehumanizing one's adversary makes it a lot easier to say bad things about them - or to destroy them. Limbaugh, Beck and their ilk have no concern for the truth, and if they're honest with themselves, little real concern for politics. They are concerned with ratings. I listened to Rush and Beck long before they were the media money makers they are now, and neither of them started out nearly as caustic or as conservative as they now claim to be. It was only when they realized there was a pretty substantial, and amazingly loyal market for that particular brand of snake oil did they start manufacturing it in droves by playing on people's basest fears and feelings. Their simplistic logic - all liberals are evil, the president is a liberal therefore the president is evil - is easy on the mind, if caustic to the soul. Scaring people is easy and it sells. There will always be a group of people who really do believe everything they hear/see/read in the media and on the internet. And if you're already pre-disposed to discount the facts in favor of what you believe to be true...all the easier you are to convince. Our intellectual sophistication or "media savvy" has not improved one bit since the famous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast. We've become better at disseminating information but, if anything, we are far worse at interpreting information.

-While the cable and radio talk shows along with Fox News seem to be very highly motivated in their mission(s) the "mainstream media" is getting lazier by the day. I used to watch shows like Meet the Press for in-depth policy discussions. But now the Sunday news shows and the majority of what passes for broadcast news content is dominated by discussions of political strategy instead. You don't have to read anything to talk strategy - you only need to know how to play checkers.

-The Republican Party long ago made a "deal with the devil," so to speak, when it decided to cultivate social conservatives, motivated primarily by religious beliefs, as a significant political force. This is a relatively small but highly motivated group of "values voters" who believe that every single political issue is a matter of good vs. evil. If you disagree with them on any one issue, you're evil and so you're not to be trusted to ever tell the truth. Your motives are entirely suspect. Therefore, everything you say is a lie and you can be summarily dismissed as an instrument of the devil in all your words and deeds. And because you are the devil's helper, you're not even due the basic human respect one gives a stranger. On the other hand, if you agree with this bloc politically, you are entirely virtuous and your motives are pure. Anyone who says anything against you is lying, facts be damned. In fact, facts be damned in all things - all that matters is what you profess. This highly motivated group has been instrumental in electing a lot of Republicans over the last 25 years. Some of them have even got elected themselves. And they've now hijacked the Republican Party to the extent that even responsible, thoughtful Republicans/conservatives don't dare rile them. Republican leaders know the monster they've created all too well and they're scared to death of it.

-The political culture in the United States is as corrupt as it's ever been. New York State is a microcosm of that, where, you had two State Senators bolt their party for a time basically because the legislature wouldn't give them what they thought was the appropriate amount of "pork" for their districts. Their own ideology didn't mean a thing to them. These two essentially paralyzed state government for more than a month during the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. Nationally, politicians might be better-dressed, but there is no less hypocrisy. Even those with whom I agree politically constantly disappoint me in their lack of spine when it comes to really important issues like health care and the environment. Why? Because their primary concern is getting re-elected.

*** CB, I was despondent over many of these issues already. Your synopsis of the current state of affairs threatens to deflate me even more, because I know it's true. It saddens me greatly that hate mongers have achieved the leverage and clout that they have. I have an abundance of students who are blown away by their introductions into new ways of seeing after being thoroughly indoctrinated into a dysfunctional so-called American Way of seeing. Often, all that is required in many cases is just to share with them the intricate details of an irrefutable piece of history that they were not aware of (like the Rosewood massacre or Japanese Interment) and the house of cards that dysfunctional parents bought into and built around them collapses. KP, in an earlier post, provides some strong considerations for those inclined to consider the so-called dark side (the perspective of the Other), though it is hard to imagine how someone could actually not see how Limbaugh and Beck are both exploiting a vulnerable uninformed populace for their personal ill-gotten gain.

Thanks for contributing to this conversation a provocative analysis of our current state of affairs. *** -- J.W.


Thanks for the clear, thought provoking response to my post. You laid out your perspective quite well.

However...let me give an example of a fundamental distinction in our thinking...

You stated, "due to the fact that I have an unearned privilege associated with my sexual orientation being heterosexual that privileges me over gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons."

I don't buy into the concept of unearned privilege in an example like yours. That to me, is a stigma much like that of a baby being born with original sin. Call it what you want, define things in any way...a baby has not "done" anything to harm anyone. Sin is an action...and I hardly feel "being born" is a qualifying action for sin. That's just my feeling.

Likewise...being born male. Fundamentally there is no difference at birth between me, a heterosexual male, and another homosexual male. We are equals in action. It is our individual interactions with "THE OUTSIDE WORLD" that creates the problem. It's not the individual hetero/homosexual's an external force that bestows privilege and or sexism. In other words...the individual isn't inherintly privileged, he is "labeled" privileged by a set of external criteria.

I continue to come back to the concept of individual responsibility. Society influences us changes us. But fundamentally we are not racist or sexist or any other ist until we are molded by events around us.

My point is that I feel it is inappropriate to use terms like unearned privilege when talking about things as fundamental as what sex I was born as. begs the question...what is an "earned" privilege when speaking of being male?

*** Whaler, you are right, it isn't the fault of an individual that he/she is born with privilege, but it is quite a statement when an individual doesn't acknowledge the advantage that their privilege has provided them over others. Your example of individual actions with the "outside world" is problematic for me, especially in the context of sexual orientation. As you and I mature with our heterosexual leanings we can openly look at women, make advances, and display affection towards them. A gay male is at risk if he takes any of these actions. You may not like the term "unearned privilege," for many reasons, some of which you have articulated. But the one you simply may not have truly wrestled with yet is the fact that once you own the fact that you are privileged, in ways that others aren't simply by the luck of the draw (born male, perhaps middle class/upper class, heterosexual, White (unless you live in an underrepresented neighborhood, which would then not be an advantage), if you are a person that truly cares about others, you will take some type of action to contribute to changing that dynamic. You can call identifying our maleness as privileged inappropriate if you like, but what I call inappropriate is people who have privilege attempting to put into perspective how they aren't, or how as individuals they made it happen, or how others can also do it, when they were born on third base (or starting the game without never having to enter the on-deck circle) while others struggle to get to the plate, enter the game with inferior bats or have never been taught how to even swing the bat.

Oh, and what is an earned privilege as a male. The one that pops in my mind quickly is the respect I get from women who know I understand my privilege and don't feel it makes me less of a man or person to openly acknowledge my privilege. More so, the respect I get from women and others for being a passionate ally of women (and other disenfranchised people and voices) in their struggle for social justice is another earned privilege that I am very proud of.

As a man who has two daughters I am very committed to ensuring that I have worked diligently to challenge men about the unearned advantages that we have. If men aren't challenged about it, they easily can become inconsiderate, not in a mean spirited way, but nonetheless, inconsiderate. I do more than tell my daughters that I love them. I try to affect the world so that it can truly love them as well. Oh, and I work hard to make sure my son understands his male privilege as much as he, unfortunately, has had to learn, like my daughters, of the disadvantages that will visit them throughout their lifetime, simply because they are racially underrepresented, a birthright (or birth-wrong) in a hegemonic culture that doesn't necessarily embrace them as consistently as it does others. *** -- J.W.


Like you gentlely chiding me for "assuming" you called WIlson a've done the exact same thing with me and my understanding of my privilege. Come on JW...reread everything I've written...and you'll see I quite clearly understand my position in society.

But as a philosopher...I can talk about fundamentals of privilege.

I still believe...FUNDAMENTALLY at birth there is no privilege. Privilege begins when SOMEONE ELSE looks at a black baby or a female baby and begins to make judgements or assumptions. Therefore privilege is an EXTERNAL thing.

There are a lot of things in life that affect us as individuals. Many we can control...many more we cannot. It has always been my perspective to use my energy, my love, my gumption on those things I can control. I take a proactive view on life.

And as for your example of an earned privilege? No offense, but it sounds like watered-down psycho-babble. It sounds like a fancy way of saying, "I try my best to be a good person". By being a good person and understanding the world, and trying to teach my kids and prepare them for what is ahead...for that I get a special title of an earned privilege?

That may have come across a little strong...but I felt I needed to make that point. The earned privilege you receive from the women around you WAS STILL GIVEN TO YOU BY SOMEONE ELSE. You chose to act a certain way, and as a result, you and others reaped some benefit. Is that not exactly what I'm proposing when I talk about individual responsibility?

*** Whaler, I can take your chiding as much as you take mine because I understand our journey is one seeking truth, or at least a close approximation to whatever truth can be ascertained. However, I don't have to reread your writings to know that, as bright as you are, you don't clearly see your privilege. If you did, as bright as you are, you wouldn't sum up my spiel as:

"watered-down psycho-babble. It sounds like a fancy way of saying, "I try my best to be a good person". By being a good person and understanding the world, and trying to teach my kids and prepare them for what is ahead...for that I get a special title of an earned privilege?"

The easiest thing in the world is to say we are being a good person as we unthinkingly step to our opportunities on the fingers, toes, necks and backs of others. You scoff at what you refer to as a "special title" that I wear proudly. I wear it proudly because it required work for me to achieve the state of mind I have relative to my privilege over others. Like many, it may have been racism aimed at me that helped get my attention as to how dysfunctional we can treat each other at times in this world. However, like so many others who are disrespected because of their differences I was fortunate enough to put that into perspective and realize I was doing the same at times when people different from me came around. I still have to work hard on that now (with partisan politics for example). However, I bet you a dollar to a dime that if (God forbid) something were to happen to one of your children that had them severely disabled you would then begin to notice how privileged so many others are who don't deserve it for any other reason than they were born that way.

Your individual responsibility argument falls by the wayside if we push my point about your hypothetical disabled child a bit further. In a world that doesn't yet have comparable educational and/or social programs for the disabled that rival those for the able bodied, would you still be trumpeting the tune of individual responsibility the way you do if one of your children were living that reality? I seriously doubt it. All of a sudden you would be forced to face the reality that some have and others have not in some seriously unfair ways that have nothing to do with the responsibility of the individual, but instead how certain types of individuals in our society have been extended more opportunities while others haven't.

You identified yourself as proactive, but I guess that would depend upon how you define it. Proactive to me would include, as much as possible, avoiding hypocrisy. In other words, in the hypothetical scenario I outlined, expecting the world to extend to your child external privileges to accommodate their special needs, after you have articulated no need for them would be the epitome of hypocrisy.

Contrary to the way you framed it, I am not ashamed of my earned privilege. Unfortunately it often takes some serious mishap in life for many others to get in touch with the fact that their ability to have individual responsibility is a privilege itself (ask George Wallace after he was shot and paralyzed). I work hard so that others don't have to arrive at that point of enlightenment because of a tragedy. More so though, because we all need to do the right thing! *** -- J.W. owe me a dollar.

I AM living that example. I DO have a son that lived through a terrifying that could have potentially cost him his life. One that he will have to deal with the effects of for the rest of his life.

And through that experience...we were lucky enough to spend time at one of the best hospitals in the world. A hospital that does not charge it's that does not look at economic background, or the color of one's skin. The only requirements you need to meet are that you are a child, and you're hurt.

We met hispanic kids that couldn't speak that lost limbs...Iraqi kids suffering the consequences of a messy war. And you know what? ALL THE KIDS ARE THE SAME. They want the same get better. Are you know what else? ALL THE PARENTS ARE THE SAME. They want their kids to get better. Despite not knowing their language...or them knowing mine...we communicated. We shared ice cream, played, and suffered...all together in the same room.

So despite your efforts once again to assume you'd know how I'd act in a given situation, YOU"RE WRONG. It is precisely because of situations like this that I think the way I do. I have seen nearly the worst of life and I've seen the best. I don't need you telling me I don't appreciate my standing in life...or you making sweeping judgements about how my thinking would change in some given hypothetical.

Things aren't always what they seem, JW. I know on some level you still see me as the educated white guy that simply won't "get it"...or the guy who lives "hypocrisy"...or the guy who won't confront his own privilege.

Maybe you should take another hard look at yourself. You make your career doing what you do...and you do far more good than bad...but there are others ways of looking at problems out there than yours.

*** Whaler, and I'll give you that dollar. Perhaps I was wrong in your case, perhaps I wasn't. Either way it won't be the first time, or last that I was wrong. You seemed to enjoy that fact and I must admit I am a bit surprised by that. However, your glee or disdain over my rightness or wrongness is not what motivates me to have these conversations. I am not necessarily trying to be right/wrong, just socially just, which has its ups and downs.

You did say you were able to have your son cared for in a hospital that gave him free service, correct? I am happy that it turned out that way for you and the others in the hospital that you were "fortunate" enough to have access to for free. I understand now that your access was due to individual responsibility, not good fortune, nor privilege. I wish we lived in a world where every child in a situation like yours could have the same quality of care. But we don't. There are many many children who for varying reasons couldn't have or wouldn't have been admitted to that hospital if for no other reason than lack of knowledge of such an opportunity, lack of access to that information. is that their parents fault, the society we currently live in, or a failure of someone to take "individual responsibility?" Oh, and when everyone left the hospital the kids whose families have no education and make less than $30,000 had a very different reality than the families with education that make $130,000 dollars, who had a very different experience from the parents who made $300,000 and didn't need an education because of their inherited wealth.

You know what I recall was you once lambasting someone who personalized a response to you, instead of keeping it philosophical. Correct me if I'm wrong, but my offering a hypothetical (that happened to be the case) just happened to be an inadvertent truth that manifested itself.

Hey Whaler, I don't back off on my position that it often takes a tragedy to wake us up. It didn't happen for you in the way it happened for me, so good for me and it is what it is for you. For me it was my godson who was born with cerebral palsy into a world that labels people like him retards. For me it was my son being called a nigger as a first grader (age 6) and only Black kid on the school bus by a 5th grade (age 11) White kid who was grossly in the majority. No amount of "individual responsibility" alleviates my son's innocence being taken away from him in that moment simply because he is darker than everyone else on the bus and is grossly in the minority. For me it is Brandon Teena being murdered simply because he was born a girl and felt he had to be a boy at the risk of his life, which became the case. If you see any of these situations as malleable with a slice of "individual responsibility" applied, then please educate me as to how it could have been different.

You get the input from me that is derived from our conversations, nothing else. As a matter of fact, before this moment, it has always appeared to be a give and take that you've enjoyed. In the flow of our conversations we have gone many places, but I have never deliberately been condescending to you. I have though, answered your philosophical engagement with as much clarity as I could, which would include attempts at many creative ways to challenge you to see things differently. If I had known you would be admonishing me as if I personally attacked you when I was extending a hypothetical for you to consider, of course I wouldn't have gone there. I would think you would have known that.

I do take good hard looks at myself, all the time, which is how I got in touch with my privilege, both earned and unearned. I didn't come out of the womb loving people with disabling conditions, being appreciative of my various privileges, etc. On the other hand, apparently unlike you, I don't believe that "individual responsibility" is available to everyone in the same dosages. Until we have policies and institutional ethics that address these incongruities, I will not be comfortable with assertions that some people like those you mentioned (patients and parents of patients) are being fairly treated.

I don't have all the answers, but definitely am interested in having access to as many available answers as possible. Our discussions are/were steps towards me acquiring access to different answers that I am not accustomed to having since my work often has me engaging the receptive. As I imagine you do, I have many friends who see the world quite differently from me, and I pursue those relationships as much as possible (which you should know from invitations I have extended to you). But I never, ever enjoy someone--that I know is only trying to find the truth--being wrong. But hey, that's just me.

You went off on that blogger about a year ago for making it personal, but isn't that what you did to me when you said

"I don't need you telling me I don't appreciate my standing in life...or you making sweeping judgements about how my thinking would change in some given hypothetical."

My philosophical friend, it was a hypothetical and along with that hypothetical I posed another one, that you just might change the way I did with my godson being born with Cerebral Palsy due to malpractice.

I know that "Things aren't always what they seem." If they were, the way it seems to me, as an "educated white guy" you would "get it"...or wouldn't be subject to living with "hypocrisy"...or would be confronting your "own privilege." Since it isn't what it seems, I will have to make adjustments and attempt to understand your way (and others who see the way you do) of seeing, which intrigues me beyond what you may be capable of imagining. But hey, while I am not perfect in my attempts to do it, it is what I always try to do. *** -- J.W.


No...I didn't enjoy the previous post... I certainly don't enjoy "proving others wrong"...particularly when they are as passionate about what they are doing as you are. I might have used the words exasperated, frustrated, irritated, or even angry. But fun? No.

And you talk about me lambasting someone for making it personal. Yes I did do that...because he called me names...that argument left the subject matter and degraded into him calling me names. I didn't call you names...I just called you out on your behavior. Whether correct or not, I interpreted what you said to me as condescending.

One appears you tried to use my son's hospital experience to try to turn it into an example of privilege. I pointed out the fact that Shriners (that's the hospital) does not charge its patients to show that they treat everyone equally. You say we were "fortunate" to end up there...yes we were...for my son's sake. But every hospital in the country knows of the Shriners hospitals. They refer ANY patient to these hospitals based on injuries and or genetic problems...and on those criteria alone! In fact...if anything...I saw far more economically challenged, minority, and foreign people at that hospital than at any other hospital I've been to. So while we were fortunate to get the care they was not at all a result of privilege...but solely on the medical merits of his case.

So where do we go from here? I sympathize with sympathize with me? I didn't need to know about your godson to understand you have your reasons for thinking the way you do. I've never said you were wrong for the way you think. Likewise, I expect the same courtesy from you.

And on a very practical level...what do you say to your son on such days...when people unfairly call him hurtful names? A first grader doesn't care about privilege...or past injustices. He's upset because someone was mean to him for NO REASON. If my son gets beat up on the playground because he's quiet and the smallest kid out there...he too is a victim of a mean person doing something for NO REASON. In the eyes of your 1st grader and my 4 year old...they were treated unfairly BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THEY HAVE NO CONTROL OVER. What can us good parents do? Change the world?... so tomorrow when they get on the bus, or play on the playground, the same things won't happen? NO...we do what we can to teach our kids that some people out there are just mean...for no reason other than because they can be. We try to give them tools to deal with situations so they can protect themselves. And we try as best we can to show them how special they are as how unique they are...and help them be as confident as they can be in an unjust world.

To be truthful JW...this exchange bothered me all night. I thought back and forth about our posts...and in reality, I think we see things much more alike than different. But from my perspective, there's a distinction in how we should move forward...a distinction in what to do next. Maybe that's a result of our backgrounds. Maybe you're more driven to change a larger part of the world because of your life experience than I am. And maybe I'm more willing to look at things from the perspective of my kids and me and those I come in contact with because of my life experience.

Either way...I see us a two individuals who are passionate about the way we see the world. And even more so...I see us as two fathers struggling to understand how to raise our kids to best deal with the struggles they WILL encounter in life...fair or not, they will meet inequity...and our job as Dads is to do what we can to smooth out the rug in front of them.

This is a response to Whaler and his need for clarification of unearned male privilege. You stated earlier that, "We are equals in action. It is our individual interactions with "THE OUTSIDE WORLD" that creates the problem. It's not the individual hetero/homosexual's an external force that bestows privilege and or sexism. In other words...the individual isn't inherintly privileged, he is "labeled" privileged by a set of external criteria." Followed by, "My point is that I feel it is inappropriate to use terms like unearned privilege when talking about things as fundamental as what sex I was born as."

While it is true that no one is born racist or sexist (as two examples), one also is not born into a system with the power to choose to live outside that system. If you are born male, then you are born into a patriarchal system that confers privilege upon you. Just as if you are born female in a patriarchal system (like ours), then you are born into an identity that is marginalized and oppressed.
The socialization process that creates a sexist individual is not the same as the process that bestows unearned privilege. Racism and sexism are based on thought processes and therefore take time to be socialized into. Oppression and privilege are based on identity and therefore are beyond the control of the person who is born into specific identities (male, female, White, Native American, etc.). You're confusing sexism (which is a learned mind state) with privilege which is based on an advantaged identity.

You're argument is based on semantics and, unsurprisingly, guided by a combination of cognitive dissonance and what Charles Pierce, in his article about doubt and our aversion to it, calls the “Method of Tenacity”. But, if you’d like to play the semantics game, then let’s go. On one level, you’re right. A person in not born inherently privileged. That is to say there is no gene for privilege. However, one can make a strong argument, and from my perspective the right argument, that one can be born genetically predisposed toward privilege. You follow that with another good point, although off target. We are labeled at birth. However, the label is male/female, white/Latino (as an example), heterosexual/homosexual, etc., not privileged. Privilege, and/or oppression, is based on the result of being labeled one of those aforementioned identities. The label is a social construction. The resulting privilege or/and oppression is a very real byproduct of the socially constructed label that we are provided. Now, you may feel that it is inappropriate to use a term like unearned privilege, and I would be more than willing to exchange that phase for unearned advantage if you’d like, but your hesitancy toward the use may well be connected to your multiple dominant identities. Asking a person in a dominant position to identify how privilege has helped them is like asking a fish to identify how water has done the same. Privilege is invisible to those of us who have it. I’ll give you a few examples of privilege based on race and sexual orientation as provided by the work of Women’s Studies professor Peggy McIntosh. I’ll follow that up by examples of unearned privilege (or unearned advantage) based on gender compiled by Barry Deutsch which he self-proclaims as being inspired by McIntosh’s work. As a side note, these bullets are based on the personal experience of both authors and so some may not apply, but if each of us allows ourselves to break through the initial resistance I think we find that most are applicable to our lives.

Unearned Privilege based on whiteness:
1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. 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.
4. I can be reasonably sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely and positively represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be fairly sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another woman's voice in a group in which she is the only member of her race.
12. I can go into a book shop and count on finding the writing 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 deal with my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance that I am financially reliable.
14. I could arrange to protect our young children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not
concern others' attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in secondhand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the
illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
22. I can remain oblivious to the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be reasonably sure that if I ask to talk to "the person in charge," I will be facing a person of my race.
25. 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.
26. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
27. 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.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be fairly sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will
31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find
ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing, or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or selfseeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
36. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative, or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do
what I want to do.
39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader, I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions that give attention only to people of my race.
45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
46. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.

Unearned Privilege based on sexual orientation:

1. My children do not have to answer questions about why I live with my partner (my husband).
2. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
3. Our children are given texts and classes that implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
4. I can travel alone or with my husband without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
5. Most people I meet will see my marital arrangements as an asset to my life or as a favorable comment on my likeability, my competence, or my mental health.
6. I can talk about the social events of a weekend without fearing most listeners' reactions.
7. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
8. In many contexts, I am seen as "all right" in daily work on women because I do not live chiefly with women.

Unearned Privilege based on male identity:

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.
2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex - even though that might be true. (More).
3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.
4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are. (More).
6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low. (More).
8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.
9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.
11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent. (More).
12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.
14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.
15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters. (More).
17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.
18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often. (More).
19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.
20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented, every day, without exception.
21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.
22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.
23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.
24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.” (More).
25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability or my gender conformity. (More).
26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring. (More).
27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time. (More).
28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car. (More).
29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.
31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)
32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.
33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.
35. The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.
36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.
37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks. (More).
39. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, chances are she’ll do most of the child rearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts of child rearing.
40. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.
41. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.
42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. (More). If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do. (More).
43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover. (More).
44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.” (More: 1 2).
45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.
46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

These are not labels. These are real applications of privilege that work in our (dominant identities) favor every day. You seem to have equated being born into a privileged identity as somehow reflecting negatively on the person who is born into that/those identities. It is not a negative reflection on that individual person, although it can have negative effects on that person. The negative is, as J.W. stated before, the inability or flaccid commitment in seeing how that privilege benefits you in your day to day life. In fact, privilege can be a positive. One can use that privilege to enter into systems and undermine the basis of that privilege to begin with.


Thanks for the thoughtful response. You sound like you've spent a great deal of time thinking/discussing the "privilege" topic.

However...I think my point was missed on you. By saying that privilege is not something inherent in a person...that is, by saying it is IMPOSED on an individual by society...or some other external force, it allows for the individual to take action. One can't change the color of his skin...but he can control his actions/attitudes in response to others who treat him unfairly because of the color of his skin.

This is a point JW and I have been back and forth on...the point of how much responsibility for change rests with the individual changing himself...or better said, accepting himself...instead of us trying to change the world. It is my contention that while we can all do SOME good...we are NEVER going to change the world completely. THere is always going to be hate and hurt and for that matter, privilege and unfairness. But I feel the golden ticket to freedom...real acceptance of oneself. Freedom comes from within. And that's where real change needs to start.

Your point is not lost on me. I just don't consider it valid.

There is a fatal flaw in your argument. There are two ideas espoused in your last post that point to the privilege that exists in your perspective.

You state, "One can't change the color of his skin...but he can control his actions/attitudes in response to others who treat him unfairly because of the color of his skin."

You follow that by stating, "This is a point JW and I have been back and forth on...the point of how much responsibility for change rests with the individual changing himself...or better said, accepting himself...instead of us trying to change the world." Shortly after you write, "But I feel the golden ticket to freedom...real acceptance of oneself. Freedom comes from within. And that's where real change needs to start."

This is where the last bullet from the list of male privilege comes into play. It states, "I have the privilege of being unaware of my male (white/heterosexual/ability/class) privilege." Their is a major foundational difference in, as you say it, "the individual changing himself...or better said, accepting himself" when you are part of the dominant group as opposed to being part of a targeted/marginalized/underrepresented group. When you are part of the dominant group "accepting yourself", if you truly mean to examine and own your privilege, is an internal process which can be done without, as you also write, "trying to change the world". This meaning that it can always be focused inward, is optional, and is considered a positive progression.

When you are part of a targeted group the only way you have of "accepting yourself", in connection with your statement that, "One can't change the color of his skin...but he can control his actions/attitudes in response to others who treat him unfairly because of the color of his skin" and without "trying to change the world" or effect an outward change is to accept the internalized self-hatred imposed by the views of the oppressive group. This is unless your saying that someone who is marginalized should understand that they are marginalized and decide on a personal level that they will not accept it and instead love themselves unconditionally, but in keeping with with not trying to change the world, keep up a charade that nothing is bothering them. The reality is that if you are marginalized you cannot have "true freedom", which you state comes with "acceptance of oneself",without also attempting to make others aware of the realities of your situation. Therefore, you must have an impact that is focused outward.

This is the privilege of your position and statement. We, as members of privileged groups, can choose whether or not to engage our roll in oppression. Either way, we can be sure we will be relatively happy with in our lives despite the choice. We can also choose how deep we would like to engage the roll we play. We can do the internal work and be happy, because we could have chosen to ignore it if we had wanted. This is not the same as the reality of someone that finds them self in a targeted group and is consistently reminded of their otherness. For them, to accept, and "control [their] actions/attitudes in response to others who treat [them] unfairly because of the color of [their] skin", engaged only as an internal response, is process that most would argue can only carry long term,unhealthy consequences.


You may disagree with my point...however it IS valid.

Let me ask you this. What do you tell the poor black kid to do TODAY? Do you tell him he's marginalized and that he's lacking the privilege needed to get anywhere in life? Do you tell him he has no chance in life because the deck is stacked against him? What does he do?

Another reason JW and I went at each other some recently was because (maybe I misread) I felt he assumed I didn't recognize my privilege. That's the unstated, obvious, elephant in the room. For the millionth time...I'm white, educated, and male...three stikes against me (according to VIa Via...where are you Via Via?). My ideas here are focused on what to do TODAY. I view things on a very practical level. How is that young black kid going to succeed?

Now you may disagree with me...but I feel the only way forward for him is for SOMEONE (hopefully a good Dad like JW) to teach him he's individual...someone who has something to contribute. I think he needs to be treated the way EVERY KID should be treated. And we also need to teach him, as forwardly and gently as possible, that the world SUCKS at times. It's a beautiful place full of love...and it's a wretched place full of hate.

I feel we need to arm that young black kid with self confidence and an understanding of the world. With those two tools there's a chance...A CHANCE. No guarantees...a chance. That may not seem fair...heck, it ISN"T fair. But that's reality. People can point their finger at me...and claim the problem lies with whites, and with the rich, and with the educated, and with males, and with heterosexuals...but that's not going to change what that young black kid has to do TODAY...which is get up, get dressed, walk to school, and interact with a cruel world.

Now I'm not naive enough to think this is fact I KNOW it's incredibly difficult...downright daunting. But what I see as optimistic is that it can start with each individual. When you continue to point the finger at the privileged as the source of the problem, it doesn't get anyone anywhere. Do you really think THEY are going to change? (as a group) Do you really think they're going to lead the charge? Things are the way they are precisely because of the way they've acted. That's not going to change in any short order.'s a concept...maybe we do what we can to focus on they're confidence, and help them recognize that despite the fact that they start in a hole...despite the fact that others don't like them for NO REASON...despite the challenges that lie in front of them...they CAN become a renowned Preacher, a Secretary of State, and why not even President of the United States?


I went back and reread all the responses to this post...and somehow found I overlooked your original post. Maybe I actually read it...and in an act of laziness dismissed it...or maybe I actually missed it...I'm not sure. But I'm glad I went back.

How did everyone give you a pass on your comments? Particularly Avery. Your post left me with a terrible taste in my mouth. It reeks with the smugness of academia. Want a few examples of your words that come across that way?

"...swim within the privilege of dominant culture..."

"no surprise Avery can't see..."


"I hope I don't need to break down..."

and for goodness sake...what kind of backward thinking does it require to couch your words so much to come up with a phrase like "temporarily able bodied"?

I will grant at times I can get emotional...I've challenged JW and others in forward and, some may say, aggressive ways.'s always been geared at reaching an understanding of each others position. My "moments" have been from emotion...passion. educated white guy like me...are so high up on your academic high horse that the reality of the real world "down here" is lost to you.

I see a lot of b****ing and complaining in your words. I see a lot of finger pointing in your words. But I see NO PLAN FOR A WAY OUT. What would you do KMP? On a certain level I DON"T REALLY CARE how we've gotten where we are...I want to work with people who need help facing the world TODAY! And don't spend time trying to explain to me that we need to understand the past to fix the future...blah, blah, blah...I know.

I know JW has a few programs where he speaks to kids at local schools. These least from my perspective...have been well received. The kids/parents that I've spoken to who have benefitted from the programs think it's a good thing. But I also have spoken to people who a nervous about the "type" of instruction kids could possibly receive.

To cut to the chase...people are willing to listen...and learn...when they can see a practical use for what they are being told. If the lesson shows them a new works. If it can give them tools and an understanding of how to be more aware of others' situations...and how to be better citizens...great. But what people are afraid of is book smart guys like you who are all theory...who can give a thousand reasons why things are wrong...but don't appear to have any thoughts on how to make it right.

Frankly...I would welcome the opportunity to have JW speak to my kids' class at some point in the future. While we don't always see things through the same set of lenses, I know his intentions are well. And even more importantly...he LEAVES THE CLASSROOM AND TALKS ABOUT REALITY. I would not have that comfort level with you speaking to my kids in the same situation as your world view, I feel, inhibits your ability to THINK outside of what you've read or were told.

Maybe I'm reading too much into your wouldn't be the first time I've done that. But to me...words mean things...and words from the heart...genuine words...mean the most.

I challenge you...prove me wrong. Ditch all the references and lists you pull from some book. Forget trying to EDUCATE me and everyone else who reads this blog. Stop trying to overpromote the fact that you have gobs of privilege. AND FROM THE HEART...TELL ME, KMP...WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU TELL KIDS TO DO TODAY!!! WHAT SOLUTION DO YOU PROPOSE???

Whaler (and KMP),

I have been enjoying your conversation, been checking in everyday. I did notice KMP’s comments directed at me, and wrote a very long emotion driven response to it. But it was not constructive and instead have been reviewing this conversation everyday and challenging myself, which has been much more productive.

I agree with Whaler in his last response, I prefer the real world conversation to the academic conversation. JW speaks from the heart, showing people how it is and how to improve ourselves from his lens (little pat on the back). KMP, I respect your opinion and your well thought out answers. And ignoring your comments toward me, you and Whaler had a great conversation back and forth which I have enjoyed. There is a time for an academic response to these topics; however I join Whaler in his call for what is the next step and how to move into the future. It is important to understand our history, but we also need to take steps to move on from that. Recognizing our past, the triumphs and devastation, and then work together to make change for the future.

Going back, KMP, I still do not understand why race is at the heart of the health care debate. More importantly, should it be? Should we look outside this individual debate (healthcare), is President Obama going to face racist attacks throughout his administration? Will race come up on every issue? I hope not, but it is reasonable. I am still grasping my privilege as a white person, but I have to ask when do we step beyond the race debate on each and every policy?

No I do not agree race should be forgotten, and I don’t think we all should become “blind to race”; it is an important part (understatement) of our individual identity and our nation’s history. Adding a bit more, with the reverse racism debate: Glenn Beck accusing President Obama of racism against white people, will it end? Another example looking back at Hurricane Katrina, during a public fundraising event Kanye West said “George Bush hates white people”, in response to the Katrina relief efforts. Speaking of Mr. West, were his interruptions and remarks at the music awards towards Taylor Swift racist? How can we determine that?

There was an article in Slate Magizine called "A Primer on Racism: The many uses of the word and how legit they are" by Richard Thomas Ford ( that I read at the beginning of this conversation that I thought fit this conversation very well. I do want to say to Card Buddy’s analysis of the issues facing our country is very well written, thank you for that.

Whaler -

At the same time that I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself that I can’t believe I’m going to justify your post with a response. Maybe it’s the way I’ve been socialized into my masculinity that has made me prone to competition, but how much competition exists on a break-away lay-up anyway? I guess I should watch sentences like that last one though, right? The slightest amount of theory might discredit my attempt of proposing a possible solution to any of these issues. Actually, just your labeling of my last few posts as theory shows your complete disconnect with not only the reality of what being part of a marginalized group may mean, but also a complete disconnect from your own ability to think introspectively. Theory, as defined in the dictionary (just another book I reference from time to time) is, “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact”. The position you put forth comes from what "book smart" intellectuals call the “Master Narrative”. This meaning that it is the story repeated by the dominant group or culture so much that it becomes taken as fact despite the actual realities of the situation or moment in time in which the story occurred. It’s funny to me that when you read what I write you see theory. But the feedback I’ve gotten on my posts from people of marginalized groups is that I’m telling truth to someone who still does not get it. This is your disconnect, what you see as theory is other people’s truth and your privilege is what stands in the way.

The disconnect you experience is further exemplified by your incredible disrespect for underrepresented and marginalized groups when you refer to understanding their history (not just your own, remember) as “blah, blah, blah” and should be ashamed at the double jab you take at women by your use of the word “b****ing”. I’m offended by it and, as I write this, embarrassed for you. As for your accusation of my “backwards thinking” in connection to the use of the term “temporarily able-bodied”, I am almost speechless. That’s actually considered quite a progressive approach to the topic because it does not completely separate the disabled community from the able-bodied community. It implies that each and every one of us could, at any time, join the disabled community. In fact, if we’re lucky enough to live a long life we will inevitably need assistance and therefore become a member of that community. Therefore, those of us that consider ourselves able-bodied should more accurately consider ourselves temporarily able-bodied.

I have and will always believe that we are all hypocrites on some level. But you are a living, breathing , typing contradiction. You spent countless posts taking the position that you do not believe that the world can be changed and so we should not focus our efforts on other people or institutions. Instead, you claim, we should take responsibility for ourselves as individuals. The response I gave to you, and any other readers, contained some thoughts on privilege in order to help further the personal work you so highly praise. It was merely some insight gleaned from the work of others for you to ponder introspectively. You counter that by rather rudely demanding I let you know what I’m doing (while making the rather incorrect assumption that I am doing nothing in the real world), and what anyone else could do, to make an impact on others or change the world! My response was(!) an approach, from the area of action you would like to take, that can change the world. Recognizing privilege and the negative impact it has on everyone, including those with privilege, is key to changing the attitude of entitlement that surrounds most of these issues. I would say that I’m interested in hearing how you justify this contradiction in your statements, but I think I’ve come to the conclusion that you have no intention of doing anything to better your understanding of your own reality or others. You state that you would welcome J.W. to speak to your children's class, but not me because “book smart” people like me scare people. I think J.W. and I are saying the same thing. However, as an average community member, as opposed to the moderator of this blog, I have the freedom to get in your face about it. I will refrain from unpacking the possible implications of your repugnant attitude towards people with “book smarts”, but it is a telling statement. However, I will let you know that the use of caps in any written publication infers yelling, which I can only guess you value above the possible, and I stress possible, personal interpretation of smugness within ones articulation of position.

Whaler, the difference between your posts and mine is that I offer counter viewpoints to your positions, you offer critiques to the style in which I express mine. You are free to reframe the area of debate to what suits your next rant and you’re right when you reference my education, albeit your immature approach at doing so, but you’re going to have to do better than your tired “straw man” approach to debating.

This has been fun. However, I will now shoot my “high horse” and walk along the high road instead (smugness comically applied).


I am going to thoroughly enjoy picking apart this post and responding...ON YOUR LEVEL. (Like words and thoughts...capitals can mean more than one thing. You may only see it as yelling...I use it for emphasis.) But I'll save that exercise for when I have more time.

Briefly...thanks for proving my point. If I had tried to come up with a sarcastic, obnoxious "academic" response to my own post, I couldn't have done better. Are you really serious?

I VERY DIRECTLY challenged you to show me one way in which you would interact with someone who is starting life in a hole. One example of a conversation with a black first grader who was called a name on the bus. And you chose, once again, to try to re-establish yourself above me intellectually. Try as you might...your self aggrandizing, PROUD belief that you are enlightened is just another example of your youth and inexperience in life shining through.

Let's get real...understanding someone, and their plight is only part of what needs to be done. Yes...I'm sure you say the right things at the right time to the right people. And I'm sure what you say sounds like the truth to people becuase it makes them feel like someone understands them at that moment. Then you seperate...and you go home and read books (or whatever you do for fun) and they go to their second job, or home to their chauvinist husband, or to their trailer to try to appease their hungry kids.

What you've told me so far IS theory. It's conceptual. Sympathy and understanding and changing the way YOU, KMP (or me Whaler) views the world does not change anything TODAY.

Once again...I challenge you to pull your head out of the dictionary and be real. Talk to me in my (lol) know us, the ones that are little lower than you on the bulb brightness level. Give me examples with real people.

My guess is you can't do it. And while you're trying...a work a little on a more polished, proper response to your post. It may take me a while...I may need to do some reading. Life is all about what you can read in books you know...silly me, I thought experience and living were the things that taught me most about being a good person.


Thanks for your response...I didn't really intend to drag you into the conversation but I'm glad you did re-enter it.

I appreciated the remarks...and not solely because you tended toward agreeing with me. It's nice to see "someone else" comment on "the back and forth". Sometimes I feel I'm in the minority and other times I feel things are so obvious I cn't understand why more people don't respond. Either way...I appreciate the additional voice.


I have read McIntosh's your list was not new to me. And while her essay is eloquent in the way she makes her point, your application of it to me simply doesn't fit. I have made it a point over the past two years on this blog to point out exactly how privileged I am. Those who follow this blog know my background. I'm white...male...married, with kids, have two college degrees, work full time, have parents that love me, have never worried much about money, etc, etc.

McIntosh begins her essay by directing her focus on men who don't recognize fully their privilege. That is not the case with me...despite your efforts to peg me that way. When I first engaged JW in some privilege discussions, I think the way I argued my point was imperfect. I chose to attack the concept of privilege without clearly stating that I realize it exists. I may have gone so far as to say I don't believe...or buy into...the concept of privilege. Those words were poorly I was looking solely at the fact that I don't feel my privilege negatively impacts the way I interact with others. The way it came out originally made it sound like I thought no privilege exists in general.

Back to McIntosh. She began with a quote..."I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group". A very interesting statement. And while I may take issue with some of the's a statement I can live with. There are institutional hurdles that some groups have that others don't. That's undeniable. I don't think I'd call it overt racism...but that's a matter of word choice. But once again...this is history...this is an understanding of how we got to where we are. And I feel that the criticism in that statement, ironically, is the only way out of the mess we're in. It's in individual at a time...person by person. You can't chop down an oak tree with one takes thousands of chops. You aren't going to tear down institutional racism (I'll use that term) need to work from the bottom up.

And while you seem to think I fly by the seat of my ideas are founded in principles and an understanding of human nature on a greater plane than simply social justice. Do you think human nature lends toward your world view? Can you give me the essence of what you see human nature as...and apply that to your position here? I'll do it now for myself...and I'll look forward to your response.

Some of you have probably heard this from me already...please bear with me.

It is obvious we exist. And in our existence...we experience. As individuals we are the sum of our experiences. That's why we're unique...that's why no two people think exactly alike...because we've all taken different paths to the point in life we're at.

I also think we're free...we have free will...the ability to act independent of some unseen governing force. I therefore act on my thoughts, wishes, desires, emotions, experiences, etc. Because I choose how I act, I am responsible for my actions. Given each individual situation I'm in...despite the circumstances that brought me there...I am responsible for what I do next.

And the real meat of what I believe is that because I act freely, because I'm responsible for what I do...I create meaning in my life.

Now to apply that to our discussion...I don't believe people are inherently good...and I don't think they are inherently bad. I think we go through life living...experiencing...taking in from our surroundings and applying new information to the world view we've established from our past. That's why I say individual responsibilty is the key to progress. Because if I act a certain way...I impact those I come in contact with. I throw an extra data point in their life...a positive data point. If you do the same thing, great...the more the better. JW often talks about positive energy...I think that's right on the money. Focus on what good we can do today...whether that's pointing out an insensitive comment at the break table...or simply listening to a friend talk about their situation at home. understanding of why things are as they are is important...but when you're constantly in someone's face about how past injustices provide them an easy serves as nothing more than a divisive confrontation.

I have to say I'm disappointed with the way this conversation ended. It's easy to attack...particularly when you pop in say what you want, demean others, and leave without addressing real criticisms.

KMP...despite my past criticisms of President least he had the moxie to DIRECTLY answer a question very similar to the ones I posed to you...

I for one absolutely dispise discussion of race, gender, age or religious discrimination. Simply put i view this entire broad range of topics to be rather counter productive as well as distracting from the real issues our socieoty faces.
As I am certain iI have offended someone (as someone is always offended in such discussions) let me explain. First offThe counter productive nature of these discussions is brought about by the fact that Racism, sexism, or any other ism for that matter is simply an idea and in some cases a prersons willingness to act upon that idea. There is no better mechanism on the planet to promote and fuel an idea than constant conversation about the idea. The day racism and the like disapear is the day that people stop talking about it. I understand that that point may seem somewhat abstract or even outright wrong to some people, however, you must understand that even if you are voicing support to end something you are inherently oppening the door to opposition which fuels the debate. Furthermore the subjects have also inherently strenthened the support of all these ism's by creating laws and standards which do not address the real problems but rather use these ism's as a cover for what the problem really is. For example Affermative action. Awarding points or creating quota's for minorities does not address the real issue. If minorities are scoring poorer than other citizens there is a problem. However there is no genetic link between intelligence (or lack there of) and race, or sex. therefore the issue is not race or sex. Why do minorities score lower? because they live disproportionately in poorer communities. The issue is class and wealth not race and sex. I lived in a ghetto for a while and knew plenty of white kids in that ghetto. guess what they whent to the same underfunded crap school as all the minorities went to, and yes they scored just as bad as all the rest of there classmates. did they get points on college entrance? Did they have a minority scholorship fund? Did they look like an appealing candidate to fill some quota? No. They did however suffer from rascial slurs like whitey, honkey and cracker, and often get physically abused in their schools or nahborhoods by the minorities. Do you think that by ignoring the suffering of these people and telling them they deserve it because they are white males, encourages any sympothy for other races? I my self have been pulled over and harrassed by the cops because i drove my junker of a car through an affluent nahborhood. Fact is these real discrimination is against the poor. Black, white, brown yellow, male or female if you are not wealthy you are all in it together. As far as I can see discrimination is wrong no matter who it is against and the most common factor in the cases i have seen is that we are all poor. As long as we have different rules for different groups and continue to look at these issues as only the minor extension rather than the greater problem no real advances will be made.
In the case of Obama there is really nothing to talk about, he was not poor, he did not lack a valued education, and he has gotten far more flack about wanting to spend money on helping the poor than he has for being black. the real issue of his presidency is not that he is black but that he is breaking from the wealthy on key financial polocies, and that will make you more enemies in washington than being a scientology preaching zebra from mars! So please stop looking at the obvious and cliche and start examining the real issues. If you spend the money to fix these broken schools and give people a means to support themselves across the board raceism and the like will be minimized to the greatest extent, If you keep throwing out bandaid solutions to whatever group complains at the time while ignoring others you only propigate the problem.

*** Welcome to Wiley Wandering Gerald. You make many points that I agree with. Since you are new to the blog you don't know that your perspective on class as more significant a problem than race isn't new to our conversation at all. You would just have to visit previous conversations that we have had to know that. So, you may want to slow your roll and give us the benefit of the doubt since you are the new kid on the block! *** -- J.W.


I agree with part of your position, which is that class-related discrimination is a severe problem in our society which needs to be addressed.

However, I find your starting point about "-isms" flat out wrong. The term does not create the behavior, the term is invented to describe the reality. Racial discrimination (racism) existed long before we had any term to define it, so simply stopping talking about it will have no impact on whether it continues to exist. Conversely, it is only by identifying and discussing injustices that anything gets done about them. All we have to do is look at the role the discussion of the morality of slavery had in stimulating abolition and the discussion of the morality of excluding large numbers of adults from voting had in promoting women's suffrage, along with many other similar examples, to see that in fact you NEVER get a solution to a problem if you don't identify it with a label and discuss it.

I assume the main cause for the apparent growing sense of anger, hopelessness and despair among those that are dealing with this issue is that the long term unemployed don't seem to be a unified voting force. In fact, We are comprised of a whole mixture of the entire working class. This recession didn't simply impact blue collar or white collar workers. Both Republicans and Democrats have both been hit hard. It just about equally effected us all.

You could definitely see your skills within the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to say how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

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