On “10 Ways You Can Actively Reject Your White Privilege”

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Today, someone took to their twitter denouncing the things stated in this pic as stupidity. Then conservative pundit Ben Shapiro took to blogging about how he rejects their [liberals’] stupidity.  I’m going to post each point, his point, and my counter point about this list concerning white privilege. I will share the original points in bold, Ben’s response in italics, and my counter in regular text:

1. Take up minimal space during anti-racism dialogues and protests.

Minimal space? What is that supposed to mean? Should white people who don’t like racism put themselves in mime boxes? Should they take Alice In Wonderland potion? Or better yet, should they simply stop showing up? What’s the big worry here: manspreading? Intimidation of the people who happen not to share a skin color but who share the same ideas regarding politics? I’d recommend that leftists lighten up, but they’d probably construe that as racism somehow.

These are all questions based in falsehoods.  I interpret what the original author of the 10 posts is stating is what I and many others state about how white folks conduct themselves during dialogues and protests about racial issues: IT ISN’T ABOUT US! The author is not saying we can’t show up, protest, and dialogue, but that we do so in a way that doesn’t make it about us!  It isn’t about us.  The majority of white don’t know what it’s like to experience racism and live in a racist country with a violent history of oppression towards their people.  We need to listen more, talk less, and not make ourselves the center of it all.

2. Stop contributing to gentrification and calling it “urban development.”

Stop investing in downtrodden areas and building nice homes and shops, people! Keep those downtrodden areas racially segregated. At least they’re historic. The last thing we would want is people in those historic areas to have jobs and safer neighborhoods and nice restaurants. They must be relegated to poverty for the sake of the character of the place.

It isn’t about not investing in such areas providing economic means, safety, and good neighborhoods.  Gentrification is a serious matter where capital moves power of color out of the neighbors and affluent whites move in with the “nice homes and shops.”  It’s one thing to help colored neighbors build themselves up, but it’s another to force them out for whites to take over.

3. Listen when people call you on your microaggressions.

I suppose this means not jumping from the nearest window, which is indeed a sacrifice.

No, it doesn’t mean this at all, and I’ve got no clue to what he means and what he’s even talking about.  Dr. Dereld Wing Sue describes what microaggressions are in the following:

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.”

What the original post is asking of us is to listen to when someone experiences our speaking a microagression that may or may not be racial/racist.  The video embedded below expresses very nicely what it’s like for folks to experience microaggressions.

4. Never invite people of color to the table for the sake of claiming diversity.

I actually agree with this one: how about we just invite people to the table who are interesting and have knowledge, rather than judging them by their skin color? But you know who doesn’t agree? Hillary Clinton. She actually suggested having a black person to be named later in her cabinet for the sake of claiming diversity.

I agree with the original post and agree with Ben’s comments here.  Inviting folks to the table for the pure sake of getting to label one’s self “diverse” is inherently wrong and immoral.  It doesn’t solve any of the issues, but is akin to sweeping it under the rug.

5. Refrain from using your non-white friends as your “urban dictionary.”

Not sure who does this – who turns to their black friend and asks them to decode rap songs? Anybody? Then again, if you actually talk about black cultural hallmarks and you’re not black, you’re accused of whitesplaining or cultural appropriation, so it’s a bit of a Catch 22.

I can see part of Ben’s point here, but also would like to hear from the original author’s point more.  It leaves a lot of questions, but I feel the original intent is to not treat your non-white friends as just the only source of cultural understanding for the sake of it, but to be attentive and studious on your own.

6. Stop lifting up non-confrontational people of color as examples of what POC activism should be.

Stop talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead, let’s pretend that the Black Panthers and early Malcolm X were better examples of black liberation, even if they actually resulted in counterproductive backlashes that hurt their causes. It’s not like non-violent resistance actually succeeded or anything.

The Black Panthers and Malcolm X are controversial and vastly misunderstood.  However, non-confrontational doesn’t imply nor mean violent.  A person can be a very confrontational person and be non-violent such as Dr. King himself.  I don’t see a call for violence and rioting in this, but as always Brother Cornel West has perfect insights into how we need to see violence and rioting:

 

We indeed must criticize and condemn immoral acts of black people, but we must do so cognizant of the circumstances into which people are born and under which they live. By overlooking these circumstances, the new black conservatives fall into the trap of blaming black poor people for their predicament. It is imperative to steer a course between the Scylla of environmental determinism and the Charybdis of a blaming-the-victims perspective.”

 

7. Call your friends, family and co-workers out on racism – even if a POC isn’t in the room.

This actually seems like a good idea. Like this post that we’re discussing now. It’s racist.

Wrong!  Racist, per Dictionary.com, is “a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.”  There is no call to believing that people of color or anyone else who is non-White are superior to Whites.  The original calls Whites out on their privilege and unexamined racism, which is innate in all of us to varying degrees albeit unintentionally.  We should also work to examine our own racism and condemn that of others when we see or here it. The original 10 posts aren’t racist by saying white folks are racists. 

8. Understand that all anti-racism work doesn’t look the same and advocate accordingly.

This means that you should let everybody do what they please, up to and including riots in Ferguson, presumably.

He’s assuming a lot here, and the original author, in trying to make a meme so to speak, leaves a lot out.  This post needs a lot of elaboration, but to immediately jump to it meaning to inciting violence or rioting is wrong.

9. Realize that all discussions about race aren’t for you. And be okay with it.

You see, if you’re called racist, or if we’re discussing racism, you should shut up. It’s not for you. Yes, it’s about you. Yes, you’re the problem. But be quiet. That’s not racism, you know, to tell white people to shut up when discussing the issues just because they’re white. That’s rejecting white privilege. It’s your privilege to speak, and we have to reject that privilege.

Discussions about racism aren’t about us!  We don’t experience racism and have never once been a minority or the minority culture here.  The original author isn’t saying to shut up and sit down either, but ties back to the first point about listening more and talking less.  It’s refuting how a white person may try take the stage and be the center or start crying when confronted with the reality of racism and their own contribution to it.  It isn’t about us!

10. Recognize that you’re still racist. No matter what.

Well this sort of defeats the purpose of points 1-9. We could just skip to this one, and then do whatever we want anyway, since we’ll never be able to escape our white privilege.

I’d nuance 10 a little bit; I’d clarify and nuance it more because I do believe all whites have a degree of unintentional racism, racial bias, and racial stereotypes that go unexplored, unchallenged, and acknowledged.  I don’t take the negative, or supposed negative tone, from the original post that seems to or could imply racism in an individual can’t ever be healed.  I think it can, but it takes a lot of hard, hard work, which has yet to be done yet. I share my friend Kyle’s response to my comment on this post:

An activist’s interest in calling an individual racist is counter-productive if we want to have a conversation about systemic racism. This is because if we tell a person that he’s a racist, he’ll want to debate whether he’s a ‘good person.’ And that’s useless. I’ve had plenty of white liberals tell me I’m a racist. My response: ‘Yep. I sure am. Do you want to have a real conversation, now?’ But not everyone will hang in, and none of the liberals who have called me a racist were actually interested in tackling any real problems.”

Ben’s responses were full of assumptions, misleading statements, misunderstandings, and rhetoric, which he’s known for and is typical for a conservative pundit.  He’s take on Black Lives Matter is easily refuted here.  To close, I’ll quote Tomo Albanese from the link on Black Lives Matter in talking about how Ben does his work:

This intent is to persuade, not to uncover the truth. He would never engage in a point by point discussion where arguments need to be sourced, written down, and settled in turn. He wouldn’t do it because it would cause him to be systematically disarmed, beginning with his straw-man definitions and ending with his abuse of statistics. He argues in talking points and sound bites… but there is no intellectual honesty into his forays.

He is a professional pundit, and he gets paid for his salesmanship, not his integrity or the quality and structure of his argumentation.

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