Racism and the race: What's white privilege got to do with it?

BlogHer Original Post

The latest injection of racism into the 2008 presidential campaign comes in the form of a box of waffle mix.  The box created by "Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn." depicts Barack Obama variously as an "Aunt Jemima" type character, as "wearing Arab-like headdress," and

On the back of the box, Obama is depicted in stereotypical Mexican dress, including a sombrero, above a recipe for ''Open Border Fiesta Waffles'' that says it can serve ''4 or more illegal aliens.'' The recipe includes a tip: ''While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language?'

The novelty item also takes shots at 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, Obama's wife, Michelle, and Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The organizers of the conservative political conference, "Values Voters Summit," stopped sales of the boxes after learning that they were offensive rather than political satire. The creators of the box, however, are shocked, just shocked I tell you, to find out that their creation would widely be seen as racial stereotyping and not satire of policy positions.

It seems that Lou Dobbs also did not get the "it's the racism, stupid" memo and declares of the box, "my wife will love this!"

The "I didn't know that is considered racist" pleading ignorance defense has recently shown up in a couple of "uppity" incidents. First, Republican Congressman from Georgia, Lynn Westmoreland, called both Barack and Michelle Obama, uppity. A few days later, Republican congressional candidate (also in Georgia), Rick Goddard, called NBC reporter, Ron Allen, who is African American and covers the McCain campaign, "a very uppity newscaster" for a contentious exchange he had with Newt Gingrich. Both men pleaded ignorance of the long history of racist usage, originating in the south, of the word uppity which often comes with the N-word attached.

How on earth can all these white men play dumb about their behavior with a straight face? White privilege. Leading anti-racism author, Tim Wise has a new article about White Privilege and the 2008 Election. Understanding and recognizing white privilege is crucial to discussions of ending racism. However, it is challenging and often puts people on the defensive when confronted with the concept.

Privilege is not just afforded to whites, however. It is something that in this country benefits men, Christians, heterosexuals, able-bodied people, ... I am including a reading list on privilege for those who are open to learning more about the concept and not just interested in staking out a defensive, so-called color blind position. The more that we open up and engage in these discussions, the closer we inch towards eliminating racism (and sexism and every other ism out there).

One of the best known writings on white privilege is "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. If you read only one link, this is the one to read.

Through work to bring materials from women's studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men's unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to women's statues, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can't or won't support the idea of lessening men's. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women's disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.

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

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

Several authors and bloggers have built on McIntosh's essay including:

-Robert Jensen, "White Privilege Shapes the U.S."
-Barry Deutsch, The Male Privilege Checklist: An Unabashed Imitation of an Article by Peggy McIntosh
-Jewel Woods "The Black Male Privileges Checklist"

Tim Wise Essay Collection

Restructure! How Whites benefit from fighting White privilege #1: Self-Esteem (check out the additional links at the end for further reading)

The Angry Black Woman, Things You Need To Understand #4

It is a given that, whenever I engage in debate with a white person and mention privilege, the white person in question gets all upset. “I do NOT have privilege!” they say, and then begin to tell the story of their poor, rural upbringing or something. I think this reaction stems from two sources. Firstly, White Liberal Guilt, which I have written about before. Secondly, a misunderstanding of the word ‘Privilege’.

tigtog at Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, FAQ: What is male privilege?

Before discussing “male privilege” it is first important to define what privilege means in an anti-oppression setting. Privilege, at its core, is the advantages that people benefit from based solely on their social status. It is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege.

Ajuan Mance, at Black On Campus, The Black Male Privilege Checklist: An Opportunity for Reflection?

One of the hardest things to do is to talk about people who are marginalized in one area about the privileges they have in other areas. Consider, for example, the challenges inherent in speaking with working-class and poor white people about white skin privilege, or in talking to rich white gay men about white privilege, male privilege, and class privilege. I can imagine that this is the same case when it comes to discussing male privilege with men who are Black, especially given African American males’ disproportionate poverty, incarceration, and drop-out rate. Add to this the focus in both the mainstream media and the Black press on portraying African American men as a population in crisis, and on stories like the gender achievement gap between Black men and women....

“The Black Male Privileges Checklist” has the potential to shed what Audre Lorde refers to as “a different quality of light” on the hypermasculine behavior and stereotypes that so many young African American men find so compelling. It’s emphasis on some of the ways that Black manhood and masculinity hurt Black women carries with in an important subtext, that much of what passes for “real” African American manhood also hurts Black men. In the context of workshops led by Jewel Woods and other Black male activists and mentors, an exploration of the “Checklist” could create a space for some much needed reflection on how to embrace maleness and masculinity in ways that expand rather than limit young men’s options.


BlogHer CE Maria Niles discusses her unique perspective on privilege from time to time on her blog PopConsumer.

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