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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Black Lives Matter (Even If It's "Liberal" To Say So)

You all are probably more than aware of the much-publicized deaths of black men in recent days, weeks, and months. We have a problem. I'll keep it brief.

If you mean by "white privilege" that white people are hopelessly, irretrievably racist, and that the only way we should allow them to live is if they never stop professing their sorrow for simply existing, and that people of color are perpetually absolved from all wrongdoing (I can hardly blame you if this is what progressives sound like on this point), then, no, I don't believe it.

If, however, you mean by "white privilege" that there is a systemic and cultural denial of basic dignity to people of color in relation to whites, then I would say yes, it is real, and it is a problem. Adopting the latter definition does not preclude me from believing:

1. that the vast majority of police intend to do and do a wonderful job in protecting their fellow citizens;

2. That police work as such is a most honorable, even heroic, profession;

3. that any number of the aforementioned black deaths could have been tragic, but justifiable. I'm thinking of Michael Brown, to be direct. And I might add that Trayvon Martin's death could be in this category, and be simultaneously a textbook example in its totality of white privilege. No, Zimmerman isn't white, and yes, Martin may have used force which required lethal force in response. But isn't the problem that we don't think black people belong in certain places, driving certain cars, etc.? This is why NBC tried to turn Zimmerman into a white person, as it were. Because he is, in those moments, sharing the unjustified, tragic, systemic assumptions that reinforce the problem. Isn't it also a little creepy that this guy would become the symbol of the resistance against the Liberal Race-Grievance Machine?

Just sayin.'

I might even think that a particular public intellectual is not someone I want to be confronting me with these facts or questions; it doesn't make him wrong. Just my thoughts. We need major justice reform now, for the sake of our nation.

2 comments:

Amos Long said...

JK, I've got a real disagreement with you on this. Where do you see this second description of "white privilege" playing out?

I'll tell you where I don't see it: at my work, on the subway, and in the streets of the Central West End. Maybe it's just software engineering, but at my job there are white people, black people, Indian people, Chinese people, Vietnamese people, and South American people. On the Metro Link, there is no doubt that I feel less guarded when I see a black father with his children then against a tough looking 20-year old white guy with his hat on backwards. And beggars commonly solicit at the intersection of Kingshighway and 64/40, but I have never noticed the white beggars treated differently than the black beggars, or the old beggars shunned while the young ones make a killing.

The only time I ever hear about "white privilege" is in anecdotes about college professors, and from my liberal relatives over the age of 55.

I'm sure that it does play out somewhere, but I feel like propagating the theory of "white privilege" is only reinforcing unhealthy stereotypes about how white people and how black people are supposed to act. No wonder Pigeon John had an Identity Crisis.

Jason said...

Amos,

I would say that I cannot reasonably disregard the personal experiences of black Americans, even if I desired strongly to believe that the problem is exaggerated, or the phantasm of liberal college professors. I'll bet Will Smith has been pulled over more in the last 5 years than you have. Prof. Henry Louis Gates is one of America's foremost intellectuals. I'd grant without a thought that Gates did not handle being accosted by the police in the best way. But I also know that the entire incident only took place because he was just a black guy (at best) to the officer. If the problems in our system were merely caused by preference based on class, Gates would have been on his merry way. I could say much more, but that's enough for now.