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comment by InfernalFangirl
InfernalFangirl  ·  2175 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: A Conversation With White People on Race  ·  

Alright I've been on Hubski less than a week but y'all seem like nice sensible people so I'd like to ask a question that I've been having problems with for awhile and I think it's because I haven't been able to have a sane conversation with someone about it that doesn't devolve into people getting defensive. I'm having problems with the concept of white privilege. Well...not problems. I get it in the Louis CK sense that if I got in a time machine right now and showed up anywhere in history with very few exceptions I would probably not be persecuted or enslaved (unless I happened to land in the Irish slavery part)....otherwise I'd probably just be told to sit down and shut up because I'm a woman. Ok. I get that and I respect that. Here's the part I get confused on.

The first time I heard the term "white privilege" thrown around (on reddit, surprise surprise) I asked what exactly the parameters were for white privileges and shared my experiences as some others were. I grew up poor in a reasonably sketchy neighborhood with lots of gang activity right on the US Mexico border. I got the crap beaten out of me regularly for being one of the only white girls in my class. I got asked to leave stores on two occasions because their "clothes weren't for hueras" (the general jist of it). I took shitty jobs, sometimes several at a time and sometimes things nobody wanted any part of and dragged my way through college. I didn't get anywhere I was going with my social connections and like lots of people I scratched and clawed my way to get where I am. And I immediately got shouted down as someone trying to deny their white privilege because I could've used it to improve my circumstances and I'm sitting there going, "How? How the hell was I supposed to improve anything about that situation by being white?" Meanwhile a guy I follow on Twitter was piled on about his white male privilege when he was half Asian and grew up so poor he had been living on donated food infested with ants, but again his human experiences came down to the color of his skin and his gender with everything else taken out of the equation.

So I guess what I'm curious about is...well not so much "how am I privileged" because once again, I get in a time machine and I won't find myself in a crappy situation more than likely, but where does socio-economic privilege come into this whole matrix of privilege? Because I hear people talking about white privilege and male privilege and all these other privileges but you ask about socio-economic and they go mum. I've had frustrated friends point out it's usually "trust fund scholars who majored in gender studies" saying all this so they're uncomfortable with the socio-economic aspect themselves, but I don't think that's it.

I'm hoping someone can have a discussion with me about his because I'd really like to understand it, and it frustrates me to a degree (probably because I've seen too much of the ridiculous radical stuff on Tumblr). Yes I know, it's not your job to educate me but give me a push here or something.

amouseinmyhouse  ·  2175 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  

I hear what you're saying and, like everyone, I can't claim to be an authority on race. But since you shared your background with me, maybe sharing my background with you is also in order.

I grew up in an average family. My parents prided themselves on that fact. They were once farmers who escaped the lands my family had lived on for generations to find something better. They moved around a little bit but ultimately wound up in a mid sized city, occupying a mid sized home, living a middle class life, and I was comfortable.

That life afforded me opportunities. Opportunities for advancement and opportunities for ignorance. Through the former I got into good schools and I got nice work, though the latter I was protected from some of the harsher truths of life.

Down the street was a black family who was much like our own. The parents came from modest means and the children lived in modest comfort. In our little neighborhood, all things seemed equal.

And in that neighborhood they were. There was no malice, no one preventing children from being with one another, no prejudice (that we could see) and so it goes for most. But to me something seemed off, and it was. The crux of the problem, though, is that what had made the world as it was (the world I was first hand to, anyway) happened before I was born.

I learned years later what that really was. There were social and economic forces set into motion, long before I was even an idea, that still reverberate through our culture. It should be noted that I don't mean to attribute connotation to that statement (or, hopefully, any of these statements) I simply offer them as facts of another time.

In 1924 the National Housing Act began a practice called redlining where banks would draw a litteral red line on maps to mark areas in which they would not invest. These areas were primarily black ghettos, which had the consequence of ensuring economically depressed areas remained economically depressed.

The primarily black ghettos became primarily black because it's not like slavery ended and then everything became amazing. When slavery ended most blacks were only allowed to live in certain parts of the city.

So you have these primarily black neighborhoods that can't get capital investment to improve. Then you get blockbusting during the suburban flight. As blacks start realizing their situation is bad they try to get out and they start to move to the white suburbs. Once a house in a white suburb is purchased by a black family, the banks would call or visit other houses in that neighborhood and talk about how the whole place was going to pot. They would offer to buy white house for less than it was worth, get the whole block on their books, and sell them back to mobile blacks at far more than they were worth, making economically depressed and largely black areas. And because the loans were so high, owners would often default and have to move back to the ghettos.

This created an american mentality of "blackspace" and "whitespace". Ghettos are blackspace, suburbs are whitespace. This has social effects which are well ingrained in our culture, generally to the detriment of blacks and to the benefit of whites.

Most of that was quashed by the courts during the civil rights movements of the 1960's and 70's. So the language shifted from racially charged to economically charged. The Obama Administration's recent stimulus package, for example, targeted pre-existing assets, which the past 140 years of racially motivated legislation insured fell into the hands of predominantly white individuals. 1.5% of the beneficiaries of this package were black (I have the source on paper but not immediately available).

So, imagine playing a game of monopoly where everyone else gets 10 turns before you can put your piece on the board. You're at a marked disadvantage. This, generally, is what people mean when they speak of the socio-economic disadvantage to a certain group of people. It might not exist currently or in the forms that have been so well documented in the past, but it does in some way exist.

Now, this isn't to say that whites can't also be affected by these same forces. The scope of these programs is so high and so wide that, while they primarily affected minorities, there were also whites who were equally affected. Further, it seems that the current wealth disparity has far fewer of these race based caveats and are targeting, in mass, anyone who is simply not rich. This would seem to be a turning point in the constant power struggle in our world, but it doesn't erase the social, cultural, and economic disadvantages that were placed on many black families.

I'm still learning about all of this and I will be the first to say that there are likely gaps in my knowledge and my arguments. I am always researching and always seeking new information and if you have any questions I'm happy to share anything I can find.

These are deep and touchy subjects in American culture and they generally have to be navigated delicately. I've never been one for yelling matches and boasting, but I can get on a soapbox from time to time. If I did so above it was not my intent and I hope something up there helps provide some semblance of reason to what once was an unreasonable argument.

edit: holy shit I wrote a novel.

InfernalFangirl  ·  2174 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Hey thank you so much amouseinmyhouse for responding (and also thanks to Elisza and also dashnhammit down below there out of this thread). I want to sit down and read through everything and that was what I intended to do, but my morning just went from 0 to panic because apparently I'm having surgery tomorrow. I know that has NO bearing on anything we're talking about but I didn't want you guys to think I was one of those people that came in and said "Hey let's have a difficult conversation....LOL BYE!" I'm going to sit down and read all of this and write up a thoughtful response once I'm not completely drugged up and hopefully we can continue the conversation at a later date (thank goodness this site seems to rely less on only current conversations being worth it.)

Sorry about that and everybody have a good weekend!

amouseinmyhouse  ·  2174 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Oh man, that's way more important than a discussion! I hope it's nothing too serious. Feel free to reply anytime or not at all, like I said, this is just something that's always rattling around in my thoughts.

Good luck with the surgery!

Elisza  ·  2171 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I wish you all the best. Take care of your body, because it's the only one you'll ever have! Anytime, bud.

Elisza  ·  2175 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Edit: read amouseinmyhouse's post for a good briefing. His/her post has a lot more detail than mine, mine is more dictionary-like and a tad bland I suppose.

Ok, I'll try and give it a shot. I'll start with a broad description, from what I can find on mobile. I'll see if I can find actual figures later, since mobile is a pain and I'm supposed to be at work (shh).

The term 'white privelege,' as refers to (from wikipedia) ''both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white persons may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one's own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely.''

In the United States (picking on them again, sorry) it is especially apparent because of the lingering effects of racism from the nation's founding. Accumulation of wealth and its inheritance would have been limited to white people, and their descendants would have received those benefits and be off to a much better start. For instance, access to better education, housing, nutrition, etc COULD lead to a better future employment potential and an overall preservation of wealth across the generation, which allows for major investment opportunities like property that accelerate the accruement of their assets. To put it simply, it's because money can make money for you when you have enough to start with. Similarly, this income gap disparity creates a social divide: white people are likely exposed to people with more influence (friend of your dad is CEO, can he help you out on your job applications?) than minority groups who don't likely have the same chances of doing so.

I'm sorry to hear of your past experiences, and I hope this may have at least clarified a few things. I am no expert, so the best thing you could do is to educate yourself and double check anything I said to see if it's factual. I mostly read from wikipedia, which is accurate and unbiased most of the time, but they can be wrong.