But no discussion of race is complete without exploring the other side--the ways in which some people or groups actually benefit, deliberately or inadvertently, from racial bias. This is the subject of Paula Rothenberg's groundbreaking anthology, White Privilege.
Readings on the Other Side of Racism, edited by Paula Rothenberg, is an essay collection that could serve as a handy primer on a side of white people that they should know more about. However, among those who concern themselves with the topic, the effectiveness of telling white people that they have unearned privilege has come into question: And what about the other side of white privilege, the costs for whites of their racial membership?
Might addressing those costs as well, or even instead, be a better way to convince white folks that they have a stake in understanding their own whiteness? An earlier writer, James Baldwin, devoted enormous energy to getting white folks to think more deeply about the racial sides of themselves.
Writing during the mid-twentieth century, Baldwin was probably the most critical, incisive, and loving observer of whiteness that white folks have ever had the opportunity to ignore. In addition to writing such renowned novels on black life as Go Tell It on the Mountainand on gay white life in Giovanni's RoomBaldwin published many remarkable essays on the people he and his fellow black Americans had been studying for centuries.
Focusing with intensity and compassion on the job of waking up white folks to their own ways and to who they were, Baldwin illuminated psychic spaces that history and ideology had shut behind doors, spaces rarely explored even by whites themselves. White people in the mid-twentieth century had largely come to acknowledge that conditions for "Negroes" should improve, but for whites the problem was always about "them"--what to do with them and for them--instead of about white people, and how they needed to do some work on themselves.
White people, Baldwin said, are "still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. White people will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this--which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never--the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.
One result is that when white people participate in discussions of race with non-white people, the latter often feel dismayed by the lack of white self-awareness, because this lack causes all sorts of unwitting biases and blindspots. One good starting point towards white self-awareness would be Rothenberg's collection of nineteen short essays and book excerpts.
Many of today's best observers of white folks are represented here, and they discuss much more than the topic of privilege. Mills, Robert Jensen, and Tim Wise, also provide convincing evidence of the detailed benefits enjoyed by those with exclusive membership in the great white club. Rothenberg divides the readings into four sections, the titles of which emphasize a particular word: It seems, then, that in addition to being automatically privileged, white people are very "empowered" by their whiteness.
However, this point can be a tough sell to those who are just trying to get by, and who don't see how they're hurting anyone. Learning about what whiteness lends to oneself is a valuable education, but it would probably be easier to swallow if accompanied by recognition and explanation of the downsides, for whites themselves, of being classified as white.
And that would mean much more than just listening to uninformed complaints about the "reverse discrimination" of such things as affirmative action. Rothenberg is right to note in her introduction that "white privilege is the other side of racism," that it's the counterpart to racial oppression for non-white people.
But whiteness has an opposing side for whites themselves, something that naturalist writer Wendell Berry described almost forty years ago as "white misery. I think he rightly cited anger across the racial divide as a distraction from the real "culprit" that increasingly assaults most American lives, a class-based system that increasingly favors the rich, takes from everyone else, and uses racial issues to distract those who might otherwise band together and oppose those above them.
But even in such a detailed dissection of current racial divisions, Obama had little time or space to address the misery brought on white people by their own racial membership. Failing to see the root causes of their own economic decline, and instead blaming their dwindling opportunities on the threat of blacks or Mexicans taking their jobs, is only one of many misery-inducing white misconceptions.
Nevertheless, among the many factors impinging on the lives of various sorts of white people, their racial membership itself is something that they usually take for granted rather than understand.
And they do so even though their whiteness is something that almost always counts in their favor, rather than against them. I do wonder, though, what more it would take to push them beyond merely counting their blessings.
PS--If you're still wondering just what "white privilege" is, you could take a look at the 26 examples listed in this online abbreviation of Peggy McIntosh's essay; the full version has a list of 46 examples. Posted by macon d at 8:My Experience with White Privilege October 14, How America came about is fascinating, and learning about immigration, rights, laws, and racism makes learning more beneficial.
white privilege and white guilt 8 In summarizing these two positions, it is evident that guilt is a phenomenon that existed in the more recent past, and continues to exist today.
This is the subject of Paula Rothenberg's groundbreaking anthology, White Privilege. The new edition of White Privilege once again challenges readers to explore ideas for using the power and the concept of white privilege to help combat racism in their own lives, and includes key essays and articles by Peggy McIntosh, Richard Dyer, bell hooks.
Title White privilege: essential readings on the other side of racism / Paula S. Rothenberg ; with contributions from Soniya Munshi. Format. Author: Paula S.
Rothenberg ISBN ISBN Buy New White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism for $2, No sell options available. Buy New White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism for $2, Details about White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of.
Paula S. Rothenberg is a Senior Fellow at The Murphy Institute, City University of New York and Professor Emerita at William Patterson University of New Jersey. From to she served as Director of The New Jersey Project on Inclusive Scholarship, Curriculum, and Teaching.
She is the author of several books including the autobiographicalInvisible Privilege: A Memoir about Race, Class /5(60).