to pick up where the north star left off with what some have called our "scathing critique of white Leftist culture"...
a particular phenomenon in the immensely white Leftist circles at yale is a rhetorical and ideological obssession with the notion of White Privilege.
it is not uncommon to hear a white liberal campus organizer at yale say something along the lines of, "we white students at yale walk around enjoying a great deal of privilege because of the color of our skin - it is because of this privilege that we must work to uplift the citizens of new haven."
within the veins of the activist community at yale that even venture to contemplate issues of race, the ability to acknowledge and discuss White Privilege is considered a great testament to one's radicalism.
however, the fact that most white students at yale (or in this nation) do not think critically about the relationship between their whiteness and social power does not mean that those white, self-professed progressives who recognize their social and economic privilege have accomplished anything more than a certain degree of honesty about history.
news to the aforementioned self-congratulatory white Leftists:
the much-beloved term "White Privilege" fails to capture the reality of racial injustice in this nation. moreover, unquestioning and incessant talk about the special position that white people inhabit in society reproduces racial divisions in progressive movements and upholds the logic of White Supremacy.
not exactly revolutionary...
“White Privilege” is a misnomer for it suggests that white people enjoy socioeconomic advantages and benefits beyond a standard level of rights and opportunity (which presumably non-white people are afforded). however, the term does not account for the exploitation and disfranchisement of people of color that is a consequence of “White Privilege.” people of color do not possess the freedoms and protections of full and actualized citizenship. the legal and social structures of this nation do not merely demonstrate partiality towards white people but also simultaneously deny people of color the most basic of human rights, such as housing, health, education, justice, peace. the corollary to what some would term “White Privilege” is “colored degradation.”
for example, if the world were organized by “White Privilege” rather than “Racism,” a police officer might be especially kind to white people while nonetheless providing people of color with legal protection, aid, fairness under the law.
and so the white Leftists who think they are down because they have got the courage to lamentably declare, “We’ve got White Privilege,” it would be more accurate and truthful to say instead, "We are beneficiaries of racism," or "We participate in a racialized system of oppression."
how much more reluctant is the race conscious white activist to admit that his “privilege” has a consequence, that his whiteness is more than merely a personal reality about his own social power but is also an agent of violence.
as a blactivist at yale, i have found it rare to emerge from an organizing conversation or meeting with a white peer without a guilt-stricken or self-righteous allusion to “White Privilege.”
the insistence of many white campus activists upon talking about their White Privilege ad nauseam re-inscribes racial stratification and therefore begs the question:
“do you articulate the reality of your whiteness in a spirit of honesty and repentance or as a means of clinging to the privilege and social order you claim to seek to destroy?”
part of the project for white activists in recognizing their “privilege” should be the rejection of it – one must repent from, rather than embody an identity that represents oppression in its representation of privilege. “White Privilege” ought not be considered permanent or inherent, as if it inescapably resides in a white activist’s skin.
there is great violence enacted on the strategy and, more importantly, the soul of a community when the reality of "White Privilege" is used as a reminder of the agency and power white activists hold and that peers of color allegedly do not and may never possess. “White Privilege” is a construction that can be drained of its power if it is rejected - rhetorically and by individual and organized collective action.
the ceaseless, widespread rhetoric of White Privilege is also often used to describe the special commission or power that white Leftists feel they have in political efforts to make change. manifest destiny has well taught us to be wary of the salvific missions of white folk. the assertion that whiteness qualifies one as best suited to make change not only disempowers and excludes people of color from the struggle to reshape their own lives but is paternalistic and supremacist in logic.
it is undoubtedly necessary that the white activist recognizes that there are social responsibilities that accompany each social position and that there are moral imperatives associated with each identity, but to believe that it is “White Privilege” which enables change corroborates rather than disrupts the notion of white power. and for all who believe that change comes from the bottom up, for all who believe in the power that resides in the folk and in the collective, and for all who believe in the grassroots, the notion of a white folks’ coalition for justice is heresy.
it is a great contradiction and injury that so much of white Leftist culture hinges upon the use of “White Privilege” as a badge, shield, or excuse. such toxic rhetoric and action naturalize and uphold the racial injustice that undermines the integration, equality, and solidarity we profess to seek.