White Privilege Is Real | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

White Privilege Is Real

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Funmi F. Franklin

People have it wrong. Racism isn't something you do. It's something you feel. The reason why we still face dissension on this topic is because we see it through eyes of separation. We must take a more inclusive look into this thing that won't go away.

Many white people are insulted and dismissive when described as having white privilege, while most black people find it to be as clear and real as iced tea on a hot southern day. The very idea that we can't even agree that simply being white in America comes with privilege indicates that we have limited ability to relate as human beings. If we can't do that simple thing, how can we ever begin to offer love and acceptance of each other?

I'd challenge you to ask a black person what their opinion is on whether white privilege is real or not. I believe denying the privilege is simply a way to denounce the shame that comes with knowing that people who share your blood, at one time, openly lived and breathed hate on an entire group of people simply because they chose to. It's embarrassing, hopefully. But instead of acknowledging that part of white history, some would rather just wipe it all away and pretend that since it was so long ago, we shouldn't talk about it. Since it didn't happen to you or the black people you know now, it's not real.

The hell you say! Oh, it's real. It's your history, and it's my history. As much as it may ease white guilt to not think about it and wipe it away, black folk can't sacrifice our pain, our hurt, our anger, just so that it doesn't shame you any longer. The mere idea that white people believe in separating their history from ours and moving on as if it doesn't exist is white privilege at its worst. So if you believe that not talking about racism will make it go away, or black people using the race card is racist, consider yourself a card-carrying member of a white-privileged society.

I am most certain that the only way for those who proudly proclaim white privilege is a farce to actually understand what it would be like to live as a black person. Since we know that won't ever happen, our only hope is to accept it, heal from it and love through it. Once we are capable of that, we can begin to "feel" what others feel. Once we start "feeling" it, we can associate it with our lives, and maybe the struggles of racism wouldn't be so easily dismissed.

If white people could "feel" what it's like to see those images play over and over on television, this might be different. Would you be willing to sit at a bar in downtown Jackson and have black people throw eggs at you and get in your face and utter the most horrific words to you because you shouldn't be there?

Or, would you give up your white skin to live as the maids and caregivers as those seen in "The Help"?

I recall all the conversations about that movie. I wonder how many white people were able to disassociate from the movie. My guess would be that many would lie to themselves and make that claim. Kudos to those who honestly could. I didn't have the luxury of separating myself from any of the black women in the movie. Even in my disgust and anger, those women were as much a part of me as the woman who ate the sh*t pie is a part of white women.

I am unable to disassociate myself from the marches, the sit-ins, the boycotts, the water hoses, the purse clinches, the overlooks, all simply because of my skin color. Contrary to what most may think, if you or your people never had to do endure any of that, your life is indeed 
privileged. Period.

The late great Maya Angelou once said, "The plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams."

We're doomed to continue misunderstanding racism because we refuse to accept that it's all-inclusive. While it affects one race differently, it does indeed affect us all.

We are all human beings. We must all welcome an inclusive love—of self and others. Denying white privilege and/or continuing to embrace hate is simply counterproductive. Racism must be measured from a place of mutual respect and understanding. Until we all commit to feeling racism, it will continue to lurk among us, whether outright or hidden under the guise of ignorance and shame.

Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood.  She has a weakness for reality shows and her puppy, Shaka.

Comments

Turtleread 3 years, 4 months ago

How about walking into a Federal Post Office in Jackson to mail a parcel and having a black clerk ask if anyone has a parcel to mail, then have him avoid me and walk off? A white supervisor came out and waited on me finally after 30 minutes. Or, at lunch off from the Mississippi Library Commission I went to a KFC and had a young black man deliberately run his shoulder into me, not apologize, and stalk out. The counterman was also rude. Later, the commission moved from the area. We don't stay where we are not wanted. You want our money, you want our votes in the Legislature, well you better knock it off! I understood the attitude more when my wonderful black neighbor explained to me about the terrible situation with the Jackson Public Library years ago. They actually built a library, staffed it with white people, filled it with books, paid for it all with taxpayer funds (white and black), then excluded any blacks from using it! What a horrible, horrible thing to do! What I am saying is that just because whites were bigots years ago (and perhaps some still are today), does not mean that blacks have an excuse to be bigots. BTW, I met Maya Angelou personally and was her host for three days in SC and she is right.

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Duan 3 years, 4 months ago

@ Turtleread

Emphasis"What I am saying is that just because whites were bigots years ago (and perhaps some still are today), does not mean that blacks have an excuse to be bigots. "Emphasis

But it seems you have more negative experiences with blacks than positive - you provided 3 examples of mistreatment from blacks and only one example of positive communication with a black individual. Which would lead me to believe - you have a difficult time dealing with blacks?

I've been hammered over my head time and time again, about self accountability and self reflection. "Be mindful of how you speak to adults, women, seniors......." - "You can't blame white people for your ills, be accountable for your own actions and your own success" - I get that, I understand that, and believe you and me - I preach it! But at the same token, if someone is telling you - "Hey, you need to be more mindful - because you are lacking in this regard......................." - Then I try to do what's right and listen to what they are trying to tell me.

But instead of listening to what Queen had to say, you turned right back around and did what? You said these exact words, Emphasis"does not mean that blacks have an excuse to be bigots."Emphasis

Queen already emphasized that point, and as a black woman she put the onus and blacks too when she stated, Emphasis"Racism must be measured from a place of MUTUAL respect and understanding. Until WE all commit to feeling racism, it will continue to lurk among US, whether outright or hidden under the guise of ignorance and shame." Emphasis

The best thing you could have done after reading this article was take the time to reflect and ask yourself, what can you do to improve racial relations - between the two skin tones (because black and white is really not a race - but we are classified based on our skin colors/tones and by the textures of our hair and that's it on that)

So I hope you ask yourself in the future that question?

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Turtleread 3 years, 4 months ago

@Duan,

Hey, I have had a lot of pleasant memories, and pleasant interactions with black people all around the country in Texas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Chicago, Illinois; Washington, DC; New York, New York; Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, but it wasn't until I got here that I saw some real blatant in-your-face racism.

Have you done any DNA testing? Well, I have. I have 0.2% West African DNA, as probably every white person in the world has some African DNA. If the Middle East is the Cradle of Civilization, then Africa is the Cradle of Humanity! It is thought that some 50,000 years ago, we all came out of Africa and eventually spread worldwide.

Here's how you get out of the "white privilege" thinking hole, emulate respected people and act like you know what you are doing, that you can get things done, then practice and do them. To be confident, practice, act confident, perform with confidence, know how to accept constructive criticism and deflect destructive criticism, be charming, be polite, and move ahead to your goal.

And lastly, I respect Franklin as I have favored her article. Have you? Throw away your racial stereotypes, and treat everyone with respect. Everyone starts out the same with me until they do or say otherwise. Many thousands of years ago, we were probably related, and if we were you are also related to Presidents James K. Polk and Thomas Jefferson. So hold your head up high and march through life with the expectation of privilege, and will receive it.

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Turtleread 3 years, 4 months ago

@Duan,

The last few words should read, "and you will receive it."

So why do you think that other parts of the country are moving on? And the South, and particularly Mississippi and Jackson are not? I come from New Mexico, this state (MS) has WATER, it has GREEN TREES and GREEN GRASS. It is paradise. YOU are rich beyond belief in this state. There is one individual who is the richest man in your state and he has an estimated fortune of $2 BILLION dollars. In New Mexico, the richest man is selling his assets and leaving. He is only worth $750 million. In New Mexico, we have outbreaks of the bubonic plague! The Black Death that killed millions of people in 12th century Europe. In Mississippi, none.

Franklin begins her article with the premise that "white privilege" still exists. The thrust of my argument is that to create liberty and freedom, one must free the mind from its pigeon-hole thinking and move into a transcendental stage that wipes away pre-conceived notions of what you can and cannot do. Once there, you will find a new liberty and a new freedom, and ultimately a new way of thinking and reacting to your environment.

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Duan 3 years, 4 months ago

@ Turltleread

Yes I've done my DNA testing - it's 68% West African, 30% European predominantly Balkan mixture. But do you think people will acknowledge that 30% and that's a high admixture - no they will not. But I am o.k. with that. That's why I stated people are grouped by their skin color and hair texture, not by their race.

I don't have any racial stereotypes - however, I thought you did from your original comment.

As far as not "liking" Queens story - that's my homegirl - she knows we are on the same page.

She did an excellent job on this story.

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Turtleread 3 years, 4 months ago

@Duan

That's a very interesting mix! I hear what you are saying; however, what I am saying is that you and transcendental thinking can move beyond skin color and hair texture and join people on a higher, more mature plane of existence.

I'm glad to hear you don't hold racial stereotypes. Sorry if my comment was not clear, but there are still limitations on words, time, and space in this format.

Yes, she did an excellent job on the story and I hope she writes more.

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donnaladd 3 years, 4 months ago

Turtleread, do you really think you're treating Duan with respect with such "mansplaining" about how he should be acting and reacting? You are talking down to him, which is textbook privileged behavior. I'm sure you don't realize it, which is also textbook privileged behavior.

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Turtleread 3 years, 4 months ago

I had a much longer comment that explained myself but you moderated it out of existence. You are complaining to a person who is trying to have a decent conversation about this article. Duan was under the misunderstanding that I held racial stereotypes; however that is not the case. We both like the author and her writing. I am reaching into my experience of 65 years and some understanding of Victor Frankel's work to perhaps uplift my fellow human being. Only by using "out of the box" thinking can you move on to a higher, more mature level of existence here on Earth.

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js1976 3 years, 4 months ago

Donna, why call out Turtleread for "mansplaining" how someone else should be acting and reacting? If you go back and look at Duan's intial reply he did the same thing before Turtleread had a chance to respond.

"The best thing you could have done after reading this article was take the time to reflect and ask yourself, what can you do to improve racial relations"

How is this not telling someone how they should be acting and reacting? So that would suggest that Duan is diplaying the same textbook privileged behavior.

For the record Duan, I'm not attacking your post by any means.

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donnaladd 3 years, 4 months ago

Because, JS, it's nicer than saying he was "whitesplaining." The problem is that Turtle crossed the line into condescending to someone of apparently another race and telling him how he and his whole race should act. That comes across as bigotry at best, and certainly violates our user agreement.

My job is to moderate this site. If you don't like that, take a hike.

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js1976 3 years, 4 months ago

"My job is to moderate this site. If you don't like that, take a hike."

Then try moderating from a neutral postition. If you don't like that statment, delete me.

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donnaladd 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm not going to delete you if you will stay on topic. Complaining about the moderation is also against the user agreement. Either go along with it or not. We make our decisions, and your scolding of me will do nothing to change that. Be respectful of others, and start all the complaining about how you're treated when you're not, and you'll be fine. Your choice.

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gray 3 years, 4 months ago

The media is encouraging the meme of "white privilege" so in 2070 when Whites are a mere 37% of the electorate they can be taxed on that basis. Sure it does not affect you now and you can keep your social status by clucking disapprovingly of people who ACTUALLY label themselves 'White' but your grandchildren will be taxed to near penury by the 'white privilege' tax.

Regarding whites organizing on racial grounds: Randall Kennedy, Law Prof. at Harvard from a 1997 Atlantic article, 'My Race Problem-and Ours.' He wrote about whites organizing as a race, it is the other side of the coin and I have always been mystified why he is not quoted more often. It goes to the very heart of this issue.

"I find it difficult to accept that it is wrong for whites to mobilize themselves on a racial basis solely for purposes of white advancement but morally permissible for blacks to mobilize themselves on a racial basis solely for purposes of black advancement."

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Turtleread 3 years, 4 months ago

I seriously doubt that this tax will happen. If you want to work on preventing it from happening if you believe that it will, then you should work to find ways to be inclusive to minorities and other groups at home, work, and play.

An interesting comment. I wonder what Prof. Kennedy would say today on the subject?

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RonniMott 3 years, 4 months ago

It seems to me that many of y'all are confusing "privilege" with racism and bigotry. It's not the same thing. It exists beyond questions of race, and it's largely invisible.

“Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.” ~Peggy McIntosh

A few examples of privilege: - No one is surprised when you speak or write well. - Few question whether your decisions or lot in life are because of your race or gender. - No one suggests that you're smart or well educated "despite" your race or gender. - You expect to see people of your race or gender in charge. - No one calls you a "white" CEO, a "male" musician or a "straight" husband or wife. - You can wear what you want without people calling you a "thug" or a "slut." - When you're pulled over by a cop, you expect it has something to do with your driving. - Politicians don't pander to your race or gender. - People of your race or gender dominate your country's official history books. - You're not called on to represent your race, gender or sexual orientation as a monolithic block. - You don't worry that your race, gender, sexual orientation or age will be a barrier to getting a job or promotion. - You expect you'll be paid based on your qualifications alone. - Few question that your qualifications got you your job. You're not fulfilling anyone's diversity quota. - You don't worry about being monitored in a store. - You expect stores to stock foods and products that you're comfortable eating and using. Those things aren't in a special area of the store. - The overwhelming majority of clothing stores stock items in your size. - Products labeled "nude" and "invisible" match your skin tone. - No one tells you to get over your racial or ethnic history. - You've never been singled out or attacked--verbally or physically--because of your race, gender, faith (or lack of faith) or sexual orientation.

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js1976 3 years, 4 months ago

"You can wear what you want without people calling you a "thug" or a "slut.""

Sorry, but no one is safe from being labled by the way they appear. If you don't believe me, go sit with a table of women in a social setting and see just how quickly they will point out that someone looks like a "slut" regardless of color.

"You expect stores to stock foods and products that you're comfortable eating and using. Those things aren't in a special area of the store.""

I expect a store to stock the foods and products that they are expected to carry either through adverstising or brand image. Does Kroger have certain types of food categorized by ethnicity, yes. Hispanic, Asian, Italian, and Medeterranean. I purchase a good bit of health foods from Kroger, and would you believe it's in a special area of the store.

"The overwhelming majority of clothing stores stock items in your size."

What does this have to do with the discussion at hand?

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Turtleread 3 years, 4 months ago

Thumbs up with your comment. While I read the "What is White Privilege?" article too, I was struck by how my mind raced ahead and tagged the memory of the phrase, "You want some more whine with that cheese?"

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donnaladd 3 years, 4 months ago

Here's a white-privilege quiz we ran in a GOOD Ideas issue on race dialogue a while back:

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RonniMott 3 years, 4 months ago

js, I was addressing privilege in general, and the examples include all kinds--race, gender, age, sexual identity, etc. Privilege isn't limited to race. As I said, it's mostly an invisible phenomenon to those who enjoy its benefits, and they usually see it as innocuous, if they notice it at all, because they're so generally accepted.

As to the three specific examples you cited ... Clothes: look at the way popular culture portrays black men who wear urban-style trendy clothes and jewelry versus white men, for example. Wearing the same clothes generally gets a pass for white performers, but black ones are labeled thugs, sometimes with their tacit agreement. As to your specific about women slut shaming each other, it proves the point. Women are far more likely to be judged by what they wear than men. How a victim dresses is often used to justify why a man rapes. We're supposed to dress modestly to not attract attention or rile up men's prurient interests. It's oppressive.

Stores: I guess you've never noticed all the race and gender stereotypes promoted by store displays and placement. It mirrors the stereotypes in advertising. And why segregate "health" foods from other food? I want all my food to be healthy and affordable. Of course, it's not a problem to segregate items by ethnicity unless you're trying to find an item common to your culture--rice or olives for example--and have to search it out separately from the rest of your groceries. You might think of ethic food as "specialties." Some people just think of it as food.

Sizing: As of a couple years ago, 60 to 70 percent of all American women wore a size 14 or larger, but fewer than 10 percent of stores carried those sizes, and a lot of that was cheap crap. I'm not sure what the stats are for men's clothing, but if you're a size 8 woman, you don't have to think about where you shop, only whether it fits your budget, and your options at every price point are numerous. That's the point. If the majority of stores carry stuff that fits you, you don't have a worry. That's privilege.

I'm not saying that we need to homogenize everything, and I'm not saying that every form of privilege is harmful. But much of it is, and even the innocent stuff contributes to the bigger problem of how we differentiate "us" versus "them." That's worth noticing.

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bropayne 3 years, 3 months ago

Well said Ms. Franklin. Well said. Most of my kind don't get it, but I do, and you are spot on. Keep up the good work!

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Duan 3 years, 2 months ago

Thanks Ladd for understanding where I was coming from on this topic.

@ js1976 - I wasn't trying to "mansplain" to Turtleread

However, I was frustrated when he/she made the example of the negative experiences they experienced with blacks and then stated that blacks had no excuse to be bigots, just because of whites.

Jonathan Odell's article "How I Overcame My Soul-Crippling, Deep-South Addiction to Whiteness in 5 Steps" - speaks eloquently on this topic from a white perspective.

I will share the link - http://www.alternet.org/culture/how-i-overcame-my-soul-crippling-deep-south-addiction-whiteness-5-steps?page=0%2C0

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Turtleread 3 years, 2 months ago

@Duan: "However, I was frustrated when he/she made the example of the negative experiences they experienced with blacks and then stated that blacks had no excuse to be bigots, just because of whites." Sorry, perhaps I should have nuanced my comment more. What I meant to say is that blacks had no excuse to be bigots, just because I was no bigot. And if you extrapolate that to white people, at least at the beginning when you meet them, then... It's what I do with all people I meet, everyone starts off on a positive note.

One of my relatives in a duel shot a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Second Governor of Georgia over political differences and the abolition of slavery. He was for it. Mr. Gwinnett and his allies were against it. Look it up. And today, in Georgia, there are two counties with their names.

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