Best explanation of white privilege I've ever heard.

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Comment by koshersalaami on August 19, 2017 at 9:57pm

There's something else going on here. This is not the first Black author I've read talking about White problems with White racial identity. I've read Janet Helms on the same subject. I think there's a factor here that isn't acknowledged, not that the factor is acknowledged by White authors either but, aside from the intolerant Right, not too many Whites are talking about White racial identity. 

The unacknowledged factor is that there is an assumption of nonexistent racial symmetry and, for purely linguistic reasons, racial opposition. Black and White are opposites, but races can't be opposite. In this case, in America, they also aren't symmetrical. By and large, they aren't even identifying the same thing. 

The vast majority of Black people in the United States - the primary exception being Caribbean/West Indian Blacks - belong to what is widely considered a single ethnic group. African ancestry may vary, but awareness of that ancestry isn't strong enough to cause ethnic separation here along those lines, not for American slave descendants. That means that the term Black is used to mean two overlapping and nearly congruent things. Race is the visible one, but ethnicity is the cultural one. Because race is the visible one, that's the one that gets credited with identity, but identity is really more tied to ethnicity. 

Among Whites, it depends what population you're talking about. For some Whites who are of mixed enough ancestry and who are sufficiently separated from their ethnicity over generations, race and ethnicity can be said to be pretty much the same thing. However, for millions - a lot of millions - of White Americans, race and ethnicity are not the same thing at all, and identity is with culture, which is to say ethnicity, or sometimes a religious identity that supersedes ethnicity, like Mormons. Using myself as an example, my Jewish identity is extremely strong. My White identity is nearly nonexistent. What White mainly means to me is who I'm not, not who I am. 

This assumption of racial symmetry leads to bad analysis. Black Power is not remotely analogous to White Power. Black Power is far closer to being analogous to Irish Power,  because the cohesiveness and identity are ethnic, not racial. White Power is close to being equivalent to having a charity called the United Gentile Appeal. 

When White supremacists don't consider Jews to be White, from a cultural/ethnic standpoint, they're right. From a White Privilege standpoint, they're wrong, because we are Not Black as they are Not Black, but again, here White is nearly the analytical equivalent of Gentile. White says who we're not, not who we are. 

Yes, I know I'm leaving other races out of this equation, but those populations are a lot smaller and aren't as bound up in the biggest conflict, the Black/White conflict. That's why I say Nearly. 

Yes, I am White, but Whiteness doesn't mean to me anything like what being Black means to someone Black. White to me just means  Dominant Outsider. No, I don't value that. 

In the late sixties I think at a meeting in New York, a Black organizational leader, I know longer remember which one, advised Jews in the same organization to leave them to go help our White brothers in Appalachia. To those Jews it was like

Huh? White brothers in Appalachia? You think we have more in common with these uneducated conservative rural guys in the mountains who think really strange things about Jews than we do with our fellow minority fellow liberal population in our own city? 

Did not compute. Did not compute because race just isn't where identity is, it just looks that way. 

Comment by nanatehay on August 20, 2017 at 1:13am

Question: Why do you rely on Internet and cable "news" idiots to define what white privilege or anything else means?

Comment by Ron Powell on August 20, 2017 at 1:21am

@MVN; Great post..

However, I do have a suggestion:

Posts of this nature are more effective if you do some work cutting and pasting and posting the piece as a "Guest Post".

Academic rigor and intellectual curiodity are in short supply here and you might do a tad better re readership if you publish the item as part of your own blog as opposed to simply posting a link...

Yhose who are interested in you personally will be more apt to read what you've read if they don't have to leave the site to do so...

I'll remind you, as I've been reminded;

"This is, after all, social media."



Comment by Ron Powell on August 20, 2017 at 1:33am

@Kosh;  "Did not compute. Did not compute because race just isn't where identity is, it just looks that way."

The problem with this assertion is that if anything at all, race in America is about what you look like. It's all about the 'optics'.

All through my life I've been white over the phone and black in person.

Black people resent the fact that I sound white and I've been accused of doing so deliberately because," I think that I'm better than they are."

White people are disquited by it because it destroys the comfort zone of a stereotype or myth harbored subconsciously. 

Before anything else is "computed" the first and foremost determinant of "race"  in America is looks /appearance everthing else re perrsonal ecperience and interpersonal interaction is predicated on or flows from that....

If you've never had to spend a moment of your life undoing or unravelling what someone SEES OR THINK THEY SEE upon meeting you for the first time, it would be difficult to grasp or relate to what I'm saying here.

Comment by Ron Powell on August 20, 2017 at 2:31am

BTW The degree to which 'black culture' has been absorbed and assimilated into the mainstream and impacted and influenced white culture and society while black people are not and virtually left behind and left out is absolutely astounding.

Comment by koshersalaami on August 20, 2017 at 5:41am


The piece is about White racial identity. Regardless of the effect of optics on Black people, White racial identity is for millions of White people an insignificant concept. The optics have everything to do with your identity and nearly nothing to do with mine because your race and ethnicity are mostly the same thing while my race and ethnicity are not the same thing at all. Put another way, you look at Black people and see your people; I look at White people and very rarely see my people. And, unlike you, I can't always tell at a glance who my people are. 

Not that it matters for the sake of this case, but your accent issue is in part generational. When I was growing up, most Black people I knew had a distinctive accent. Among the young Black people I run into, particularly in academia, a distinctive accent is the exception, not the rule. Not that this phenomenon is limited to race. I just lived in North Carolina for ten years, and the number of local kids without Southern accents is startling. In my Temple, I knew hardly any kids who had them, and they were all growing up in the South. 

Comment by greenheron on August 20, 2017 at 6:02am

Really? This is the best piece you ever read about white privilege? Because I couldn't get more than two paragraphs into the writer's florid drama language and it wasn't because I'm unable to face being white. I'm white! That's the deal! Call me white! You'd be right!    

In my experience, which involves working in a diverse and educated community, race and ethnicity are discussed all the time esp over the past decade. White people don't need to a special group to talk among themselves about being white. They need to have conversations with people who are not white, not straight, not men, not able bodied, and to listen, rather than dominate the conversation.

Your article is one reason why liberals are mocked and not taken seriously by right wingers. We sound like whiners and drama queens. Read some better stuff. Talk to some people. Get your info from sources other than hipster Brooklyn websites.

Here are two good places:   black opinion on politics and culture  African American Policy Forum a gender and racial equity think tank

Comment by Ron Powell on August 20, 2017 at 7:20am

@Kosh; "When I was growing up, most Black people I knew had a distinctive accent. Among the young Black people I run into, particularly in academia, a distinctive accent is the exception, not the rule."

If this is true, your interactions with black people remains somewhat limited.

Comment by koshersalaami on August 20, 2017 at 7:56am

Where I live now it is. This area has a low Black population. In Greensboro, far less so, but my exposure was still limited and tended to be concentrated in areas where this would be true. When I was growing up, a distinctive accent was nearly universal in my circles. Now that's not remotely true. Though I assume the shift is nothing like universal, it's certainly very significant. 

Comment by Ron Powell on August 20, 2017 at 8:41am

There's an intonation and cadence in the speech of black people that even with mainstream diction, enunciation, and syntax, is discernable....

James Earl Jones, Martin Luther King, Barbara Jordan are but a few of those who had voices that could be recognized, aside from their celebrity, as "black".

Then there's the notion of 'ebonics'....


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