September 18th, 2008

corset & bougainvillea

Your defense mechanism is showing.

Explaining White Privilege (Or, Your Defense Mechanism is Showing)

By Tim Wise - September 18, 2008

Sigh.

I guess I should have expected it, seeing as how it's nothing new. I write a piece on racism and white privilege (namely, the recently viral, "This is Your Nation on White Privilege"), lots of folks read it, many of them like it, and others e-mail me in fits of apoplexy, or post scathing critiques on message boards in which they invite me to die, to perform various sexual acts upon myself that I feel confident are impossible, or, best of all, to "go live in the ghetto," whereupon I will come to "truly appreciate the animals" for whom I have so much affection (the phrase they use for me and that affection, of course, sounds a bit different, and I'll leave it to your imagination to conjure the quip yourself).

Though I have no desire to debate the points made in the original piece, I would like to address some of the more glaring, and yet reasonable, misunderstandings that many seem to have about the subject of white privilege. That many white folks don't take well to the term is an understatement, and quite understandable. For those of us in the dominant group, the notion that we may receive certain advantages generally not received by others is a jarring, sometimes maddening concept. And if we don't understand what the term means, and what those who use it mean as they deploy it, our misunderstandings can generate anger and heat, where really, none is called for. So let me take this opportunity to explain what I mean by white privilege.

Collapse )