Racism In America: The Privileges of Being White [230*2]

THE DELUSION OF EQUALITY IN AMERICA

I LIVE IN THE SOUTH NOW, AFTER GROWING UP IN CALIFORNIA and then spending two careers associated with the military. There, I have heard and read things in 2013 that utterly depresses me regarding the state of race relations in America today. The epitaphs, falsehoods, and just plain ignorance freely thrown around or displayed by so many of the the people I know regarding the Blacks is ubiquitous in the South. Terms of "endearment" such as Colored or N... or "Those People" or other such denigrations are unnervingly common. And, if it is here, I have no doubt the same racism is popular everywhere you have the kind of demographic that produces such such racism. People are simply fooling themselves if they think all is fine with the world now that the Civil Rights Act is around 50 years old; I however, can tell you with certainty, it is not.

When I hear people say that Blacks in America are now free to do what they want, when they want, in whatever legal manner they want just the same as any White can are simply lying to themselves as well as others who they may be say this to; including me, here on hubpages. They are showing their ignorance as well when they tell me 1) Blacks have the same chance as I do, a white guy who started out in the middle class, all they have to do is try, and 2) while not true with my (token) Black friend, most Blacks simply want hand-outs from the government; They should learn to stand on Their own two feet for a change; with all of that free money, They shouldn't be so poor! Its like listening to the narrative in The Help; it simply pisses me off.

Having finished with that diatribe, I must observe at the same time that the Black community isn't without fault for their own situation either. I will accuse many in the White culture of ignoring or marginalizing the negative physical and mental effects on a culture which has been forced to be subservient for 90% of this Nations history and therefore their history; first openly and violently, and when that became unseemly, behind closed doors but not much less violently. Whites always skirting the letter of the Law while flat-out opposing the Laws spirit and continued to impose great emotional harm on the Black culture as a whole and as individuals.. At the same time, I lay at the Black community's feet an identical accusation, and that is of not truly understanding the same concept and not doing those things necessary to immunize themselves from those same negative attributes and taking the necessary steps to overcome them overcome them. It is all in the attitude which blossomed in the 1950s and 1960s, with amazing results ... it needs to again instead of taking a "whoa is me" position, Blacks are losing ground in America, In my opinion.

Racism in America in the 1900s

THE SENTIMENTS OF MANY AMERICANS THEN
THE SENTIMENTS OF MANY AMERICANS THEN | Source

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING

Source

RACISM IS NOT JUST IN AMERICA

The story below is one which I lifted from the Daily Kos, it epitomizes what is still wrong with race relations in America ... and, surprisingly, Canada.


"I have a friend who for sake of brevity, I’ll call Bob.

Bob is Black. I am White. That is really our only difference

Like me, Bob is in his 50’s, seen a bit too much of life and is a little tired of what he has seen. Like me, he is married to a woman of another race, has a young daughter who he spoils and has worked hard all his life. Like me, Bob managed to go from poverty to middle class on his own.

Bob and I met through our wives, who were mutual friends and brought us together over barbecues and birthday parties. Although I’m not much of a talker, and really didn’t want anymore friends, I got to like Bob through his loud laughter, great sense of humour and shared stories.

It was through one of these stories that I learned what “White Privilege” really was.

It is a tale of two realities.

One night, I told Bob a story from my youth and my experience with the police.

It happened when I was still poor. I dressed shabbily and often went days without bathing. I didn’t have money to waste on things like laundry or hot water or clothes that weren’t torn. I got two haircuts a year, and at this time was long and unkempt as well.

One afternoon, when people were usually at work, I was walking through a downtown mall coming back from the library, when suddenly in front of me was a police officer.

He was professional enough; asked me what I doing in the mall, did I have ID, where did I live. While answering these questions, I was suddenly aware that there was another cop to my right and a third standing slightly behind to my right. They were serious, grim men, and one had his hand on his service pistol the entire time I was being questioned.

My ID was taken and handed to the cop on the left who spoke into a microphone on his shoulder, reading my name and details. The cop in front continued to question me, asking seemingly innocuous questions, such as where was I yesterday, was I sure I wasn’t on such-and-such street, did I know this particular person, etc, etc. I’m answering the questions as best I can, getting increasingly anxious. My own questions of what this about, is deflected as “just routine”, “please just answer the question Sir” replies.

Now I’m asked if I’m carrying any weapons, like a knife. I say no. Do you mind if we search you to be sure. I realize it isn’t a request and if I say I do mind, they will take that as probable cause and search me anyway. No, I have no objections. I’m against a wall, in the position. I am searched (groped it feels like), and nothing is found. Now I’m starting to freak a little. I begin to see myself in jail or worse. Still my questions aren’t answered; “we just have to be sure, please just answer the questions Sir”.

Finally, the mic cop hands back my ID to the first cop and says it checks out. The cop hands me back my ID, and tells me that there had been an incident in the neighbourhood recently and I matched the description of a man they were looking to question. I was free to go and he thanked me for my time and apologized for the inconvenience.

I later find out the “incident” was a person being knifed to death, which in Canada, even in a big city, is an event that triggers headlines.

At the end of my experience, I was shaken; a little disoriented and went straight home. A few days later I had recovered enough from the shock that I began to talk about it and gradually came to realize that the cops were just doing their jobs. When I read about the murder on such-and-such street, I realized the full story of what happened and was willing to put it down to unlucky chance on my part.

It became simply a story I now tell.

When I was finished Bob told me his story of his run-in with the police.

In actual fact, Bob is constantly stopped by the police.

You see, Bob is successful. He drives expensive cars. As a result, he is repeatedly pulled over, questioned and has to prove he owns the vehicle he is driving. But this story was much more than that.

Like me, it happened when Bob was younger, but unlike me, he was not by this time still poor. At this point in his life, he was beginning to make money and was able to buy new cars; not the luxury vehicles he drives now, but new.

At the time, a car company had a program where you could take one of their cars home with you for the weekend, drive it around for personal use and at the end of the weekend return it. I remember the ad line was something like “we’re so sure you’ll like it, you’ll want to keep it”.

Bob took advantage of this program and made all the arrangements with the local dealership. Leaving his own car with the dealer, along with copies of his driver’s license, insurance and financial details, he drove the car off the lot with dealer’s plates for the weekend.

Bob had to pick up a friend at the train station, so that Friday night, he drove to the station and had his “run-in”.

He says all of a sudden, a police cruiser raced in front of him and cut across his path. Another raced up behind and a third came to stop beside the driver side. Police poured out of the cars, guns drawn, all shouting orders for him to shut off the vehicle, put his hands where they could be seen, to open the car door and to get out of the car.

Of course none of this was said in sequence but at the same time by different officers shouting with greater levels of intensity as Bob failed to comply with all the orders at the same time.

In fear for his life, Bob finally put his hands out the window and shouted he was unarmed. At that point, the police charged, physically dragging him out of the car window and pushing him to the ground. As one officer pushed his knee into his back, another twisted his hands behind him and put on handcuffs. Bob was then pushed into the back of a police cruiser and driven to the station.

During the entire process, including the drive to the station, Bob repeatedly asked what was going on and why was he being arrested. He was told to “Shut the Fuck Up”. He gave them his name, where he lived, told them the car was being loaned by the dealership. He told them the contract and details were in the car’s glove compartment, he gave them the name of the agent who had leant him the car and offered to call the man directly. He was ignored.

Bob was booked, finger printed, photographed and tossed into a cell. He sat there from Friday night till Monday morning without a phone call, without being questioned by anyone and without being told why he had been arrested. No one knew where he was. Not his friend, stranded at the train station wondering why he didn’t show up; not his parents who hadn’t seen or heard from him all weekend and were growing increasingly worried and – especially – not the car dealership who wondered why he hadn’t returned the car on Monday morning as agreed.

On Monday at 10:30 am, an officer showed up and entered his cell to question him. Bob had never seen this officer before; he wasn’t one of the 6 officers at his arrest. The first question the officer asks is does he know why he has been arrested? No, Bob says, they haven’t told him anything.

He’s been arrested for auto theft. The vehicle he was driving was reported stolen.

Of course it was, Bob replies. It was a loaner that had to be returned by 9:00 am Monday morning. When he didn’t show up, the dealership reported it stolen.

Can he prove this?

Look in the glove compartment, the agreement is there.

The cop disappears.

Two hours later a guard comes and opens the cell. Charges have been withdrawn, he is free to go. He is given back his belongings and leaves the station. No one speaks to him during the entire process and he speaks to no one.

Bob considered filing a suit against the police for false arrest and violation of civil liberties, but the attorney he speaks to tells him bluntly, a black man suing the police is dangerous. Bob’s daughter was recently born. The lawyer tells him, Bob could be a live father, or he could likely be a dead hero. Is he sure he wants to proceed? Bob chooses to be a live father and lets the matter go.

Bob’s story in comparison to mine, defines White Privilege.

This wasn’t the Deep South United States. This was Canada. Progressive, racism free, liberal minded, Canada.

I was “Sir”, despite being unwashed and poor. My white skin and submissive attitude kept the police professional and respectful. I had no doubt that if I mouthed off or resisted their questions, or refused their search, I would have found myself face first on the pavement with a knee in my back. If I had made a gesture that suggested I had a weapon, I probably would have been killed.

But until then, I was protected by civil codes and rights and more importantly, by my skin. More importantly, I understood this. I knew I could control the situation if I just stayed calm and did nothing to provoke a violent response. I expected a certain outcome, based solely on how I behaved.

Bob had no such protection or choice. He didn’t mouth off or resist or refuse a search. He was grabbed, assaulted, arrested and tossed into a cell without any questions or any answers. He was left forgotten and ignored for two days until the next shift officer came on duty. And when the mistake was discovered, he was tossed without ever seeing the duty officer again.

This is why, I think, it is so hard for some Whites to understand the complaints of Blacks when it comes to how they are treated by the police or other authorities. In our world, how we behave, determines the outcome we get. So it is a common White refrain to say “just do what the cop tells you to do”, if you mouth off, of course you’ll get grief”. We heard much of the same with Trayvon Martin; “his parents should have taught him to simply answer questions politely instead”.

We don’t understand that for blacks there is far too often no such luxury of choice. They are guilty for just being there; for just driving an expensive car; for just what they are wearing. And the violent response all too often does not require a trigger, such as mouthing off or refusing reasonable requests. All too often the violent response is immediate, inexplicable and without provocation.

That is the reality of being White. We have choice. We have control. And should our rights or dignities as human beings be violated, we have recourse.

That is our privilege.

Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 5:37 AM PT: I woke this morning to find my diary not only on the rec list but on the community spotlight as well. I honestly didn’t expect this and I know Bob will appreciate that his experience mattered to so many here.

I am unable to answer comments but I have read them and would like to respond in a sort-a general way to some. There are those who are parsing the term “privilege”; that is fine. I look at my experience as privilege in that I know (underline, bold and in caps) that my behaviour will govern the response from police – or store clerks, security personnel, cab drivers, etc, etc. I consider that a privilege. Like any privilege, it can be taken away depending on the circumstances but it is mine to claim. I have this privilege because of my skin colour.

Bob doesn’t have this privilege. He is the same age, same gender, lives in the same neighbourhood and he is richer than I am, but is stopped by police more often, has difficulty getting a cab, is followed by security in stores and had difficulty getting service from store clerks.

I don’t feel Bob and my experiences were so much driven by racism as they were expectation. I knew what it was like to be treated with indignities because of my poverty. I could tell stories of being made to feel less of a person because I didn't have a large enough wallet or nice enough clothes. So can Bob. Such indignities are part and parcel of being poor in a capitalist country.

But where our experiences diverge is how we are treated now. Bob is not expected to be wealthy. He not expected to be successful. Every time his daughter starts a new school, his wife is asked if he is “still in the picture” and offered free “hot lunch” program information. My wife is never asked this question and is never offered information on any lunch programs that you don’t pay for. Why? The only reason we can see, is that looking at both our daughters you can see they are bi-racial and if the wife is of one race, then the father must be another.

In our respective stories, the police knew that they might have the wrong person when they stopped me. They were careful, therefore, to check the details and ask questions to be certain. I knew this too. I knew I was innocent of any crime and if I just stayed calm, polite and cooperated, I would be okay. I was scared but I knew it would be okay .

With Bob, the police just assumed he was guilty. They did not expect a young black man to be driving a new car with dealer’s plates. He MUST have stolen it; and they treated him as if he had."


Racism In America In 2005

THE SENTIMENTS OF NOT QUITE AS MANY AMERICANS NOW
THE SENTIMENTS OF NOT QUITE AS MANY AMERICANS NOW | Source

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

While things are certainly better now than they were in the 1960s; it clearly is not all milk-and-honey either. You can find stories like Bob's in every state in the Union, probably even Hawaii. Studies have shown, fortunately, that unlike the generations before us, Gen X is actually showing broad signs of toleration ... that finally, in America, maybe, just maybe, we are turning the corner of our 200+ years of institutional racism. We have several more generations to go, however, before racism in America drops to a low roar and Blacks, as well as other minorities, have an equal chance for the American Dream.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Is White Privilege A Real Thing?

  • Yes, Whites Definitely Have Better Opportunities Than Minorities
  • No, All Races Have Roughly the Same Opportunities Growing Up and Life.
  • Not Sure
See results without voting

I Think or Feel That

  • Minorities Have Plenty Of Opportunities, They Just Don't Take Advantage Of Them
  • Racism, and the Related Lack Of Opportunity Is Real And Still A Problem In America
  • I Don't Know What I Think of Feel About The Issue
See results without voting

DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY #1

Politically Speaking, Do You Find Yourself Agreeing With

  • The Left Most Of The Time?
  • The Right Most Of The Time?
  • The Right or The Left, Depending On the Issue
  • Something Else
  • Not Sure
  • Don't Care About Politics
See results without voting

DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY # 2

Are You

  • Male?
  • Female?
See results without voting

© 2014 My Esoteric

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22 comments

HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Excellent analysis, My Esoteric. I agree that the newer generations are becoming increasingly tolerant regarding race and other hot button identities. But racial epithets are still common in many areas and not just the South. One simply only hears them behind closed doors.


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Thanks HS, I wish it were behind closed doors, but down here, it is pretty out in the open.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 2 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

Greetings, ME, I am glad that I got the opportunity to read this article. As a African-American male, I think that I can provide information to buttress your article. As we always said when I was a kid, 'down south, up south'. As for Hawaii, what is different is that whites are distinctly in the minority and with the noted exception of their economic advantage, other advantages traditionally associated with privilege are conspicuously absent, cultural and social for example. Often times, being white can be a disadvantage. When people see me their reaction is not automatically negative, as with a reflex.

I spent a couple of weeks in the South and I did not have any problems, but of course, that is not living there. Are things still so bad there as far as race relations? What ever became of the 'New South"?

If you really want to know from a guy that has been in the fray first hand, please have a look at these articles which I penned a couple of years ago.

http://hubpages.com/politics/One-Progressives-View...

http://credence2.hubpages.com/hub/One-Progressives...

It was a problem for me that there had to be some bias. If I were a 17 year old kid coming home from the market, I would be concerned about some creepy guy following me around, not identifying himself nor wearing a uniform associated with a law enforcement officer. So, who gave any consideration to the right of self-defense for Trayvon Martin? Just like Bob, he was automatically assumed to be guilty without any evidence of substantive basis for that position.

I don't know, perhaps it is human nature for us all to be at odds like this, but I hoped that we could have evolved beyond it.... Great article, thanks!


junko profile image

junko 2 years ago

The decendents of black slaves after hundreds of years of slavery and over a hundred years of State supported Institutional Racism is still considered Sub-human by those who protect and serve. The thirty years of affirmitive action between the 1960's and the 1990's before the Southern Strategy lead by Ronald Reagan, was too short of time to change the Negro's position in the New World. The door was closed and renewed resentment of African American added fuel to the fire of racism. Racism is the Trojan Horse that will , if not eliminated cause the fall of America.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Excellent and understandable first person experience which indicates the difference that "white privilege" or "being white" makes in a person's life.

Thank you for sharing this. Clearly, and in so many ways, we have not come nearly as far as we would like to think we have. Tragic, for black preople of course, but actually for all of us. Sharing. Theresa


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

I appreciate it Theresa.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

As someone who has lived in the south for the majority of her life, I can tell you things have changed a great deal, and at the same time, not nearly enough. From my own experiences I believe the change has come most profoundly by the contributions being made to the benefit of everyone by a larger and larger percentage of minorities of all subsets of our society. Prejudice seems to be hurled most often at groups who are perceived not to contribute to society but take a toll on the common good.

You hit the nail on the head when you said "in America, maybe, just maybe, we are turning the corner of our 200+ years of institutional racism. We have several more generations to go, however, before racism in America drops to a low roar".


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I'm encouraged by my children's generation that seems to be making huge strides in bridging the gaps between so many groups, not even just racial ones.


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Thank you Kathleen. For me, it was a bit of a shock, for I grew up in various parts of California, then spent 20 years working in and around the Pentagon and the military. Coming to Florida opened my eyes to the real world of race relations, or lack thereof. I am glad to see things have improved from where you sit.


big daddy oreo 2 years ago

Priveledges of having black skin.

1 black skin makes you look stronger.

2 black skin makes you look younger.

3 black skin is good for protection. You are less likely to get robbed walking down the street.

4 black skin is good for interatial relations. It is easier for a black person to make or get a white girlfriend, friend or vote.

5. You can protect a white person better with a black face.

6. You have much more flexibility on what you can say.

7. You don't have to worry about the race card drama.

I am going to try find a safe and affordable way to change my skin color from white to black.


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

While there might be some merit to #1 and 2, @Big Daddy, I am guessing you are blessing us with a strong dose of sarcasm.


bdo 2 years ago

No sir. I am as serious as a heart attack. I have been studying race for years. I think black skin can really help the white community.

You are indeed less likely to get robbed walking down the street if you are black or even have a black male with you. number 1 may have something to do with that.

a white boss disguised as a black man can get more productivity out of black employees. A white lawyer disguised as a black man can help you in a discrimination lawsuit.

they need to take all those white cops in ferguson and disguise them as black men. That way they can calm down those riots. White people need to stop using white hands to handle their black issues.

robert downey jr went undercover as a black man in tropic thunder. I have no idea how to go about doing it. I hope and pray that one day I can live as a black man.

the main reason I want black skin is it makes you look stronger. It also kind of gives me a chance to stick it to the black man for his racial politics. I had a black friend who said yall deserve it when I was talking about how they make the white man look goofy and weak on tv. I want to be black skin next time I see him then I can brag that I look just as strong as him now! I will joke around about how I am gonna be the white man's bodyguard. And make a career out of it. Maybe be a black faced boss and try to help white people get more productivity out of black employees.


junko profile image

junko 2 years ago

As a White skinned man big daddy, you can open carry in many places in America and not fear being killed, to protect and serve White people from you. If you were Micheal Brown age 18 but not in black skin but white skin your mother and dad would get more justice and information. In black skin you can't walk where ever you want, its only safe for black skin men to walk in the hood other tha_______n other's neighborhoods. I believe White Privilege has blinded you and you can't handle being black if being white is a disadvantage for you. Are you trying to make light of black or just letting your light shine?


bdo 2 years ago

Black skin would be like a bodyguard for george zimmerman!


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Why wasn't it for Trayvon, the boy Zimmerman murdered and got away with because of a Florida law designed for that purpose and effectively can only be used by whites? Why, because in Florida, you are a hero if you carry a gun but arrested if you are black.


bdo 2 years ago

If george zimmerman was black he wouldn't have needed a gun. Black people are much more likely to confront you have white skin. Black skin will keep ghetto black people out of your face. Black skin would keep al sharpton out of your face.

YOU CAN'T PULL THE RACE CARD ON THE POLICE IF THEY ARE BLACK FACED!

I want an all black faced law enforcement team. Oreo cops.


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Didn't answer the question, why didn't trayvon's skin save him?


Cgenaea profile image

Cgenaea 2 years ago from Illinois

To me, Trayvon looked like a sweet boy. He smiled on a pic I saw broadcast. Not a typical thug action.

It is so sad that he died the way he did.

Simply typical phenomenon? I think so.

The story of your friend sounds familiar. We hear it repeated, in different forms, on a regular basis.

One down! :)


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Yeah, it is so at odds with the ideals on which this country is based, isn't it.


bradmaster from orange county ca 2 years ago

My Esoteric

Since Obama became president there has been an over abundance a blacks on TV shows, and especially TV commercials, and even in store ads in the newspapers.

These numbers are far more than their percentage as a minority.

The most unprotected class in the US are white men.

They have no constitutional protection from abuses in the workplace, nor stops by the police, against other white males.

Many white males are discriminated in the work place, not because of their color but because that is the way employees are basically treated here.

But when the same kind of discrimination happens to a person of color it is all of a sudden a racist issue.

People of all types, colors, ethnicity and other attributes discriminate against others. This is human behavior, but when it comes to color, and females they are super protected, compared to no protection for the white male.

Fat people are supposed to be protected in the same manner as race, but they just don't have the same backing as race, and color.

My point is that not every incident of white on color is racist.

The reason that black males have a reputation as criminals is because the prisons and jails are filled with them.

Those are facts that can be verified. So many incidents labeled racial profiling can also be construed as criminal profiling.

Under the Patriot Act, and the NSA guidelines everybody is treated as a terrorist first, and then further looked into a they deem necessary. That should be more of an issue to be resolved than subjective racism.

The Jews, Italians, Polish, Irish and other ethnicity were discriminated against, and that just made them work harder to gain respect.

Thanks

bradmasterOC


bradmaster 2 years ago

Just checking in, no problem


bradmasterOC 2 years ago

My Esoteric

I can hardly wait for your hub on the decision in Ferguson?

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