Thursday, June 26, 2014

On White Privilege, Racism and Hobbits

A parable:

You may have seen Lord of the Rings - the first one, Fellowship of the Ring. Remember the scene where Gandalf comes to the Shire and interacts with the Hobbits? Some of them of course mean mug him, but for the most part he's loved and welcomed.

The problem for Gandalf is that the Shire was made by Hobbits for Hobbits, and they're about 4 feet tall, while he's around 7 feet tall. This means the roads are too narrow, the chairs are too small, the beer mugs don't hold enough beer, and he keeps bumping his head on the ceilings.

None of this is necessarily because Hobbits hate wizards, but rather because Hobbits weren't thinking of anyone but Hobbits when they set up their world. They didn't need to. 

White men set up America. And for a few centuries, we have pretty much run things. And for a long time, right up until now, we have been the comfortable majority. Although that's changing quite a bit and will continue to change, that's the way it's been for a long time. In fact, up until relatively recently in our history, only white men could vote.

If you're not a white male, and particularly if you're black, you're kind of like Gandalf. The place wasn't built with you in mind, so you're constantly having to compensate in order to navigate life. A lot of black people will tell you that while constant compensating and adjustment is a drag, it has deepened their character. But nonetheless, nobody wants to be in that position.

The reason there's no "white history month" or "white pride day" or "white empowerment organizations" is because EVERY month is white history month. EVERY day is white pride day. White people ALREADY are empowered.

When you've spent as a people four centuries on the outside looking in, in your own country, it gets a little old. We should cut black people a little slack.

Racism by definition (I'm speaking of the real, sociological definition, not dictionary.com) is the race that is in a position of power and privilege maintaining that power and privilege at the expense of the races that do not enjoy those advantages. Another way to put it is "racism = bigotry + power".

In other words, ANYONE can be bigoted, prejudiced, discriminatory and hateful, but ONLY the race in power, with the position of influence and/or privilege, can be racist.


That means whites cannot be racist in countries where they are at a disadvantage. That means that, at least for now, ONLY whites can be racist in the US. 

8 Comments:

Anonymous Laurie Higgins said...

The ideas articulated in this post are just the ideology of Paulo Freire, Peggy McIntosh, Bill Ayers, and those who attend "White Privilege" conferences. In their view, whites (i.e., colorless people), men, and heterosexuals are oppressors. People of color, women, and homosexuals are the oppressed victims of those in power.

This ideology, which emerges from Critical Pedagogy/Critical Race Theory tells the "oppressed" that their lot in life cannot improve without a sufficient degree (i.e., relentless) self-flagellation on the parts of those who are guilty of no prejudice and even whose parents are guilty of no prejudice.

The dogmatists who embrace Critical Race Theory ignore the great cultural changes that have occurred in the last 50 years (some good, some terrible, but with regard to racial prejudice much more good than bad), And they ignore the astonishing social and economic mobility that exists in America. They also ignore the remarkable racial integration that exists in every urban and suburban community.

Visit virtually any high school cafeteria or mall in America and you will see interracial couples and integrated groups of friends. Yes, in the most affluent communities, there will be fewer "people of color," but social and economic progress is slow. And remember, most colorless people can't afford to live in these communities either.

Critical Race Theory pays far too little attention to the government programs intended to help disadvantage blacks but which have, in fact, destroyed their families and wreaked havoc on their communities, including their schools. Dogmatists like this writer rarely talk about privileged Leftist politicians like Barack Obama who, while sending his children to the most elite schools in the country, denies all choice to less privileged families of color.

And finally, this post does what Leftists love to do in order to advance their destructive theories: They redefine terms, in this case "racism." So, now racism has nothing whatsoever to do with bigotry, prejudice, hatred, or the belief in the superiority of any particular race.

The Left has emptied it of all prior denotations and connotations and inserted a new definition. The new meaning is just that certain groups seems to enjoy some privileges in some contexts.

Of course, in some contexts the "oppressed" experience some privileges and as time marches on, and members of various groups intermarry, racial and cultural distinctives will be effaced. Already, race is being viewed as a thorny classification because of the number of people who have mixed racial backgrounds.

In addition, privileged statuses change. Orthodox Christians are rapidly becoming an "oppressed" group that homosexual activists and their ideological allies would like to see unable to work in America. Women are serving at the highest levels in both government and private industry. And Blacks and Hispanics achieve at the highest level in academia, the arts, athletics, and within government.

Two facts: Social mobility takes time, and there will always be groups that are privileged.

Privilege accrues to different groups for different reasons, some benign, some pernicious. To use a term that has historically denoted racial bigotry and hatred to denote merely class status in the absence of bigotry and hatred is the lazy, deceitful polemicist's way of avoiding the complex nexus of factors that account for status or lack of status within a particular context. And it's a rhetorical vehicle that robs certain groups of a sense of agency in their own lives.

~Laurie Higgins
Illinois Family Institute

June 27, 2014 at 6:40 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Hi Laurie,

I actually read your columns occasionally and enjoy them. If you have the chance to look at the rest of my blog and read any of my older posts, you'll see that you and I agree on quite a bit. I was admittedly surprised by your impersonal tone in your response.

You said, "The ideas articulated in this post are just the ideology of Paulo Freire, Peggy McIntosh, Bill Ayers, and those who attend "White Privilege" conferences." While I’ve heard of Bill Ayers, I really haven't heard of the other people you mention, and certainly haven’t attended their conferences. I got my ideas about white privilege from decades of growing up & ministering in the heart of Chicago, and deep relationships and countless conversations with minorities, many of them here in my church. I'm actually a pastor in a Baptist church here in Chicago, and while my politics & social convictions are fairly conservative, my theology is very conservative. You and I probably agree on a lot. You seem to think I'm a Leftist, or perhaps that I’ve been unduly influenced by the sociopolitical Left. Obviously I do not believe this is the case! I have been influenced by urban minorities who see the world differently than you (and I) in some significant ways.

June 30, 2014 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

You said, "And finally, this post does what Leftists love to do in order to advance their destructive theories". That locution concerns me for a couple reasons. First, you're seem to be speaking to someone else about me rather than speaking to me, your brother in Christ who shares a lot in common with you, and second you conflate me with the Leftists and destruction, which is both unfair and a bit careless, since you don't even know me.

Interestingly, I agree with you that the Left has essentially divided the world into the "oppressed" and "oppressor" categories, and sees the oppressed category as unassailable and the oppressor class as unredeemable. This is of course how their forbears in the 20th Century justified class genocide. This is how they give the 9/11 hijackers a pass. And they refuse to own this. I have often wondered what the Left will do once there is no longer a racial/cultural majority in the US. Who will be the bad guy then? I'm sure they will find one, and it will probably be Christians.

All that to say I think that, like your friend David, you read a great deal into my words based on your preconceptions of who I am and what category I fit into. And while I understand how that happens, that simply should not be. I strive to develop a Kingdom mindset, and as I do so I find myself increasingly difficult to categorize politically. I’m still fundamentally a conservative, but I hold a number of ideas that don't neatly fit together. I get misunderstood a lot, in other words.

While I don’t intend to address everything you brought up in your response, I do want to respond a little to your last statement and maybe we’ll see where this goes from there: "Privilege accrues to different groups for different reasons, some benign, some pernicious. To use a term that has historically denoted racial bigotry and hatred to denote merely class status in the absence of bigotry and hatred is the lazy, deceitful polemicist's way of avoiding the complex nexus of factors that account for status or lack of status within a particular context. And it's a rhetorical vehicle that robs certain groups of a sense of agency in their own lives."

I'm not a lazy, deceitful polemicist, lol. I'm your brother! I see how you got that idea, but by my allegory I'm not suggesting that racism (an admittedly loaded term I probably shouldn't have used) denotes merely a class status in the absence of active malice. What I'm describing is what I call "soft racism" which I distinguish from active bigotry. It’s an environment that disadvantages people it wasn’t designed for, but may or may not be intentional or malicious. I don't want to do anything that robs any group of agency in their own lives (something I hate about a lot of Leftist approaches), and of course I believe the position I'm staking out does not do that.

For what it's worth, I subscribe to and deeply enjoy Imprimis, Hillsdale College's periodical, I support the 2nd Amendment, voted for George Bush twice, and I’m grieved over Barack Obama and I think he's hopelessly under qualified, idealistic, and actively dishonest. I also oppose the normalization of homosexuality and the push for gay marriage under the guise of civil rights. I'm not the "dogmatists like this writer" (sheesh! lol) that you talk about. It seems clear to me that you’ve categorized me based on stock labels that you subscribe to, and I’d like to challenge you on that.

I would love to dialogue more if you're up for it. Let's talk!

June 30, 2014 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Chris Brooks said...

Grouping things together that are very different as though they are similar is always problematic. This is especially true when applied to people. To put people of color, gays, and women in a big "vulnerable" or "oppressed" bucket is ridiculous. Still, it has been strategically advantageous, especially for the gay community. The term "civil rights" has grown so many tentacles that it has almost lost all meaning.

This post is dead on, when limited to race relations. The reality is that America is becoming less and less populated with "Hobbits," but the Hobbits act as though the nation is not changing (or worse, that they can ignore the changes).

Final thought for now: Government programs have not destroyed black families and communities. Racial sin has, in the form of competitive economics and abuses of power.

July 2, 2014 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

As always, thanks for the insight, Chris.

Reminds me of our old Blogger days! Lol

July 2, 2014 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Chris Brooks said...

I miss the good old days, Steve. I am hopeful that I can return to the blogosphere one day soon. Stay tuned!

July 3, 2014 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

*Like

July 3, 2014 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2015/march/white-privileged-like-me.html?paging=off

March 13, 2015 at 2:33 PM  

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