Saturday, March 5, 2011

White Ain't Right...Or Is It?

By: Johnathan Fields

Isn't it funny how a group that has essentially taken the rhetoric of the Black Panther Party is now totally blinded by the fact their white privilege is operating as they re-color history again?

Are white's racially oppressed? Is that really a question? Do you have any understanding of what oppression is? Oppression is a state of feeling powerless. I'm confused how anyone benefitting from white privilege, in a white supremacist society, can feel powerless?

CNN's article highlights the fears of the Tea Party members, as well as "a large percentage" of whites, that they are becoming the newest racial minority. First, how do you become the "new" racial minority when you are the original racial establishment that set the standard for racial oppression in this country? Secondly, isn't racism and ignorance rooted in fear? So basically, at the root of all your worries they're operating from a place of fear. This type of thinking is the same logic for anti-miscegenation laws-white people will become the minority.

The sad reality is that we have the white right arguing how they are the minority as they benefit from all the privileges their white skins affords like walking down the street without being questioned, driving without being stopped, not going through rigorous series of application processes for jobs, scholarships, education, etc. and being able to visit Arizona. Then on the white left you have people arguing race doesn't matter any more, let's just stop talking about it. So white ain't right, it's everywhere.

White supremacy is rooted in our (in)justice system, our schools, media, relationships. Hell, it's the foundation of our country. Oppression is all about power. I'm really disturbed at how the racial group with all the power wants to cry about how they're losing some. In Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem, Black feminist scholar bell hooks' chapter "Refusing To Be a Victim" discusses why people use victimization as a tactic. She argues how playing the victim makes us "far more likely to receive attention and handouts." In her book Killing Rage: Ending Racism, she has a chapter with the same title: "Refusing To Be a Victim: Accountability and Responsibility". She talks about how some white women played the victim in feminist labor movements, gaining acceptance into the workplace before both Black men and women. Some of this acceptance was also at the hands of exploiting Black folks.

So you see, white people playing the victim is not a new trope in American society. We do this every time we get scared we're going to lose a little bit of our privilege. Any time we see a few people of color beginning to garner white supremacist notions of success, we start to worry. After all, fear is what consumes this country.

As white people continue thinking they are racially oppressed, I hope they recognize how this is all an exercise in their own white privilege. Getting buses, people, resources, etc. together and mobilizing in the nation's capital takes some type of social capital. All of that takes money, time, etc. The reason we haven't seen a movement as great as the March on Washington is because people are afraid. People don't want to sacrifice their time and sometimes can't because they have to work. You can find white people in every power-holding vector of society. Can you say that same for people of color?

White privilege is not only having white skin. It is benefitting from or reinforcing the white supremacist ideals that founded this nation--ideals that endorsed racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, etc. It is having enough ignorance to be able to skip over the realities of this country without paying full attention to the context in which you're speaking. Is white right? No, white is left too. And from the looks of it, some white ain't the head.

Johnathan Fields is a DePaul University alum with a B.A. in African & Black Diaspora Studies and Philosophy. His areas of interest include: media representations of race, gender, and sexuality in popular culture, Black feminist theory, Diasporic literature and critical race theory. He is also the latest addition to this site's family of contributors. For more information, visit


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