A Response to Being a White American in Political Discussion

Gosh! For the love of all that is holy, white privilege exists!

by John Looby

Well shit, didn’t think this one would ever have to be clarified, but oh my god yes, white privilege exists. I’ll make this as abundantly clear as I can. If you come from the race that used to literally own other races, you are at an advantage in life.  As a straight white man in America, I am basically playing Monopoly, except I started with a bunch of extra money and get easier rules. I’m not proud of this, but I refuse to ignore it.  Of course some people (we all know who I am talking about), won’t even acknowledge the existence of their privilege.  Interestingly enough, a guy named Paul Piff actually did a psychological study where he did the whole rigged Monopoly thing. Turns out science shows objectively that when you’re given an upper hand you start refusing to admit you have one and treat others like garbage (@whiteamerica). That’s basically the only reason I can give to the existence of an article called, “I’m White and Don’t Have White Privilege” outside of satire.  Clearly someone needs to try a little harder to avoid being quite so outlandishly problematic.

Oh, but don’t you worry friends and lovers, we are dumpster diving to find the real trash-gems of this article. So there’s this bit of non-logic: “When people tell me that I live a privileged life because I am white, that I don’t, and will never know, a non-white’s struggle I feel like all the hard work I’ve put in to get where I want to be… is all being belittled.”  No.  The pressure to sympathize isn’t an attack on your work. When you see someone in a wheelchair do you think: “Fuck, I can walk! Everything I’ve done is meaningless” or do you understand that others face different adversities than you?

Of course, this article establishes that some people aggressively don’t understand, which is shown with this manifestation of sheer ignorance: “I have the exact same opportunities available to me as any non-white person does.” Stop. Please stop yourself. Read an article on systemic oppression and cyclical poverty. The system is rigged and we don’t all have the same opportunities. Saying, “Hardships do not discriminate, neither does illness, rape, hate, robbery or murder” is bullshit. Criminal victimization statistics for 2014 show that in America, violent crime does actually discriminate based on race. I, as a white person, don’t have nearly the level of risk and fears of, you know, getting fucking murdered. That’s a privilege. The history of America has, through acts like white flight, cultivated an environment where white Americans shelter themselves from the harsh realities people of color face. One might think hardships don’t discriminate because they are not made to observe as it occurs, and again, that’s a privilege.

Moving on, here’s a nice straw man argument: “So when anyone says that ‘white privilege’ is the bane of a non-white’s existence, remember you are diminishing the accomplishments of non-whites by making it appear as though these people just happened to get lucky.” Yeah that’s gonna be a no from me. The acknowledgement of white privilege does not mean that the oppressed cannot succeed. It is not luck that they succeed but an incredible overcoming and years of struggle. As Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, “If I have to jump six feet to get the same thing that you have to jump two feet for ― that’s how racism works.” White privilege is a colossal head start, but not a magical ‘only my success is valid and allowed’ barrier. Continuing with this line of critique let’s look at this “Solutions do not come easier to white people.” I’d like to direct everyone to the history of the criminal justice system in this country and move on.

At this point if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’d like to formally announce that I do in fact lean so far to the left that Google maps doesn’t let me take right turns for my own safety. So after I was told my white privilege didn’t exist and vented all the reasons I disagree with that idea (as you’ve just read), I’ll admit I was interested when the next installment of Brianna Lyman’s A Series of Misrepresented Realities was announced. I won’t say I was surprised when it turned out to be an accusation about the sort of thing that we do here at the paper. It was the same sort of argument that both sides of the aisle are guilty of writing. The shouting match of ‘you’re intolerant for disagreeing with me… I have the right to say whatever I believe… Don’t insult me’ is about as productive as a highly flammable fire extinguisher.

Now, let’s jump into the next rhetoric dumpster and pretend not to be disgusted with ourselves. To begin, here’s one of the laziest arguments possible: “Sorry liberals, but I luckily have the First Amendment to validate my opinions time and time again.” Your point might not be that great if your primary defense is that technically it’s not illegal to say. It’s not illegal to say that Shakespeare was a lizard person, but I don’t think my professors will buy my case that only lizard men speak in iambic pentameter. A good argument goes beyond ‘I can say this if I want to.’ It also helps to go beyond so super generalized critiques such as “Stop trying to force society to be considerate of other people’s feelings — life doesn’t stop for a few— and yes I’ll say it– snowflakes.” First of all what is wrong with being considerate to others?  Does the apocalypse start once everyone is treated with decency and comfortable in their identity? Second, the hypocrisy in calling liberals ‘snowflakes’ is super jarring when one sentence later we’re told “don’t resort to insults.” I’m confused. Is being an asshole the designated conservative territory? Am I not allowed to say ‘fuck off’ to a person who compares me to Joseph Stalin and Joseph Goebbels, committers of genocide, for critiquing points I disagree with? We have a standing rule in the paper office to finish your argument without referencing Nazis. I can’t believe I have to explain this, someone you disagree with is not the fucking darkest part of human history. Liberals and conservatives love playing the Hitler card. It’s never a good argument; it’s the laziest of arguments. Why bother researching when you can scream ‘Nazi scum!”?

When I think about all this having seen someone try to deny white privilege, I’m not all that surprised that their follow up would be an attempt to delegitimize their opposition, but it’s a disappointing addition to a growing trend. People don’t genuinely want to discuss. Saying “We conservatives love discussion” and “I’m forced to engage in discussion, to hear views that contradict mine” in the same article makes it kind of obvious. Most people want to “discuss” but in reality it’s just who can call the other person a Nazi, enemy of free speech and self expression the fastest. Stop attacking character and just stick to the fucking point like say the overwhelming abundance of evidence that white privilege exists in this country.


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