I ran across this article at Alternet just this morning:
It outlines a lot of what I've thought and believed and heck, even seen, for some time. That is, most white people don't understand even what black people have been through in this country, let alone the intransigent, deeply inset racism that not only shaped this country but that still exists today. Another way to put it: most of us don't understand we don't understand and further, much worse, we don't understand how mistaken we are, let alone how still very racist and destructive we are and so, our country is and how that keeps blacks down and from rising up financially, socially and economically.
Some of the best, most important parts of the article:
Conservatives and liberals alike prefer to focus on perceived deficits in black and brown people than on structural racism and the concepts of white supremacy that undergird it as the principal reasons for disparate conditions and outcomes for many blacks and Hispanics. White privilege means not having to think about the many ways the lives of those who are classified as white are enhanced and protected by the subjugation and exclusion of racial minorities. White privilege provides white ethnics escape from the stigma of poverty. As historian Nell Irvin Painter aptly distinguishes, “Not all black people are poor, but among the people in America defined by race, black people tend to be the poorest.”
Similarly, the link between poverty and criminality is dubious at best. The vast majority of poor people do not engage in criminal activity despite our tendency to label more and more things crimes. Lack of opportunity breeds disillusionment, which leads to disorder, a conclusion reached more than four decades ago by the Kerner Commission charged with investigating the causes of urban rebellions in the summer of 1967:
Today, whites tend to exaggerate how well and quickly they escaped from poverty. The fact is that immigrants who came from rural backgrounds, as many Negroes do, are only now, after three generations, finally beginning to move into the middle class.Although Negro men worked as hard as the immigrants, they were unable to support their families. The entrepreneurial opportunities had vanished. As a result of slavery and long periods of unemployment, the Negro family structure had become matriarchal; the males played a secondary and marginal family role—one which offered little compensation for their hard and unrewarding labor. Above all, segregation denied Negroes access to good jobs and the opportunity to leave the ghetto. For them, the future seemed to lead only to a dead end.
By contrast, Negroes began concentrating in the city less than two generations ago, and under much less favorable conditions. Although some Negroes have escaped poverty, few have been able to escape the urban ghetto. Pervasive unemployment and underemployment are the most persistent and serious grievances in minority areas. They are inextricably linked to the problem of civil disorder.
What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.
What Chait’s liberal analysis of American racism fails to acknowledge is racism was created to achieve an economic purpose. Anglo-Americans didn’t start out as racists, they became racists in order to justify their chosen economic system, which relied on the exploitation of enslaved black labor. The principal motive for racism was and still is, profit.
One of the many things that infuriates black people, at least it does me, is the obliviousness of white Americans to the ways they project onto black people the pathological and violent behavior they have engaged in and seem to have collectively whitewashed from their memories. In the almost 400 years that African people have been in this country we’ve been subjected to continuous murder, rape, brutality, dehumanization and mob terror at the hands of whites (lynching ended a century ago only to be replaced by extra-judicial police killings) and yet the contemporary narrative is that whites are justified in their fear of blacks, especially black men. Seriously? Modern policing is based on this premise—one that whites rarely question and have trouble understanding as a source of black rage.
White privilege permits people to ignore the reflection of their own pathologies in others.
As I said, great, even important article.
Too bad few will read it.
And even less understand or accept it. And try to do anything about it.