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 Post subject: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:31 pm 
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As a few people mentioned, we could use a thread where we can discuss the effects of white privilege (and possibly other kinds too) and hopefully foster intelligent discussion. Let’s keep it clean by adhering to the following rules:

1) DO post things (articles, blogs, twitter feeds, etc.) that help to explain what privilege is and what its effects are.

2) DO share personal experiences where you witnessed the effect that privilege or the lack thereof had on yourself or someone you know.

3) DO NOT explain why a particular brand of privilege does not apply to you. If you are white (/cis/het/male/any other “default” category that I am forgetting), you are privileged in a way that someone who is nonwhite (/trans*/queer/female) is not. It doesn’t matter if you actively take advantage of that privilege or not, it still exists. This thread is for you to listen and learn. It is not for you to explain away your privilege or argue that a specific situation "isn't really privilege".

This last rule can be really, really hard for people to follow. In almost every single internet discussion I have ever encountered, someone feels that they ABSOLUTELY MUST explain why some type of privilege does not exist for them. We get it. You personally are not racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., and therefore the problems that are being described do not exist in your little bubble world. Except they do, and all that’s happening is that you are being made to feel extremely uncomfortable at the idea that you get special treatment for being born a certain way. It is still inappropriate for you to jump in and try to explain away certain situations. Listen. Learn. Seek to understand the experiences that people are living with every day, and how the seemingly innocuous behaviors and social conventions that you are steeped in are contributing to their oppression. THAT is how you can become a better ally.

So with all that in mind, please share your links! I am ashamed to admit that while I consider myself to have a fairly good understanding of what privilege is, I don’t have any good 101 links to share. But this fantastic quote by Erika Soyf*cker in the challenged feminism thread struck me as a pretty good basic explanation:

Erika Soyf*cker wrote:
I used to get into arguments with my friend on FB all the time about privilege, he would get irrationally irritated by the mere mention of the word. He's one of those straight white guys who grew up working class and in a mixed/diverse neighborhood and therefore say he had no privilege. Obviously he sees and experiences a lot more of what the un-privileged classes in our country endure every day, but he still has the option of cutting off his dreadlocks and covering up his tattoos and replacing the torn up band shirt with a suit and voila, no cop is going to give him shiitake on the street. That's still privilege.


Also – I have now used the word “privilege” too many times and it no longer makes sense as a word. Privilege privilege privilege.

(edited for incomplete sentence at the end of the third rule).

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:17 pm 
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Thank you so much for putting together such a well-thought out set of rules for keeping discussions safe, kind and on-topic, parkerk! I am really interested in participating in this discussion.

I found this recent article on white privilege in Seattle fascinating. It was a well-thought out piece on how in Seattle, though no one is racist, the city has become increasingly segregated, and what it means to have a city with clearly distinct racial communities and how discussions of race and its implications often become clunky efforts to reassure one another that we're not racist, despite the fact that the racial disparities are real and could benefit from discussion to create awareness and solutions.
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/deep ... id=9747101

And I thought this was a pretty succinct summary of privilege.
Quote:
The United States was started by white people, for white people. That's the premise of the White Privilege Conference, founded in 1999 by Eddie Moore Jr., the former Bush School diversity director. "It is not a conference designed to attack, degrade, or beat up on white folks," its website reads.

"There's some pancakes I'm not gonna be able to flip over," Moore says. "But what I say up front is that what whiteness does, as a structure, is to limit your ability to listen to people of color, to hear people of color, to believe people of color. I would encourage people to embrace that as true, and then start to work through it—and to use me as a resource. I'm not trying to villainize anybody."

So one answer to the question What can I do? is simple: Listen. Believe.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:51 pm 
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Great article for getting the ball rolling. I was particularly struck by this:
Quote:
"I had to stop talking to white people about race, because I kept getting retraumatized," an African American friend told me about her days as a diversity trainer. "They just wanted to talk about why they weren't racist."

It's like if a person was being attacked by a dog, and they called to another dog owner for help, and instead of helping the dog owner just starts talking about how their dog would never attack anyone. The fact that it is not actually your dog who is causing the problem doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist. Meanwhile, a person is actively being harmed while you waste time denying that you are part of the problem.

Also, thank you for the description "safe, kind and on-topic" of what we want this thread to be. That is exactly what I was going for.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:19 pm 
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speaking of segregated neighborhoods, is philly unique in that even white folks segregate themselves? (italians in south philly [italian market]; a neighborhood actually called germantown; welsh just outside in bryn mawr/gwynnedd twp; irish in fishtown, devil's pocket and pennsport; russian jewish folks in northeast philly/bustleton area; polish in port richmond)

is it just because it's an old city, and like tends to attract like? (at least in the beginning.)

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:22 pm 
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Afaik practically all immigrant heavy cities are like that.


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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:41 pm 
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Just wanted to say that I learn(ed) a lot about privilege from listening to Citizen Radio. You should check out the podcast!


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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:54 pm 
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almiratanner wrote:
Just wanted to say that I learn(ed) a lot about privilege from listening to Citizen Radio. You should check out the podcast!

Citizen Radio is the best!

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 7:10 am 
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https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/gjay/www/Wh ... e_Priv.pdf

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:06 am 
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They don't update as much as they used to but I learned a lot about privilege from the Vegans of Color blog.

http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:05 am 
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The chart on whitr vegan privilege was great, thanks for sharing blondiefk. http://vegansofcolor.files.wordpress.co ... 2-jpg.jpeg

It would be so nice if there was more diversity in veganism. I particularly feel sad about what happened to Taymer Mason who wrote Caribbean Vegan. She wrote a veganized French cookbook and was asked to submit it with her white husband because people would be more likely to buy a French cookbook from a white person. It sounds like a very discouraging experience and a sad end for a labor of love. She is deleting her blog and moving on to other things. She writes about it here http://caribbeanvegan.wordpress.com/

White privilege is being able to transcend the small "ethnic" niche that you are assigned.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:23 am 
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From Vegan in the Sun:

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I do hope that one day that persons of colour whatever heritage they have would not be limited by these imaginary culture barriers that the world has put around us. My brief writing career started out with a salute to my culture but we do not always have to write about soul food, comfort food or Caribbean food. We can write other things and our voices are so unique and should not be dismissed because people will not understand. They will one day and it can start today. While my story of assimilation of French culture was different from the romantised stories of others Anglophones who have gone there and spent a year eating baguettes and riding their bicycle through Paris; it was a unique voice that would have brought fourth a new perspective on French food and food culture told from a different point of view to my big banquet dinners at my house with French guests to my summers driving around Brittany finding the best galette in the world cooked by a woman who was ready to deliver her baby in a small tourist town.

That passion died and I am sorry.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:27 am 
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maybe we should all write to taymer's publisher and tell them that we would in fact buy a french cookbook from a black author. (i mean, it's completed, right? taymer wouldn't have to do more work? she'd just have to collect the "sweet moolah"?)

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:03 am 
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I would certainly write to Taymer's publisher! That said, I don't think the problem is just whether the book gets published or not, but as she talks about on the blog, all the little acts of microaggression and slights, that have poisoned the process for her.

That said (and not directed to you, SC, but at the reaction that I see to this on FB etc) I think its really great to offer solutions, but what seems frustrating to me is that often people offer solutions to getting the book published (Kickstarter, self-publishing etc), instead of actually listening to her story and truly hearing it. Its almost like saying "You didn't try hard enough" or coming in as the "white savior," that we see so often. I respect that everyone is an ally and wants to help, but sometimes its good to listen to her experience, without stepping in to fix it straight away, you know?

I actually like SC's idea a lot, because like all of SC's solutions its so very practical and doesn't put everything on Taymer. I don't know who her publisher is, but if you could find it that would be great.

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Last edited by Tofulish on Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:07 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:05 am 
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When I presented this work to be published I was told that it was written in the same style as Caribbean Vegan, maybe it would be best that my French partner ( a non cook) write the book with me, and I was not the right person to write this book and that the public wouldn’t understand. Understand what a black person from the Caribbean writing about French food?


It infuriates me that they turned her down and told her this bullshiitake. Most cookbook authors have a certain style. You will always recognise it and isn't that why people will buy their books? Also interesting that they tell her she has no clue about French cooking when you will find so many bastardised versions of "curry" or "African stew" in cookbooks by white authors. Noone ever complains about that when Taymer on the other hand probably put a a lot of experience and research into her French recipes.


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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:05 pm 
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supercarrot wrote:
speaking of segregated neighborhoods, is philly unique in that even white folks segregate themselves?

is it just because it's an old city, and like tends to attract like? (at least in the beginning.)

Hey supercarrot, please don't think I'm jumping on you for asking a question, but I'd like to address why this very common and natural question/reaction can actually be quite problematic, as regards the concept of groups naturally segregating themselves.

Imagine you're at a party. When you get there, you see that a large group of men are on one side of the room, with a big buffet of food and a full bar. On the other side is a much smaller group of women, with a single table of sandwiches and salads and some diet pop.

You go up to one of the men and say "hey, how come the women are all over there and the men are over here with better food and drinks?"

And instead of acknowledging the situation, the man says "oh, well actually the men are all in separate groups too. Over there are the bald people. There are the people with beards. There are the people with very deep voices. It's not that we're separated into men and women. People are just naturally grouping together by shared physical characteristics."

Do you see how that would be frustrating, and not actually a helpful response to your problem? And hey, no one is actually stopping you from going over to the men's side and eating their food. But if you do, everyone stares at you. They make awkward or inappropriate comments. They make stupid jokes and then get offended if you get offended. Eventually you go back to hang out with the women because at least there you can be comfortable.

Wouldn't it be so much better if that first man's reaction was "hey you're right, that does suck. We need to figure out how to fix it." Because from where you're standing, it doesn't matter if the men are also separating into smaller groups themselves, and even if some of those smaller groups can't eat some of the food. What you see is that all the men are together and are better off than you, and there is no way for you to join any of their "natural" groupings without obviously sticking out.

I hope that makes sense and is helpful at understanding why some of the "logical" arguments brought forth to explain away problems such as segregation are actually harmful. Again, NOT saying that was your intent. Part of the process of learning about this stuff is asking questions like that, and then learning and acknowledging why they are problematic without feeling the need to be defensive. This is where the "listen and believe" dictum comes in.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:56 pm 
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no, i totally understand. (and i don't know specific details about the "buffet situation" in each of the different neighborhoods, so i won't go further with this. but you made your point. thanks.)

and t'lish, i totally listened to taymer's story. i am holding nothing against her for wanting to put this behind her and move on. i absolutely understand. it just breaks my heart that she put so much love and time into a (completed?) project that won't come to fruition.

taymer's publisher just so happens to be racist and needs potential customers to tell them it'll be profitable despite their misgivings. (yes, her past success should have not only gotten her foot in the door, but had her sitting comfortably in a chair, so i don't know why they backtracked. it has to be racism. and honestly, makes me not want to buy ANYTHING from that publisher if this is how they make decisions.) i wonder if the book belongs to the publishers now, or if it still belongs to taymer, cause i would totally buy a self published amazon book from her. (but it seems she's moved on, and accepted her loss, and that's okay too.)

and i totally understand the frustration at the "white savior" thing, (and please don't think i'm dismissing anything. it's good to share each others' perspectives to those who haven't experienced it firsthand. goes both ways.) but society will always be set up so that those with privilege will prefer that others within their circle vouch for those outside. that's exactly why the glass ceiling exists, and why mens' rights activists are so angry. they're comfy at the top by themselves. the bootstraps thing is a complete myth. networking is everything, and you need to know someone to get anywhere.

i've never been outside of america, so i don't have first hand experience. in places where the majority are not white, does white privilege exist there too?

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:06 pm 
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supercarrot wrote:
and t'lish, i totally listened to taymer's story. i am holding nothing against her for wanting to put this behind her and move on. i absolutely understand. it just breaks my heart that she put so much love and time into a (completed?) project that won't come to fruition.

I specifically said I wasn't talking about you :) I agree that your solution is a good one - to have allies vouch for people of color and grant them access is an important part of working to resolve racial disparities.

Supercarrot wrote:
in places where the majority are not white, does white privilege exist there too?


Well in places like India, where the English were in power, it certainly does. Whiteness is a signifier for money, power and class in many former colonies.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 3:31 pm 
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Tofulish wrote:
Supercarrot wrote:
in places where the majority are not white, does white privilege exist there too?


Well in places like India, where the English were in power, it certainly does. Whiteness is a signifier for money, power and class in many former colonies.


Also in South Africa. My immediate family lived there during apartheid and were assumed to be rich because they are white.


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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 7:32 pm 
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supercarrot wrote:
speaking of segregated neighborhoods, is philly unique in that even white folks segregate themselves? (italians in south philly [italian market]; a neighborhood actually called germantown; welsh just outside in bryn mawr/gwynnedd twp; irish in fishtown, devil's pocket and pennsport; russian jewish folks in northeast philly/bustleton area; polish in port richmond)

is it just because it's an old city, and like tends to attract like? (at least in the beginning.)

My family is from and still lives in "Ukrainian village" in Chicago . It's getting a little more diverse but still attracts Ukrainians. I believe they congregated there because of discrimination against Slavs (around the turn of the century) and because of a shared culture, language etc. A lot of the groups you mentioned were at one time discriminated against so I think it's probably for he same reason. Now there's all that infrastructure so I think it perpetuates. In my current (not old) city in California there is a very large population of 1st and 2nd Portuguese-Americans because of the desire to preserve culture (as explained to me by my 2nd gen friend).

Parkerk, I am feeling dense, because I read your response several times but I'm having a hard time understanding why sc's question was problematic. Are you saying because people can then argue that cultures naturally segregate themselves to justify segregation?

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:38 pm 
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couroupita wrote:
supercarrot wrote:
speaking of segregated neighborhoods, is philly unique in that even white folks segregate themselves? (italians in south philly [italian market]; a neighborhood actually called germantown; welsh just outside in bryn mawr/gwynnedd twp; irish in fishtown, devil's pocket and pennsport; russian jewish folks in northeast philly/bustleton area; polish in port richmond)

is it just because it's an old city, and like tends to attract like? (at least in the beginning.)

My family is from and still lives in "Ukrainian village" in Chicago . It's getting a little more diverse but still attracts Ukrainians. I believe they congregated there because of discrimination against Slavs (around the turn of the century) and because of a shared culture, language etc. A lot of the groups you mentioned were at one time discriminated against so I think it's probably for he same reason. Now there's all that infrastructure so I think it perpetuates. In my current (not old) city in California there is a very large population of 1st and 2nd Portuguese-Americans because of the desire to preserve culture (as explained to me by my 2nd gen friend).

Parkerk, I am feeling dense, because I read your response several times but I'm having a hard time understanding why sc's question was problematic. Are you saying because people can then argue that cultures naturally segregate themselves to justify segregation?



In Chicago specifically (which is a city that I know way more about the history of than any other large cities, so I can't speak for other cities), certainly some of the long-lasting ethnic segregation of neighborhoods is and has been self-selecting for understandable reasons: because of new immigrants (as well as second and third generation folks who want to retain strong cultural ties to their ethnic heritage) want a shared culture, especially when langauge barriers exist for new immigrants, and wanting to be able to do things like go to bakeries and restaurants that cook the food you've traditionally eaten, go to church services in your language, etc., and certainly some of Chicago's persistent segregation is because of unstructured, more generalized racism, as well as the interplay between class and racial privilege, but I think a lot of the persistent segregation in Chicago is the echo of the city's completely structural and intentional racist policies.

Up until (I think) the Fair Housing Act of 1968, lenders wouldn't give non-white people money for mortgages if they wanted to buy a house in a "white" area; these were generally very strictly defined areas, too, like East a particular street to the lake, mortgages would only be given to white people, as a matter of policy, even if the non-white person had the same amount as a white person who could qualify for a mortgage in that area.


Last edited by electric_claire on Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:41 pm 
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I can't speak for parkerk, but I read the response to be a clarification that saying "well even white people segregate themselves" implies that segregation isn't a big deal, because it seemingly occurs organically in neighborhoods. But that doesn't address the problem of (1) separateness reinforcing racial stereotypes and (2) different services/treatment/opportunity for different groups (like the fact that you have stop and frisk in black neighborhoods but not white ones or food deserts as referenced in blondiefk's link). I read the party example to be that if someone says - why are all X separate from Y, then a response saying well the As are separate too doesn't address the question. Part of what we want to do is enter into the investigation of why, not just dismiss it.

As you point out, many of the groups that "segregated themselves" did so because of discrimination as well as familiarity/opportunity (you could come in from another country without speaking English and still get a job, housing and other support). That certainly happened in NYC, even now, with first generation Koreans and South Asians in Queens bemoaning that all the second generation folks are moving out of the neighborhoods (as they learn English, get more money, seek other opportunities, assimilate more). And in some ways that "self-segregation" of new immigrants is a false equivalency, because it comes from the population, rather than being imposed from the outside (by redlining (as electricc references above in her post), housing discrimination etc) and also because it doesn't come from the very particular history that black Americans have faced. And another false equivalency is that if you're Greek in Astoria or Italian off Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or German in Germantown, there isn't a systemic difference in the way you're treated, like "Stop and Frisk" in NYC, or having supermarkets refuse to open in your area (which results in a food desert for the community) or having problems getting employers to open in your area or a police force that doesn't look like you or take crime in your area seriously (the Slog piece I posted talks a little bit about police violence by white officers against certain racial populations - like the officer videotaped "beating the Mexican peas" out of someone. Those are real problems that certain communities face, and saying "well white people segregate too" kind of glosses over those, ykwim?

I really liked the Slog article I posted about how colorblindness in Seattle has led to a very divided city - with some areas feeling very white, even though the Seattle population is quite diverse. And part of that is because of the marginalization that occurs because you don't have "separate but equal" black and white areas, but rather that you push black and other groups from access to the services that Seattle provides all its citizens and the impact of that marginalization.

Apologies parkerk if I misstated anything - I really liked your post!

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:58 pm 
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Certainly some of the ethnic neighborhoods in the east came about because of bias against groups like the Italians, Greeks, Polish ...

I also think that any discussion of privilege that ignores class is ignoring an important issue.

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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:41 pm 
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I agree, Vantine. Intersectionality is a major factor as well. I really appreciate that parkerk made this thread about privilege generally, and hope we can have a broader discussion as well.

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But on a cold winter night, when the wind whispers through the trees and a bright, white moon hangs heavy in the air, you might hear a sad cry like someone thinking he knows what's best for you, and that'll be the white man a-passin' you by. just mumbles


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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 3:44 am 
Mispronounces Daiya
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8ball wrote:
Tofulish wrote:
Supercarrot wrote:
in places where the majority are not white, does white privilege exist there too?


Well in places like India, where the English were in power, it certainly does. Whiteness is a signifier for money, power and class in many former colonies.


Also in South Africa. My immediate family lived there during apartheid and were assumed to be rich because they are white.


I was asked this often when I lived in Korea and Japan (or even heard other white expats say they now knew what it was like to be a PoC in Europe or the US - when really the 2 experiences are widely different) and yes, white privilege does exist there to some extent. There is some xenophobia and white is a minority, but a privileged minority.

For one thing, if you are white in East Asia, there is no colonial baggage warping the perception of your ethnicity, unlike for PoC in Europe. Whether it's true or not, you are typically perceived as rich and educated, and here by choice - as an expat who came here to do business, rather than a migrant who has to pay the price to be allowed to live here.

The associations with your assumed place of origin are largely positive. I got a lot of "Versailles, fine food, fine wine, fashion, classical music..."

White people receive disproportionate screen time on TV, in movies, in advertisement.

Even when the local government and institutions discriminate against you as a foreigner, you still receive disproportionate accommodations compared to foreigners of color (and these accommodations are of a different order of magnitude than those PoC receive in Europe). Administrative forms in English, interpreters, at immigration offices there were special time slots for English speakers that you could book on the internet at your convenience (not strictly for white people, but there is a big correlation). I have never felt worried or unsafe dealing with the local authorities. I was never treated with suspicion at the bank.

On the topic of segregated neighborhoods: when I moved to Korea, I wanted to have an immersive experience and live in a "normal" Korean neighborhood. But I was unable to find a landlord willing to rent to me outside of the foreigners' districts.


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 Post subject: Re: Understanding Privilege
PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 4:23 am 
Making Threats to Punks Again
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I'm German and white and I lived in Holland & Denmark and I always had the privilege of being assumed to be Dutch or Danish. I even got into a pass control in a bus on my way to Sweden and 80% of all people had to show their ID and I wasn't (and I actually had forgotten my pass in Denmark in my room). It was so obviously because I'm white. Living in Copenhagen I befriended 3 people, one Icelandic guy, one Danish girl with an Indian background, one Danish guy with an Indonesian father. It was so plain to see that when I was with the Icelandic guy people always treated us as Danish even though we both weren't (and were struggling to speak the language), and with the other two, people often turned to me first instead of them. Like when we got stopped for directions. I was a lot more perceptive of people's reactions when I wasn't living in Germany because I was a foreigner there and it really made me see my privilege in a more tangible way.

I was wondering about my two best friends' experiences when they studied abroad. Both of them are German and feel no connection with their father's origin (Ethiopia and Pakistan), bordering on hate. And I think at least with my one friend the hate is so strong because she hates having her Germanness doubted all the time. When she studied in South Korea, she said, people simply would not accept she was German or European at all.

I didn't want to hijack this thread. It just is always so strange to me to have people doubt white (or other) privilege. Almost all my friends in childhood and now were/are from a different cultural background and the most racism I've seen is not from "racists" at all, but every day stuff from well-meaning people who don't question their actions critically enough. Under some circumstances my ex girlfriend was perceived as white and German and other times as "different looking", mostly when they knew she only had a Bosnian passport. The stuff people, especially older people, would say to her at her job make me mind boggle. "It's so nice to see people like you work here, and not just as waitresses". Jesus christ, she's a French Studies MA student, thanks for assuming she's uneducated.

Oh yes, and male privilege. The bane of my childhood. I'm not allowed to kick someone but my friends are because they're boys? I'm not allowed to be smart but my brother is? I almost literally got told to "hide my IQ" by teachers.

I guess what's maybe confusing to people is that you can have conflicting privileges in different situations. I got white privilege, but most of my friends have thin and straight privileges that I do not have.

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