The lowest common denominator on race

The Guardian is running a series of articles about “race” of which the main theme appears to be that white people just by being white people have a lot to answer for.

For example;

White people say they want to be an ally to black people. But are they ready for sacrifice?

If the white people in my life could hit a button and instantly remove the privileges afforded to them along racial lines, would they hit that button? [1]

This is the idea of “white privilege”. This is a new front in the war. It is no longer enough to condemn racism (which undoubtedly exists and is horrible) but now “white people” are faulted – just for being white.

This is an example of how the rights movement (in its broadest sense) turns out not to be a movement at all for tolerance and fair-play; but simply an attempt, rather crude, to reverse positions. In reality no one in the UK really enjoys privileges just by virtue of being white. By virtue of being born into a wealthy family yes. But by virtue of being ‘white’, no. The article is about the US – though it is published in a UK newspaper. The legacy of the political oppression of black people is of course more recent in the US but at the present time racist discrimination is also illegal in the US as it is in the UK. At any event the author has this to say:

“To expect true allyship from the white people in my life would be to ask them to be willing to sacrifice the thing that they covet most, though they may never be truly conscious of it: their whiteness”. [1]

The idea that white people in general covet their whiteness more than anything else shows that the author has a ginormous chip on her shoulder. (The tactic of saying it is unconscious is borrowed from psychoanalysis; you are mad and the sign that you are is that you don’t know it). So huge it turns out that she isn’t prepared to discuss the matter:

“So, I don’t. I respond to each message I receive with “thank you for thinking of me”, place my phone face downward onto my desk, and prepare for another day of navigating white America. [1]

This is going too far. White people are expected to beg for the right to have their begging for forgiveness considered. (But it probably gives the author a frisson of power just to write such rubbish).

This immature and borderline racist piece by a US PhD student, (Kelsey Smoot), wouldn’t merit attention if it wasn’t part of trend. The social shift is to move from condemning racism, which is a form of behaviour (which anyone is capable of, regardless of their race) to faulting some intrinsic but hard to define attribute of white people – a privilege or a certain attitude of “white supremacy”. The idea is that the social uplifting of black people is being blocked by “white privilege”. This is a terribly sad because in explaining the lack of black achievement simply by the existence of  “whiteness” or “white privilege” rather than by specific racist policies or actions it sets the bar for black achievement about as low as it could possibly get. If you say that the reason a given black kid is not achieving is because someone somewhere has a certain kind of mentality of “white privilege” you are just excusing that lack of achievement. And it also ensures that people keep thinking about “race” at just that point in society when, thankfully, we were about to move on.




Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer