Saturday, April 16, 2011

White Privilege and Passive Participation

In class on Thursday, we spoke of Whiteness studies, saying that this was a new area of study causing people to broaden their views of black oppression to include white privilege. This referred to the structure where we once focused on the perpetrator, the victim, and the wrong and suggested that these items should not be the only focus. Now an additional variable, the beneficiary must be inserted. Here you have a model that includes the perpetrator, the victim, and the beneficiaries who benefit every time the perpetrator succeeds in devaluing the victims. In this new structure, the problem of passive participation is now placed under the microscope as we examine white privilege. We explored the way in which white privilege remains an issue because some white people do not acknowledge the fact that they benefit from it. Another issue was the tendency to separate one’s self from the issue of black disadvantage because of the comfort of knowing that you are not actively trying to participate in its perpetuation. However ignoring this or failing to acknowledge this as a problem does not change the fact that you are still benefiting from white privilege and thus aiding the perpetrators by refusing to acknowledge such unearned privileges for what they are. But should you actively try t overturn the current social structure? What can you do? Would you actively refuse to receive the benefits of white privilege? And how do you regulate such instances? /During class we came to the conclusion that there are some ways with which we can begin to overcome such issues. It was unanimously decided (I believe) that first people must recognize this phenomenon as white privilege (Yes. I will now belatedly define this here.) which refers to the unearned benefits gained by white individuals which are usually gained at the expense of others. Consciousness must be raised of the subject. People should be taught that racial categories have no biological or scientific foundation and educated on white privilege. How should we go about this education? It was suggested that we should have different races in school working together to reach common goals from a young age. This alone will not be sufficient to overthrow the current social structure, but is this a good starting point? /On a side note, I have heard much debate over an “old south” party recently. I do not know much about exactly what group on campus that it was held by, but it seems that some black students had issues with it. It is apparently some sort of tradition to hold this function annually, but certain individuals find it to be disrespectful. What seemed to exacerbate the problem was that it is usually held on or around Martin Luther King day. I do feel like this was an unnecessary function and it was strange to me how the enlightened students of Rhodes felt like this would not make a portion of the students on campus uncomfortable. Again, I do not know much about the issue, but it was an interesting topic of discussion that I thought I would present. Does anyone else feel like it was disrespectful to have this party? I’m interested in seeing what you all think of this. /(The slashes were my attempt to separate paragraphs...I wasn't allowed to skip lines for some reason.)


  1. I think that not only do people need to recognize the problem as one of white privilege, but it is white people who need to recognize this as being the case. Whites need to understand that it is not enough to not participate in overtly racist practices, but they must actively combat the issues racism has created.

    In regards to your questioning the old south party, we want to get rid of racist practices, but at the same time we want to preserve the rights of individuals to do as they please. It becomes difficult to say where we should draw the line between combating racism and ensuring individuals' freedoms.

  2. We also talked about this idea of overcoming white priveledge in my anthropology class as well. We said that even if we adjusted toward a race neutral policy we are still living with the history that race had ever occurred. We constructed a world in which a social choice has been made, all shaped by considerations that involve the idea of race. The first step, I agree, is acknowledging that we have white privilege. We also said the first step to getting ride of this racial society is trying to go from racist to anti-racist.
    From being a racist, which we all were at some point and time towards any other minority or majority, guilt is necessary. This guilt doesn't always come with acknowledging our white privilege. White guilt works as a way to show innocence toward racism in a sense.


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