White Privilege

Jenn, from Reappropriate, has a good blog post about white privilege:
Too frequently, I am charged by my White friends with “over-racializing” the world. “Why must it always come down to race,” they wonder. ”Aren’t I perpetuating racism when I notice race?” Taking it a step forward, they accuse me of being racist against Whites for pointing out White privilege.

How do you communicate to someone who is White that their race matters? By definition, they are the “unracialized” in this country, and are never faced with their race and how it privileges them. How then can they comprehend how race fundamentally colours the experiences of people of colour? A cheesy analogy arose out of Monday’s discussion which is nonetheless somewhat poignant: if a negatively-charged chloride ion and a positively-charged sodium ion are hanging out on the outside of a cell. The cell’s membrane has a channel that allows only negatively-charged ions to move into the cell, and so chloride is able to pass in and out of the cell freely; to chloride there are no limits, and so the concept of the cell (as a bounded space) is an abstract concept alone since chloride doesn’t experience the boundaries of that cell and its borders are subsequently invisible.

To sodium, however, it seems the cell as a place it cannot enter, since there is no channel open to it. The cell is defined by sodium’s inability to enter it, and so it is able to sense not only where it can, but also where it cannot go (which, for science folks, draws in the analogy of the equilibrium potential for sodium compared to chloride).

White privilege is a similar conundrum...


Elegance said...

I was thinking about this the other day. I think it helps to discuss with them 'majority rules'. In many instances the majority of people get to decide what happens and the desires of the minority get ignored. The media covers stories that the majority wants to hear. Advertisers cater to the majority of viewers on television programs. The government responds to requests that the majority of people support. So what happens to people with the minority view? They don't get a say, they always lose elections, they get ignored. Thats what is is like to never be in the majority when it comes to racial issues in America. People pay attention to race and when you are the minority and not considered "the norm" there are consequences even if they majority likes to act like there are none. If we totally ignore race then the majority will always get the most and always win and everyone will be okay with that because it has nothing to do with race. Some people are okay with majority rules, but if the minority is millions of people then that can become a problem. The minority has needs too and should have access to what they need to have happy lives.

Jack Stephens said...

I couldn't agree more bt.