Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Beneficiaries


Whether it's indirectly or directly, racism has its beneficiaries. Understanding this is the first step to reconciliation.

Hat tip to Barry Deutsch (aka Ampersand) over at Alas, A Blog for this strip.

- ACL

7 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

The H.C. said...

HMMMMM, I'm glad I'm not named Bob. I wouldn't have much of an argument.
My family's tale went more like this;
"Welcome to America Mr H.C.'s grandparents, sorry you had to flee Bohemia with only the clothes on your back while WW1`is ripping your country apart. We have a nice place for you in the Slovic Guetto here on Leith and St. John."
And then things started looking up, "I'm sorry Mr. H.C.'s dad, but the only job we have for you is in "The Hole" with no benefits and miserable work conditions. But there is good news! You get to work 12 hours-a-day 6 days a week."
And after he left me with my single, unemployed mom I got to hear, "Your the cause of all our problems, Honky." From my fellow classmates.

Individual experiences have individual responsibilities.

If you want to be judged by your own actions...you have to judge the same way.

However Dre, I do get your point, for a lot of people it is a benefit. But for some, it wasn't very much of one.

Andre said...

Yo Hippie,

Take your tragic experiences and fast foward to today. If you and I both suited up for a job interview (for you, I guess it would be the "Conservative" part of your pseudonym), the initial reaction from the employer would likely be that you're qualified for the gig, I'm not (or at the very least, you're more qualified). Trust me when I say, this isn't just alarmist talk. I've seen it. Studies confirm it. History backs it up.

But I should point out something: I used a race-related strip in this post because...well...race is what I do. That's where most of my interest lie. But the notion of privilege extends to all sorts of elements in life; both yours and mine. I have to remind myself of that daily. Obviously, your being a white person has benefit. But so does our being male. So does our being heterosexual. So does our being college educated. Simply put, race is not the only determinant of privilege.

I say all this to circle back to my original point: before reconciliation of any sort can take place, privileged groups must be able to identify themselves, recognize who they are and -- more importantly -- understand how and why they got where they are.

Thanks, as always, for your comments.

The H.C. said...

Hey Dre,
@ 1st paragraph,
In the public sector I would agree. However, in my current position, I was turned down for the job based on the color of my skin. My manager at the time put me down as her first choice (and most qualified) but because it was a affirmative action position and because we had an aggressive advocate chancellor who felt we didn't have race reflective staff (to the city of Flint.) They were told the position could be filled only by a black applicant. Long story short, the top two applicants (through the AA office) couldn't fullfill the requirements, so I got the job. I really don't have a problem with that scenerio because I do feel there is a disadvantage in the private sector for black people. My point is; it's not always true that the white guy has the advantage.

@ 2nd paragraph;
I agree completely. There are advantages to being young, to being big, to being strong, to being educacted, to being attractive and on and on.

I really wasn't trying to be confrontational. It's just that when it comes to "white privilege" I have a lot of questions as to how that determination is made. Here's some sample questions;
1) Who's "white"?
2) Who decides who's "white"?
3) Are Jews "white"?
4) If they are, are Palestinians "white" too?
5) Is it fair to have people define "white" that obviously have an agenda as to how their results turn out?
6) How long do they have to be in this country before they have benefited from being "white"? A week? A month? A generation?

I'm all for reconciliation and I actually believe it can happen. I look at how far we've come and it really is amazing. Still, there is a ways to go though. Civility is the key.

Andre said...

Hippie,

You know I don't interpret anything you say as being confrontational. No need to apologize. Besides, I think that our differences in opinion is what makes this dialogue work.

Now that we've got all the niceness out of the way:

You've told me that story about how you got your gig before. Since then, I've been doing some investigation into Michigan law and how it relates to AA. As I suspected (even before Prop 2 passed in Michigan) Affirmative Action has never been legally enforced. I've yet to find concrete evidence suggesting that the University has legally required the use of Aff. Action in hiring policies. I just can't see the University opening itself up to a lawsuit based on the illegal edict of an administrator. But if that's what your supervisor told you, I suspect he/she was mistaken. If the chancellor forced your department to hire 'less qualified' blacks solely on the basis of skin, they would've been legally in violation. You could've sued. Your supervisor could've sued.

Besides that, if it was absolutely mandatory that a black person have your job, why didn't they keep hiring black people until they got the 'right' one?

To address your second point: Since race is a socially created construct, I think it's left up to society at large to 'categorize' people into such groups. Obviously skin color is a major consideration. But other physical attributes (hair type, facial features, and other physical characteristics) come into play. Obviously, you and I agree that using physical attributes as a catalyst for forming perceptions and dictating actions toward one another is insanely ignorant. But that's the world.

"I'm all for reconciliation and I actually believe it can happen. I look at how far we've come and it really is amazing. Still, there is a ways to go though. Civility is the key."

On this we can agree. I'm sure that the average, moderate-thinking person wants to see all of these social problems vanquished. Where the problem lies is figuring out how to get it done.

nic said...

Meh. I'm not about to delve into another AA dialogue, as it's akin to having a religious debate; pointless, frustrating, & in the end, a waste of time.

Anyhow, all but the last of the comic strip's frames can be construed as being somewhat historically accurate, no doubt. But it's that last frame that appears eerily similar to the 3263623672 comic strips out there depicting all blacks as looooooving the fried chicken & watermelon.

Neither type of comic strip, or the examples derived from them, is a path to reconciliation; rather they're racially charged generalizations aimed @ the idiots amongst all of us.

-n

Andre said...

Nic, the last frame of that comic didn't speak to any stereotypical fallacies that we created to make white folks out to be oblivious to the world around them. It's simply pointing out that people who say "Who...me?" don't understand the historical actions depicted in the strip. Maybe it's an unfair description for some (possibly, MANY) whites. But neither is the fact that lighter skin color will always have some benefit.

When you've got clear and documented cases showing how race plays majors roles in the housing disparity, poor quality education, the criminal justtice system, employment, etc., you can't just shrug your shoulders and say "Oh well. Doesn't apply to me. I'm poor too." and expect for reconciliation to take place.

I think you know me pretty well by now. And you know that I would never place the onus solely on whites. People of color play their role too (both in terms of accountability for their personal behaviors and in trying to create reconciliation). But let's not lose sight of the reality that skin color shapes perceptions; which then shape actions. It happened back in the day. It's happening now. Realizing that is the first step.

Joanne said...

Andre, I think you raise some crucial points here. Far too often, many of my white friends - by no fault of their own - dismiss the cries of racism that minorities make today. They figure that since the Klan isn't revelant today, there are no 'colored only' signs above restrooms, and people aren't getting hung from trees that the problems of the past don't affect people's daily lives. I don't deny that many minorities use race as a card they pull to justify their own irresponsibleness. But the problem DOES still exist; only in different forms. People need to be aware of it.