Acknowledging white privilege is not about “paying the price for a historic wrong”.

Reply to Alto

Alto, you are one of the people I most respect and admire on this forum, so I hope my reply to you will come across coherent and meaningful. I truly appreciate your taking the time and making the effort to talk to me about this issue. For sure, it is a very important one.

I don’t deny that “white priviledge” once was a very strong force in the U.S. At the same time, it also wasn’t. Our founding fathers were white and rich, and their money made the difference. Poor white people didn’t have a chance with the large landowner farmers, and they had to move west, becoming what many called “crackers,” “mountain men,” and are still called “poor white trash.” Some white men were privileged, but many weren’t. (White women only were priviliged as appendages of their men.) When the slaves were freed, they were anything but monied, and fell into the pot of poverty along with poor white people. Poverty stricken people were despised by supposedly decent citizens…those who earned their way regardless of circumstances, and believed and still believe that anyone can raise their standard of living by just working a little bit harder.

Of course, the slaves didn’t look white, which didn’t help them with most white people in past history, who tended to push them further and further into the hole of poverty. However, over time (pointedly over the past 60 years or so), I believe most white people have become more humane and society has become more tolerant of people of color. Many people of color have attained middle class status and do very well in our society now. Then, look at our biggest black superstars. No one puts them down, but emulates them. Race is not an issue with them. Therefore, I truly believe we now have something that is stronger and more insidious than “white privilige.” It is “socioeconomic privilege.” And, because most poverty stricken people in this country still are poc, due to this country’s past history, it appears that racism is the biggest present-day problem. Is racism involved with the white blue collar workers who now have no jobs and are suffering? They are poor, and no one is helping them now. Naturally, there are some white people who never will be tolerant, but these are the relatively small numbers that you are referring to, I believe.

Today, I believe that most white people do not discriminate knowingly. Many white people who might be thought to discriminate are simply uncomfortable with the white man’s legacy around black folk. White people have a lot of guilt concerning slavery and racism, and since racism has been so horrific in this country, they are scared of being racist or coming across that way. Therefore, it is hard for many white people to know how to treat black people simply as people. They tip toe around black people and try to do everything and anything for black people not to think they are racist.

On the other hand, we do have people in the black community who, in trying to even the score or who wish to “call a spade a spade”, blame today’s white people for what their ancestors did. Many of these black people will grab onto any indication, phrase, action, etc. that possibly could indicate discrimination to prove that white people continue to discriminate. That only makes everything worse. Each side plays off the other side ad infinitum and no one knows how to be human.

As I said in another message (that you may not have read yet), we are at a point where both the blaming and guilt tripping have to stop. It is time that all of this garbage is put behind all of us. If people don’t stop blaming and feeling unnecessarily guilty, each succeeding generation of black and white people will learn the same tactics of blaming or feeling guilty for something they never did and don’t believe in. Our country will be stuck in never-ending racial strife.

In my last message, I made it clear that I personally don’t discriminate and believe it is a decision that every white person and black person can and has to make individually over and over and over again in life, until it is no longer a personal issue. Such a decision has to do with our psychology. In refusing to contemplate discriminatory ideas, we gradually recondition ourselves not to follow that path of discrimination that definitely can be found in our current society, if one looks for it. If everyone would recondition themselves, and I believe a whole lot of us white people already are doing it or have done it, we can change our society in shorter order. If we are ever to be able to live together in peace and cooperation, we all have to be responsible for our own thoughts and behaviors.

In my last tete-a-tete, someone had painstakingly done a great job of making a list of discriminatory questions that she thought most white people asked themselves when coming across a black person. In my reply, which was to this lady, I didn’t deny that it happens, but I didn’t make a point that it does either. I simplly stated that I, and I believe, many white people banish those thoughts and actually refuse to admit them into consciousness in order not to discriminate. Everyone does make a decision on discrimination, and can make that conscious choice NOT to discriminate. And, it is the responsibilty of the each of us to do so.

Whether that old, negative discriminatory behavior is out there or not, is not what is important. What is important is how we all react to it or don’t react to it.

Alto, I am a psychologist, and I don’t make a habit of dwelling on the negative that only makes life worse. If the negative is out there, I combat it. I try to find a way to make life better. There are many people out there who are like me, and others who also want life to be better for everyone. And, this is why I believe it is gradually getting there, despite recent set-backs. Meanwhile, we all owe it to oneanother to work for the common good…not to denote and dwell on the negative. So what if it’s out there? If we do our parts, we can get rid of it.

It just really disturbs me to hear people constantly saying devisive things to and about oneanother — blaming, shaming, guilt-tripping, etc. — to where we keep the pain going. No one can get into someone else’s mind to declare that they do something or don’t do something, therefore judging someone else. Judging isn’t relevant. We all have to stop judging oneanother. I’m not sure of other religions, but I know Jesus told Christians not to judge other people. Ironically, some of the supposedly strongest Christians around are expert at judging others. We should ALL just stop and suspend judgment of everyone else. It takes a bit of practice to be able to get good at it, but it can be done, and it works wonders for the mental health of everyone involved. And, it is what I and many others are doing with this damnable race issue

This is why I refuse to agree that falling in line with the negative, racist things out in the world is what all white people do, even subconsciously.

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