Some might say I don’t even notice my “white privilege.” They would be right. Recently, I read a very thoughtful piece on how “white privilege” is embedded in the very language use without thinking of the implications: If most of us white people were telling a story, or conveying a news item, and we are describing a person, we assume that the modifier “white” is unnecessary, unless he’s some other race. Then it’s racial adjective time. He’s a black guy or an African American. Or he’s Asian or he’s Hispanic, but never he’s a white American. Since I’m white and almost all my relationships are with white folks, I don’t know how blacks or Asians or Hispanics describe people in their own stories, nor how they address each other. Since that piece was written by a white man, he wasn’t explicit about how people of other races describe someone of their race, but he implied that they all use the same modifiers we do. In other words, they too assume white is the default race and modifiers are needed for anyone else. All of which is to say, “look how pervasive white privilege is, how damaging it is to the self worth of non-whites.”
Do I, being white, disagree? Not necessarily, I really don’t know 1- how people of other races describe characters in their stories; 2- whether they even care about this issue; 3- whether they wish they were a different race or gender or whatever; 4- whether they hate or resent me for being born Caucasian; 5- whether they admire Rosanna Arquette for hating her whiteness. Gee, that’s a lot of stuff to know before feeling defensive or guilty about being Caucasian. Since I don’t have the answers to those questions, and frankly don’t care enough to make the effort to find out, and do not meet the Perfectionist Progressives’ definition of a good person (probably because of my cavalier attitude), I will simply revel in my white privilege.
Who, after all, decided what race, sex, citizenship and family I would be born into anyway? Was it not God, the Creator of all? Did He decree I would be born Caucasian, male, American so I could feel guilty about it all? Is the Creator honored because Rosanna hates her melanin content? She claims to be Jewish, but what does that even mean when she’s in effect cursing God for creating her as she is? It means that her desire to be virtuous in the eyes of her friends takes precedence over honoring God. Is that something to respect, to be proud of? Not for a believer, nor a true Jew. Let’s all bow down to the idol of popularity, shall we? Rosanna, I’m probably sorrier than you that you were born Caucasian. I have no desire to denigrate what God made me.
Can I be Caucasian and still honor God in my life and my dealings with others? My father lived the example of treating others fairly and honestly. He was a white shopkeeper in a black neighborhood. On the rare occasions when a teenager (notice that I didn’t modify teenager with his race, though given the neighborhood you can draw your own conclusions) stole something, he was always dragged back—literally—by a parent or neighbor and made to return the item and apologize. My dad hired from all races, and kept those who earned their pay, and fired those who were slackers, who happened to be mostly white. His modeling of behavior is what I took up. I treat everyone the same: trustworthy, unless they prove otherwise; diligent, unless they prove otherwise; intelligent, unless they prove otherwise.
Incidentally, there’s a show on FX network called Snowfall, supposedly a dramatization of how the crack cocaine epidemic started. It takes place primarily in Los Angeles, features a CIA agent, arms to the Nicaraguan contras being financed by cocaine sales, and lots of “local color” dialogue between denizens of a rundown black community and an equally rundown Hispanic community. The Hispanics are portrayed as addressing each other as Ese and Vato, and referring to whites as ….(sneer) whites. I guess that’s enough of an insult. The blacks most common self address is Nigga and Homie, and whites as….yeah, (sneer) whites again. Is this realistic? How would I know? But I suspect that if I addressed a black or Hispanic person the way they probably address each other (if rap lyrics are indicative?) I wouldn’t last long.