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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Me? A White Oppressor?

I'm a white male; it wasn't until my graduate degree that I realized that I am a white, male...oppressor. What took me so long? I am told that I was blinded by my white privilege and lack of sensitivity to plight of others (how rude of me!).

Self-proclaimed experts in my field, are especially 'concerned' with the abuse of victim groups. I appreciate their concern. It stinks to be victimized and noble to give sympathetic attention. As I listen my professional peers rant about racial injustice and accepting their white identity, I began to believe them that I was indeed defined by my 'whiteness'. They began to convince me.

But, like a breath of fresh air, the class ended, I left for the day and realized that I have never been racist a day in my life--not one day. As if I had to feel guilty about my non-racist status, I probed that thought a bit and realized there is one thing that separates me from my professional peers, faith.

In the eyes of God, I am no different than the black lady on the other side of the coffee house where I sit, the Czech who works here, and my African friend. We're all as naive as peanuts compared to God, all born with sin in our DNA, and we all have to live in the same world. No person of any race is faultless but must negotiate their selfish, lazy, degenerate nature--we all are the same in this regard.

William Hogarth said beauty is defined as "simplicity with variety". I look around everyday in awe of variety. Everyone's features are unique, beautiful. In the eyes of faith, features don't define. A holistic faith consumes thoughts and actions, is a faith that bleeds into every aspect of life. Thus, oppressing is not in my (new) nature.

Faith makes the difference.

Thoughtful Readers Speak:
We have sin in our DNA? So, is there just one gene that codes for a sin protein, or is a combination of genes that work together to make sin, or what? What happens when sin mutates? Please, enlighten us.
I'm familiar with the concept of Original Sin. What I want to know is whether or not we've identified the sin gene.
Fair enough; I'm glad you're not a racist, for any reason.

But you don't have to be a racist yourself to have benefited from white privilege; the institutionalized racism that still persists in our society doesn't ask for your permission as a white person to benefit you.

You're dismissing a very-real effect in our society, one defined by its invisiblity to its beneficiaries, because you cannot see it. But the fact that you can't see it, and are white, and benefit from it, proves that it is a very real phenomenon.

All you have to do is ask a black person.
Please give me some examples of institutional racism (as currently exists in the United States).

People with black-sounding names are less than half as likely to be called back for interviews as compared to people with white-sounding names.


Black applicants with no criminal record are significantly less likely to be called back for interviews even compared to white men with actual felony convictions.

Or another example - the Florida Secretary of Statein 2000 erasing tens of thousands of black Americans from the voter rolls in an attempt to expunge "felons", even though:

1) Florida has no state requirement that felony ex-convicts not be allowed to vote;
2) As many as 90% of the erasees had never been convicted of a crime, and, in many cases, were cited "conviction dates" that were years in the future - 2007, in one case;
and 3) Few, if any, white or hispanic felons were expunged.

Well, that's three examples of institutionalized racism. Your comment? Anyone who asserts that "racism is over" is simply wrong.
My best friend did his Masters thesis in sociology in New Orleans and found that employers were significantly less likely to hire people with certain addresses (like public housing projects). Guess who mostly lives in the public housing projects in New Orleans? Black people.
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