Monday, November 3, 2014

Discussion Questions on White Privilege

Part One

1)   What does Richard Dyer mean when he says that “racial imagery is central to the organization of the modern world”? Do you agree or disagree? Argue for your answer by providing lots of specific examples to support your position.

He means that the racial hierarchy and the stereotypes that come with it influences the power relations and dynamics of government structures. These elements emerge in legislation such as separate but equal, Japanese internment, the Holocaust, civil war, and international slavery and justify such imperialistic ventures as manifest destiny. Those whom are responsible for this racial oppression justify their actions based on racial propaganda, blacks are lazy, Asians work hard, Latinos are criminals, and so forth and so on. Take a look at the immigration question in Arizona allowing police to stop and frisk someone who doesn’t “look” like a citizen. Where did our basic rights go? How can people be profiled for being a certain ethnicity? All of these questions are justified by those in power because they base many of their decisions on the racial imagery and propaganda that govern our global society.

2)   Harlon Dalton suggests that most white people tend not to think of themselves in racial terms. What does he mean when he says this? Do you agree with him?

Dalton is trying to say that most white people do not recognize their privilege or the benefits that come along with being white. Instead of dealing with this reality they become disillusioned by the notion that every man was created equal. They fail to recognize historical oppression against those whom were not white and do not reconcile how this oppression effects modern society. I agree that many white people do not venture into the realities of being white in a multicultural society.

3)   bell hooks writes: “In a white supremacist society, white people can ‘safely’ imagine that they are invisible to black people since the power they have historically asserted, and even now collectively assert over black people, accorded them the right to control the black gaze.” What does it mean to have the right to control the black gaze? How does she elaborate on her claim?

Bell hooks means that white people can pull the curtain over black peoples eyes and conduct their business in privacy anytime they want. They control when and where black people can see white people. Some of these exclusive spheres include fraternities and sororities, country clubs, political organizations, and legacies of universities. Prestigious enclaves of higher learning is not transparent and only visible to those few black people that actually get into college. And even though affirmative action is designed to close this gap, white efforts to keep these clubs exclusive pose a greater threat. Unfortunately this gaze is a one way street, as black people are unprotected against the white gaze that seeks to exploit and commodify without discretion or care, i.e. Flavor of Love, Amos and Andy, and minstrel shows more generally.

4)   All three writers in this section are concerned with what they call “the invisibility of whiteness.” How can something be invisible if it’s everywhere?

Again, whiteness is a mental construction, rather than a physical feature like skin color. And the notion of ethnicity of whiteness is far reaching (everywhere: Ireland, Scotland, England, Europe more generally), however it is never put into question, thus making it invisible. Laws have not been written only for white people because there is a unspoken understanding that only white people are human beings. The constitution did not grant white men explicitly with the power to vote and make laws, however everyone knew that slaves were 3/5 of  a person. And in case you were not in touch with society at the time, you could find this reality in cold black and white in the actual constitution. Any effort to bring up whiteness or even more remotely positioned, white supremacy, is to call into question the status quo. For most white people everything is fine and dandy, that means for most people in general (blacks, latinos, and Asians) everything is fine and dandy, but that isn’t reality. Until you get people who represent these racial groups who tell the entire truth of what it means to be people of color you will nullify the actual makeup of the world, and its numerous inhabitants of color, and continue to live in the illusion that all men are created equal.  And until you put whiteness into question it will remain invisible.

5)   Why do the authors in this section believe it is important to study whiteness?

They believe it is important because it is an area that has been neglected in the academic lexicon. Ideas and notions of whiteness have had their share of limelight in such ideologies of eugenics, but these authors believe that the study of whiteness can shed light on to the interracial exchanges of our present day. And thus preparing the road toward a more egalitarian  society.

Part Two

1)   According to Wander, Martin, and Nakayama, what role did science play in helping to justify conquest and slavery during the colonial period? Do you think a case can be made, for the claim that science continues to play such a role today? If so, how; if not, why not?

“Anthropologists and Egyptologists found evidence of cultural, social, technological, and spiritual inferiority of nonwhite races throughout human history. These conclusions were corroborated by colonial officials and newspaper reports that described the inferiority of nonwhites in colonies and potential colonies throughout the world.” (34)  Currently the issue of Ebola has hit America. It has been an issue in Africa for a long time, accounting for thousands of deaths over several years. Now that Americans have contracted the disease and have come back to the states, our nation is making a big deal. Part of the solution, many believe, is to close the border and stop flights from Africa coming here to the states. What is not being talked about are the ideas about the health care system in Africa. Many believe, because of the lack of education, Africans are not clean and therefore catch these diseases. What is not mentioned is the amount of money that goes into the healthcare systems of these countries. Many would like to believe that these Africans are inferior when the reality is that they are not reaping the same benefits that we are from 21st Century medicine. Many of their practices are outdated and because of the neglect that African nations get, their facilities are underperforming. Science I believe is playing a big part in the disparity of health care among African nations and the western world.

2)   The third selection in Part Two is titled “How White People Became White.” At least on first reading, this title appears puzzling. Explain the title.

This selection talks about European immigrants and their ascent to first class citizenship. As time went on many of these groups found jobs, secured an education, and mobilized political power. They were also told that their success had nothing to do with being an immigrant but had to do with being white. They were compared by the white upper class, to people of color, and told that these ethnic people were inferior. In time these European immigrant groups believed this propaganda and thought of themselves as white people in America, and therefore bought into the entitlements of being a white person in American. Their class, which at many times mirrored the class of black people, was overlooked, and they were told that if they worked hard they could have a piece of the American dream. Efforts to recognize class consciousness were dismantled by the elusive appeal of American capitalism, and soon Greeks, Italians, and Irish folk became white Americans. This was also predicated on the teaching and glamorization of European history and the priority to learn about Greek and Roman civilizations.

3)   How does Karen Brodkin support her claim that educational and occupational GI benefits provided after World War II really constituted an affirmative action program for white males? Would George Lipsitz, whose article also appears in Part Two, agree or disagree with this claim? How about you? Do you agree or disagree—and why?

“The GI Bill of Rights, as the 1944 Serviceman’s Readjustment Act was known, was arguably the most massive affirmative action program in U.S. history. It was created to develop needed labor-force skills, and to provide those who had them with a life-style that reflected their value to the economy. The GI benefits ultimately extended to sixteen million GIs (veterans of the Korean War as well) included priority in jobs—that is, preferential hiring, but no one objected to it then—financial support during the job search; small loans for starting up businesses; and, most important, low interest home loans and educational benefits, which included tuition and living expenses. This legislation was rightly regarded as one of the most revolutionary postwar programs. I call it affirmative action because it was aimed at and disproportionately helped male, Euro-origin GIs.” George Lipsitz would agree and so would I. I believe this to be true because during WWII African American soldiers were still treated unfairly and during this time segregation was still in effect.

4)   Drawing on the essays by Brodkin and Lipsitz, construct the most powerful argument you can in support of the claim that white privilege has been institutionalized and protected by the U.S. government policy over the years; then go on to agree or disagree with the argument you made.

·      Immigration laws from China (1882), India (1917), Japan (1924), Phillipines (1934)
·      Wagner Act and Social Security Act excluded farm workers and domestics from coverage
·      Federal Housing Administration denied loans to minorities
·      Urban Renewal destroyed housing projects for many poor folks
·      Department of Housing and Urban Development red-lined inner cities, making them ineligible for future loans, a decision that destroyed the value of inner-city housing for generations to come.
·      Lead poisoning in the late 80s and toxic colonialism
·      War on Drugs
·      Deindustrialization, unemployment, and lack of intergenerational transfer of wealth
·      Tax reforms under Reagan
·      Income disparities
·      “A National Opinion Research Report in 1990 disclosed that more than 50 percent of U.S. whites viewed blacks as innately lazy and less intelligent and less patriotic than whites.”
·      Jim Crow
·      Rodney King
·      Bakke Case concerning affirmative action

5)   Does Neil Foley equate becoming Hispanic with becoming white? According to his essay, are all Mexican Americans currently considered white in the United States? Compare and contrast Foley’s account of how some Mexican Americans came to be categorized as white with the accounts of how members of other ethnic groups (for example, Greeks and Poles) came to be included in this category.

Yes he is equating the two: “The history of Mexican Americans in the Southwest is thus more than the history of their “becoming” Mexican American or Hispanic; for many, especially those of the middle class, it is also the history of their becoming White.” (59) The Texas Court of Civil Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that “school authorities have no power to arbitrarily segregate Mexican children, assign them to separate schools, and exclude them from schools maintained for children of other white races” (65) Not all Mexican Americans are considered to be white but many are based on skin color, education, political standing, and economic groupings. Like Greeks and Poles Mexicans defined themselves by how different they were from being black and by distancing themselves they proclaimed allegiance to being white and the belief system that came with it. They were complicit with discrimination so long as it wasn’t against themselves. Unlike Greeks and Poles Mexican Americans had to battle a history of being the “other” stemming from the Mexican American War. They also had to deal with all the stereotypes and propaganda that came in conjunction with that time period. Skin color was also something that had to explain that Greeks and Poles were simply not concerned with.

6)   How are Asian Americans viewed in the United States? How is their relationship to whiteness similar to or different from the situation of Mexican Americans as described in the Foley article?

Asian Americans are viewed as the model minority and the example of how to succeed if you are a person of color in American. Duck, roll, know your role, and keep quiet unless spoken to. These are some of the unspoken rules of what it means to be Asian in America. Their relationship to whiteness is similar to that of Mexican Americans in that there are efforts to distance themselves from black people unless it can be a beneficial co-opt of the culture, language, and economic class. Otherwise they want nothing to do with blackness and buy into the racial hierarchy authored by white supremacy.

7)   Charles W. Mills makes a strong case for his view that white supremacy has been the unacknowledged operating political system in the world throughout recorded time. Evaluate this claim and indicate what you believe to be the strongest arguments in its favor.

Mills not only mentions parts of our global world that have been stricken by white imperialism and colonization but also gets into the legal documents that made white domination possible. They include the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) which divided the planet between Spain and Portugal, the Valladolid Spain Conference (1550-51) to decide whether Native Americans were really human, the later debates over African slavery and abolitionism, the Berlin Conference (1884-85) to partition Africa, the various intra-European pacts, treaties, and informal arrangements on policing their colonies, the 1919 post-World War I Versailles Conference in which the Japanese delegation’s proposal to include “the equality of races” in the League of Nations Covenant of Nation’s Covenant was formally defeated. He mentions Garvey, Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, as well as Robert Knox, Pearl Buck, and Emilio Aguinaldo showcasing arguments on different sides of the global white supremacy paradigm. All in all there was a great amount of facts that substantiate his claim.

8)   What does it mean to claim whiteness has been socially constructed?

Whiteness is real and has been developed over time as an identity and a skin color. This identity has political, social, and economic features all of which are the envy of European immigrant groups and various racial ethnic groups. Whiteness may be transcending its image where we may recognize a person as being white even though they are clearly (visually) of color. As whiteness becomes a moniker of economic success certain notions of America such as multiculturalism underscores the importance to further investigate what it means to be American. Does it mean to be rich? Does it mean to love democracy and spread it to people who live under political oppression? Does it mean to be a citizen and make contributions to your country via taxes or military participation? What does an American look like? Are they white or of color? Can we deconstruct whiteness? Most importantly can we reach racial harmony in the presence of whiteness? What measures would make that possible? Affirmative action? Reparations?

Part Three

1)   According to the essay by Stephanie Wildman and Adrienne Davis, what is a privilege? What forms or systems of privilege operate in U.S. society and how do they relate to each other?

Privilege is systemic. Privilege is invisible only until looked for, but silence in the face of privilege sustains its invisibility. Privilege is societal norms. Privilege is power. Race, gender, class, and sexual orientation are all interrelated and create a white, male, rich, and straight power structure that the marginalized have to contend with.

2)   The Wildman/Davis essay reports on an incident that occurred in a college class taught by a professor named Marge Shultz. Why did Professor Shultz call Mr. Rodriguez “Mr. Martinez”? Why is it important to know that earlier in the day another professor had called him “Mr. Hernandez”? Is it a big deal?

The main idea is that all latinos are the same, which does not take into account their familial history and national allegiance. Many Americans fail to know that South America is made up of many different countries and that not all latinos are Mexican. This is a very big deal because it fails to recognize the history of distinct and different South American nations.  Is l

3)   Select several sites or institutions in which you participate and analyze how privilege operates within each of them. For example, you might choose to examine several different classroom situations in which you have found yourself both in college and in earlier grades; you might look at privilege within your family and the families of friends or relatives; you might examine how privilege operates within a religious community to which you belong, etc.

In college there were few classes that dealt with ethnic studies and those classes that were offered were taught by professors whom where tackling many different fronts (advising, research, writing, and diversity development). Much of the responsibility for “ethnic programming” or in other words events for people of color, were on the students themselves, and many of us were overwhelmed by this responsibility in addition to maintaining decent  grades (B average) in our classes.

4)   What does Allan G. Johnson mean when he refers to the “paradox of privilege”? How does this paradox help explain why it is possible to be privileged without feeling privileged?

What Johnson means is that those whom are privileged do not even recognize it, and when it is brought up there is an abundance of ignorance that follows, which leads to misunderstanding and frustration. The onus of identifying this privilege then becomes the responsibility of the oppressed and their mission and aim is to prove and convince those whom are privileged are in fact actually privileged. It is a daunting up hill battle with little benefits and light at the end of the title. It is like asking a blind person to see you.

5)   Peggy McIntosh wrote her classic essay on white privilege in 1988. In it she provides a listing of some of the privilege she “enjoys” as a white woman. Have things changed since she wrote her essays? How would you modify her list if you were making up a list of privileges—versions that factor in class privilege and gender privilege. How about a listing of privileges people enjoy by virtue of their sexual orientation, their age, or their physical condition? After having made up these lists, go back and discuss your answer to question 1 above.

One thing that can go on her list is the availability of having people who know how to style your hair in the same vicinity as your university.  The same goes for churches. For people of different sexual orientation maybe venues where they can display public acts of affection (kissing and holding hands).

6)   In his essay, Tim Wise uses the pronouns “we” and “our” frequently. Analyze his use of these words and the implications of defining “we” in the way he does.

We sometimes can be exclusive and inclusive and distinction can be very subtle. It is almost like identifying the invisible racial white elephant in the room in the presence of people of color, so that there is a notion of double talk and altering functions. It is important at the outset to define who “we” are and from there talking about the issues that concern “us”.

7)   Peggy McIntosh, Robert  Jensen, and Tim Wise all discuss the privileges they enjoy as white people in contemporary U.S. society. How do you feel about each of these selections? Did you find any one of them more or less persuasive than the others? Why?

I believe the Peggy McIntosh piece to be the most persuasive because it goes into specifics that allows readers to make personal and thus stronger connections.

8)   Language makes people see and not see how privilege operates. Evaluate how successful you think Podur is in making the reader question the effectiveness of using the phrase “people of color.” What do you think is the value of using or not using this phrase?

I believe the value in using this term is to recognize the likeness that different ethnicities other than white people have and the dynamic that comes from sharing a common enemy and oppressor. It ramifies the notion of a global white supremacy and a “people of color” who seek liberation from the confining racial epithets and slurs that mask a truly vibrant and powerful historical culture. The story of not only the plight but the endeavors of freedom in spite of this plight is what I believe the term people of color to mean.

9)   How much money would you require, if you are white, to give up your white skin forever and live out your life as a Black person? Why?

149 million dollars, a million a year since the emancipation proclamation.

Part Four

1)   What kinds of reasons do the people quoted in Beverly Tatum’s article give for being afraid to talk about race? Do you think these fears are broadly held in contemporary U.S. society?

There is a fear of being isolated by other white people, or the fear of saying the wrong thing in mixed company.  Look at the ex Clippers coach Sterling, he said the wrong thing at the wrong time and when he was given the opportunity to explain himself he dug a deeper whole in the ground. His ideas about race where taken for granted and because he had never had an honest open discussion with people who know better he said some racially disturbing things.  Was he afraid of saying the wrong thing, I believe so, was it justified, well he was fired wasn’t he? Political correctness is very important in this day in age however sometimes it comes at the expense of silence, which as we have already discussed, helps fuel white privilege. The object then is to have open and honest dialogue and at the same time being responsible for our actions after those discussions have taken place.

2)   What do Feagin and Vera mean when they assert that “racist views are a ‘normal’ part of being a white American”? Do you agree or disagree?

They mean that in white circles it is perfectly normal to talk about black people pejoratively because they know better and are simply “joking”. I disagree and believe that some people do not know better because their actions have never ended with consequences, and therefore go unchecked, unmonitored, and thus allowed in the public discourse.

3)   In their selection, Feagin and Vera report on interviews with some white people who are working to overcome their racism. Select the example you find most interesting or most disturbing and talk about why.

One of the examples that I found interesting was the white male educator who found it extremely difficult to understand black rage. He stated that it took a lot of self criticism, effort, and time to reach an understanding and what immediately came to my mind was how much time, energy, and effort it takes to form a positive conscious image of black beauty. I mean the image of blackness is constantly in struggle with popular and sometimes negative stereotypes and misnomers that it is hard to navigate what is good and what is bad. And so one can only imagine how hard it must be to be a person of color with the responsibility of not only forming a healthy personal identity but also help white people learn about their whiteness and how they negotiate years of racial bigotry with a changing multicultural society.

4)   Using as a model the scene between the student and teacher described in “What Does an Ally Do?” describe a racial incident in which you or a friend were involved, or which happened on your campus, or which you explore what it would mean for a white person to serve as an ally to the person or people of color who were discriminated against.

A white person who is an ally always has an open ear and sees things subjectively and objectively.

5)   In “I Would Be a Perfect Ally If…” Paul Kivel examines some of the excuses white people use to avoid taking responsibility for dealing with racism in U.S. society. React to these excuses. Can you think of additional excuses that white people use? Do you think any of these excuses are legitimate? Why? Why not?

These excuses are just what they are, ways to avoid the issue. So long as people continue to do this they should not expect things to be rosey posey. The only way to deal with racism is to address it head first. That way we are always embarking on racial harmony rather than putting off a developing catastrophe.

6)   What do you think race relations will be like in the United States ten years from now?

I think we will have similar issues but in different forms and the visibility of nonwhite success will be more prevalent and more accessible.

7)   Identify five ways in which white people on your campus could challenge or undermine the ways white privilege operates there. Do the same with respect to the community in which you live and/or the workplace in which you work.

·      People can have more open and honest discussions on race
·      Teach about ethnic histories
·      Hire people of color
·      Diversity training
·      Fair and equitable wages

8)   What do you think are the most compelling interests that people of color and white people share? Can they serve as the basis for people coming together across race difference and privilege to work for a common good?

Sports, everyone loves sports, and so long as we do, so long will there be some common ground. J

These questions came from White Privilege by Paula S. Rothenberg published by Worth Publishers 2012 New York, NY 

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