Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Interesting Take On Race In America

I stumbled across this article, groping for Gov. Pataki's appendix:
Author explores idea of 'white privilege'


"If you use the term underprivileged, there has to be an overprivileged," [Tim] Wise said, adding that most white people aren't comfortable with that notion.

Wise, a Nashville native {ed note: who wrote the book "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son," had been invited to address students as part of Farmingdale State University's Black History Month events}, said segregation allowed his family to gain home equity faster than people who lived in segregated black neighborhoods. His family used that equity to pay his tuition at Tulane University.

"I'm reaping the benefits of white privilege simply because my family was white," he said, adding, "the same is true for millions of other white Americans."
It's a logical, if largely unspoken point about race and economic class (because most poor people are white, of course) that if you speak about "unprivileged," you presume a "privileged" class.

My first job in freshman year of college was working as a messenger in Midtown Manhattan. I am the son of a working class, blue collar laborer (and thanks to unions, and obviously being white and male, I managed to lift myself far above my roots,) so it's not like I was slumming to take that job. Most of my peers that summer were black and Hispanic, including a high school classmate of mine (remember, I went to one of the top three academic high schools in the world, so this kid was smart).

I was white. I got the plum assignments, like dropping off scripts at TV studios, and agents and casting directors. My co-workers? Mostly got the drudge assignments, delivering letters to lawyers' offices (and sometimes not even being allowed up in the building, something I personally witnessed.) I worked my ass off, but so did they. At the end of the summer, my boss pulled me aside and handed me a hundred bucks (back in 1974, that was real money,) and wished me luck in college.

None of my black co-workers, who worked as hard if not harder than I did (they would ask for overtime, I rarely was asked to,) got anything extra.

I told you that story, because of this argument you'll hear from the right about this premise:
But one student said he thought Wise overstated any advantage America's racial climate gives to white people.

Kurt Wall, 19, of Bethpage, who attended as part of an assignment, said, "Some of the advantages he is talking about are more economic than racial."
Clearly, it's more about race than economics.

More on this topic in this insightful essay. (PDF file) (Tip of the hat to "ap")

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