Privilege. I have argued before that I have some privileges because of my color and culture. The seminal memory that made me aware of cultural privilege was learning my good friend Paul Vega had to travel 20 miles from the small town of Newton, Kansas, to my home town of Wichita because no barber in Newton would cut a Hispanic’s hair. Whites had privileges in Newton; Hispanics were denied.
Some would call this “White Privilege” stressing that the problem is whiteness. Some would believe I should feel guilty about my whiteness; even go so far as to believe I owe others something because of my whiteness.
As many of you know, my opinion is we should focus on privilege not color. Privilege is extended by power. The misuse of power is the problem people of good faith should be fighting.
The fact that whites have more privilege in the US is the result of history and numbers. There are many more whites in America, thus many more opportunities for the misuse of power. In situations where there are more people of color than whites, there are more opportunities for the use of the power by nonwhites. Nonwhites exert power when they have it.
The same Mexican Americans who were denied haircuts, denied me the right to play with them in their week-end basketball tournaments. The games were only for Hispanics. They had the power and they exercised privilege. I had no problem with my exclusion. I appreciate their opportunity to celebrate their culture. I offer it as a clear example— privilege is about power not whiteness.
Money. Recently I observed a clear example of the privilege of power independent of color. In many circumstances privilege occurs because of the power of money not color.
Bill Cosby is a tragedy in my life. I loved the humor in the man and was heartbroken when his mistreatment of women became obvious.
He was released from prison two weeks ago; a privilege denied many others who committed lesser offenses. The power of his money kept attorneys working hard to find loopholes and use those loopholes to free him. His money gave him privilege. The affected women believe the privilege is unjust. Many prisoners wish they had the privilege and power money can buy.
I believe O J Simpson was the recipient of similar privilege.
Is some of the privilege for whites built into some American institutions? Yes, of course— but again it is not about whiteness. The majority of Americans have been white for a long time. Thus, the probability for institutions to favor whites is much greater than for other cultures. In countries where other cultures dominate, the institutions of that country almost always favor the dominant culture.
My point is— color is not a necessary condition for injustice and privilege. Our fight is with the misuse of power, not whiteness.
Is privilege always wrong? Should institutions never offer privileges for a particular culture? The answer in our culture is no. For one reason or another we often support privileges for a particular culture as a good thing. I did for my Hispanic friends.
I will discuss another positive privilege in the near future,
The important questions are— who should get the privileges? What are the circumstances under which the privileges should be allowed? What are the circumstances under which the privileges should be denied?
If you have the time or inclination let me know what you think.
Lord’s Prayer. I published a poem this week. When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I have always tried to make the prayer have meaning and not just recite a ritual. The poem relates to that process. If you would like to see my reflections go to http://www.agapereview.com/surpassing ritual. If the computer does not go directly to my poem, just click on my name in the right-hand column.
I will not have a blog next week. I will be in the mountains without a computer.
Back in two weeks.