I must admit: I thought the “unequal opportunity race” video that was the subject of my post to be so outrageously simplistic, exaggerated, insulting to white Americans and discouraging to minority Americans that nobody would defend it. The lively debate that the post sparked proved that the white privilege deflection has seeped into mainstream thinking far more than I had previously understood, and that the position the progressive movement wants to communicate to African Americans is that absent aggressive, government-executed hobbling of present day white citizens as they pursue their own ambitions and dreams, and opportunities for their children, black Americans are doomed to comparative failure, cursed to be victims of traps, gaping craters and metaphorical sharks.
Late in the debate, commenter Chris Bentley, himself an African American, provided a different perspective in two long posts. I am combining them as his Comment of the Day, on the post ,Unethical High School Assembly Video Of…What? The Month? The Year? Eternity?.
To which I say b.s. (as a black man). I have no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, that I have succeeded (and failed at times) solely based on my merit, talents, and desire. I have not been unemployed for even a second, since the age of 18 (I am 37). I have applied to many, many jobs that I have desired, and been hired for many of those jobs. I have been accepted and attended 8 (8!) different colleges, earning 3 different degrees. I have spent the last 20 years working in education, from ECE to college, and spent 3 years as a preschool director (a black male preschool director is about as rare as a unicorn that poops gold).
None of this is meant to be taken as bragging, as my story is no more successful than anyone else on this blog. Nor am I more successful then any average black man, who grew up with loving, educated parents, who forced me to have a good head on my shoulders, taught me the importance of education, and did not teach me to be distrustful of whites, or to blame shift my failures elsewhere. I find it patronizing to be told that individual merit is not enough for me to succeed, when compared to whites; that if I truly want to compete on an even playing field, I need those same whites to level the field.
No. I. Don’t.
While that may (MAY) be true for some blacks, that is also true of the homeless white lady for whom I bought McD’s for a few weeks ago. And the (many) panhandling white males I often encounter on the mean streets of Frederick, MD. Where’s their privilege? Why am I (gasp), put in a position to help them? Has something gone wrong with the privilege system?
But if this discrimination is based solely on race, and the most outwardly obvious indicator of a person’s race is skin tone, why am I (and most of the blacks in my life) the exception? Speaking solely about skin tone, I look no different than every other black man in Baltimore, where I went to school, have worked, and currently work. If the knee-jerk discrimination that many blacks face has nothing to do with education level, desire, discipline, temperament, how one dresses, how one speaks, how one presents and carries oneself, one’s decision making (y’know, differences that we all have that effect how others see us)….if it’s simply because how we look, not how we think and act, not black pathology….then why am I the exception? Why, as a student at Towson U, just outside of Baltimore City, when I was young, very poor, living in a terrible neighborhood, and (at the time) lacking a college degree, was I able to land 16 different jobs while I paid my way though school? According to the residents of Baltimore during the riots, there are no jobs available for blacks, right? How was I even able to get into school? I’m black! My skin tone is supposed to be an impediment!! Isn’t it true that there aren’t educational opportunities for blacks in Baltimore? Didn’t we learn that in the riots?? It’s amazing how conservatives are the ones treated as racists. Simply amazing.
One of the jobs I had in Baltimore (not as a college student, but since) was to visit high school classrooms at inner city schools to video tape new teachers who were in the process of attempting a career change (from the business world to becoming a classroom teacher); part of their certification was to have a lesson video taped. The level of disrespect, disengagement, vulgarity, etc. that these teacher candidates faced daily was IN-FREAKING-SANE. Some of the teachers were in over their head, many had their hands tied by ineffective discipline options (the students all knew that the second a teacher raised their voice or disrespected them, they could easily have them suspended or fired), but most of the students just…did…not…care. And the ones that do, get lost in the shuffle. Students wandering the halls, wandering out front of many schools, cursing, goofing off, etc. Who’s fault is that? And when these students aren’t hireable for anything beyond the level of fry cook, or unable to earn an academic scholarship, is it a “lack of jobs” or “educational opportunities” to blame?
I am privileged. Privileged that my parents made damn sure I knew right from wrong. I was a snarky, sarcastic, kid who hated schoolwork, and hated school…no different from many of these teens. The difference is, I knew where to draw the line (with regards to being disrespectful to adults), and knew that the school that I hated was the only way to a future where I’d have options. Society didn’t install this in me as much as my parents, and the parents of friends did. If I were growing up in this generation, exposed to videos like the one above, I doubt I’d see the world the same way, for the worse.
“Class privilege also exists. It’s also a generality, and thus cannot be applied to every single person that exists. ”
The generality that I took issue with in your post was that “for blacks, individual merit is often not enough”. “Often”? Your implication that to be successful, financially, professionally successful, blacks need more than just merit. I disagree. That’s way too broad a generalization.
But for generalizing about class? Rich people are often financially and/or professionally successful, and poor people aren’t. Thats much closer to the truth than ‘blacks need more than merit in order to be financially/professionally successful’.
“The fact that some blacks do better than some whites does not disprove white privilege.”
I find ‘some’, used in this way, to be a weasel word. MANY blacks (47.7% of black households are middle, upper middle, or upper class as of 2009) are doing as well or better than MANY whites.