Making assumptions based on the color of ones skin is stereotyping. Using one's power to act on a stereotype to discriminate or oppress is racism. There is a lot of misguided thinking that folks in America do which others may classify as racism -- but these are often the building blocks of racism rather than racism itself. I think the distinction matters because most of us have the potential for racist behavior because we actually do have some measure of stereotypic assumptions based on race and ethnicity -- but our value systems hold us back from actions of conscious oppression. I don't think anyone would disagree that "white privilege is wrong", but I think many would disagree with the notion that it doesn't exist in America. Of course, in a country of 360 million people there are many POC who have privilege, and many whites who (based on other factors mentioned in this thread) don't. The question is whether, when taken as a whole, we can isolate race as being a factor, in and of itself (even though it is ALWAYS mixed in with other variables), that influences opportunity or privilege, or their polar opposites.
I don't make that distinction. To me, when you collectivize a group of people and cast aspersions on them, based on the color of their skin, that is inherently racist. Other groups, outside of the white population, have experienced great success in this country (Asian and Jewish People). So it is difficult for me to take the notion very seriously. In my summation, it is a term used to absolve one of personal responsibility. It's like, "Oh... Well that is why I didn't make it, this white privilege thing really kept me down". Well no, actually it's because you didn't graduate high school, or you had a kid before you were married, or you didn't get a job. Any job. In fact, The Brookings Institution has spent a great deal of effort studying this issue, and they whittled down a lot of analysis into three simple rules. You can avoid poverty by:
1. Graduating from high school.
2. Waiting to get married until after 21 and do not have children till after being married.
3. Having a full-time job.
If you do all those three things, your chance of falling into poverty is just 2 percent. Meanwhile, you’ll have a 74 percent chance of being in the middle class. So the United States is a meritocracy.
Equal opportunity based on skin color is as elusive as "full employment". We all know that it can't really happen -- people are influenced by physical appearance in various ways and we can't just take that out the equation. When I was in high school, I knew twin sisters who were both talented artists and musicians -- seeming remarkably equal in their skills. One happened to be beautiful; the other, not so much. Do you think their opportunities were equal? They weren't. One was always front and center, the other not so much. The front and center one was noticed and offered scholarships, jobs, and social opportunities while the other fell behind.
Well, I don't know the different elements behind this anecdotal example, but I would imagine there is a little more to the story than attractiveness. I get your overall point though, it's tough to argue that there isn't a "Beauty", "Well Dressed" or "In Shape" privilege. But that benefit would apply to all races.
I think most of us would accept that equal opportunity is an imperfect ideal -- just as most accept that 4% unempoyment is pretty much considered full employment. I think most of us are OK that some people get more breaks than others, and that privilege happens. Where I think the big question rests isn't that inequalities exist, it's when inequality is so blatant and clear that something needs to be done to correct the injustice -- even if the solution sounds ugly or unfair. There are times when hiring a talented female over a talented male -- simply because she's female, may be acceptable. There are times when hiring an African-American who has potential, but is behind in skills compared to a white job competitor perhaps due to a culturally-deprived background, may be the right thing to do. I am not saying that a society, or an industry, should make these decisions lightly, or base them on anecdotal circumstances. But sometimes disparities tell us something ugly about ourselves and it's possible that we can become better as a people if we act as assertively to repair the injustice as we did to create it.
Would you care to unpack why the NBA, NFL, NCAA has such a disparity of players of African American heritage? Wouldn't the culturally-privileged have better facilities, coaches and well supported children in two parent households? Or why Asian Americans are the highest wage earners in the United States?
JSD -- I won't try to explain why racial bias exists in one arena even in the face of apparent racial parity in another. Suffice it to say that I believe racial bias exists in America, that it impacts opportunities in some arenas, and that it has existed since the days of slavery and continues to have some impact on the upward mobility of African-Americans. Poor children who are raised in unsafe neighborhoods, in homes with young single parents who aren't well-educated, go to poorly funded schools taught by the bottom of the crop of educators, who experience discrimination at the hands of police officers and judicial systems, and who are shown by their neighbors and family that the only feasible way out of empty pockets is through crime -- or perhaps if you are a mega-gifted athlete, are struggling human beings and have been harmed in their development as people. These are the children we hope will wake up one morning and suddenly start acting like adults and take personal responsibility. Sadly, it is more likely that before this epiphany occurs, they become the young parent, the HS dropout, the struggling next generation of workers and/or recipients of government support. Note: the description above is a generalization and should not be taken to mean that I think this is the plight of all African-American families.
I also do not believe I am an extremist in my views on racial equality and am not happily pulled into arguing a "side" of an issue that I believe has multiple sides. Personal responsibility is an enormous piece of the puzzle -- maybe the most important piece when it comes to reducing stereotypes and equalizing the playing field. I also think that MOST Americans hold to the ideal that we should judge others on their merits and character and not skin color or ethnicity. I agree with this and I hope America continues to evolve as a meritocracy. I think most of us are aware that the American foundation that was built upon its first two centuries was hardly a meritocracy; good jobs were kept safe for privileged friends and families (predominantly for white males), immigrants were favored by like races/ethnicities -- taken into family businesses; civil service jobs were handed to those with "pull" usually based on being a friend, family-member, or from a specific country of origin. America's "meritocracy" is evolving, it is in the making, and I think most of us (including me) value this direction.
I will not apologize for, or minimize the value of, compassion, listening and seeking to understand. There are trauma histories in many of today's struggling families that have been multi-generational and have devastating impact. Arrival to our country for some was a journey to find freedom, a job in a cousin's business, a place for political or religious refuge, a place where one could promote valued ideals like knowledge, education and hard work. For many African-American families, arrival was forced entry into slavery and servitude with family members abused, raped, sold off. These families were cultured into believe that they had an inability to be educated -- and they were assured that hard work would not pay off for anyone other than the master. Through much of the 20th century blacks were systematically segregated, denied voting rights, denied equal education opportunities, equal job opportunity, equal pay for equal work, etc. It took 100 years post-slavery to get the constitution to acknowledge that it was not OK to discriminate on the basis of race or country of origin.
The historical realities that traumatized generation after generation of African-Americans as well as present realities that traumatize children today, do not absolve ANYONE of personal responsibility. They do however, provide a backdrop for understanding the plight of many current African-American families. Opportunity exists, but children are still children, and when they are brought into a world with multiple factors pushing against them (including racial bias), they often give up -- as mistreated children often do.
The beauty of freedom is that it allows us to listen or not, to believe what we are told or not, to have compassion or not. Compassion should not imply a desire for absolution of personal responsibility, providing easy ways out, giving unfettered handouts, or a belief in quota systems. Compassion is just a state of understanding and caring which does at the very least tend to take blaming and shaming out of the equation, and can lead to open thinking about how best to empower and how to most effectively lend a helping hand.
I appreciate the civil discussion, but I am spent on it. I can tell you are a good person, and a responsible American. I am too -- we just see things differently. Go Celtics.