In his 1999 show Bigger and Blacker, Chris Rock explained white privilege this way: “There ain’t a white man in this room that would change places with me. None of you. None of you would change places with me, and I’m rich! That’s how good it is to be white.”
There’s a line from the Bruce Hornsby song The Way It Is that describes perfectly the interplay, internal if not verbal, between the privileged and the un- and underprivileged. “Man in the silk suit hurries by; as he catches the poor old lady’s eyes, just for fun he says, ‘Get a job’.”
Privilege is Israeli Jews sitting on a hillside in lounge chairs and couches to spectate over the bombing of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Ghetto and cheering each explosion.
Privilege is serving the greed of the few to the detriment of the needs of the many.
Privilege is the white liberal who, in the words of Dr. King, “…is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers the absence of tension to the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’”.
Privilege is white liberals and older Afro-Americans who say the same things to the Movement for Black Lives and their allies about their civil disobedience in the response to massive and growing police brutality and murders by police.
Privilege is Madelaine Albright telling us that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other in reference to Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she herself supported Edmund Muskie in the 1972 Democratic primaries, the same in which Shirley Chisholm and Patsy Mink were also running. Of course, those two contenders were Afro-American and Japanese-American, respectively, so perhaps for Albright they don’t count.
Privilege is Gloria Steinem and others like her campaigning to shame sex workers in order to cover up the fact that their brand of feminism is mostly for affluent white women.
Privilege is Noam Chomsky condemning the antifascist movement known as antifa in language that validates their equation with Nazi thugs by Trump, aka Agent Orange.
Privilege is when someone uses phrases like “look at the big picture”, ‘be a team player”, and “accept things the way they are” to bully, manipulate, and shame you into belaying or putting aside your own needs in deference to their desires.
Privilege is when lesser mortals clear the streets of Windsor and Maidenhead of their homeless to make everything pretty for a royal wedding.
Privilege is waxing eloquent about global overpopulation and how people need to have fewer children shortly after the birth of your third child in a country where the poor on benefits are penalized for the same thing.
Privilege is when an all-male panel pontificates on women’s issues, whether they happen to be U.S. Congressmen or Scottish champagne socialists.
Privilege is the often patronizing and paternalistic manner with which the middle class treats the working and pauper classes.
In truth, what we today call the middle class is nothing other than an upper working class that is desperate to distinguish itself from the lower working class and to maintain that distinction by any means necessary. Oblivious to the fact that being a house slave makes them no more free and no less exploited than the others in the fields, they carry out almost by instinct the will of their masters of the 1% and their overseers of the 10%.
Privilege is when Yanks, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, and other white westerners travel to or live in foreign countries belonging to brown people and treat their hosts as lesser beings, committing social incest in their golden ghettoes. Of course, this same principle operates in their own countries between classes and even in those afore-mentioned non-white majority countries.
When I with the Navy at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, there was this lower enlisted guy in our unit who often had to do escort duty with local, uncleared contractors, meeting them at the gate to the compound and then sitting watching them work all day. Often he would spend the time reading, pretty sure none of the workers were equivalent to the Vietcong.
After about a week, the Air Force security police at the gate began wanding the work crew for weapons. At first, they began to refuse, until our enlisted guy told the guards to do him first, to show it was okay. In fact, he did so for the next few days until the guards got tired of or too embarrassed about subjecting one of their own to the same treatment inflicted on the locals.
In many ways, the middle class, the upper working class rather, is the biggest obstacle to the general welfare of the working, or lower working, and pauper classes. Mostly because those in it go along to get along. Its members don’t even think of being afraid of rocking the boat because doing anything that might alter their fortunes is beyond conception. So they assuage their consciences with thoughts of the rewards for their complacency and their complicity. And continue to do so even when that course will bite themselves in their own arse.
Something antagonist Lindsey McDonald said to protagonist Angel in the episode “Underneath” paints a good picture of this: “Every day you sit in your big chair behind your big desk, and you sign your big checks, and you learn a little more how to accept the world for the way it is. Well, here’s the rub: good people don’t do that. Good people don’t accept the world the way it is. They fight it.”
So stand up. Fight. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Live as if the world is as it should be to show it how it can be, and remember that the smallest act of kindness can be the greatest gift in the world.
Fight in ways against which there is no defense but which do no harm. Be the darkness that illuminate. Be the silence that resonates. Be the stillness that agitates.
I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth. The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of synthetic or organic origin. Like our distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the universe