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White Privilege: The Difficulty of Breathing while Black

Robin Alexander

Posted on January 30, 2019 14:09

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A Jewish white girl's belated tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: More than half a century ago, King poignantly demanded that this country honor its promise of “the riches of freedom and the security of justice” for all. Who could argue with such a request, whether from the perspective of American values, faith-based morality, or simple human decency? Who indeed?

Justice functions on multiple levels. A country has its laws. A country has its institutions. A country has its courts. And a country has the spirit of its people.

We were a nation divided, not only by race, but by sensibility. And so, millions listened to King’s speech with outrage for the usual trio of reasons: ignorance, shame and fear (for which anger is a convenient cover). That anger is our legacy because the specter of white privilege still roams the streets.

What constitutes white privilege? It doesn’t mean merit or talent or diligence aren’t required to succeed. It doesn’t mean that significant strides haven’t been made by black Americans.

It means that being white gives us a head start; we don’t lug around the baggage that is handed to black children at birth.

Consider the sheer weight of this baggage and the hatred that has gone into its packing.

As a Jew I can tell you, history matters. It is held within our hearts – a collective consciousness, if you will. It is undeniable that American history is a tale of brutality and systematic dehumanization for black Americans, especially men.

Try to imagine:       

*   For slaves, marriage was forbidden; literacy was forbidden; any vestige of pride was tortured out of them (Joshua DuBois, The Fight for Black Men).

*   “Jim Crow laws, sharecropping and a form of forced labor kept many black men in bondage well into the middle of the 20th century” (Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name).

*    We're familiar with our history of voting suppression.

*    The birther movement was nothing compared to websites depicting the Obamas as apes. “Remember how powerless you once were,” they seemed to sneer. “This is how we saw you then, and this is how we still see you.”

*    Some among us still glorify the confederacy, although this is slowly dying out -- glory glory hallelujah.

*    Acknowledge that crimes committed by black men are punished more often, and far more stringently, than when committed by white men (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow).

 *   By the 1990s, almost 80% of the increase in drug arrests involved young black males for the possession of marijuana. White males were using the drug just as much.

*   Once imprisoned, of course, you are screened out of housing, employment and the right to vote, creating a “permanent under-caste.”

*   Simply put, if a black male drops out of school, we have prisons for them to drop into. And if not prison, there’s the military (either path feeds a profit-making machine and keeps these men safely out of the way).

*    Do we have to review the spate of recent high-profile police shootings of innocent black men and the lack of indictments?

We may be a few steps closer to the finish line than we were on the day of Dr. King’s speech, but there are miles to go before we may sleep. An end to white privilege must start with a serious healing process.

We’ll explore this in a second article.

Robin Alexander

Posted on January 30, 2019 14:09

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Source: EDM.com
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