The only thing that is physically “White” about me is the underside of my forearms. Ethnically I am Middle Eastern (Jewish). Culturally I am Middle Eastern (Jewish). Linguistically I am English. But only during the work week.
Yet due to my lighter complexion and lack of a sexy accent, most people do tend to assume that I am “white.” (in fact, most non-Middle-Eastern Americans that I have met seem to think that Middle-Eastern people look like Indians). I am therefore comfortable speaking from the point of view of the average “white” New Yorker who, according to people like Macy Domingo who make assumptions about “white people” go about their daily existence blissfully ignorant of the plethora of privileges and blessings they enjoy at the expense of people of “color.”
In response to Domingo’s list of “18 Things White People Seem To Not Understand (Because, White Privilege),” I have made my own list of 18 things that she and others like her seems to miss. The observant among you will notice that my list seems to correspond to hers in most areas. Enjoy.
1. “White” privilege is being able to move into any neighborhood you choose, knowing that your neighbors will welcome you and treat you warmly. Unless, of course, you move into one of the many neighborhoods in New York City where “whites” are not welcomed. Just look at Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home to both a “Black”/Caribbean community, and a “White”/Hasidic-Jewish community. Last fall the Jewish community of Crown Heights was terrorized by a series of random “knockout” attacks perpetrated by “Black” youths against Jewish residents. According to city councilwoman Lauire Cumbo, who represents the “Black”/Caribbean section of the neighborhood, the violence could be blamed on “a genuine concern [from the “Black” community] that as the Jewish community continues to grow, they would be pushed out by their Jewish landlords or by Jewish families looking to purchase homes.” Comforting.
2. “White” privilege means that your race is represented and spoken for across all spectrums of media, such as books, movies, television shows, etc. That is, providing that you feel attachment to the so-called “white” race, which in my experience most light-skinned people do not. Here in New York there are very few people who identify as “white,” or exhibit any sort of “white” pride. There are, however, plenty of Italians, Irish, Albanians, Jews, Greeks, Poles and Russians, none of whom seem to be overrepresented or spoken for by any media.
3. “White” privilege means being able to seek and obtain legal, financial and medical assistance without having your race work against you. You will, however, have your income, credit score, education, genetic health, physical appearance, religion, accent and political views work against you.
4. “White” privilege means living in a world where the standard of beauty is defined by people who share your skin tone, because all “white” people are creamy-colored Scandinavians with blonde hair and blue eyes. Just don’t tell the multi-million dollar tanning industry…
5. “White” privilege is never being told that you should “Get over slavery.” This is actually a valid point, I totally agree. Having said that, “white” privilege may also mean that people tell you they are sick and tired of hearing about your Holocausts and Kosovos.
6. “White” privilege means that you get to laugh at all of the immigrants and “colored” people who come to your country and fail to learn English, while enjoying the benefit of automatically being fluent. Of course, that is with the small exception of every single “white” immigrant who comes to this country (or came to this country) from a foreign state that doesn’t speak English, such as Russia, Poland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Germany, Turkey, etc. Not too mention all of the “non-white” people who continue to ridicule and even attack new immigrants to this country who do not speak English (do a Google search on Black-Mexican relations in Port Richmond, Staten Island.)
7. “White” privilege is daring to actually believe that reverse racism exists. Except for, you know, those cases in which it does exist. Like in the Nation of Islam and Black Hebrew Israelite supremacist groups. Or all those times when I walked through Jamaica, Queens, Wyandanch, Long Island, and Far Rockaway, Queens and was kindly informed that I was “in the wrong neighborhood, White Boy.”
8. “White” privilege is never feeling the pain and dehumanization of being subjected to a racial slur. …Micks, Kykes, Crackers, Greaseballs, Guidos, Hebes, Blockheads, Oven Magnets, Honkeys, Dagos, Dogans, Gringos, Guineas and Ginzos excluded.
9. “White” privilege is never having to change your name into an easier-to-pronounce Anglo-Saxon name. Unless, of course, the origin of your last name is Yiddish, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish, Icelandic, or many of the hundreds of other names that “white” people who are not of Anglo-Saxon origin bear.
10. “White” privilege means the comfort of being able to staunchly fight racism one day, and then ignore it the next. Except for, you know, all of those times where that wasn’t and isn’t the case, such as when the Irish and Italians first came to this country, followed by the Jews, Russians, Poles, and now many of the “white” Muslims who have recently been immigrating here from Southeast Europe and Central Asia. Such is also the case for many individual “whites” who are minorities in the predominantly “Black” and Hispanic neighborhoods of New York. Off hand, I can name quite a few friends and coworkers from the inner city of Brooklyn who, due to the lighter color of their skin, were and are often targeted in their schools for bullying, violence, and robbery. For these “white” children the so-called luxury of ignoring the fight against racism wasn’t and isn’t a choice. (Much in the same way it isn’t a choice for the People of “color” who face similar circumstances in majority “white” neighborhoods… Remember, my point here is not to discount their suffering, but rather to show the error behind thinking that all or most “whites” are immune to or responsible for these kinds of issues. Indeed grouping all light-skinned peoples together as “white” is an error in its own right, in case you haven’t yet gathered that this far into the article.)
11. “White” privilege is having your words and actions attributed to you as an individual rather than as a group or a collective race. That is to say that when one “white” person errs and acts like a complete schmuck, their error is not projected onto all “whites” as a whole. Unless, that is, their name is Bernard Madoff, George Zimmerman, George Bush, Bill O’Reilly, Newt Gingrich, Jonathan Pollard, Meir Kahane… Okay, so maybe not then.
12. “White” privilege is being able to talk about the subject of racism without people automatically assuming that your intentions are self-serving. Unless, of course, you should bring up the subject of “reverse” racism, which as we saw in number 7 is a fairy tale, just like unicorns and mermaids. On a side note, and not to seem self-serving (heh), but I can’t tell you how many times I have heard gentiles, both “white” and “of color” say that they were “sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust” (*cough cough Jessie Jackson cough cough*), and of the trials and tribulations of the “Poor Israeli Jews.” This is not to say that I consider Jews white, because I don’t, but since most other people in this world seem to see them as such I feel that this example proves relevant here.
13. “White” privilege is being able to be an articulate, intelligent-sounding speaker without people being shocked and surprised. This does not apply to you, however, if you are “white” and from anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, west of the Appalachians, or surrounding the New York and Boston metropolitan areas.
14. “White” privilege means being pulled over/taken aside by the police and knowing that you are not being singled out because of the color of your skin. Yeah, I actually agree with this one, but I’m not a cop so I can’t really comment on how true or untrue the statistics behind this claim are.
15. “White” privilege means not having to warn your children at an early age about the dangers of systematic racism. This one is very easy to disprove. Just ask all of the “white” Bosnian Muslim, Armenian, Jewish and Roma parents who had to explain to their children why the world hates them and why it was so easy for the world to turn a blind eye while their respective populations were systematically wiped out over the course of the last century.
16. “White” privilege is the luxury of being able to ignore the systematic political, economic and social unfairness that our government imposes on people of “color,” in favor of a world view which sees people of “color” as inherently inferior. I actually agree with this statement too, but only in part. The system is indeed biased against people of “color.” However this is not the result of self-declared “white” racists as much as it is of so-called “Liberal” humanitarians who, in strong part because of their “white” guilt, have helped to institute such anachronistic measures as a system that promotes affirmative action and moronic attempts at integration such as “Black History Month,” which only serve to further isolate and patronize people of “color.” True equality, it should be obvious, means not only integrating but also dissolving the superficial labels “white” and “colored,” which only serve to polarize our already divided society. Needless to say, this is not achieved by relegating an entire group’s history and culture to a single month and it is Definitely not achieved by acting as thought they need/are owed special assistance from “mainstream” society to get into better colleges and careers. What true equality actually means is focusing on an equality of opportunities, not outcomes, and these complex issues often transcend skin color and culture alone.
17. “White” privilege means not having your people and their culture appropriated, generalized and turned into some kind of a minstrel show for others to laugh at. Well, you know, except for the Jersey Shore, Honey Boo Boo, Princesses of Long Island, Duck Dynasty, etc.
18. “White” privilege means being able to ignore the consequences of race. But actually, nobody can ignore the consequences of race so long as they live on a planet and in a society where race is assumed to exist.