Point of View Columns

What White Privilege Really Looks Like

 It is certainly too bad that too many white Americans, and some Black Americans, do not want the truth of white privilege in this country to be taught in public schools. It is too bad, because with an understanding of white privilege in an historical context, all Americans would be able to understanding the dystopian disconnect that exists between the glorious stated ideals of this country and its dissonant reality. Consider a few examples from recent history:

Exhibit 1

Consider the fact that on January 6, 2021, an overwhelmingly white mob made up of thousands of armed and angry men and women stormed the Capitol with the sole purpose of preventing the lawful election of the President of the United States. An act of subversion and insurrection without precedent.

In the aftermath, only one of the invaders was killed by the beleaguered law enforcement personnel. Most of the participants have never been arrested, much less charged with a crime. Of those who have been charged with a crime, no one has received a sentence in excess of four years, and most of those convicted to date have been sentenced to very light sentences or community service.

At the time and since, many observers have noted that if the insurrectionists, men and women determined to overthrow the Constitution of the United States, had been Black, there would have been Black blood all over the steps of the Capitol and there would have been a shortage of body bags in the District of Columbia. The rationale for that point of view is that in so many of the urban protests and insurrections which have involved the destruction of property, but never the overthrow of the Constitution, Black men and women have been gunned down regardless of the reasons for their protest – like unjustified the murder of Black men and women and children by the police.

Exhibit 2

At the age of seventeen, a young white man by the name of Kyle Rittenhouse drove from his home in Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin with an automatic rifle in tow. His stated purpose was to provide medical assistance and security during the protests in Kenosha in the aftermath of the brutal police shooting of James Blake.

Rittenhouse, in full view of law enforcement, killed two of the protestors and seriously injured a third, and walked away. He is now on trial claiming self-defense and there is a very real possibility that he will be acquitted and almost certainly will not be convicted of murder.

Consider the following hypothetical – an armed Black teenager shows up during violent street protests and starts shooting and killing in front of the police. Not only would that teenager be dead, there would be very little public remorse for his demise.

Consider that a young Black boy, Tamir Rice, was 12 years old and playing with a toy gun in a playground in Cleveland, Ohio when he was shot and killed by the police and to this day there has never been a conviction with respect to his murder.

Exhibit 3

Last year three white men saw a Black man jogging through a suburban neighborhood and accosted him and shot and killed because they suspected that he might be responsible for a series of non-violent burglaries in the neighborhood. Ahmad Arbery was unarmed and by all video accounts, only tried to defend himself and escape from armed white strangers in Georgia (Black people in Georgia have a well-founded fear of armed white strangers).

The three murderers are now on trial before a jury of eleven white people and one Black person. Defense counsel has complained about “Black pastors in the courtroom” and it is a safe prediction that this jury will not return with a unanimous verdict to convict.

Consider what the outcome would have been if three Black men had accosted a white jogger and shot him to death without reasonable cause. It is fair to say that, in whatever state, the defendants would be glad to achieve a life sentence plea bargain.

The point of these examples is to provide some context for the notion of white privilege, particularly when seen in juxtaposition to the life and existence of Black Americans in similar situation.

The lofty aspirations in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are admirable and have been emulated in many countries around the world. But is very clear that the United States of America has a long way to go to live up to those aspirations.

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Point of View Columns

Requiem for a Heavyweight and Hillary and History

Muhammad Ali

The death of Muhammad Ali has had an impact as earth shaking as anything he ever did during his dramatic, illustrious, glamorous, and gloriously seismic life. In his passing last week, Ali brought back to life all of the wonderful and wondrous memories of the living legend that he was – and will always be.

His epic bouts with Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier – the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila – the Olympics and the Golden Gloves – all contributed to the larger than life man who came to be known as G.O.A.T. – The Greatest of All Time. But to speak of Muhammad Ali as a boxer is like referring to Miles Davis as a trumpet player. Ali was larger than life and like Cain, he walked the earth in great and historic strides.

Muhammad Ali was a hero to those who never met him and he was unforgettable to anyone who was actually in his presence. Ali will be mourned. Ali will be missed. Ali will be remembered.

And it has been said so many times, as long as a man is remembered, he never really dies.

Hillary Clinton

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, if there was a woman in the room she was serving tea. When the Constitution of the United States was written in the Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, there is no record of a woman having any voice in the deliberations.

Interestingly enough, the first significant appearance of women in public discourse in America is noted in the temperance, suffrage and abolitionist movements. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, women continued to move the temperance and suffrage movements forward and in the process these issued fueled the great struggles of the latter part of the 19th century right into the early years of the 20th century.

With the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, women gained the right to vote throughout the United States. It should be noted, however, that black women (and black men) were routinely denied the right to vote in all of the states of the former Confederacy until almost a half century later.

And now, 96 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, a woman will be the presidential nominee of a major American political party. Given the various inequities that women in this country still endure, Hillary Clinton’s nomination is not a complete victory for American women, nevertheless it is a victory.

The fact that countries as diverse as Germany, Liberia, Israel, Pakistan, the Philippines,  Jamaica, Brazil, Great Britain and India have all had elected female heads of state before the United States should not diminish the import of Secretary Clinton’s achievement.

And, as was the case when Barack Obama became the first American of African descent ever elected President, Hillary Clinton’s nomination only highlights the fact that even with this historic achievement, the struggle for full equality has not ended.

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