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The Bearable Whiteness of Being March 19, 2015

Posted by geoff in News.

Lot of silly articles about “whiteness privilege” in the media of late. You remember whiteness studies, I’m sure. That’s the study of the little, almost hidden, privileges whites enjoy that minorities do not. It is part of the pernicious evil that is inherent to caucasians – an evil they cannot detect and are not considered competent to discuss.

Despite my obvious lack of qualification to address this matter, I thought I’d make (or re-make, if I’ve made it before) a point:

All those privileges and advantages whites enjoy? We did it on purpose.

Yep, I’m confessing everything right now – we are absolutely guilty of creating a system whereby whites enjoy a bias in conducting business and social transactions. We did it with full knowledge of what we were doing, and we’d do it again if we had to start over.

In fact, we’re doing it right now. Right this instant. Completely without remorse or regret.

So how can we possibly be this evil, and proud of it to boot? Well, I’ll tell you…

If you’re a parent, I’ll bet you have decided to teach your kids about:

  • How to handle money and be responsible for your debts
  • The importance of studying and hard work
  • Being polite and respectful of adults and superiors
  • Obeying laws and respecting law enforcement officers
  • Moral values
  • Speaking well and dressing appropriately

Just to name a few. You’re teaching your kids these thing as they were taught to you, because that’s how our parents and grandparents conducted their lives.

So when you walk into a bank, your dress, speech, and carriage reflect the heritage of previous generations. And by showing that you’ve accepted those values, the implication is that you will pay back the loan you’re asking for, because that’s what your predecessors did. They worked hard to build up a trust, and you get to collect on the investment they made.

But you’re not a freeloader: you’re passing it down to your kids by paying your bills on time, being polite and reasonable in business and social transactions, and trying to hew to a moral path. You do this because you know that if you do, you preserve the system and trust that those earlier generations built. If you don’t, it will be more difficult for you and your kids to conduct business and make your way through life.

But then one day, after decades of paying bills, honoring obligations, and trying to live a decent life; one day, after all that, someone will point at you (or your kids) and say, “Look at the unfair privileges and advantages they enjoy!”

And you will be officially and irredeemably white.


1. geoff - March 19, 2015

This is (hopefully obviously) not to suggest that minorities can’t share those values and privileges – they certainly can and do. But then they’re “acting white” and “race traitors.”

All in all, this is kind of a breezy post about a pretty important and convoluted subject, but I hope the primary point was clear: that we consciously work hard to create the privileges that the whiteness mafia thinks are just handed to us.

2. Retired Geezer - March 19, 2015

I always had trouble handling my money and being responsible.
Years ago I turned the finances over to Mrs. Geezer.

Apparently she’s white because we haven’t bounced a check in years.

3. geoff - March 19, 2015

The simple fact that you know and appreciate that shows just how inculcated those values are.

I should have also noted that whiteness worriers need not fret much longer – with the degradation of those values in the last couple of generations, I’m sure it won’t be much longer before appearance bias based on past performance fades away.

4. lauraw - March 19, 2015

I used to worry more about the degradation of values until I went back to school. But I see my classmates and I don’t worry so much about our future. Race/ color really has nothing to do with it. They care, they have manners and good values, they are trustworthy, they are forward-thinking, and they are going to succeed.

We just have to wrestle more kids away from the idiotic, retrograde liberal arts programs that will hold them back.

5. geoff - March 19, 2015

Maybe I’m too pessimistic – I certainly prefer your view. Either way, the problem will kind of solve itself as future generations either destroy or perpetuate our socioeconomic value system.

6. lauraw - March 19, 2015

If I had to pick one thing, I’d say the main thing to worry about is preserving history from revision. Economic freedom is its own greatest proponent and example.

7. Mark in NJ - March 19, 2015

Hey Geoff. I think I get your point – and I think it’s an important and much-needed throwdown to all the white privilege hullaballoo out there right now. I mostly follow the rules, I try to model them for my daughters and I believe they’re part of that continuum of preserving the system.

But here’s my discomfort: I recently finished “Just Mercy” (in case you don’t know, a memoir of a lawyer who founded a law center in the South for inmates on death row…good book, too). This non-white guy (Harvard Law grad) made all the white moves, per your list, and still found himself one night surrounded by a SWAT team outside his apartment because he was listening to music in his car.

I don’t have any experience like that (thank god), and I’m guessing you don’t either. But I don’t think it’s an isolated incident.

Where does it fit in with the Bearable Whiteness? Or am I just another liberal white sheep, mired in my own nuance?

This is a sincere question. Help a BiL out.

8. Retired Geezer - March 19, 2015

Was it Katie Perry? Cause that would be cause for arrest

9. geoff - March 19, 2015

MarkinNJ: I had a similar experience, where a friend of mine (EE from MIT) was rousted in a bar by the police just because he was black (they were looking for a black man who’d robbed some girl, and my friend was one of the few black guys in the area). Completely unfair and very unnerving, but it had nothing to do with how he’d lived his life.

Can’t really blame the cops – you have to blame the guy who took the purse. Or in the case of the Harvard law grad, you have to blame him for being a lawyer and going to Harvard.

10. lauraw - March 19, 2015

This non-white guy you mention, Mark; am I correct to assume he was Asian?

11. daveintexas - March 20, 2015

Data is not the plural of anecdote

12. lauraw - March 20, 2015

Why is the invisible thread comments closed?

13. Retired Geezer - March 20, 2015

Yeah, wha hoppen?

14. geoff - March 20, 2015

I can’t do my wohk!

Anyway, as you may recall Mr. RG, you yourself asked for us to close comments on old threads to cut down on spam. And now look at what you’ve wrought…

15. Retired Geezer - March 20, 2015

Mea Culpa.
I forgot about that thread and the Fat Nekkid thread.

16. geoff - April 8, 2015

Rich folk show how it’s done:

Matthew O’Brien has written eloquently on “opportunity hoarding,” the idea that rich people are talented at doing all the right things you need to stay rich and make sure your kids get rich, too. Rich couples live in richer districts, read more to their kids, send them to better schools, hook them up with better internships, slide them into better entry-level jobs (or, better yet, into the family business), and finally pass down their insured and well invested wealth. Even education, the great American equalizer, makes for a poor equalizer. And it’s not only because wealthy teenagers are more likely to go to school. Young people born to rich families who don’t go to college are 2.5 times more likely to end up in the richest quartile than young people born to poor families who do go college. Wealth sticks, and nothing enriches like richness.

It’s boring to point out that having more money affords you more food, more clothes, more housing, and more cars. But the richest families actually spend less on food, clothes, housing, and cars than the poorest families as a share of their income. The real difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich spend a larger share of their much larger income on insurance, education, and, when you drill into the housing component, mortgages—all of which are directly related to building wealth, preserving wealth, and passing it down in the form of inheritance of direct investments in the lives of their children.

This is a prime example of what I’m talking about when I say that “whiteness privileges” are not an accident.

17. Retired Geezer - April 8, 2015

Thanks to geoff for coming out of his … er… closet.

18. Retired Geezer - April 9, 2015

*drums fingers on desk…
I have only seen one of the Fast and Furious movies, probably the first one.

Since I am opposed to street racing, I didn’t think I would want to see any more.
However, I think I’ll give the new one a try.

19. Retired Geezer - April 9, 2015

What are your thoughts on this matter?

20. Retired Geezer - April 9, 2015

Maybe I should go see American Sniper instead.

21. Retired Geezer - April 9, 2015

I’m pretty sure I won’t go see Paddington Bear.

22. wiserbud - April 9, 2015

Watching RG just sort of wander around here, talking to himself……

Reminds me of my grandfather in his later years……

23. Lipstick - April 9, 2015

Eh? Speak up, Sonny Boy!

*walks into store display*

It’s not just RG.

24. geoff - April 9, 2015

*walks into Lipstick*

Oh, sorry – old age – not opportunism, no sirree, no way.

25. Retired Geezer - April 10, 2015

Back in my day…

26. Lipstick - April 10, 2015

heh, a nice youngster just walked into me and I couldn’t help notice the fit of his dungarees.

27. daveintexas - April 11, 2015

bow chicka bow

28. Retired Geezer - April 11, 2015

Uh, Dungarees are the Uniform of the Day here in the Spud State.

29. Tushar - April 11, 2015

I came to US with $200, a few clothes, an education that was not relevant to possible job openings, a couple of years of computer programming skills that were fast becoming obsolete, a vague promise that I might get paid if I can pass an interview at some client’s place and do the tech work they assign. And some curry powder. I didn’t even have white privilege. Brown privilege ain’t worth shit.

On the plus side, I had a belt. Which means my pants were not hanging around my knees. I was not addicted to drugs. I did not have the urge to wear bling, get into fights, sell drugs or loiter.

I am doing alright.

30. Retired Geezer - April 11, 2015

Glad you checked in.
And glad you’re doing alright.

31. wiserbud - April 11, 2015

RG, come say “hi” at H2.

It’s okay. We’ve mellowed. Now it’s pretty much exercise, gardening and updates on mare’s weight.

Okay, yeah…. I know… BOOOOOORING!!!!!!

Actually….. yeah…. you’re right.

Stay here. To be honest, this place is a lot more interesting. Even now…..

32. Retired Geezer - April 11, 2015

lol WB

33. That Bastard Still Owes Amish 5 Bucks - April 12, 2015

Michael’s dead?

Awful news. 😦

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