Realities of White Privilege

White Supremacy, part 3

The tacit assumptions of White Supremacy show up in many subtle ways. When we make hiring decisions based on which applicant is a "better fit," how much of the perceived fit has to do with fitting in with the white culture of that workplace and its assumptions that whiteness and white culture is better? Do we even recognize whiteness as a culture – or do we think that culture describes nonwhite ways, while whites are merely exhibiting culture-less common sense and universal rationality?

Pretending to be colorblind, to not see color, merely enables oppression based on color to go unchallenged. Formal equality can fail to address the realities of inequality – an insight Anatole France expressed when he said,
“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.”
That kind of formal equality is merely a tool of adding harassment to the disadvantaged.

The tacit assumptions of white supremacy show up in numbers. Let us remember: Blacks are less than 13% of the populations, yet, as best we can tell since many police departments do not report, blacks are 31% of all fatal police shooting victims, and 39% of those killed by police when not attacking. Yes, it's worth remembering that 61% of the "killed by police when not attacking" category are not blacks. Still, the number that are is disproportionate.

Young black males, ages 15-19, are 21 times more likely to be to be shot and killed by the police than young white males. Between 2005 and 2008, 80% of NYPD stop-and-frisks were of blacks and Latinos. Only 10% of stops were of whites. 85% of those frisked were black; only 8% were white. Only 2.6% of all stops (1.6 million stops over 3.5 years) resulted in the discovery of contraband or a weapon. Whites were more likely to be found with contraband or a weapon.

Blacks – again, 13% of the U.S. population – are 14% of regular drug users, but are 37% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 56% of those in state prisons for drug offenses.

One in every 15 black men (and 1 in every 36 Latino men) are currently incarcerated, while for white men the statistic is 1 in 106. Prison sentences of black men were nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes in recent years.

Whites are 78% more likely to be accepted to the same university as equally qualified people of color. A black college student has the same chances of getting a job as a white high school dropout.

For every dollar a white man makes, white women make 78¢, black men make 72¢, black women make 64¢, Latina women make 53¢.

Voter ID laws do not prevent voter fraud, but do disenfranchise millions of young people, minorities, and elderly, who disproportionately lack the necessary government IDs.

African American children comprise 33.2% of missing children cases, but only 19.5% of cases reported in the media.

In 2009, bailed-out banks such as Wells Fargo and others were found to have pushed minority borrowers who qualified for prime loans into subprime loans, which can add as more than $100,000 in interest payments to a mortgage over the life of the loan. Among high-income borrowers in 2006, African Americans were three times as likely as whites to pay higher prices for mortgages: 32.1% compared to 10.5%. When looking for a home, black clients looking to buy are shown 17.7% fewer houses for sale, and black renters learn about 11 percent fewer rental units. Black car buyers are charged $700 more on average than white car buyers of the same car.

In one study thousands of identical resumes were mailed to prospective employers: Identical except only for the name. A black sounding name – say, Daunte Williams instead of David Williams – was 50% less likely to be called back. Fifty percent.

Doctors did not inform black patients as often as white ones about the option of an important heart catheterization procedure. White legislators – in both political parties -- did not respond as frequently to constituents with black sounding names.

(For more of the numbers see, "The Ultimate White Privilege Statistics and Data Post")

But in recent years we have been seeing a new resolve to change numbers like these. The Black Lives Matter movement, William Barber’s Moral Mondays coalition building, the various resistance movements that have sprung up since the election, the UUA’s unprecedented call for congregations to hold teach-ins about white supremacy indicate a new willingness to confront the reality and change it. NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice has been ruled unconstitutional.

While the most recent news from Tulsa is that yet another officer was acquitted this week for yet another shooting of an unarmed black man, we are also seeing officers summarily fired for unwarranted violence, which we didn’t used to see so much.

I know our baby steps are too small, need to come faster and step longer, but the fact that small steps are happening shows that larger steps are possible.

Michael Eric Dyson’s book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America urges whites to take action. Make what reparations we can. Educate ourselves – and Dyson provides some great books to start with. Talk to other white people and teach them what’s going on. Show up to protests, rallies, and local community meetings to be a voice for ending the injustice – but don’t dominate and take over. Make more black acquaintances: visit black folk in schools, jails, and churches. Bring active empathy to what you hear. Beyond acquaintanceship, seek to cultivate new friendships with black people. When we have cried together and shared the pain of the wounding of racism, we become also able to share the joy of being alive together. We become able to the laugh together. Of this is the substance of freedom and equality made.


Dear Source of Healing and Wholeness we call by many names,

We attend our places of worship, heartsick for beloved community, torn inside by the stresses of negotiating a world that demonstratively holds that some lives matter more than others. We are seeking inner peace, for there is no peace for our spirits when millions of our neighbors are singled out for mistreatment, and have been for generations. A faith institution concerned with healing spirits that does not turn its energies to address the social causes that wound both white and black spirits is not doing its job.

We gather in the hopes of being strengthened in our capacity to be agents of healing and meaning and hope. The peace of living lives committed to building that community for future generations is available to us. Let us continue to find in our worship and in our lives the inspiration that shakes us from complacency, for inspiration that doesn’t shake us to renewed compassionate action is a sham. We pray for the inspiration that is genuine. Amen.

* * *
This is part 3 of 3 of "White Supremacy"
See also
Part 1: Truth With Your Own Tribe
Part 2: Believing In Privilege

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