On American Privilege

A repeat from a year ago on a bizzy month end.

Any essay on “privilege” has to start with a solid disclosure. As a middle-aged pale male, I have no business lecturing anyone on privilege. I’m at the top of the heap, and I know it. That is my point in this piece, after all. I have the privilege of contemplating privilege.

It still seems to me to be primarily the benefit of the doubt. If I walk into a store, I’m a customer – not a potential thief casing the joint. If the cops pull me over I get a certain level of respect that not everyone does, and I do use this to my advantage at times. If things get really bad and guns are pulled out, the benefit of the doubt makes me the good guy in the split second decision that separates life from death.

I have no illusions about any of this. That is, actually, my point through all of this.

Continue reading

Restoring Order

The violence in Baltimore has gutted the city far more than can be seen by charred hulks of cars and buildings. A general riot like this demonstrates how a complete breakdown in order is always close to the surface – and how “order” itself is always a manufactured concept. It has to be made, it has to be worked at by everyone every day. It is hard work sometimes, too, and it starts with basic civility and respect.

Ask anyone in Baltimore, especially in the affected areas, if they are surprised by this. I doubt you’ll find a single person who is. Baltimore City Council Member Brandon Scott cited “a long, long, longstanding issue with young African-Americans.” It was a long time coming, and it will be a long time before it is repaired.  But away from the teevee cameras there is a genuine movement, and it will be better.  It’s going to take your help, however – even if you live far from Baltimore.

Continue reading

White Privilege

The news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal on all charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin bubbled through the sultry summer air.  Millions were angry and took to venting themselves on social media, but thankfully not with violence in the streets.  Millions were angry at those who were angry, generally claiming that racism works both ways.

There were so many things that fed into how it all went down on Trayvon’s last night on earth.  Florida’s horrible gun laws certainly made conviction nearly impossible.  They were born of a cultural PTSD endemic in a land wracked by violence that crackles with fight-or-flight adrenaline at the first sign of trouble – a biochemical instinct that sometimes becomes addictive.  I’m also sure that once the Sanford cops learned Trayvon was from Miami they were ready to assume the worst about him.  But all of that only amplifies and distorts the core problem, that of White Privilege.

White Privilege is generally little more than the benefit of the doubt.  But when the volume is turned up and the noise is deafening, only baser senses remain.  The simple benefit of the doubt often adrenalizes into violent, destructive action.

Continue reading