Re: Defensiveness About Racism

1

It really is a shame that the word 'privilege' in this context seems to be irretrievably broken. When I first ran into it, I thought it was an admirable attempt to get around this sort of defensiveness: "We're talking about the effects of racism/sexism/whatever, and how they benefit you and your kind, but we're explicitly acknowledging that it's not something you're individually doing, and not something you can individually avoid." But it really doesn't work like that anymore, if it ever did.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 7:46 AM
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The first time somebody called me "privileged," my reaction was basically "fuck you, asshole."

I feel bad about that in retrospect, but perhaps that person could have explained it in a way that didn't make me feel like she was disdainful of my identity as a white dude. I guess undergraduates can't be expected to manage that kind of nuance.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 7:54 AM
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And to be clear, there was not a discussion white privilege here. The excerpt is about how the prison system is racist, and how once you enter the penal system, it wrecks your life, and therefore how destructive this is on minority communities.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 7:58 AM
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An interesting sidenote: the chapter mentions how the war on drugs became hyperfocused on crack-cocaine, and how some people believed that it was a CIA conspiracy, although the author distances herself from that conspiracy theory.

The students seem to have 100% positive opinions about the CIA, and it seemed absolutely ludicrous to them that the CIA might do something unholy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:00 AM
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In fact, it undermined the author's credibility with them that she mentioned that conspiracy theory.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:01 AM
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And honestly, I'm not sure how they would have ever learned that the CIA has a sordid past. Certainly not high school history class.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:02 AM
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Also the author talks about the myth that the US is now colorblind now that Obama is president. To kickstart this, she talks about how excited she was the night he was elected.

Here's their takeaway: She only voted for him because he's black! If I only voted for someone because they were white, that would be racist. SHE'S SO RACIST.

They were really hung up on the fact that she was thrilled to see a black person elected president. Their narrow-mindedness was totally stunning.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:04 AM
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I guess I just need to vent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:05 AM
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100% positive opinions about the CIA

Weird.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:05 AM
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Yeah, even privileged white kids need to understand that the prison system is fucked up. They ought to embrace the opportunity to indulge in some feel-good solidarity-with-the-oppressed.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:05 AM
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My guess is that the CIA is "vague good guys from action movies" and that's it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:06 AM
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2: Yeah, I'm not saying it's ever worked, I just thought that was the idea. (Well, the concept worked for me: the fact that there are a lot of contexts where my life is smoother and easier because I'm a harmless looking white woman with UMC diction and manners is very obvious, and the first time I heard 'privilege' used in that context, it clicked as 'oh, that's the word for that.')


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:06 AM
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The talking about race=racism thing is surprisingly ingrained
in white people. I think it's because you either hear about race fromschool or respectable types who are SUPER FREAKED about the issue and want to hush it up, or from racist old uncle Frank. So it seems like theres something vaguely racist in even bringing up a topic like racial disparity in the prison system.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:08 AM
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It just takes a huge amount of effort to convince somebody that it's possible for a society to be prejudiced, or even unfair, to one group of people, because of the way that the society of structured (rather than because bad people are in charge who need to be replaced by good people).


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:08 AM
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4, 6: This is really surprising to me. I would summarise popular opinion on the CIA where I grew up, deep in the bible belt, as either, 'the CIA probably gets up to some dirty stuff, but it's necessary to defend our great nation in this dangerous world, etc' or 'the CIA probably gets up to some dirty stuff.'


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:08 AM
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Well, the concept worked for me: the fact that there are a lot of contexts where my life is smoother and easier because I'm a harmless looking white woman with UMC diction and manners is very obvious

No social interaction is ever obvious to me, so I found the whole concept rather shocking - and enlightening - once I got past my initial "fuck you" reaction.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:10 AM
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15: My guess is that the CIA gets mushed together with the military, and everything trying to protect us from EVIL is GOOD. (Plus action movies.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:10 AM
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17: Also, I left the country a couple years after 9/11 and haven't been back since, so public perception of the CIA may very well have significantly changed since then.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:11 AM
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Remember, these kids have never not known that 1994 is over.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:13 AM
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7.2 is what I'm talking about. If you grow up thinking you either (a) don't talk about race because youre colorblind or (b) are a crotchety old racist like Uncle Frank, it's gonna seem "unfair" when people who are minorities talk about race. Reframing the race issue as one of color blindness rather than actual equality or social justice seems absolutely dominant in the US.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:14 AM
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Also, they see racism as a very limited character flaw, like failing to be honest, generous, or polite or something. Something that may occasionally make one-on-one interactions go badly, but not something that can have a systemic effect.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:19 AM
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I suspect that by now, any discussion about race in a classroom would need to be prefaced with some ground rules. Students would need to be reminded that it's just dishonest, and will be treated so, to a) try to squirm away from or derail discussion of the actual subject matter, and b) misuse words like "color-blindness" to mean "shut up about race" instead of "don't judge people based on their skin colour." Where things like this are not made hard-and-fast rules, crypto-racism quickly flourishes and drowns out everything else.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:23 AM
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do you have problems with plagiarism among your students? I was reading that to be an issue these days.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:26 AM
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a) try to squirm away from or derail discussion of the actual subject matter

Oh god, this. Yes, in a conversation about mass incarceration, please bring up affirmative action at Harvard and how unfair that is to you, personally, at Heebie U.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:27 AM
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I'm pretty sure sarcasm and withering contempt are the teacher's best response.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:33 AM
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Maybe they associate CIA with 24?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:33 AM
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I do hate it when people avoid questions.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:34 AM
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Maybe they associate CIA with 24?

I couldn't see the link until I realised you meant "'24'" not "comment 24".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:37 AM
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24: My wingnut dad does this, not just about racism but any political or societal issue. It's the main reason I refuse to discuss anything with him anymore. Having it be my job to discuss these things with these kinds of people would give me an ulcer.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:37 AM
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25 not to 24. I'll consign 29.last.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:40 AM
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please bring up affirmative action at Harvard and how unfair that is to you, personally, at Heebie U

I take it they don't mean the kind for rich people?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:40 AM
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Having it be my job to discuss these things with these kinds of people would give me an ulcer.

I'm only here because I teach math. I could not handle a job where I was expected to broaden minds.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:41 AM
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do you have problems with plagiarism among your students? I was reading that to be an issue these days.

I don't generally assign papers, but on occasion I have assigned a historical paper, and yes. Three of seven students last semester turned in Wikipedia entries. I'm not even kidding.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:43 AM
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The first time somebody called me "privileged," my reaction was basically "fuck you, asshole."

Agree with LB in 12 and Spike's amendment in 16. Yeah, the first time I heard it - here, I think - I thought it was pretty brilliant and explained a lot of my life in a way I hadn't thought about before.

I don't use the word myself, because there seems to be a consensus that it's unhelpful, but hey, what other word do we have to describe the nature of the ignorance of heebie's students? The obvious alternative is "racist" and people seem to shy away from that one, too. Some topics are just difficult to talk about, but the the thing that heebie describes in 21 is, well, a thing.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:46 AM
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It's funny, some students don't understand the difference between using a source for facts and stealing its language.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:46 AM
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28: I couldn't see the link you were referring to, so I assumed the html was broken.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:47 AM
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35: I think these guys knew they were cheating. They just figured that a paper in a math class was such a low priority for them or for me, that I wouldn't notice.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:50 AM
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It seems to me there's always a way to call someone a racist or sexist, or overly concerned with racism and sexism, or not thoroughly conscious of it. Which is a shame because some people are actually racists and sexists. But then again it's always fun to find new ways to call people assholes. I can relate.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:50 AM
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off to swim!


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:51 AM
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drown


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:53 AM
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Also, they see racism as a very limited character flaw, like failing to be honest, generous, or polite or something. Something that may occasionally make one-on-one interactions go badly, but not something that can have a systemic effect.

I don't actually understand the distinction you're trying to draw. A widespread societal failure to be honest or generous can also have a serious systemic effect. Conversely, an isolated racist in an otherwise well-integrated society would just be a person with a character flaw, not a systemic problem.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:54 AM
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A widespread societal failure to be honest or generous can also have a serious systemic effect.

I don't think they see any systemic effects. They see life as isolated little interactions. So racism is a problem that shows up occasionally, in isolation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:56 AM
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But they're perfectly capable of seeing the horrible systemic effects of anti-racism, aren't they?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:00 AM
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44

Well, that seems like a problem.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:01 AM
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43: Well, being a victim brings a certain clarity.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:02 AM
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Not seeing systemic effects is the consequence of this endless stream of self-help personal responsibility indoctrination that ties so neatly into a conservative framework.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:06 AM
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I don't think they see any systemic effects. They see life as isolated little interactions.

Certainly there could be a way use math to illustrate systemic effects that arise from isolated little interactions? Cellular automata or something?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:07 AM
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Indeed there is. I don't think it would make a dent in this situation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:10 AM
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Not seeing systemic effects is the consequence of this endless stream of self-help personal responsibility indoctrination that ties so neatly into a conservative framework.

Yes, and evangelical religion. Salvation is individual and occurs when the individual enters a particular kind of emotional relationship with a particular guy nobody can see.

To be non-racist, you just have to watch a few movies with Magical Negros and really grok their magic.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:10 AM
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7: The ideal of 'colorblindness' is a huge, huge, huge fucking problem for this kind of discussion. Because our society is set up to privilege white people (oversimplified, but I'm trying to get through this sentence) and has been for centuries, normal, inconspicuous, ordinary behavior tends to benefit white people at the expense of other groups. Anything that deviates from that norm is really really conspicuous. So if you elevate 'colorblindness' to the one true way to be non-racist, you've just made it completely unracist to perpetuate any longstanding structure that advantages white people at the expense of other groups, and completely racist to notice or do anything about it.

(I started writing this comment an hour or so ago, and then had to go do some work. It's semipwned by a bunch of intervening comments (hi, Castock).)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:13 AM
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You need to use humor to break the tension. Bring one of those funny horns that clowns have, and just announce to the class at the beginning, "You may not believe it, but y'all are a big bunch of honkin' racists!" And then honk the horn. Then hold the discussion again, but honk the horn anytime someone says something racist. This will work.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:14 AM
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Indeed there is. I don't think it would make a dent in this situation.

And thats why you will never get a Fields Medal!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:17 AM
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Bring one of those funny horns that clowns have

Antisemite.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:22 AM
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52: At least it's not my lack of talent, ambition, and effort!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:23 AM
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To be non-racist, you just have to watch a few movies with Magical Negros and really grok their magic.

Yeah, I think this whole thing can be solved with a screening of The Legend of Bagger Vance.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:32 AM
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The more heebie writes, the more inclined I am to invoke the 'Just a bunch of arseholes' explanation.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:33 AM
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But it's been a few years since I interacted with under 25s much, except on a one-to-one basis.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:34 AM
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I'll consign 29.last.

To the dustbin of history?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:36 AM
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the more inclined I am to invoke the 'Just a bunch of arseholes' explanation.

Well obviously I'm in Texas.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:38 AM
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I haven't read the thread yet, so I'm probably pwned here, but. I think you should be prepared for the possibility that a lot of your students have a visceral, inarticulate hatred of black people, and only voice the 'black people can be racist, too' argument because it is the only one that they can think of that is socially acceptable.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:39 AM
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60 is so depressing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:40 AM
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Coming late to this, but I deal with under 25s on a regular basis in contexts where I am expected to broaden their minds. Sometimes a limited version of Scalzi's video game setting analogy is helpful: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/. Sometimes.


Posted by: good enough cook | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:52 AM
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Depressing and very probably correct.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 9:52 AM
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Certainly there could be a way use math to illustrate systemic effects that arise from isolated little interactions? Cellular automata or something?

Thomas Schelling's segregation model in Micromotives and Macrobehavior could be good.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:18 AM
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Did somebody say something racist?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:25 AM
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Adolph Reed Jr: The Limits of Anti-Racism

We live under a regime now that is capable simultaneously of including black people and Latinos, even celebrating that inclusion as a fulfillment of democracy, while excluding poor people without a whimper of opposition. Of course, those most visible in the excluded class are disproportionately black and Latino, and that fact gives the lie to the celebration. Or does it really? From the standpoint of a neoliberal ideal of equality, in which classification by race, gender, sexual orientation or any other recognized ascriptive status (that is, status based on what one allegedly is rather than what one does) does not impose explicit, intrinsic or necessary limitations on one's participation and aspirations in the society, this celebration of inclusion of blacks, Latinos and others is warranted.

But this notion of democracy is inadequate, since it doesn't begin to address the deep and deepening patterns of inequality and injustice embedded in the ostensibly "neutral" dynamics of American capitalism. What A. Philip Randolph and others--even anticommunists like Roy Wilkins--understood in the 1940s is that what racism meant was that, so long as such dynamics persisted without challenge, black people and other similarly stigmatized populations would be clustered on the bad side of the distribution of costs and benefits. To extrapolate anachronistically to the present, they would have understood that the struggle against racial health disparities, for example, has no real chance of success apart from a struggle to eliminate for-profit health care.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:39 AM
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I'm confused. Which one of us is trying not to be called a racist? Why doesn't she just apologize and link to something cool?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:42 AM
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Also, what the fucking fuck, Texas?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:47 AM
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Oh yeah, that's been on the local news a lot lately. Really fucking despicable.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:50 AM
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Seriously, water balloons full of straight bleach? That's really awful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:52 AM
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Ugh. Reading about these students is making my blood pressure go up.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 10:56 AM
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Our students are racist shitheads, UT is bleach-bombing the minority students, and daily highs are in the 90s still everyday. Is it any wonder I want to throttle everyone?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:06 AM
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72: And you cruelly want to bring a THIRD child into this world?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:08 AM
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We're hoping this one won't be a racist shithead. Never stop trying!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:08 AM
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Maybe Texas isn't the place for you.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:09 AM
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QUIVERFULL FOR OBAMA 2012!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:09 AM
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75: See, we spent a lot of money on this really amazing addition for our house...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:10 AM
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I love (meaning: hate) that the comments on that article mostly seem animated about the fact that some people are daring to call this "racially-motivated" or even a "hate crime" on what the commenters perceive to be insufficient evidence (such as the mere fact that all the vitims have been black, which of course could easily just be a cooincidence).

That's clearly a bigger problem than the fact that students are throwing balloons full of bleach at one another.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:11 AM
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Which I think gives me this locked-in hives, in a way. Basically life is very good but I'm free to fantasize about how nice it would be to move elsewhere, because we're somewhat trapped.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:11 AM
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I know I've said this a billion times, but the book being discussed is important and as good as it gets in terms of getting people who don't already agree with it to listen to these arguments. That's probably not saying much.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:12 AM
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I reject the word privilege. Being treated as an ordinary human being, without bigotry (based on whatever), isn't a privilege, it's a right.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:14 AM
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"It's a Privilege to Pee."


Posted by: Opinionated Penelope Pennywise | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:18 AM
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80: I only skimmed the first chapter, but my takeaway was a little different. The book looked fantastic - well-researched and well-structured. But it's not an introductory primer on the existence of racism for a skeptical audience. It assumes an audience that already believes that racism exists.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:19 AM
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Between bleach bombing and butt chugging I'm pretty much ready to give up on the youth of today.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:32 AM
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Yeah, the only thing worse than the young people is the older people.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:35 AM
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Not us. God bless us.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:38 AM
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Bleach-bombed butts.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:42 AM
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Between bleach bombing and butt chugging

I will leave this one to apo or somebody, some jokes are way out of character for me anymore. or RTFA


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:42 AM
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81: The point of the "privilege" language is that in practice, things that are supposedly rights are not. Black people in the South had the "right to vote" even in the Jim Crow era, but de facto they didn't have that right.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:43 AM
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There are also things that are systematically available to privileged people that aren't available to people who aren't in similar positions that aren't rights. A couple of days ago I said that looking like I do (pleasant harmless middle-class white woman) I could probably panhandle your average guy in a suit for a c-note. I may have been exaggerating a bit, but I have a fair amount of well supported faith that if I need some minor kind of assistance, all I have to do is ask a stranger and they're mostly going to help me out, and I'm pretty sure that that works for me largely because of my race/gender/class presentation. I don't have a right to assistance from random passers by, but I have an expectation that it's available to me, and that's a privilege.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:52 AM
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They were denied rights. Other people were not denied rights. No one should be denied rights. The use of a negative term/concept to describe those whose rights were not denied (but who did not actively participate in the denial of rights of others) is a strategic blunder, I think, as it leads to a very non-productive defensiveness.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:56 AM
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90 -- I don't mean only legal rights, but also moral rights. I'm not denying your "privilege" or mine. I think it's a bad word to describe a state that should be extended to include everyone.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:58 AM
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It's good that I tend not to lead these kinds of discussion, because I lost any patience for the whole white-men-are-so-disadvantaged plea that I tend to respond by mocking it out of existence.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 11:59 AM
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More of 90: And think of something like being closely watched in a store for fear you're going to shoplift. No one has a right not to be watched in a store -- if the store management were treating everyone the same, it might be bad for business, but they wouldn't be violating anyone's rights. Under those circumstances, the white shoppers are privileged by having their honesty presumed, despite the fact that there's no general right to have owners of a business trust you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:01 PM
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it leads to a very non-productive defensiveness

It does! And so does any other way of addressing the issue! The only question is what form that defensiveness is going to take.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:01 PM
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Yeah, I also think there's an actual privilege, not just a denial of rights for minorities. White names being given preference on resumes. Being able to bat your eyes out of a traffic ticket, (um, hi).


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:03 PM
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And so does any other way of addressing the issue!

The astonishing thing is how far removed from privilege this topic is. It's just "Observe how really marginalized people are getting disproportionately decimated, in an arena that you are largely disconnected entirely from."

And yet: STOP ACCUSING US.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:05 PM
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92: I'm pretty sure 'rights' talk can't replace it, for the reasons given in my 90 and 92 -- that privilege gets you things that you don't have any right, legal or moral, to. Things like trust, credibility, and presumptions of competence, that people extend to each other as a matter of interpersonal judgment and grace rather than of right, and that people are much more likely to give to others in the 'right' demographic groups.

I understand your issue with the word 'privilege', but replacing it with rights loses the meaning.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:05 PM
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Being able to bat your eyes out of a traffic ticket, (um, hi).

This never works for me. Hence, I am unprivileged.



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:06 PM
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Different demographics, different aspects of privilege.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:07 PM
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95 -- I don't think that's so at all. You don't have to insult me in an effort to try to get shopkeepers to stop following my paralegal around when she goes to the store. I suppose if I didn't think they followed her around, it would be worth pointing out that our states are different. But I'm not going to feel guilt about how I'm treated, only outrage at how she is treated. Why isn't talking about her and not about me going to get you where you want to go?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:08 PM
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Because how she's treated is only outrageous because you're treated differently: the problem isn't the treatment, it's that differential treatment is handed out on the basis of race. If you look at how she was treated in isolation, the store didn't do anything wrong: they have no obligation to trust people who come in off the street not to shoplift. If you're not a part of the discussion, then she doesn't have any injury to complain of.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:11 PM
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98 -- Yeah, it's an imperfect fit. But as one who reads resumes, forex, you try to make yourself act is a manner that is scrupulously morally correct. Does someone sending me a resume have a moral right to fair treatment? I think so.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:11 PM
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102 -- This is where I get off the privilege bus. I think the way I am treated in a store ought to be the default. Deviations are bad.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:13 PM
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The concept that the giant will aid A by forcibly controlling B's conduct we express by saying that A has a "right". If the giant will not so aid A, A has "no right". If the giant will aid B by using force to control A's conduct, A has a "duty". If the giant will not so aid B, and A is free from such constraint, this fact is expressed by saying that A has a "privilege". If A can, by his voluntary act, influence the giant's conduct with respect to B, whether to act or not to act, and whether presently or contingently, A has a "power". If A cannot do this, he has a "disability". If B can, by his voluntary act, influence the giant's conduct with respect to A, A has a "liability". If B cannot do this, A has an "immunity".


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:16 PM
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Or, to put it differently, if, say, 90% of the people in my state are treated a certain way, I think we can safely say that everyone should be so treated. Or at least not treated differently on account of bigotry.

Everyone should be able to walk around at night without fear of assault. The problem isn't that a sizeable number can, but that a sizeable number can't. In this sort of thing, Equality isn't enough. You need Quality too.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:18 PM
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Is this a particular giant, or just conceptual giants generally? And how do you express the situation where the giant grinds A's bones to make B's bread?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:18 PM
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I wonder if part of the failure of "privilege" as a concept in inculcating new anti-racists is the fact that a lot of what gets described as "privilege" in every day life is either a right or an earned reward. Maybe just calling it "unearned benefits" would work better?

Here on the hard left, I feel like we've seen the privilege pendulum swing back and forth so many times that the word is semiotically emptied of whatever force it might once have had. In the bad old days, of course, we used the formulation "[racial] prejudice + power = racism". I think that is a bit simplistic, obviously, but I also think that stupid Band-Aid privilege list that's been photocopied 17 million times is pernicious as well. It trivializes the whole issue, it fails to explain any aspects of intersectionality, and it implies that we could possibly consume our way out of racism if only we got Band-Aids in multiple different skin colors or some shit like that. It's just stupid capitalist moralizing.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:20 PM
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We buy Band-Aids that come in your skin color if your skin is the same color as Spiderman's costume.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:24 PM
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103: Does someone sending me a resume have a moral right to fair treatment? I think so.

But that's just the thing, isn't it? These kids are pretty far along on the "no one has any rights except for the right to pray in school" continuum that you've got some major work to do just in getting them up to that point. Look at the failure of Occupy -- here were some people, progressives, unionists, whatever, who should have let their outrage overflow into the streets a loooooong time ago, and when the dam finally burst, that outrage was immediately betrayed by the fucking stool pigeons selling out people to the cops. The whole discourse now is not about "should everyone have equal rights", it's down to "should anyone have rights at all". We live in fucking Brazil now, and these younger folx have never known anything else.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:25 PM
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[Perhaps I should note here that I only got 1 hour of sleep last night, and my BP today was 160 over 108. So probably I should log off the fucking internet before I have a mini-stroke or something. Grrrrrrr.]


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:27 PM
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Right - with the resumes, I'm getting better than fair treatment, because the pool is being unfairly whittled down.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:32 PM
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Fee fi fo fum, I smell a legal obligation!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:37 PM
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Texas, discrimination, and tournament fishing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:40 PM
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The term "privilege" originally means "private law" (roughly) and means a personal exemption from the power of the sovereign. The concept of "rights" (or at least human rights) originated in ultra-conservative justifications for slavery. I hate the notion that we should just be continually handing out and expanding rights. I don't like either term; I prefer "justice" and "equality."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:44 PM
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115 is sincere but also an attempt to out-Urple the Urpler.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:45 PM
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Being able to bat your eyes out of a traffic ticket, (um, hi).

I work with a guy who has a policy of never letting a good looking woman out of a ticket because he thinks they already get away with too much and by damn he's not going to contribute to that.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:46 PM
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Then you ought to be eating something weird.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:46 PM
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Between bleach bombing and butt chugging I'm pretty much ready to give up on the youth of today.

If only they would have stuck with butt-bleaching and bomb-chugging.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:47 PM
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117: It's possibly he's just sexist. What's his policy on women in general?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:48 PM
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Talking reasonably about other people's problems takes empathy. Men can be brought to see that pervasive low-level sexism is a problem, maybe even one related to violence or outright discrimnitaion, because most men know women that they like and respect.

In rural Texas, talking to white people about black people, finding ground for empathy is going to be a lot harder. And really, rural culture is in fact in decline in the US, though it's still powerful. To the extent that the TX kids identify with a toxic, dying subculture, they're correct to see themselves as personal targets of criticism when say redlining or sentencing guidelines for powder against crack get discussed.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:49 PM
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I work with a guy who has a policy of never letting a good looking woman out of a ticket because he thinks they already get away with too much and by damn he's not going to contribute to that.

Oh my god. Don't cops get some kind of psychological assessment to weed these people out??


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:52 PM
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It's possibly he's just sexist. What's his policy on women in general?

His wife's pretty cute so I don't think it's anger from rejection or anything. I think it just amuses him to see their reaction at getting a ticket.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 12:54 PM
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Oh my god. Don't cops get some kind of psychological assessment to weed these people out?

He's a fairly normal guy. And he might be exaggerating for comedic effect. But really, is it a huge character flaw or something to cite people when they're trying to do something lame to try and get out of a ticket?

Occasionally LDS people will strategically have their "temple recommend" (a little card the church gives you when you're in good standing to attend the temple rites) right behind their DL so it's conspicuous when interacting with a cop. I think it's perfectly fine to ticket some douche like that on principle.

A buddy of mine pulled over a guy who was picking up one of the regular street whores. This guy started to pull out his temple recommend and my friend said something like "if you hand me that fucking temple recommend I'm going to write "revoked" on the front with a big black marker".


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:08 PM
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They don't laminate them?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:12 PM
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Occasionally LDS people will strategically have their "temple recommend" (a little card the church gives you when you're in good standing to attend the temple rites) right behind their DL so it's conspicuous when interacting with a cop.

My grandmother's version of this was having a mass card in her wallet facing her drivers license. In Queens in the 70s, it was generally Catholic enough that this worked pretty well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:15 PM
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Carp, are you denying the existence of racial privilege, or just the idea that privilege is something we should worry about?

It seems clear from the storekeeper example that there are ways in which some groups are privileged that don't relate to rights. Take another example: no one has a right to have friends. I can't say "you must hang out with me tonight because I have a moral right to be buds with someone." But if you have someone who is only befriending whites, you have a situation of privilege.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:16 PM
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There were various police-related groups that existed primarily to provide members with bumper stickers that were supposed to make you less likely to be stopped. I don't see many of them around here.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:17 PM
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"Baby on Board"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:18 PM
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No, of course it's reasonable to cite someone doing something wrong. I just don't trust the sort of person who believes women "get away with too much" to enforce the law fairly.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:18 PM
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"Police Benevolence and Compulsive Speeders Society."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:19 PM
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127.1: Not to speak for Carp, but his comments make it pretty clear to me that he doesn't think either of those things. He's not quibbling with the facts that make up a situation that we're calling privilege, he's arguing that it's counterproductive to think of them as some people being treated better than they deserve, and we should instead conceptualize and describe the situation as one of other people being treated worse than they deserve.

I disagree with him about this, but it's not anything like what you were asking.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:19 PM
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130: Hitler's mother was a woman.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:20 PM
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I am not denying the existence of racial discrimination, or that it should be combated. Vigorously. I think worrying about people who are not discriminated against is looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

I'm not interested in spending any time at all thinking about those lucky white people who are befriended by your hypothetical person. He's discriminating (maybe) and that's the problem.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:23 PM
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132: Yeah, now that you say it, that is really clear to me. I should have gotten that earlier.

Part of the issue is the annoying fact that for any moral claim to be taken seriously these days, it has to be phrased in terms of rights. Given this fact about the way people use the term "rights" CharleyCarp is right. If we want to be taken seriously, we need to talk rights, not privileges.

I just don't like this way of talking. It leads to a really narrow moral discourse.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:25 PM
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A buddy of mine pulled over a guy who was picking up one of the regular street whores. This guy started to pull out his temple recommend and my friend said something like "if you hand me that fucking temple recommend I'm going to write "revoked" on the front with a big black marker".

This just made my afternoon a little happier.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:29 PM
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And it really, really blinds you to things that happen consistently and have serious effects. I've mentioned a drug dealer I used to know at MIT -- nice white kid from Indiana, never did anyone any harm, just sold pot (AFAIK), and never encountered the police or worried about it much, despite the fact that he was doing a pretty serious business. He didn't have any kind of a right to escape the police attention that he probably would have attracted if he were a black guy doing the same business in a poor neighborhood. But because he was privileged, he's now (I assume, I actually don't know) a middle aged professional without a record rather than an unemployable felon.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:30 PM
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who believes women "get away with too much"

Not all women, more the "hot chicks batting their eyelashes" type.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:30 PM
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You know, I'm willing to apply a moral right to friendship that's sort of analogous to the public policy exception to at will discharge. No one has a right to insist that you be their friend, but everyone has a right to not be ruled out on account of bigotry. Bigotry is immoral.

I don't really have the vocabulary to do this without violating the analogy ban.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:31 PM
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I agree with Gswift here. Maybe 20% of women are good-looking enough to be able to expect that flirting with cops will get them special treatment. The other 88.8% of us should resent this perversion of justice.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:32 PM
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137 -- What's your basis for thinking the guy was blind to the injustice that might befall someone else who engaged in the same behavior?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:34 PM
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Maybe 20% of women are good-looking enough to be able to expect that flirting with cops will get them special treatment. The other 88.8% of us should resent this perversion of justice.

Women make up 56% of the population?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:35 PM
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Are you thinking that if he'd known what a risk it would be for a black student to do the same thing, he would surely have stopped doing it? Or turned himself in? Or expected to be turned in by someone offended by his carrying on an illegal business, despite being a privileged person?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:36 PM
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Or do you think that 2.4% of men can get special treatment by flirting with cops?

(The number is probably higher than that, actually)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:36 PM
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Thus far, my attempts to avoid tickets by tucking my feet behind my head have been unsuccessful.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:38 PM
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He didn't have any kind of a right to escape the police attention that he probably would have attracted if he were a black guy doing the same business in a poor neighborhood.

A lot of that is a poverty thing though. If he was a white guy slinging meth out of his trailer he'd attract the same attention as a black guy running a crackhouse.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:39 PM
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All my friends who live in trailers on the MIT campus do have trouble evading police attention.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:40 PM
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Thus far, my attempts to avoid tickets by tucking my feet behind my head have been unsuccessful.

Eggie, be flexible and needy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:44 PM
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141: Maybe I understand your gripe now. I don't think calling someone 'privileged' should imply that they're blind to their privilege, or that they're personally doing anything wrong at all. I don't think he was a bad person because he was at lower risk of arrest than a black kid in a bad neighborhood doing the same thing.

And I think I'm privileged, but I don't think I'm a bad person or doing anything wrong because I can ask strangers for help and they'll assume that (a) I'm not dangerous and (b) I'm not scamming them.

The point of calling myself, and the MIT drug dealer, privileged is to impose a responsibility to pay attention to the structures that advantage us and disadvantage people who aren't in the same demographic position, and to do what we can, where we can, to alleviate them. Identifying someone as privileged isn't insulting them or pointing out misconduct.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:44 PM
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OK, but if he has a desire to take attractive women down a notch, is he actually targeting good-looking women in the first place, when he's on traffic duty? Does he show up to domestic violence calls and think "bitch had it coming"?


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:46 PM
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Many people perceive it as an insult. I think you should examine your privilege in not doing so.

What do you want the drug dealer to do? Nothing? Be aware that he is lucky? What's that going to do for anyone?

You don't want the police to assume that everyone, regardless of race, is a drug dealer, and keep investigating them until they can be convinced based on facts, not bigotry, that they are not. You want them to stop jumping to the conclusion that every black student at MIT is a drug dealer. (Or that some non-trivial percentage are).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:49 PM
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146: Class is a big part of it, but I bet a black MIT student would have been at greater risk of running into trouble than he was. I'm guessing here, of course.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:49 PM
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is he actually targeting good-looking women in the first place, when he's on traffic duty?

God, no.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:50 PM
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Being aware that he is lucky is the first step towards empathy and a possible innoculant against Randism. Being aware of privilege maybe isn't sufficient, but it is a lot better than not being aware of privilege.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:51 PM
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Further to 151.2: the problem is how the authorities are dealing with the black student drug dealers. Your white drug dealer's awareness of that -- and I think you can be pretty sure that he was always aware of it -- hasn't solved any problem, or even moved the ball downfield towards solving any problem.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:53 PM
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hasn't solved any problem, or even moved the ball downfield towards solving any problem

Not sure that's true, CCarp. A sense of "There but for the grace of God" would lead to a generalized sense of injustice in sentencing laws, etc. On a daily basis, yeah, the white drug-dealer skates along pleasantly. But that same white drugdealer is more likely to vote against his privilege if he knows it is unfair.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:56 PM
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Many people perceive it as an insult. I think you should examine your privilege in not doing so.

Oh, burn.

What do you want the drug dealer to do?

Share the wealth. I want him to remember what he's gotten away with, and do whatever is in his power to see that people who haven't done anything worse than he has get the same kind of second chances he did. In my case, I want myself to watch out for people in the kinds of jams that people have bailed me out of because I'm a nice white lady and hand out that kind of help where I can even to people who don't have that demographic status.

I want us to talk about the fact that lots of the middle class professionals who run things have done irresponsible stupid things in their pasts, and that having done irresponsible stupid things doesn't mean that it's all your own fault that the rest of your life sucks. I want us to buy Colton a car even if he's an idiot right now doing something counterproductive, because if he were more privileged he'd get that kind of help.

That sort of thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:57 PM
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||

Small legal bleg. I need to get my parents to sign health care proxies, powers of attorney and a general HIPAA release.

Is this the sort of thing I should just download off the internet? I had been planning on having a paralegal do it, but the healthcare providers that I'm taking them to next Thursday want me to bring powers of attorney and health care proxies to the appointment. I don't know whether I can get an appointment at the law firm in time.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:58 PM
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158: If you're already a client at the law firm, I bet you can get someone to email you forms.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 1:59 PM
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Your white drug dealer's awareness of that -- and I think you can be pretty sure that he was always aware of it -- hasn't solved any problem, or even moved the ball downfield towards solving any problem.

Compared to the white drug dealers unawareness of the injustice, awareness certainly seems like it's at least moving the ball downfield towards solving the problem.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:00 PM
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154, 156 -- I think building empathy through focus on the lucky is indirect, and much less likely to work than the direct approach of humanizing the unlucky, and exploring the consequences of their bad luck. But I'm not a scientist, and wouldn't be surprised if some sort of research shows this to be false. My experience points the other way.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:01 PM
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I think worrying about people who are not discriminated against is looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

This is what I was getting at earlier. Fine, do it your way; the ultimate issue is disparate treatment. As soon as you point that out, regardless of which end of the telescope you're looking through, the defensiveness is going to snap into place.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:02 PM
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I get out of traffic tickets by showing cops my Fields Medal. Its tough to wedge that thing into my wallet, though.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:03 PM
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I'm not arguing against doing both.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:03 PM
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The problem with focusing on the unlucky, again, is that the unlucky black kid in the bad neighborhood who deals pot and ends up with a felony conviction, is a felon. He broke the law, on purpose, profited from it, and got legitimately punished for it. If you look at him in isolation, nothing bad happened. You only see the problem when you hang his mug shot up next to my buddy's diploma.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:03 PM
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But if you want a blue collar job in a rural zip code, this is not a decade in which you will feel lucky. The perception is "Nobody is patiently explaining your point of view or your problems to city kids in a classrooms anywhere," I think.

I agree that the whole idea of privilege is a loser for talking to those who don't wish to listen. I don't know which is the best way forward on this question, but I'm pretty sure it's not this one.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:04 PM
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You should obviously never listen to any legal advice from a pseudonym on the internet, obviously, but if you can find a form that indicates it's designed for MA, I think you'd be pretty safe downloading health care proxies, powers of attorney and a general HIPAA release off the internet. An alternative course of action is to ask one of the healthcare providers that you're seeing next Thursday (who has asked you to bring these things) to send you forms you can use. They all have them. I would definitely not pay to visit a lawyer for this.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:05 PM
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My experience with white dealers at expensive schools is that they are squirrely fucks who depend on poorer and usually darker people for their supply.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:07 PM
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160 -- I don't think you'd assume unawareness in this respect.

157 -- The dealer is in exactly the same position, with this awareness, as all his customers, all the people who knew he was breaking the law and did nothing about it, all the people who went to MIT in those years and understand racial injustice, and all the people who didn't go to MIT but nonetheless know about racial injustice. You want to impose on this guy an obligation, but it's one we all have. Regardless, even, of whether we've been victims of bigotry or not.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:07 PM
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I think the privilege that one experiences is a rather abstract and difficult concept, and should be totally left alone until people are in a really different frame of mind. The important message right now is "Look how our fucked up world is screwing over certain groups disproportionately (and no, it's not your fault.)"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:07 PM
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162 -- Ask the guy if he thinks the black dealer should have had his life ruined over the conduct, and it seems to me he'll likely say no. Act as if he's got some kind of personal responsibility for what happened to the black dealer, and he's going to be defensive.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:11 PM
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Ask the guy if he thinks the black dealer should have had his life ruined over the conduct, and it seems to me he'll likely say no.

See, this is the crux of our disagreement. I suspect he'll either say "yes" or "not my goddamn problem". If you push him on it, then you'll probably get some rationalization about how *those* people deserve what they get and how his situation is totally different.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:14 PM
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Yeah, but the justice system. which is favorable to crackers, is not going to work as an example. They will identify its victims as being individually guilty, regardless of how true this is.

Maybe brownfields or financial exploitation, but neither of those is easy to summarize honestly.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:14 PM
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But like LB said, to show that certain groups are getting disproportionately screwed over, you have to show that members of all groups are doing the same things and not suffering similar consequences. To students at Heebie U, disproportionate incarceration rates don't mean anything except that black people are disproportionately criminal.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:17 PM
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And honestly, I started out this thread saying that I thought that 'privilege' was pretty much useless to persuade people at this point because so much defensiveness had gotten attached to it. I just think that's a problem with ineradicable defensiveness that would attach to any way of approaching the same problem, rather than because there's any conceptual problem with the privilege framework.

Figuring out how to describe systematic racism/classism in dulcet enough tones that it doesn't make anyone uncomfortable is probably necessary on some level, but failures seem to me to be mostly in the audience rather than in the format of the message.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:21 PM
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Further to 172: I can't believe I'm having this conversation with *you* of all people. I'd have figured that the national discussion of our little beach resort in Castroland, and the extent to which people belong there or not, would have convinced you otherwise.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:22 PM
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failures seem to me to be mostly in the audience

Most people do not appreciate my genius either, but I've stopped trying to explain to them that this is their failing.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:26 PM
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Yes, yes, they laughed at Einstein but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. But step back and remember where this conversation started, with Heebie's students. Maybe the professor, and the author, were inexcusably hamhanded in how they approached the possibility that maybe the justice system reflects structural racism. Or maybe the main problem in that classroom was in the students.

This doesn't mean you stop trying to reach them -- fucked up as they may be, there's nothing to do but keep trying. But there's a limit to how much I'm going to flagellate the people trying to get through to them for failing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:33 PM
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they laughed at Einstein but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

What, they should stop laughing at the guy just because he puts on some makeup and goes by a made-up name?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:34 PM
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I don't have any problem with 174 as a way of measuring inequality. 90% of people don't get followed in the store. The 10% who get followed are Native. This is a result of bigotry, cut it out.

176 -- We have to stop screwing over people, because the rules under which we are doing so not only screw them, which is sufficient reason to stop doing it, but can be used to screw you. And really, don't we want to be people who don't screw over people for no good reason? (Or, more properly: we are people with laws against screwing people over for no good reason: enforce them!) I don't think invocation of privilege would help here.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:34 PM
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We have to stop screwing over people, because the rules under which we are doing so not only screw them, which is sufficient reason to stop doing it, but can be used to screw you. And really, don't we want to be people who don't screw over people for no good reason? (Or, more properly: we are people with laws against screwing people over for no good reason: enforce them!) I don't think invocation of privilege would help here.

Of *course* invocation of privilege wouldn't help here; the people you need to get through to are a) swimming in it and b) incredibly resistant (in large part because of a)) to any notion that they'll get screwed. Try to convince them that they might get screwed, and you'll get "well those people over there who're currently getting screwed *deserve it*".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:41 PM
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because the rules under which we are doing so not only screw them, which is sufficient reason to stop doing it, but can be used to screw you.

Although, Joe Average listening to this argument knows that no one's sending him to Gitmo any time soon, because he's a blue-eyed Baptist. Maybe the rules could be used to screw him, but they're still not his problem because they won't be used to screw him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:41 PM
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I have no idea what's at stake in this conversation. Some people can be made to feel empathetic or in solidarity with their fellow citizens, some can't, and some can only in partiular circumstances or when you tell particular stories. Most people aren't super interested in hearing about either their own privileges or the rights of others when it's their own ox getting gored.

Taking it back to Heebie's students, I do think there's progress you can make by telling stories and pushing back against the notion of colorblindness that's most prevalent in our discourse (including at the Supreme Court).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:41 PM
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I wouldn't think the biggest problem is the individual 19-year olds, but rather the culture they identify with.

Criticizing the justice system in a place where uniforms and rigid adherence to the rules is idealized, not the best starting point.

If the goal is a critical evaluation of how the rules get written, find crooked rules that fucked rural people and black people both, maybe cancer incidence maps and a thumbnail summary of why superfund got set up. Mesothelioma is one of google's most expensive adwords. Lewis Hines and Dorothea Lange both took lots of great photographs.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:45 PM
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I have pretty good luck on the empathy front when I get to talk to people individually. I guess Heebie's students, with their views of the CIA, would be unmoved by the ruling in Latif, but most people can be brought to see that it's pretty deeply fucked up. I actually do talk about privilege quite a bit in connection with our gulag paradise* but not the listener's privilege: one can compare Saudi repatriation with Yemeni repatriation, over the relevant time, and get a pretty firm understanding just how bogus the whole thing is.

Joe Average is never going to pay close enough attention to pretty much anything, unless you have TV cameras and great luck.

*Going there for my birthday next week. Woo.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 2:50 PM
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Perhaps anecdotes are better for an introductory discussion. Not quite on topic, but something like that recent This American Life about the mosque infiltrated by an FBI agent and the muslim he railroaded.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:04 PM
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I take back what I said in the other thread. 77 is the best Unfogged comment ever.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:05 PM
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FWIW, "privilege" resonated strongly with me when I first heard it, but I was already a liberal in good standing by then. I'm sure I would have hated it when I was a young conservative.

Actually, the concept - but not term - was a real eye-opener to me when I was about 22 and newly liberal. I was having dinner with a black colleague/friend who was talking about her teen son and basically explaining the whole Talk*, and it really opened my eyes, because I had been a high school troublemaker but got away with it because I was a nice white kid from the suburbs. I wasn't totally naive about the way that society was stacked against poor black kids, but seeing that a UMC black kid in a good HS was at constant risk of having his future fucked over issues more minor than the minor shit that I did really clarified, well, privilege.

That said, I do get Charley's objection; there's a part of me that sees 90% of "privilege" as "how a non-fucked society would work." Teens should be allowed to fuck up some. Pot dealers shouldn't be jailed. Nobody should be stopped and frisked. OTOH. I think what hasn't been discussed here is the real privilege - that a white guy in a suit with decent speech can pretty much get wherever he wants to. That's way beyond not-being-discriminated-against, and into White Like Me.

*about how the system will fuck you if you step out of line, UMC upbringing and all


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:29 PM
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how the war on drugs became hyperfocused on crack-cocaine, and how some people believed that it was a CIA conspiracy, although the author distances herself from that conspiracy theory

Not a conspiracy theory, btw. Simple historical fact. The crack epidemic kicked off in LA, and the (black) gangs who sold crack got their initial and large supplies of powder cocaine from a Nicaraguan gang who operated under de facto immunity because they were CIA assets.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:41 PM
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The conspiracy aspect of it being that the whole thing was designed to wreck black communities.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:47 PM
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I think the privilege that one experiences is a rather abstract and difficult concept, and should be totally left alone until people are in a really different frame of mind. The important message right now is "Look how our fucked up world is screwing over certain groups disproportionately (and no, it's not your fault.)"

The topic has really moved on from the question of how to reach your students. Carp and LB are arguing about a subtle but pernicious form of racism that everyone needs to be educated about.

Your students, who can't even see racism in the justice system, need more basic lessons.

Tangentially, one interesting thing about working in the Rust Belt is you see working class white liberals. Every other place I've worked, working class whites have been like Heebie U students.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:49 PM
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People tend to strongly have the belief that their culture is fundamentally fair. Even "enlightened" folk seem to mainly overcome this bias by redefining the boundaries of their culture -- hey I'm privileged but at least I'm *aware* of it; at least I don't vote Republican.

Tribal identity is hard to change, of course people are resistant to it.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:50 PM
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The conspiracy aspect of it being that the whole thing was designed to wreck black communities.

When really the CIA just thought of it as an unintended happy consequence.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:51 PM
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191: but does privilege ever exactly need to be taught? Once you really recognize how unfair the world is, guilt is an automatic response.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 3:52 PM
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This whole conversation reminds me that I should recommend The Hustle as a book that may be of interest to some people here.

It's a book about growing up in Seattle in the 80s, which touches on a number of themes, including privilege in a variety of forms, the history of race relations in the Pacific Northwest, the drug war, and a little bit about basketball.

I found it particularly interesting since I have grown up and lived in the Pacific Northwest, and the references are familiar, but I think that he writes about race and class in ways that would be interesting to many people.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:00 PM
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Once you really recognize how unfair the world is, guilt is an automatic response.

Maybe, but it's not necessarily the endpoint of learning about racism and other inequalities.

Friends of mine who have been to anti-racism trainings or discussion groups tell me that a pretty basic exercise that's done in these groups is for everyone to list several ways in which they're privileged*, several ways in which they aren't. Approaching the issue this way allows people to start thinking about relative advantages and disadvantages that are due to various personal characteristics, hopefully without becoming immediately defensive or guilt-ridden. It's only when you've disarmed the knee-jerk emotional reactions that you can start any kind of worthwhile analysis and learning. And then you can get into the details and hopefully start to see that, although everyone has areas of privilege and non-privilege, some are much more serious/pervasive/pernicious than others, and different forms of prejudice or inequality can operate in very different ways. (That is, if this exercise were being done with Heebie's students, the facilitator would need to make sure the discussion doesn't stop at the facile and wrong conclusion that "we're all privileged in different ways, so racism is no big deal," which is where I can see a lot of callow white college kids stopping.)

*Not a perfect term. But it does suggest the relational thing that's going on, and it allows a meaningful discussion even when one person, or a group, can't specify exactly which substantive rights everyone should have by virtue of being human. You can disagree about whether it would be a desirable state of affairs for everyone to be able to bum $20 off a stranger in a time of need, while still acknowledging that LB can do this much more easily (for a number of reasons) than could a person of color, or someone who doesn't have permanent housing so is unwashed and wearing dirty clothes, etc.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:13 PM
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Right, I didn't mean to stop at guilt. Just that the point of some of the privilege conversations can swerve near FEEL GUILTY! Which is already a natural by-product.

The exercise in the middle of 196 is super helpful, actually, should I find myself up in front of a class like this.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:18 PM
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I've been busy today, but I actually agree with heebie's 83 and don't think the book is Racism 101. It requires you to already recognize that sometimes people get screwed over by the system in ways that seem really unfair, and then it pushes you to recognize the dysfunctions of the war on drugs in general and specifically their impact on black America. It was something a lot of white ministers in our community read and ended up being an eye-opener for them, for instance. But I'm not sure these college students are ready to take that leap unaided.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:24 PM
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Well, sort of. It's clear that Freeway Rick Ross bought cocaine from some guys who were also affiliated with the contras, and that the CIA in Central America knew that these guys were involved in drugs and turned a blind eye. It's much less clear either that (a) Freeway Rick kicked off the crack epidemic (there were many many other sources of cocaine into LA at the time and crack wasn't only being sold through Freeway Rick) or (b) that either Freeway Rick himself or his connections got protection in the US as a result of the CIA connection. The more parsimonious explanation for the failure to catch Ross and his connections in the mid 80s is that Ross was being pursued by a wildly corrupt and incompetent joint LAPD/Sherriff's Office task force.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:27 PM
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My whine for the day about lack of privilege is that my stomach drops every month when I fill out our foster paperwork and then have to take it to Lee to sign because I have no legal standing since we aren't and can't be married. This has nothing to do with the thread per se, but it's one of those Band-Aid level annoyances that oh yeah, I'm not a real person, awesome.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:30 PM
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To me the main effects of structural racism in the US are things like the huge US prison system and our anemic welfare state. Things implemented in a relatively colorblind manner, but whose scope is largely driven by underlying racial fear and distrust. These things have a political solution though and are not really related to privilege or personal blame.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:37 PM
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By the way, the Freeway Rick Ross story points out why Breaking Bad which I've been watching. The way to make money is to sell a cheap product to a mass of addicts with a preexisting distribution channel, not come up with an ultra high end product and build your own distribution network.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:40 PM
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Apparently no one followed the link to the long brilliant very experienced actually-not-privileged Adolph Reed article about the differences between fighting racism and curing racists. So let me put it like this, by way of analogy:

I don't fucking care to try to change the hearts and minds of no fucking hedge fund traders and banksters. I don't talk to those fuckers. I want to take all their fucking money.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:50 PM
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I have been feeling hell of cranky about lack of privilege (on my part) and lack of awareness (on the part of the privileged), lately, because at my new school everyone acts like they have never even heard of a deaf person being on a college campus before. (there are two other deaf professors, a bunch of deaf adjuncts, and about 20 deaf students). What? An interpreter? Oh! I guess we will need one! I don't know how to do that, do you? Who will pay for it? Do I have to get approval? Can you just set it all up and then we'll figure it out later?***

It's stupidly wearying to have to make all my decisions about meetings and workshops weeks in advance, where everybody else* gets to just pencil things in at the last second and cancel without getting the stinkeye from the accessibility office**. I want to do everything at the last minute TOO!

*except all the other deaf people, I mean.

**There isn't actually an accessibility office. Or any other coherent infrastructure for dealing with disability access. Nonetheless, there are people who are very disgruntled about canceling interpreters or failing to show up for something that an interpreter has been assigned to.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:53 PM
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Somehow there's an extra *** in there. I don't really know why. For emphasis, probably.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:55 PM
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The law changes, the power relationships change, the material conditions change...and after that the attitudes, prejudices, and biases disappear.

You don't aim at a good society by trying to get everybody to get along and make nice with each other and then change the institutions by unanimous consent. For fuck's sake.

Or if you are a bourgeois liberal maybe that is what you do.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:01 PM
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Sorry, bob. Let me work on my rhetoric.

(Coughs. Taps microphone.)

Kill whitey.

That better, bob?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:05 PM
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Oh how do we make people not be racist?

Try a 2x4


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:05 PM
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174

... To students at Heebie U, disproportionate incarceration rates don't mean anything except that black people are disproportionately criminal.

Which is in fact more or less the truth in that that is the main reason for the disparity. Naturally conservative students are resistant to explanations that ignore the obvious.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:13 PM
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201

... These things have a political solution though ...

I doubt it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:16 PM
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Wow! So circular justifications constitute self-evident truths? Why didn't anyone else think of that, Shearer, you genius you. You'll bring Race Science back from the brink yet, mark my words.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:18 PM
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156

... But that same white drugdealer is more likely to vote against his privilege if he knows it is unfair.

Right about the time Halford votes for weaker intellectual property laws.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:19 PM
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203: So you want to kill all the racists? Then who will Heebie teach?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:20 PM
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Oh how do we make people not be racist?
Try a 2x4

That big bad Leroy Brown stuff has been working really well so far hasn't it.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:24 PM
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I actually had a big long statistical response to Shearer which I preemptively deleted because I was wearying myself.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:25 PM
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It's almost like racist assclowns are tiresome or something.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:26 PM
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I agree with Charley's line of argument above. If you want to encourage noblesse oblige among people who are treated well, you should teach them to appreciate their good treatment and see it as a positive thing that should be extended to others. It's dangerous to portray the freedom to engage in the basic decencies of civilized life as a form of unearned privilege that should engender guilt. Down that road you get a situation where everyone is treated like crap but no one is 'privileged'. And indeed I think the rise of privilege-talk on the left is correlated somewhat with the growing meanness, vindictiveness, and envy in American life.

A lot of that is a poverty thing though. If he was a white guy slinging meth out of his trailer he'd attract the same attention as a black guy running a crackhouse.

to take the opposite case, I knew a black guy who dealt drugs at the private college I went to. As a student no real enforcement was directed his way and I hear he is now a high school principal.

The lesson I take from this (and hopefully he does to) is that we should probably let a little nonviolent drug dealing slide even for non-college students.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:30 PM
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211

... So circular justifications constitute self-evident truths? ...

What's circular about it? The rate of imprisonment for some crime is the product of the rate of commiting that crime times the probability of being imprisoned for it. (This is ignoring wrongful convictions which I will assert are a minor factor.) I am claiming racial disparities in imprisonment rates are mainly driven by the differences in the first factor. This may be right or wrong but I don't see anything circular about it.

Do you all dispute this is the main reason for sex differences in imprisonment rates? Might a group of women students react badly to assertions that female privilege is the main reason many more men than women are imprisoned?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:31 PM
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218: Your argument is not circular, just wrong.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:35 PM
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I am claiming racial disparities in imprisonment rates are mainly driven by the differences in the first factor.

Even for you, James, this is breathtakingly stupid. I find it hard to imagine the existence of an adult who thinks that law enforcement is roughly similar regardless of the citizenry's socioeconomic status. And I know damn well you're not pretending that U.S. blacks and whites are roughly the same in SES.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:41 PM
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211: What's circular about it?

When you cite crime statistics from disproportionately-targeted communities as self-evidently proving their disproportionate criminality, you're engaging in an obviously circular argument. (Usually being used to obscure the fact that your claim is actually mistaken, to put it charitably, as 219 points out.)

You should have been able to work that part out for yourself, really, but no surprises there.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:41 PM
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221

When you cite crime statistics from disproportionately-targeted communities as self-evidently proving their disproportionate criminality, you're engaging in an obviously circular argument. ...

I didn't actually cite any statistics but here are some (from 2005 but I doubt current statistics are drastically different). Blacks are seven times as likely (compared to whites) to kill and six times as likely to be killed. You think all those blacks are being killed by white people?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:54 PM
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220

Even for you, James, this is breathtakingly stupid. I find it hard to imagine the existence of an adult who thinks that law enforcement is roughly similar regardless of the citizenry's socioeconomic status. And I know damn well you're not pretending that U.S. blacks and whites are roughly the same in SES.

I didn't say it was, I said any differences are not the main cause of differential imprisonment rates.

Police don't treat men and women the same either but that isn't the main reason more men are in prison.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:58 PM
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Victimless crimes constitute 86% of the federal prison system.

Also I bet those murder statistics evaporate when you account for SES.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 5:59 PM
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The rate of imprisonment for some crime is the product of the rate of commiting that crime times the probability of being imprisoned for it. (This is ignoring wrongful convictions which I will assert are a minor factor.) I am claiming racial disparities in imprisonment rates are mainly driven by the differences in the first factor. This may be right or wrong

I don't really know why you're discounting the second factor: the probability of being prosecuted and imprisoned. If white people are less likely to be prosecuted and convicted for a crime, the crime statistics will show that they're less likely to commit that crime. Crime statistics don't reflect the number of people of various races who actually commit crimes: they reflect the number of people who are convicted.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:10 PM
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CC, I don't even understand what you are arguing. It can't be that there is no such thing as privilege. (If you are even leaning in that direction--which I don't think you are--think of it first in terms of wealth rather than race. Surely you agree that being wealthy carries with it certain privileges, that are not shared by those less fortunate?)

So, you're arguing that... framing this in terms of rights is more useful than privilege? (But it can't all be reduced to "rights". Not everyone has a right to tell their boss to fuck off without being concerned in the least about the consequences. But the wealthy have that privilege.) Or you're arguing that making people conscious of their relative privilege is inevitably destined to backfire? No, I feel like I'm putting words in your mouth. I really don't get it.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:11 PM
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224

Victimless crimes constitute 86% of the federal prison system

heebie-geebie is reduced to citing libertarians. Not surprisingly the figure appears to be wrong. See here .

Drug Offenses: 92,397 (47.8 %)
Weapons, Explosives, Arson: 30,855 (16.0 %)
Immigration: 23,191 (12.0 %)
Robbery: 8,140 (4.2 %)
Burglary, Larceny, Property Offenses: 7,506 (3.9 %)
Extortion, Fraud, Bribery: 10,840 (5.6 %)
Homicide, Aggravated Assault, and Kidnapping Offenses: 5,660 (2.9 %)
Miscellaneous: 1,644 (0.9 %)
Sex Offenses: 10,873 (5.6 %)
Banking and Insurance, Counterfeit, Embezzlement: 870 (0.5 %)
Courts or Corrections: 639 (0.3 %)
Continuing Criminal Enterprise: 498 (0.3 %)
National Security: 88 (0.0 %)

I don't see any way to get 86% from this even if you think guns and explosive possession are victimless crimes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:19 PM
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Victimless crimes constitute 86% of the federal prison system.

Sure, in a kind of technical sense. But that 35 percent of public order crimes includes weapons violations and what's also being glossed over a bit is that drug prosecutions that get taken federal rather than state often involve RICO investigations or because the drug offense involved firearms.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:20 PM
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Well I'll agree relying on libertarians is always dumb. It was just the first link I saw.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:21 PM
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Relying on libertarians
is always kinda dumb.
On the other hand
I have four fingers and a thumb.
Burma Shave.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:27 PM
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Not backing Shearer, but that statistic in 224.1 is pretty misleading. First, it's federal prison only and most traditional violent crime is prosecuted at the state level. Second, there's about 35% population in there for public order crimes, which includes immigrants held before deportation for committing violent crimes. Third, only a fairly small percentage of the population arrested for drug crimes (especially in the federal system) is truly "non-violent"; there's a lot of arresting people in drug dealing organizations that are pretty violent. None of that is to day that incarceration rates aren't too high but the idea that 88% of US prisoners are totes nonviolent is pretty misleading.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:34 PM
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Oh totes pwnd


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:35 PM
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Late to the thread, but Josh and LB are right and CCarp has taken a short side trip down south and left a lookalike twin in his place. Come back, CC!

To the OP, I will just reiterate my perennial point: Being able to think at a systems level is a developmental skill. Not everyone has (had the opportunity to) develop this skill.

Leading a discussion about a highly inflammatory topic that intrinsically tends to push people's buttons is much, much, much harder in a room full of people who a) haven't learned how to think systemically, and b) haven't learned how to manage their own emotional reactions to tough material, and c) have a fundamentally zero-sum view of the world.

Being young and white in rural Texas doesn't automatically mean that any of the three conditions apply to you. But from the OP it sure sounds as though they do in this case.

Oh, and Thorn is right about the book, at least based on my secondhand knowledge of it. I think Elijah Anderson's Streetwise is great too, but I wouldn't use it to start a discussion about race with a roomful of college students.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:48 PM
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I've only skimmed, but Charley's point regarding the language (decent treatment is not a "privilege" but a right) is taken. I feel as though the "privilege" language comes from philosophy, actually, or theory in general, or at least that's how it resonates for me: one speaks of a 'privileged position' or of the notion that a given perspective is privileged, which is to say, given privilege over other available perspectives.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:54 PM
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233

... haven't learned how to manage their own emotional reactions to tough material, ...

Like heebie-geebie is free from emotion on this subject.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 6:57 PM
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Further to 234, I do think there is legitimate space for use of the term "privilege". In any given society, certain positions are privileged: in this society, white people occupy a privileged position. As do males. As do heterosexuals. As do those of a higher SES.

Public policy reflects and reinforces those privileged positions in so many ways: policing involves "stop and frisk" policies for blacks over whites; males invariably enjoy higher incomes than females at the same job; gays are denied the legal rights that go along with marriage. And so on.

This is a more fruitful way, perhaps, to talk about privilege. Certain types of people occupy these privileged positions.

I fear I'm lecturing toward the obvious, but to the OP: this might be a way to get at the issue with students without triggering a defensive response.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 7:31 PM
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At my high school, a speaker came and spoke to some of the classes - probably history classes? I can't remember which of my classes went to hear the talk, but I know there were students from other classes there - about how the wording of the 13th amendment makes it possible to approximate slavery through the prison system.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 7:42 PM
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236

... As do males ...

Not when it comes to interactions with the criminal justice system.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 8:26 PM
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It's dangerous to portray the freedom to engage in the basic decencies of civilized life as a form of unearned privilege that should engender guilt.

No, but not all privilege is about the freedom to engage in the decencies of civilized life. When you get that promotion in part because unconcious racial, gender, or class biases lead The Man to see you as more deserving of promotion, it is unearned privilege. It doesn't matter that the Man's bias is entirely unconscious and he has really good intentions and is basically a good person. You, white UMC male, got an advantage that you didn't earn. And if The Man is not being deliberately racist/sexist/classist, but genuinely wants to be a Good Unprejudiced Person, then just saying "oh, but look at the victim of discrimination" isn't enough. The Well-intentioned Man is going to nod sympathetically, and agree with you that it's horrible, and be shocked and dismayed that people would still be so prejudiced, and all the while remain ignorant that he is, in fact, part of the problem.

Yesterday, the chairman of my company invoked "I have a dream" in the service of "of increasing shareholder profits" (which is ultimately shorthand for "of making me richer." This is just two days after some 20 secretarial/administrative staff got laid off. (Which was obliquely acknowledged in terms of our recent success in reducing overhead expenses.) The tone deaf privilege and arrogance made me want to scream. You have a dream? Really?


Posted by: Thomas Jefferson | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:09 AM
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Wow to 239.last.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:11 AM
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239.2 What company?


Posted by: OPINIONATED JAMES EARL RAY | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:31 AM
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239

... You, white UMC male, got an advantage that you didn't earn. ...

You may not have individually earned an advantage but to the extent that the decisions are based on actual statistical differences between groups white UMC males have collectively earned an advantage.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:17 AM
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239 is inane.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:30 AM
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Er... I meant that 242's response to 239 is inane. Shearer's numbering tricks me every time. Because I am a girl. Math is hard!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:31 AM
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You know, on second thought, 242 is not so much inane as it is illustrative. We rather enjoy our privilege, those of us who are privileged. It's comfortable. It makes us feel all secure. The idea that we might not *deserve* to have certain advantages doesn't feel very comfortable for those of use who want to see ourselves as fair and just and honorable human beings but also don't really want to give up that nice secure feeling our privilege gets us. We aren't really going to give up our self-concept of being fair and just and honorable, so we can either be willing to give up our unearned privilege or we can find a way to rationalize our privilege as fair and just and honorable.

So... UMC white dude gets a promotion colored by his employer's unconscious bias that white dudes are smarter/work harder/team players. But, hey, it's totes fair because of the actual statistical differences between group! Which actual statistical differences, you ask? Oh, well, we can just assume there is some statistical difference relevant to the promotion of a Widget Conceptualization Realignment Coordinator. SAT scores probably! I definitely want WCRCs who can pick the right analogy from four choices!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:49 AM
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(Lord, I think I woke up cranky. Back to the coffee machine... )


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:51 AM
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First. 245 seems right. Second, "Widget Conceptualization Realignment" should be the new word for masturbation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:52 AM
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245.2: also because presumably the bosses had no other information to hand about the capabilities of the candidates. I mean no recent history of performance or anything. They just had to play the percentages. Such crapitude, I wonder often why I don't install some sort of shearer filter.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:53 AM
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Black Female CFO of Fortune 500 Company walks past unemployed postal worker sitting in rags on the curb who asks for a dollar and says:"Stop oppressing me, privileged white dude." Maybe gives him a good kick, or calls a cop.

Privilege is the right to define who is abject. Who is "other." It really is that simple, and that complicated. Who can discipline and punish whom, the boundaries of the panopticon.

There is not one "society," there are many, including this blog and thread. Thus there are multiple sites of privilege and abjection. I am not sure at all which is the most important, being abject within your family, especially as a child, is horrific. Scars of the less favoured child.

"Societies", groups, clubs, tribes, families are created, *not discovered* in order to make privilege and abjection appear "natural" and "moral."
Front page posters at the left thank you. All the rest are guests, without posting privileges. Some of us are trolls.

Looking for Last Resort, saw four SCOTUS analysts talking Roberts with Chris Hayes the other night. The black woman never spoke, the white woman was an equal. Black woman would not interrupt, was this because the others were privileged or because she thought herself abject?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:34 AM
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Who is "other.

No, Who's on first. Other is the 3rd base coach.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:38 AM
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I really do try to understand all the ways, all the places, I have, and have always had, more privilege than Barack Obama, cause John Scalzi is really smart and good.

In my basement on my keyboard?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:45 AM
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Some anecdata: Of my 3 closest white male friends, two were the major weed dealers in their high schools, and the third was a major user of any kind of illicit substance (as well as of any alcohol) that he could get his hands on. None of them were ever caught for any of this.

I just don't think you can overstate the degree to which arrest and prosecution of drug crimes is specifically targeted at poor and minority communities.

Furthermore, the idea that, absent our current drug laws, many of the same people would be imprisoned for violent crime is absurd. Dealers don't have guns because they want to rob your grandmother's pearls, they have guns because their business is illegal, so they can't call the cops if someone is threatening them. And how much armed robbery has the high cost of these substances at its root? 50%? 80%? Quite a bit in any case.

Of course, the Drug War also intersects with the War on Immigrants. Militarizing the border has meant it's much easier to catch drug couriers, and the militarization of law enforcement in general has made it necessary for agencies to defend their bloated budgets by bringing in more immigrants and more drug criminals.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:48 AM
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so we can either be willing to give up our unearned privilege or we can find a way to rationalize our privilege as fair and just and honorable.

I'm not sure that this frames things in a very useful way. How exactly is LB supposed to "give up" her unearned privilege of being more likely to get help from a random stranger than someone who isn't UMC female professional looking & etc.? How do I "give up" my unearned privilege of being able to walk into a store and not get eyed by the employees as a potential shoplifter?

My initial response to the concept of "privilege" as it works in progressive discourse was similar to LB's in 1. I thought it was useful way to get people thinking about systematic bias rather than just pointing to racism as an individual failing.

Subsequently, the term has had such a checkered career in the progressive blogoshphere that I'm suspicious of it now. I can't count how many potentially useful discussions have devolved into "You're privileged!", "No you're privileged!", "Your mom's privileged!" & etc.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:56 AM
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How do I "give up" my unearned privilege of being able to walk into a store and not get eyed by the employees as a potential shoplifter?

Wear a large, bulky coat on a warm day. Loiter near the highest value items that aren't behind glass.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:05 AM
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While the guy who got the undeserved promotion is the beneficiary of a problem, he's not the cause of the problem. His knowing that he's the beneficiary of a problem isn't going to get much of anything done. The cause of the problem is the guy giving undeserved promotions. It seems to me that taking focus -- any focus -- off the guy giving the promotion, and applying it to the guy getting the promotion (from whom you expect no action at all, only awareness) is non-productive at best, but possibly negative. Guilting the guy who got the promotion seems to me to be far inferior to empowering the guy who didn't get the promotion to take the problem directly to the guy who should have given him the promotion but didn't. Is this sometimes hard? Sure, but change through guilt-induced empathy doesn't exactly seem like an easy way to get society to change either.

Some privilege is guilt inducing but some isn't. I'm sure I'd feel guilty if I knew someone better qualified was passed over for a promotion I got. I don't feel guilty about being able to hear. This doesn't have anything to do with empathy regarding the various ways in which society is organized that make things more difficult than they need to be for people who cannot hear.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:09 AM
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His knowing that he's the beneficiary of a problem isn't going to get much of anything done.

If and when he gets to decide on promotions, his awareness might lead him to look extra carefully at his own decisions to try and account for possible bias. Not foolproof of course, but a net plus I think.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:13 AM
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256. But CC already said it was reasonable to expect awareness in the person who got the promotion. If they're not aware that privilege was a part of their getting it, it should be explained to them, but not to make them feel personally guilty about it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:21 AM
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256 -- People giving promotions need to be wary of unconscious bias. And to be made aware of their need to watch for them. I'm not saying inducing guilt over that person's prior unearned promotion -- if they had a prior unearned promotion and actually believe it to have been so* -- is totally impossible as a way to accomplish this. I think it is vastly inferior, though, to having the person making the promotion be told, explicitly, if you use bigotry (even unknowingly) in making promotions, you're going to be sued and then fired. I don't think the current laws are strong enough on this, and that they should be made stronger

* One drifts towards saying that if you're a certain class of person, all promotions you've ever had are unearned. There's a philosophical level at which this is completely defensible, I'm sure. Go down this road, though, and expect a lot of defensiveness/uncooperation.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:29 AM
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I'm not saying inducing guilt over that person's prior unearned promotion -- if they had a prior unearned promotion and actually believe it to have been so* -- is totally impossible as a way to accomplish this. I think it is vastly inferior, though, to having the person making the promotion be told, explicitly, if you use bigotry (even unknowingly) in making promotions, you're going to be sued and then fired.

I agree. I just think that it should theoretically be possible to draw attention to privilege without guilt tripping people.

Unfortunately, in practice guilt tripping accounts for about 95% of the term's use.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:33 AM
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By the measure we use on this subject, being able to hear is (a) privileged and (b) unearned. Giving up unearned privileges like this are in Harrison Bergeron territory.

I think instead we should be doing everything we reasonably can as a society to make being able to hear not a privilege; that is, to make not being able to hear an unreasonable imposition.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:35 AM
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||
So this is sorta semi-on topic: I'm going to be working with a college student this semester on her "service learning project" -- i.e. a low-key internship. Based on my phone conversations, she would appear to be middle-class, from out of town, and a freshman at a 2nd tier private college. She's on a sports team, and seems to have quite a busy schedule. We've been trying to meet up for a couple weeks now, but she has had to reschedule a couple of times. She does not know how to use the bus system here, and sounds maybe a bit overwhelmed by everything. It's really no skin off my nose that she's been a bit flakey, but I feel like I have a responsibility here to inculcate some positive meta-skills, in addition to the specific projects I'm going to have her work on.

So my question is: What's the best way to make it clear to her that I want her to be punctual, non-flakey, etc.? I don't want to come down on her like a ton of bricks, but this seems like it might be a really good opportunity for her to grow a bit and start thinking in adult/business terms about her obligations. I want to set firm expectations now so that I'm not freaking out in November or something, when she flakes on something important.

Thoughts?
||>


Posted by: William Howard Taft | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:42 AM
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What's the best way to make it clear to her that I want her to be punctual, non-flakey, etc.?

Dear student,

Please be punctual.

WHT


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:46 AM
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Yeah, I think you'd be doing her a favor by saying something early on. I'm not sure how you say it, though.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:48 AM
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Instead of "Shape up, slacker!", you could frame it in terms of "Mastering basic professionalism now will go long way in the future".

Or maybe "Mastering basic professionalism now will go long way in the future...slacker!".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:49 AM
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If she schedules something and misses it, be unavailable for the next times she suggests.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:52 AM
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Do people have examples of large sacrifices they've made as a way of offsetting their unearned privilege?

Or even small sacrifices.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 7:54 AM
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"Mastering basic professionalism now will go long way in the future"
Dude, this made me roll my eyes.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:01 AM
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I RECKON A TOUR IN THE SERVICE WOULD DO HER A HEAP OF GOOD.


Posted by: Opinionated Sitcom Grandad | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:03 AM
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Dude, this made me roll my eyes.

Slacker.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:06 AM
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On second thought, maybe giving her a lengthy lecture about her unearned privilege is the way to go.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:08 AM
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I got fired from a temp job I had in college for being unprofessional, and it was a useful lesson (the job was an idiotic receptionist gig at a desk on a floor where no one came in. I sat there and read, did some mending torn clothes, and quite a lot of origami. Shut up -- I think I was experimenting with being quirky or manic pixie or something. I eventually got fired for not coming in on Patriots day, which is a Massachusetts state holiday but not, apparently, a day on which offices are conventionally closed.)

I'm not really sure what to say that will have the same effect: if she needs the internship, you might say that she's got one (two? pick a number) more rescheduling, and then you're out and she can figure out how to get her internship done on her own. Not in an angry kind of way, just in a "I'm a professional who doesn't have time for this" kind of way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:08 AM
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"It sounds like you are too busy for this project this semester, why don't you get back in touch with me in the future when this project is a higher priority."


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:14 AM
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I was thinking about privilege recently in the context of original sin. I'm not at all a Christian, and I've always found original sin repugnant, until recently when it occurred to me that the concept captures very precisely the way I think about my own privilege. We're born into a fallen world, and the fallenness isn't our fault, but all of our actions, however well-intentioned, are compromised by it. And yet, we still have to act in moral ways.

(I throw this out there mostly in the hope that the Flip pater will appear to say something something smarter than what I just said cough cough).

As for WHT, you should definitely say something to her. The problem with college students is that they've spent all their lives dealing with adults whose job it is to deal with students: everything has been set up to be a learning experience for them. So, from her perspective, quite reasonably, all that matters is whether her reasons for rescheduling reflect well on her or badly. She needs to learn that from your perspective all that matters is whether or not the work gets done.


Posted by: Mme. Merle | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:16 AM
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"Mastering basic eye-rolling now will pay off in the future."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:17 AM
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I like 271, and think too much handholding is a bad lesson.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:18 AM
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272 is actually what I was envisioning.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:18 AM
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Multiply pwnt.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:19 AM
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But even colder than 271, like "I need someone who is punctual and accountable. With your busy schedule this semester, I'm not sure this is a great fit."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:20 AM
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261: frame it in terms of her perhaps having overcommitted herself in other areas. This is a common problem for college students. The relevant skill is both being non-flaky for each area, but also learning how many things you really can handle at once. Since overcommittment is one of the 'good' problems it will make it go down easier.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:24 AM
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260: I'm going to drift off into something that's not actually about racism and privilege but that I think is necessary for privilege-discourse to make sense.

I think it's a mistake to think of almost anything anyone has as 'earned' outside of a literal contract situation. I earn my paychecks because I have a deal with my employer. I show up in the mornings and do some work in between the blog comments, and they give me a paycheck. I have a right to my paychecks until such time as they tell me the deal is off.

But I didn't earn getting hired for the job (and wouldn't have even in a world where no one was privileged or bigoted or anything). I did a lot of things that made me a plausible and legitimate candidate for the job: went to law school, worked other litigation jobs before that, wrote a good writing sample, didn't frighten or offend the interviewer. But nothing about that meant that being hired for that particular job was something that I deserved, in the sense that it would have been wrong to give it to someone else. A hiring decisionmaker might have acted wrongly by hiring someone other than me, if they were doing it for bigoted reasons, but there's no way to look at me getting hired, or not getting hired, in isolation and say that I had earned the job offer in the sense that I had a right to it.

And all the things that make me a plausible candidate for the job include insane amounts of things I didn't earn: I went to law school in part because I was born to affluent, well-educated parents in New York who made sure I went to good schools. I could have squandered those advantages, but I didn't earn them to start out with.

Saying I didn't earn the job offer, though, doesn't imply that I shouldn't have the job. (It might be true that I shouldn't have it, but it's not because I didn't earn it.) Literally no one is going to be in a position to do a job like this, or really any other, without a great deal of unearned help and support. I have the job, and it's not wrong for me to have the job (I think -- if I knew more about the hiring process I could be convinced otherwise), but thinking of it as something I earned, even though my efforts were a necessary part of my getting hired, seems like a basic mistake to me.

Privilege is like that. Something that you have that places you in a privileged position over other people for reasons that you didn't earn and don't deserve (in the sense that it wouldn't be unjust for you not to have it) doesn't mean that it's wrong for you to have it. It's not wrong for me to have functional hearing, but it wouldn't have been unjust for me to be deaf -- thinking of whether I can hear or not as something I deserve or don't deserve is a wrong way of thinking about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:28 AM
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That would have been shorter if I'd thought it through better.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:31 AM
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Between bleach bombing and butt chugging
in the urban dictionary, there was Blodwen.

From an early, discarded draft of "The Short Answer".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:35 AM
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I have made this letter comment longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.


Posted by: Opinionated Blaise Pascal | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:36 AM
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279 gets it right.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:43 AM
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253: Yeah, that was ambiguous. My intended emphasis was on the willingness rather than on the directly giving up.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:53 AM
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It seems to me that taking focus -- any focus -- off the guy giving the promotion, and applying it to the guy getting the promotion (from whom you expect no action at all, only awareness) is non-productive at best, but possibly negative.

The guy getting the promotion has a good chance of someday being the guy giving the promotion. Awareness isn't a minor thing at all.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 8:56 AM
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Do people have examples of large sacrifices they've made as a way of offsetting their unearned privilege?

I do a fair amount of pro bono work, which has also served as a fair amount of mentoring of the next generation as I do my pro bono work with new associates. By providing free legal services to people generally lacking in privilege of one form or another, I have no delusions that I am coming anywhere close to balancing any scales, but at least I'm lessening the imbalance a little. Damned if I know whether mentoring the next batch helps anyone, but I hope so. At the very least, kids-these-days for the most part help reassure me that various biases are lessening. Not gone, not on the verge of imminent gone. But at least decreasing.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:03 AM
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Do people have examples of large sacrifices they've made as a way of offsetting their unearned privilege?

Does squandering these unearned privileges count?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:08 AM
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"As God is my witness, no one shall ever get the undeserved favors that I got."

Good luck with that. I prefer 'use bigotry in decisionmaking, and you'll lose everything you've got, and everything you're ever going to have.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:11 AM
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I think it's a mistake to think of almost anything anyone has as 'earned' outside of a literal contract situation.

Good luck with that. I'm sympathetic to the impulse, but I also think that people are going to want some word for the common feeling of having both gotten something out of a situation and also contributed time/energy/etc into creating the positive gains.

but thinking of it as something I earned, even though my efforts were a necessary part of my getting hired, seems like a basic mistake to me.

So you're saying that your efforts were necessary but not sufficient? It seems like an awfully restrictive definition of "earned" to apply it only in cases with (a) a contract or (b) where one's effort is necessary and sufficient to the benefits.

[I'm just trying to work my way through your comment, because it's interesting.]

Privilege is like that. Something that you have that places you in a privileged position over other people for reasons that you didn't earn and don't deserve (in the sense that it wouldn't be unjust for you not to have it) doesn't mean that it's wrong for you to have it. It's not wrong for me to have functional hearing, but it wouldn't have been unjust for me to be deaf -- thinking of whether I can hear or not as something I deserve or don't deserve is a wrong way of thinking about.

This makes complete sense as an argument, and yet I would have a difficult time adopting this as a world view. Reading that paragraph I suddenly feel like I'm on Carp's side.

It feels like it's taking the position, "start from a baseline assumption that you aren't entitled to anything." And that lacks emotional purchase for me. I can get a lot of emotional mileage out of, "there but for the grace . . ."

Also I think there is a distinction to be drawn between things that are expected and things that are deserved -- and the former are still worth complaining about. If I say, after an unpleasant social interactions in which I'd been trying hard to be nice, "hmmph, you'd think I'd have deserved a 'thank you' somewhere in there" am I saying that it's unjust that I didn't get a thank you? Possibly, but I think I'm asserting a social norm more than justice per se.

I still feel like I'm bouncing off of your comment a bit. I don't know that it's wrong, it just feels "off" to me.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:15 AM
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What sent me down that path was Carp saying

being able to hear is (a) privileged and (b) unearned. Giving up unearned privileges like this are in Harrison Bergeron territory.

And the thing is, of course being able to hear is unearned. How could you earn hearing? "I designed my own inner ear, and made it myself?" Saying that something is unearned doesn't imply that it's right that it should be taken from you, or that it's wrong for you to have it. At the most it implies that there wouldn't be anything necessarily wrong if you didn't have it.

My voluntary actions were a partial cause of my getting my current job. But there's nothing about them that gave me a moral right to the job offer I got. If there had been another candidate with similar objective qualifications but about whom the interviewer had had a warmer feeling, and the offer had gone to them rather than to me, I wouldn't have anything to complain about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:24 AM
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If there had been another candidate with similar objective qualifications but about whom the interviewer had had a warmer feeling, and the offer had gone to them rather than to me, I wouldn't have anything to complain about.

Not as easy as that. The interviewer has two candidates with indistinguishable qualifications, but one is black and the other is white; or one is male and the other female. Suppose they have a warmer feeling on the basis of race or gender, that they're probably not even conscious of? What do they do? What do you do?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:32 AM
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Suppose they have a warmer feeling on the basis of race or gender, that they're probably not even conscious of

(And suppose there were four hundred studies out there confirming the existence of these warmbiased feelings.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:35 AM
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Shoot the hostage.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:35 AM
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Saying that something is unearned doesn't imply that it's right that it should be taken from you, or that it's wrong for you to have it.

I don't think that gets you far enough.

Not only is it wrong for somebody to take my hearing away from me, it would also be wrong for somebody to put chemicals in the water which would change the baseline rates of hearing (so that more people in the future would be unable to hear).

But it wouldn't be wrong for somebody to change the baseline rates at which men and women get hired for some jobs (even though that would mean that in the future more men would fail to get jobs that they currently get).

So there's some important difference going on there.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:36 AM
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294 to 292.last.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:36 AM
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I think it's a mistake to think of almost anything anyone has as 'earned' outside of a literal contract situation.

If this were Facebook I would like this comment so hard the like button would be broken forever. (I've been having this argument with my father for years now. I come down firmly on the same side as you and he finds it intensely frustrating.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:39 AM
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I think it's a mistake to think of almost anything anyone has as 'earned' outside of a literal contract situation.

This statement would give my students seizures.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:41 AM
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I second 297.

In fact, both "earned" and "unearned" only make sense in literal contract situations and maybe a few others like them. If you fulfill a contract and get paid, you have earned your pay. If you didn't fulfill the contract but got paid anyway, that money is unearned.

Everything else is neither earned nor unearned. It's just life. People need to stop thinking of work and earning things as this guiding structure for all of reality. The world actually isn't structured by our moral categories, and earning things through work is only one small part of morality anyway.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:47 AM
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298: Its because they don't read enough scripture:

I have seen something else under the sun:

The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

(Eccliastes 9:11)

It is very helpful to remember that their sacred book was actually written long before the development of the protestant work ethic.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:49 AM
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No! If you die of cancer, it's because you were insufficiently optimistic! I BUILT THAT.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:50 AM
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Team Unearned here. All I can do is put myself in the best situation to succeed, but I am not owed success by anyone.

Actually, maybe "owed" is the key term to making "earned" make sense to people. If I've earned something, then somebody owes it to me. And, indeed, right now I have a client that owes me a check, because it's for work I've already done. But he didn't owe it to me to hire me in the first place - I put in effort to get the job, but I hadn't earned it. I think that people, even at Heebie U, are receptive to the idea that "nobody owes you anything" - that's actually a common phrase used to disparage the idea of a social safety net. But if you ju-jitsu apply it to all of these areas of privilege, it might open some eyes.

To extend how it applies to me: I get new projects/clients all the time. Sometimes I put a lot of effort into getting the job, sometimes I put in literally none except picking up the phone. Did I only "earn" the jobs that I worked hard to get? Did I earn them all because I'm so awesome? Which potential clients owe it to me to hire me?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:52 AM
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292: That's exactly the point. As the matter stands, playing the odds on the prejudices most people in hiring positions still have, with precisely the same qualifications, under circumstances where no one is consciously thinking about systemic issues of race or gender or privilege, I probably lose the intangible judgment call to a white guy (not dead sure that this is true in my industry anymore, but say it's thirty years ago) and beat out a man or woman of color (this, I'd say is still more likely true). Not invariably, not in all contexts, but that's the way to bet.

And lovely as it is to frame the way to fix this as punishing the bigots, you really can't look into someone's soul and identify that their subconscious prejudices make them see the white guy as more competent. It's often going to be true, but there's no practical way to show that it's true in any given instance, given that the people doing it don't necessarily know when they're doing it. To combat it you need to put a conscious thumb on the scale in the other direction: to understand the issues that make you as a hiring decisionmaker more likely to 'naturally' pick the privileged candidate, and consciously react against your gut instinct where it's pointing in the same direction race or class or gender prejudice would take you.

If you think of a job offer as something that the applicant 'earned', though, you get into a situation where going through that sort of process feels like taking something that Joe Whiteguy Applicant or Jane UMCgirl Applicant earned away from him or her. Joe and Jane worked hard to get in a position where they were plausible applicants, and they didn't actively exploit their privilege in any wrongful way, and your natural instinct that doesn't feel bigoted at all is that Jane will fit in perfectly, while you're not quite sure about Rafael Ofcolor Applicant, even though his resume is comparable. If Jane 'earned' the job offer, then considering systemic issues of privilege and giving Rafael a shot is an injury to her.

I think you're better off not thinking about it in terms of who has earned what, and instead focusing on what the right action is for you, as the decisionmaker, to take. (And I'm still rambling. Usually when I get like this, someone shows up who agrees with me but who writes better.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 9:53 AM
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I've used "earned" as a synonym for "deserved" and if it helps to clarify, I mean the latter (generally, if not literally -- I'm not going to search upthread). Have I earned not being followed around in a store? Of course not. Do I deserve not being followed around in a store? I do, and so does my colleague.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:04 AM
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It's probably worth pushing back on the idea, too, that the natural way that people go around making hiring decisions (or philosophy conference decisions, e.g.) is to find the person who best approximates the Platonic ideal of the best candidate, and then are forced to consider the weaker women and minorities and make tradeoffs.

Usually it's more like "so, who do you think is good" and that pulls directly on everyone's biases until you find that you've ignored all of (e.g.) the top female philosophers in an area simply because they didn't occur to you when you made a list.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:05 AM
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303 -- I agree that the hiring person needs to be consciously aware of hidden bias. I think the direct way to get that is to tell him so, and that if he screws up, he's going to get fucked hard. I think that's a lot more likely to work than to tell everyone who gets a promotion ever that they may have gotten it through hidden bias, so they should really try to be aware, if they ever get a chance to hire someone, so they don't do to someone else what was not done to them.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:09 AM
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It's probably worth pushing back on the idea, too, that the natural way that people go around making hiring decisions (or philosophy conference decisions, e.g.) is to find the person who best approximates the Platonic ideal of the best candidate, and then are forced to consider the weaker women and minorities and make tradeoffs.

Oh man, this was one of the things that made me want to throw J/ohn Mc/Whor/ter's "Losing The Race" against the wall. And the thing is, even when you talk to people who make this argument, and walk them through the hiring decisions they've been involved in, and demonstrate to them that that's not how it works in reality, they still insist that this is a problem.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:14 AM
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I think you're better off not thinking about it in terms of who has earned what, and instead focusing on what the right action is for you, as the decisionmaker, to take.

But often the right action for you, the decisionmaker, is not to think about issues of cosmic justice, but to figure out which candidate is most likely to help you get the job done. Or at least it's a much more tractable problem to solve.

If this is a "systems level issue" as Witt says in 233, then it seems unreasonable for students to feel defensive about recognizing the existence of privilege. But if there is a problem that everyone is morally obligated to take concrete affirmative steps to try to correct, then this becomes a matter of personal responsibility. The zero-sum aspects of life also come more clearly into focus.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:14 AM
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Do I deserve not being followed around in a store? I do

Really? You walk into a store with a lot of expensive things, something about you makes the manager nervous... what does it mean to say that you, CharleyCarp, deserve not to be followed around? I don't think there's any meaningful sense in which that's something you deserve.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:15 AM
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But if there is a problem that everyone is morally obligated to take concrete affirmative steps to try to correct, then this becomes a matter of personal responsibility. The zero-sum aspects of life also come more clearly into focus.

Both true.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:18 AM
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Nothing about me makes them nervous. That's the whole privilege thing right there. The problem is that they are nervous about my colleague because of the color of her skin. This is wrong. They should stop allowing themselves to become nervous by such a thing. Literally: take a breath, think about what they are doing, and behave in a fair manner. I shouldn't have to do anything but shop.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:21 AM
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Nothing about me makes them nervous

But if it did, would they be doing anything wrong following you around? Middleaged white guys have shoplifted in the past.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:22 AM
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I'm not being clear here, but what I mean is that a store manager is perfectly in the right having someone followed around the store, if she for non-bigoted reasons thinks they're a likely shoplifter. And she doesn't have to be correct about the shoplifting for that to be okay: it's a legitimate response to suspicion, even if the suspicion turns out to be unfounded. If you say you, and everyone else, 'deserves' not to be followed around the store, that sounds to me as if she's not allowed to take directed action to protect shoplifting, and that sounds wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:27 AM
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I can squander my undeserved advantages. I don't have any objection to the shopkeeper watching people who are acting like they might steal something. I object to them thinking that being of Native extraction is acting like they might steal something.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:27 AM
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I can agree with you about that, without thinking that it's useful for you to think that you 'deserve' the treatment you get. You don't 'deserve' worse treatment, it's just not useful, IMO to think about it in terms of desert.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:29 AM
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That should be 'I can squander my privilege.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:29 AM
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But if it did, would they be doing anything wrong following you around? Middleaged white guys have shoplifted in the past.

But if they read Bruce Schneier they would know that following around people they were suspicious of was bad security.

(irrelevant response, because I'm still mulling this over)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:30 AM
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I can agree with you about that, without thinking that it's useful for you to think that you 'deserve' the treatment you get. You don't 'deserve' worse treatment, it's just not useful, IMO to think about it in terms of desert.

What about my comment earlier about "expectations" vs "desert"?

We should act to reinforce the social norm that (nobody?) should expect to be followed around in a store?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:31 AM
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I don't think it's useful to think about me at all, with respect to walking around in the store, other than as a yardstick. We know the shopkeeper is applying bigotry by following my colleague around, because we see that the shopkeeper does not follow me around, and the other difference in the way we shop is ethnicity.

But, to take the line others have argued above, it's important that I, and everyone else, become aware of our privilege, because we might be a shopkeeper some day, and have to decide who, if anyone, to follow around.

To which I say: go the direct route. If you are using race (etc) as a marker for suspicious behavior, you're in the wrong.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:33 AM
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Incidentally I'm sure there are legitimate examples of profiling. The one that leaps to minds, from friends who have worked retail, is, "homeless people will stink up your bathroom."

That one stuck with me because I believe that homeless people should have access to bathrooms, but I can also sympathize with the cost benefit of the individual retail business that wants to discourage homeless people from using their bathrooms.

Again, I think the question is one of social norms (which have lots of grey areas) rather than justice (which, in theory, is more clearly defined).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:34 AM
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If you are using race (etc) as a marker for suspicious behavior, you're in the wrong.

I find this baffling. Do you honestly believe that addressing people in this way is going to lead to *less* defensiveness than talking about privilege?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:36 AM
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Ignore 320. I was trying to think about something, but I think it's (a) off topic and (b) I wasn't saying anything worthwhile.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:40 AM
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I agree that the hiring person needs to be consciously aware of hidden bias. I think the direct way to get that is to tell him so, and that if he screws up, he's going to get fucked hard.

Difficult to do though, even if you're acting in good faith (that's why they call it "unconscious bias").

I keep thinking of those classroom gender bias studies. A teacher who is quite aware of the issue and truly believes that he/she is making effective efforts to address it happily volunteers to be filmed while teaching, and is subsequently shocked to clearly see him/herself giving a bunch more attention to the boys and shortchanging the girls.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:40 AM
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321 -- Net, yes. There are way more customers than there are shopkeepers. And raising the shopkeeper's awareness has actual utility. Raising the awareness of privileged shoppers is less useful.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:42 AM
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To which I say: go the direct route. If you are using race (etc) as a marker for suspicious behavior, you're in the wrong.

Which is swell, but lots of basically good people do so without realizing it. Which, again, is where awareness is not trivial. And there's no need to feel guilty about your privilege. Just appreciate the blessing and do what you can to give back.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:42 AM
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323 -- No one said it was going to be easy. But I really don't see how someone's guilt, if you can get them to feel that, over their own undeserved promotion in the past is going to be a more effective way to get past bias than telling people making decisions that they can't use bias, and have to take affirmative steps to avoid doing so unintentionally.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:45 AM
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325: I have no objection whatever to raising the awareness of shopkeepers. It should be done at every reasonable opportunity. I think efforts at raising the awareness of privileged customers is unlikely to lead to positive results, and likely to lead to defensiveness and resentment of the messenger.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:47 AM
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We just need to raise the costs of racial profiling. More white people should shoplift.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:49 AM
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For equality! Who's with me?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:50 AM
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re: 320

See also, 'junkies will leave infected sharps in your bathrooms/on the fucking grass in your park'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:51 AM
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Further to 324 -- and shopkeepers have agency, in a way that privileged shoppers do not. I'm not walking into a store to engage in a process that confronts my privileges. I'm going in to buy something. I'm not consciously trying not to attract attention, I'm just acting as if I want to buy something, because that's why I went into the store.

The shopkeeper is making conscious decisions about how to treat customers. He/she should be made aware that using race as a surrogate for conduct is immoral. And reminded as necessary.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:52 AM
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He/she should be made aware that using race as a surrogate for conduct is immoral. And reminded as necessary.

Talking about privilege is a way of achieving this! Part of the point is to get people who aren't directly (negatively) affected by bias/discrimination/racism to stand up for those who are!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:55 AM
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Both the shopkeeper and the hiring committee believe that if they stop being prejudiced they will be financially victimized.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 10:58 AM
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332 -- Or it might make the customers defensive and uncooperative.* Either way, it just seems a whole lot less effective than going directly to the shopkeeper.

* I'd be interested to know if there are studies on this. My sense is that moving to a discourse about privilege has been massively counter-productive, but maybe I'm wrong about that.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:00 AM
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I have represented a fair number of people charged with shoplifting from large chain stores (Macy's, Target, Dillards, Sears, etc). The loss prevention officers are typically very experienced and zero in on offenders quickly with their cameras. People think they are not acting suspicious, but when you watch the tapes, it is fairly clear that they are going to shoplift.

With the smaller shops, I suspect you find more suspicion based on whether you look poor.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:01 AM
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I'd be interested to know if there are studies on this.

My guess is that they'd show that almost no one talks or cares about the concept of "privilege" at all, and that people have been getting consistently less racist over time (in their actions, who the hell knows what happens in their heart of hearts) as they actually interact with non-white people on a daily basis and see them doing things such as, I dunno, being President of the United States.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:03 AM
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Or possibly they zero in on the obvious offenders and miss those that don't act suspicious.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:03 AM
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336 -- I'm not satisfied by the pace of change.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:05 AM
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Frankly, the best way to reduce racism in the United States (Heebie's students aside) is to kill old people.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:08 AM
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"Death Race 2012 - Race Against Racism"


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:12 AM
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340 -- God, finally someone moves from talk to a productive solution. Let's do this.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:13 AM
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The point of talking about privilege (whether it's white privilege or male privilege or hearing privilege or any other type) is that people who have it, don't notice it. You don't have to think about whether people suspect you of shoplifting if you're white and dressed in certain ways, and you don't have to think about whether or not you'll be able to participate in a meeting if you're hearing and you're at a hearing university.

But people who aren't in the privileged demographics do have to think about these things, all the time, and they have to deal with repercussions and/or jump through a bunch of hoops that the privileged people don't.

It's not your fault if you have any sort of privilege, and I don't personally think guilt should enter into the discussion at all. But the people who have privilege (of various sorts) are by definition the people who have more power, and it's awfully hard to even out the playing field when the people up in the fancy part don't realize anyone else is having problems.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:19 AM
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Personally, I still loathe the Irish, but social norms prevent me from following them in convenience stores.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:19 AM
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||
Tweety?
|>


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:22 AM
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This seems appropriate here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:32 AM
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A buddy of mine pulled over a guy who was picking up one of the regular street whores. This guy started to pull out his temple recommend and my friend said something like "if you hand me that fucking temple recommend I'm going to write "revoked" on the front with a big black marker".

Just catching up on the thread now, but holy shit, this is fantastic. (Though even better would have been doing it rather than warning the guy in advance.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:37 AM
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The answers to WH Taft's Q in 261 are good. I would add that I have a version of this conversation dozens of times a year, with both college students and older adults.

I've definitely gotten more blunt over time. Granted, I tailor the message based on how far back the person is starting from (I'm not going to come down like a ton of bricks on someone who is just getting their life together after a traumatic event), but one thing I have learned over and over is that it is virtually impossible to be too explicit.

Not everybody learns the same social rules. In addition, not everybody learns the same way to learn and observe others, so that they can pick up the rules that they aren't being explicitly taught.

In those cases, the only way they're going to learn is if somebody else is kind enough to tell them the truth in a way that they might possibly be able to hear it.

Mostly I narrate circumstances. This works better over the phone or in person than in e-mail, but I've done both:

"You called me on Tuesday and asked for an interview right away. I scheduled one for you on Friday. You sent an e-mail to cancel it two hours in advance. You did not call me. When you e-mailed me to reschedule, I gave your three possible dates. You did not respond to me for a week. Every week, I am scheduling 30 to 40 appointments. When you do this, you are demonstrating to me that you are either too busy or not interested in this opportunity. That's OK, but you need to tell me if that's what's going on."

Tone matters, of course. But a lot of it is just in presenting the items clearly and methodically, as in the example above. A lot of people genuinely have no idea that canceling shortly beforehand and failing to call is unprofessional. They're used to conducting their lives with no advance planning (and frankly, they're often used to employers who provide them with no notice. Hospitality and retail jobs are notorious for this, but also many lower-level healthcare jobs).

I also get very blunt in interviews. I tell jobseekers about past applicants who refused to go outside in the rain. They are shocked, amazed, wow, who could imagine that? They're so busy agreeing with me that they don't notice they're shifting their own internal expectations of themselves. And if it comes up in the future I can remind them: They knew from the beginning that I expect them to work whether it is raining or not.

My general experience is that very few Americans have cross-class experience or awareness. UMC kids are about as ignorant of working-class rules as vice versa. To the extent that I'm socializing people into an UMC workplace, I'm very upfront about that. They won't be penalized for ignorance, but they will be penalized for failing to learn.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:45 AM
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I'd like to think that one can acknowledge one's various advantages of privilege and yet occasionally snarl sneer snicker shrug at the occasional Guilty White Liberal Two-Minute Self-Criticism Hour of the Day (e.g.: Michael Chabon, Joan Walsh, the pitched battles over Girls, people who won't stop telling you how performative everything is).


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:45 AM
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Yeah? Your face is performative.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:57 AM
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Gender is a performance, and...


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 11:58 AM
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Not as easy as that. The interviewer has two candidates with indistinguishable qualifications, but one is black and the other is white; or one is male and the other female. Suppose they have a warmer feeling on the basis of race or gender, that they're probably not even conscious of? What do they do? What do you do?

Selection by random lot, of course. I'm serious.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:07 PM
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This is even more awesome applied to Internet dating.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:10 PM
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||

A few weeks ago a retired priest who was affiliated with my church was arrested for allegedly molesting a boy over several years. It was strange. Awful if he did it, but so many odd factors were present. I mean, he could either have been very supportive a boy form a troubled family or zeroing in on a vulnerable victim.

The man had him baptize his child a couple of years ago and is now going through a difficult divorce. And the police arrested him before they had finished an investigation a week after the initial complaint. He was suspended, and our church started an investigation too. Nobody talked about it at all.

But last week he committed suicide. His husband is devastated. I kind of wonder whether his being gay had anything to do with how the process went.

Last night I heard that he had been called in the middle of the night by the police who were saying something about the young man which made it sound as though he was in trouble. So the priest got dressed in the middle of the night and went down to help, at which point he was thrown in a cell.

God, I hope he wasn't a pedophile, but if he was, he was still awfully kind to me and a lot of other people.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:12 PM
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Your mom's a performance!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:13 PM
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There is a version of heebie's conversation with her students that plays out all the time in South Africa, a place where only the most blinkered idiot could deny that racism has robbed generations of non-whites of opportunities. The standard form of the argument (from a white person) is, "I never benefited from apartheid. If anything, it held me back, because the country was a pariah and I couldn't get ahead like I could have if I had been born in America or Australia. I don't have a racist bone in my body. I always opposed the old system, and never once voted for the National Party. So why should I have to sacrifice to make restitution for the sins of others?"

I don't mean to excuse heebie's students, and I hope she can enlighten them a little. But recognize that denial of white privilege is the norm even in an environment where it is more blatantly manifested than anywhere on earth.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:13 PM
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Truer than you know.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:13 PM
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If you want to encourage noblesse oblige among people who are treated well, you should teach them to appreciate their good treatment and see it as a positive thing that should be extended to others. It's dangerous to portray the freedom to engage in the basic decencies of civilized life as a form of unearned privilege that should engender guilt. Down that road you get a situation where everyone is treated like crap but no one is 'privileged'.

While I've been very much agreeing with LB's comments as I read the thread, this one by PGD is very well put.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:14 PM
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353: That is very horrible and sad in every possible interpretation of the facts as you relay them.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:14 PM
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355: I get that shit from my boyfriend's father who also did business there. The blacks weren't ready for full rights yet. Everything went too quickly and now the country's medical system has gone to shit.

There's also a lot of Canadian resentment about French language requirements for government jobs in parts of the country where there aren't many French speakers.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:16 PM
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356 to 354.

To 353, that's a terrible story no matter what the facts are. I don't understand it, though -- who killed himself, who's married, and who's the father of the allegedly molested kid?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:16 PM
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There's also a lot of Canadian resentment....

That's something one doesn't read every day.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:18 PM
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The priest killed himself, and his husband is devastated.

The young man who was allegedly abused is now 26 and asked the priest to baptize his son a couple of years ago.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:18 PM
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Well, of course. By law, it has to be referred to as ressentiment.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:20 PM
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362: Tragic.

363: Nice.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:20 PM
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362: Got it. "Priest" threw me off -- I forgot you were Episcopalian.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:21 PM
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365: same, was confused.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:23 PM
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Per the Flip-Pater, it's pronounced "Epi-skop-a-LEE-an" or "the competition."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:25 PM
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I kept using "him" without a clear antecedent. I should have created a fake name for the priest to be clearer. Although you can probably google his name easily enough. The Herald's coverage was exemplary.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:25 PM
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I represented a Episcopal lay official who'd taken a plea deal for abuse in the ensuing civil case. Turns out the whole thing was a fabrication, and we got a signed statement to that effect along with dismissal of the civil claim. Guy still has to register, I think.


Posted by: Lawyer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:34 PM
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My first lecture about privilege was not from a guilty modern leftist, but from one of my (serenely class-confident) grandmothers. She would have completely endorsed "appreciate [your] good treatment and see it as a positive thing that should be extended to others", since being a lady is a matter of positive action as well as inherited condition. As far as I remember, she thought it was the project of Americanism and modernity to replace the latter with the former.

I can't get to anything useful for public discourse from there, especially as my other grandmother got to very, very different standards of public behavior from an equal attachment to being a lady. And, anyhow, I argued my mother into an agreement that I don't have to be a lady as long as my behavior befits an officer and a gentlewoman.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:35 PM
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Guy still has to register, I think.

Under those circumstances, he can't get that reversed somehow?

Someone told me about someone who successfully defended himself against abuse charges, but it cost him $500,000 to do it.

369: Lawyer, we had some pretty bad scandals before the Catholic church's scandal broke. Now--probably because of the insurers--most churches are pretty careful about not letting a child --or even more than one child-- with just one adult at a time.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:39 PM
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Thanks for the advice. I think I will definitely try to be hyper-explicit about my expectations -- learn the bus routes [they are actually a bit tricky for the locations involved], punctuality, not rescheduling more than once or twice, call rather than email, show up ready to work, ask questions if you're not sure, take everything seriously.

My previous experience with supervising undergrads was, I think, a bit unusual, in that I had full hiring authority, it was a very coveted job, and my expectations really didn't need to be that high.

Good job that the expectations for my own position are not quite that stringent!


Posted by: William Howard Taft | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:42 PM
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369: How could a civil plea deal get you on a registry? To that end, I wasn't aware that "plea" was a concept in a civil case. At least as far as those things get reported by the media, criminal cases have pleas, civil cases just settlements or somthing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:53 PM
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373: The guy took a plea deal in the criminal case. He was later sued in a civil case, and Lawyer was able to get a signed statement from the alleged victim that his client had not committed abuse.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:55 PM
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That makes sense. I had read the sentence wrong.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 12:58 PM
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That said, in general, I'm opposed to being able to reverse a guilty plea on the basis of a signed statement from the victim. That seems to have way too much potential for abuse.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 1:00 PM
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376: I agree, but I also think that sex offender registries are problematic, period. *And* that there are a lot of really minor things which require "offenders" to register.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 1:21 PM
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...but Black people are the real racists.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 1:49 PM
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Client was in washroom, teenaged "victim" came in by himself.


Posted by: Lawyer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 1:50 PM
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I'm not sure what that shows?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 1:54 PM
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That being careful about not letting children be alone with adults doesn't always work?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 3:30 PM
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219

Your argument is not circular, just wrong.

People generally go to jail for dealing drugs not using them so usage statistics are off point.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 3:59 PM
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I'm sure it happens. It's a very big world.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:01 PM
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383 to 381.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:01 PM
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289

Good luck with that. I prefer 'use bigotry in decisionmaking, and you'll lose everything you've got, and everything you're ever going to have.'

This way having worked so well in the war on drugs.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:04 PM
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My voluntary actions were a partial cause of my getting my current job. But there's nothing about them that gave me a moral right to the job offer I got. If there had been another candidate with similar objective qualifications but about whom the interviewer had had a warmer feeling, and the offer had gone to them rather than to me, I wouldn't have anything to complain about.

I think at some point you are allowed to complain about bad luck.

Do you all feel guilty about all of your good luck or just some of it?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:10 PM
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None of it, really. What would be the point?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:13 PM
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302

Team Unearned here. All I can do is put myself in the best situation to succeed, but I am not owed success by anyone.

It is in society's best interest to encourage hard work by making hard work pay off. Maybe this doesn't mean you are owed success but it is pretty close.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:14 PM
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387

None of it, really. What would be the point?

I thought you felt somewhat guilty about your good luck in being:

... born to affluent, well-educated parents in New York ... .

Isn't the whole point of this thread that people should feel guilty about their good luck in being born into a privileged class?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:19 PM
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314

... I don't have any objection to the shopkeeper watching people who are acting like they might steal something. I object to them thinking that being of Native extraction is acting like they might steal something.

Even if that is actually more predictive than "acting suspicious"?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:22 PM
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389.last: Nope, not even close.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:25 PM
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319

To which I say: go the direct route. If you are using race (etc) as a marker for suspicious behavior, you're in the wrong.

Lots of people don't agree with this. Jesse Jackson for example :

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.... After all we have been through. Just to think we can't walk down our own streets, how humiliating.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:28 PM
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I feel guilty because of original sin. Works for good or bad luck.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:28 PM
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Lots of people don't agree with this. Jesse Jackson for example :

I think the fact that he opens with "there is nothing more painful" suggests that he believes he is in the wrong at that moment.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:31 PM
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People generally go to jail for dealing drugs not using them so usage statistics are off point.

Responsibility for a market never lies entirely on the supply side (or on the distribution side to be specific). It's ridiculous to think of drug dealing as some sort of inherently criminal activity that black people are just naturally prone to.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:32 PM
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394 gets it right. Christ, try harder, Shearer.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:32 PM
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394

I think the fact that he opens with "there is nothing more painful" suggests that he believes he is in the wrong at that moment.

I think the more plausible reading is the pain comes from knowing he is right. YMMV.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:37 PM
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395

Responsibility for a market never lies entirely on the supply side (or on the distribution side to be specific). It's ridiculous to think of drug dealing as some sort of inherently criminal activity that black people are just naturally prone to.

If you are arguing black drug dealers are disproportionately likely to end up in jail you need stats on the relative number of black and white drug dealers not black and white drug users.

In general blacks commit crimes at a higher way than whites, 7 times the rate for homicide according to link I gave above. This will vary by crime of course but I doubt the rates for drug dealing are equal. Even if you all have lots of white drug dealers among your close personal friends.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:44 PM
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They throw the best parties.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:46 PM
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Outside of a general, it's too bright to commit crimes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:47 PM
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there are mean racists and well meaning racists, none of which are better than other, maybe those casual well-meaning racists are even more offensive that the bleach throwing kind, there at least one knows who is who and what to expect from them
it's really strange that heebie would act so shocked by racism of her students, sounds pretty hypocritical of her, why, weren't the homeless to be laughed at, therefore considered treated humanely and as equals to her? so much care for the black prison population sounds as if like laughable coming from her after that
Witt's analysis of the college students who are so underdeveloped yet to understand the systemic racism, is the same as advocating the crossfit moral monsters, who, if not college students shouldn't be able to already understand what is right and what is not, morally, what is fair and unfair, if the college age is still too early, those students wouldn't learn it perhaps anytime soon too
the much advocated acknowledging white privilege works like reinforcing racism, casually of course, therefore helping it to last indefinitely, CC's call for talking about not privilege but the right to not be discriminated is perhaps that, an attempt of empathy, he wanted to look at the problem from the underprivileged's point of view
so come on, LB, i challenge you to pauly shore JBS, but you won't of course since he is one of you and your saying all the correct words upthread doesn't mean much, just some regular pc talk, it's nice perhaps to feel yourself always right and righteous in any situation


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:55 PM
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If you are arguing black drug dealers are disproportionately likely to end up in jail you need stats on the relative number of black and white drug dealers not black and white drug users.

Well I was not arguing that, I was simply arguing against your point that black people go to jail in direct proportion to their inherent criminality.

American society has decided that drugs are bad, and the people who pay the price for this moral stance are disproportionately black. Do you really believe that 95% of the responsibility for the drug trade should be assigned to street dealers (users can't be held responsible)? Do you really believe that harsh sentencing laws against dealers are just natural law, and not a political decision? Do you really believe that black people are more likely to become drug dealers than white people because they are just natural criminals?


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:56 PM
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Sigh. James, what are you even arguing? That drug dealing, or crime in general, is just an inherent disposition of black people?

How do the income levels between blacks and whites compare? The unemployment rates? The education levels? Is there a correlation between poverty and the commission of crimes?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 4:58 PM
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You know, never mind that series of questions. James' comment history suggests that he will say that blacks are stupid, so they have lower levels of educational achievement, which is why they're poor, which is why they commit crimes.

James, don't say that, because it would be deeply offensive.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:05 PM
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I decided to reinforce stereotypes by going to a bar and eating fried fish. Turned out great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:05 PM
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Who eats fried fish? I mean, you, clearly, but I can't come up with a stereotype other than lovable Cockneys, and even then I'd expect less fried fish and chips and more jellied eels.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:09 PM
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It was a nice piece of fish with fresh cut fries. I'm old, so I have a bartender instead of a drug dealer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:10 PM
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I heard that there's basically no nutritional value on the omega-3 fatty acids front from tilapia, which is the fish used in much fried fish, so just bear that in mind, Moby.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:10 PM
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406: On Friday, Catholics in Pittsburgh. The mandate us gone but the specials remain.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:12 PM
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us s/b is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:13 PM
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Mackerel-snappers. Got it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:14 PM
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Parsimon is soldiering bravely on, but notice how having been corrected on his line of argument with a super-simple and patient explanation a while back, James is still cranking out the same thing anyway? That's because he's an unreconstructed, really stupidly racist troll! He always has been! And really, isn't that charming?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:15 PM
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408: It was six bucks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:17 PM
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411: This isn't really an ethnic bar. The tradition just took root broadly. For the record, it was cod. I asked the cook.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:24 PM
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Guy next to me is alone and he ordered a pitcher.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:29 PM
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He's a really slow drinker.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:40 PM
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402

Well I was not arguing that, I was simply arguing against your point that black people go to jail in direct proportion to their inherent criminality.

I didn't say that, I said the main reason that more blacks are in prison is that blacks commit more crimes. This allows for some disparity in treatment as a lesser contributing factor. And I didn't say anything about why blacks commit more crimes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:42 PM
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403

Sigh. James, what are you even arguing? ...

That blacks are primarily harmed by high rates of criminal behavior among blacks and not by efforts to put black criminals in jail.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:49 PM
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412: Sorry. I'm not really soldiering on; I haven't followed the thread in an ongoing manner.

I think the only reason I'm given pause in these matters was this surprising comment from sral not very long ago.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:50 PM
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412

... but notice how having been corrected on his line of argument with a super-simple and patient explanation a while back, ...

Which comment was that? Your incorrect claim that the only evidence we have for higher crime rates among blacks is higher conviction rates?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:53 PM
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Really, really slow. But I think he's Spanish so I suppose they like flat beer or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 5:55 PM
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418: That blacks are primarily harmed by high rates of criminal behavior among blacks and not by efforts to put black criminals in jail.

If black people engage in criminal behavior because they're disproportionately poor, they're harmed by that, right?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:28 PM
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On googling, he's probably Mexican. Also a friend skewed up. Still drinks really slow.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:45 PM
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422

If black people engage in criminal behavior because they're disproportionately poor, they're harmed by that, right?

If we grant your premise yes. But it's mainly liberals who believe poverty causes (and excuses) crime.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:45 PM
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Anyway, I didn't realize there was a Nueva Leon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:48 PM
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424 is hilarious. You, James Shearer, are completely demented.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:53 PM
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Also a friend skewed up.

I think you've been doing too much statistics.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:55 PM
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Nuevo, not Nueva.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:56 PM
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Wouldn't want the lion to feel emasculated. That's probably dangerous.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:57 PM
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427: I blame my phone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 5-12 6:57 PM
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The problem discussed in the original post - defensiveness about racism - is one problem that Shearer definitely doesn't have.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 6-12 6:27 AM
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re: 431

Quite.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 6-12 6:30 AM
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Except in the "best defense" sense.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 6-12 6:32 AM
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He considers it a victory when he elicits emotional reactions in his opponents, and loves to say offensive things and then point out that someone has read slightly more into his statement than literally there.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 6-12 6:43 AM
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412: I concur.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 6-12 7:32 AM
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434

... and then point out that someone has read slightly more into his statement than literally there.
...

You guys love to yell racist too much to bother to read carefully. Someone says Obama is articulate and they are a racist.

And this drug dealing as victimless crime meme is a libertarian framing that were it not for your love of illicit substances (most of us get through college without feeling the need to befriend every drug dealer on campus) you would probably reject :

Every day, about 75 people die and 2,000 people are treated in an emergency department due to unintentional poisoning. Approximately 96 percent of these poisoning deaths result from drug abuse or misuse. ...


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 5:35 AM
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No one is obsessed with race in the way you are without being racist. You can tell yourself that you have sound science behind your views, and you can congratulate yourself whenever someone skips the documentation to get to the racist conclusion, but you are the only one fooled.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 6:19 AM
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Adding Cahiers and Hobsbawm has cut into my regular reading schedule.

Inoue, Vicarious Language, highly recommended because it is really not about gendered language in Japan.

This means that a critical analysis of women's language through a single system of oppression such as sexism--a framework that sees only gender at work in "women's language"--cannot account for the power of this discourse. This is not to say that women's language has nothing to do with sexism and male domination. But what constitutes sexism is a broader historical and political network of power, so that women's language cannot simply be posited against "men's language." As I have shown, what is critical to recognize is that women's language creates hierarchy among women and unevenly scatters their positionalities vis-à-vis gender politics. Women's language hails those who are socially named into "women," regardless of their class, region, race, or sexual orientation and, upon interpellating them, ranks and hierarchicalizes them. This book is meant to foreground the epistemic violence beyond gender that is inherent in the idea of women's language.

And that is how I view most discussions of "racism", abstracted from other contingencies and histories, as a discourse purposed to create hierarchies and positions of privilege of class, region, race, gender etc in a specific localized setting.

Who is talking? Where? About what? Why?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 9:04 AM
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And this from Inoue, abstracted from its object, about how the abject returns. Not only about "racism" but also about, for instance, those who will vote third-party or stay home.

And their performative acts expose the trace of its incessant ideological working to contain unassimilable and unnameable others and their historical realities and temporalities. This is how the abject returns. It returns in unintended places without any trumpet announcement--even without acts of "everyday resistance"--simply and quietly pointing to the void and absence in the discourse that claims its own plentitude and ontology. Such a "gap" was once and originally occupied by the abject but was evacuated (abjected) as inessential, extra, and unintelligible, so that the discourse could attain its essential unity. And this gap was laid bare through the "performative"moments and spaces

Power struggles, standing on the shoulders of turtles, all the way down.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 9:11 AM
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Or, see the above, and Quiggin talking about the Navy and its cost/benefit.

What can't be said? Where does the discipline come from?

And...Revolution Now!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 9:16 AM
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You guys love to yell racist too much to bother to read carefully. Someone says Obama is articulate and they are a racist.

James, nobody is yelling, as best as I can reckon.

There's a technical term for the opinions you express. If you opine that the state should control the means of production, we will call you a communist. When you say that black people are intrinsically intellectually inferior, that makes you a racist.

And like many rightwingers, your sense of victimization makes you say absurd things. In the real world, someone who calls Obama articulate could become Obama's vice president.

Yes, Joe Biden was asked to reflect on the history of that sort of language. Boo-fucking-hoo for him.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 6:53 PM
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441

And like many rightwingers, your sense of victimization makes you say absurd things. In the real world, someone who calls Obama articulate could become Obama's vice president.

And also be accused of being a racist (or of at least saying something racist) as I said and you concede.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 7:23 PM
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I say again: Boo-fucking-hoo.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 7-12 7:34 PM
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441

Yes, Joe Biden was asked to reflect on the history of that sort of language. Boo-fucking-hoo for him.

And people wonder why politicians sometimes end up despising their base.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 8-12 5:50 AM
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