Alex Runner

Does White Privilege Exist?

A white police officer’s split-second decision to trust me raises questions.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Dec 30th, 2014 11:44 am
Washington Highlands

Washington Highlands

I’m not really comfortable with the term “white privilege,” even though I know that – in some form – it exists throughout American society. To me, it’s just too simplistic. Like most generalizations, it falls short of accurately describing the complex reality of the world. A Caucasian man, for example, might lose his job to a Latina woman and ask himself, “Where is the white privilege for me?”

Well, it’s there. Even when bad things happen to white people.

White privilege doesn’t mean white people get everything they want all the time. They don’t. It doesn’t mean white people don’t get fired from jobs or refused loans from banks. They do. It doesn’t mean there aren’t ultra-successful minorities. There are.

White privilege, to me, refers to a generalized, overarching system of preference. And many times that preference is almost imperceptible. Almost. It often reveals itself in a matter of seconds.

It happens in boardrooms, restaurants, museums and retail stores. A casual dismissal. A rude interruption. The clutch of a purse. A seat in the back. The cold, continuous stare of a security guard. It happens. All the time. But most white people don’t notice these slights – even if we’re the ones making them – because, again, they happen in a matter of seconds. And they aren’t happening to us.

But we notice them when they arise in law enforcement. Because, when it comes to police-citizen interactions, those split-second decisions are the difference between trust and distrust, question and accusation, freedom and incarceration – even life and death.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, we were with some family friends at a house in Washington Highlands in Wauwatosa. All of us had (and still have) young children, who were playing in the backyard on one of those large, inflatable bouncy-houses. One of the boys somehow knocked his head and passed out. We called 911 and took all of the other kids inside. And we prayed. A lot.

If you’ve been to the Highlands neighborhood, you know the driveways are frequently long and narrow into the backyard, and that was the case with this home. A Tosa squad car arrived on the scene and pulled all the way into the backyard. As the police officer stepped out of the vehicle to assist us, I spoke up:

“Excuse me, officer. We’re glad you’re here, but we really need an ambulance to help this young boy. I think you should move your squad car out of the driveway, so the ambulance has access.”

The officer looked at me and made a judgment call in about one second.

“You’re right,” the officer said. “Here, take my keys and move the car to the street. I’ll check on the boy.”

I took the keys, ran over and got in a typical, dark-hued, red-and-white-striped Wauwatosa Police squad car. The dispatch radio blared. A dashboard computer buzzed. I’m pretty sure there was some sort of firearm in between the seats. But without thinking too much, I put the key in the ignition, threw the car in reverse, backed out of the driveway and parked it on the street – just as an ambulance pulled into the backyard and attended to the child.

When I got back to the yard, I handed the keys to the police officer who whispered, “Don’t tell anyone.” (Too late.)

So, you might be asking – What does this have to do with white privilege? Everything. It’s about how we size one another up in society, and skin color – unfortunately – is almost always part of the equation.

If I had been an African-American man, would that officer have handed me the keys to the squad car? Maybe, but no one can tell me that would make no difference at all. That’s just being dishonest. As human beings, we are constantly making evaluations about other people, and everything comes into play.

If I had been black, Latino or Asian, it would have affected how the police officer perceived me. (Maybe not to extent that the officer would distrust me, but it would be there.) In the case of black men, the media often reinforces a negative stereotype – one often found within police departments – so it’s not beyond the pale (literally) to assume the split-second impression could be negative.

It happens all the time.

In the same way, what we wear and how we speak inform a police officer’s judgment. If I had been wearing a tie-dyed shirt, a hemp necklace and giant earlobe discs, I might not have been trusted with the car keys – right or wrong. Or if I had been wearing a puffy coat with a baseball cap cocked to one side. Or a limegreen trench coat. Or a bathrobe. Or a giant clown costume.

Everything about one’s appearance plays into the split-second decisions that police officers have to make, day-in and day-out. The fact that I was a white man in a polo shirt and khakis, surrounded by other similarly dressed Caucasian parents in Washington Highlands, absolutely had an impact on that cop’s decision to trust me so implicitly.

That’s white privilege. That’s the difference between being patted down, antagonized or even cuffed and being handed the keys to a cop car. All in a matter of seconds.

And the sooner we recognize it exists, the sooner we can start having some real conversations about how to get rid of it.


47 thoughts on “Does White Privilege Exist?”

  1. PMD says:

    Recent police shootings (and non-shootings) reinforce the existence of white privilege. We all know about the shootings, but the non-shootings don’t get as much press. Two recent examples that got some attention. There’s the white man in Michigan who was walking the streets with a loaded rifle, waving it around and threatening to shoot people. The police spent an hour talking him down, and he got his gun back the very next day. Just the other day in Tennessee, a white woman in body armor drove around a suburb and actually fired shots out of her car, at other cars and people. She pointed her gun at police but was arrested without injury. Would that have been the case if she were of color?

  2. Rory Bellows says:

    This piece of clickbait would be better suited to the teenagers over at

  3. Andy says:

    I’m going to have to agree… This is a pretty meaningless “article” meant only to garner web traffic. There’s nothing of quality substance to discuss here. Citing individual situations and how they could have gone differently doesn’t do much good because you can find the opposite outcomes in other anecdotes. I could just as easily speculate that a cop would have reacted exactly the same had a black man been in the same situation wearing khakis and a polo… I guess race baiting is all the rage right now.

  4. PMD says:

    More meaningless than an arbitrary top 10 list of the state’s biggest new stories? With police shootings and protests and counter-protests and strong rhetoric from all sides, it doesn’t seem meaningless to discuss the possibility of white privilege or a personal encounter with a police offer. But of course all Andy sees is “race baiting.” Shocker.

  5. Kyle says:

    The author poses the goal of getting rid of incidents like this. Well, this one indiscretion to help attend to a child made news and will probably get traced back to the officer. So he’s probably going to attain his goal and ensure the next child with a head injury get attention a little slower because you just can’t stop white guys in polo shirts from putting everything on the internet.

  6. Andy says:

    Nah, you’re probably right PMD. Every time a cop was nice to me it was because i was white and every time they assumed I had done something wrong was because they forgot i was white.

  7. John G. says:

    @Andy. Pointless article aside, I would be curious to know if you think White Privilege is indeed something that exists or merely race baiting?

  8. PMD says:

    Cause police officers often assume you have done something wrong Andy? That actually happens to you on a regular basis? I’d love to hear about that.

  9. PMD says:

    I also don’t understand why so many white males I know are skeptical or dismissive of the notion of white privilege. Is it just because they never experience discrimination of any kind, that that is so foreign to them and their daily life, white privilege can’t possibly be real?

  10. Kyle says:

    @John G. – The term “White Privilege” has always seemed a bit too universal to me. Statistically, it’s hard to argue against for the population as a whole, but so few of the stories are definitively “white” privilege as opposed to “class” privilege. I would argue that being in Washington Highlands probably has more to do with this incident than the color of his skin. I doubt the cops would have reacted the same way in all areas of the city, even if the people and clothes were exactly the same.

  11. Andy says:

    How can anyone say that “white privilege,” in the context of the broad brush strokes it’s generally painted with, does not exist at all? I just think it’s an overused and over hyped excuse for avoiding a lot of other socioeconomic problems in our society. It’s just way too easy to blame something on race.

    For example, last year I and a black female were in a traffic accident in Wauwatosa. The police officers dealt with me in a professional manner and tended to show a lot more belief in my version of events than the black woman’s story. The woman cried racism and said I was getting off because I was white and she was getting several tickets because she was black.

    If that doesn’t prove white privilege, I don’t know what does.

    However, let me tell you the rest of the story. The accident happened when the woman ran a red arrow and hit me after I started driving on the green. I saw her coming and was at a complete stop in the intersection to avoid the accident. Meanwhile, looking at her passenger she failed to notice me in time and she ran into the front of my car. She briefly pulled over with me but after asking if I was calling the police the woman sped off without giving me her contact information or addressing the accident. I proceeded to follow her at higher speeds to the Mayfair parking lot. It was here that the driver got out and ran into the mall, her passenger got out and started yelling at me for following them and saying I hit them.

    The cops finally showed up and the passenger was yelling at them. The cops found the driver in the mall and she demanded to know why she had to come back outside. She was extremely rude and combative to the cops. As it turns out, the woman had a suspended license, no insurance, and an expired registration on the car. She got tickets for fleeing the scene of an accident, no proof of insurance, and a few other things.

    Somehow this woman believes this all happened because of her race. She doesn’t believe it had anything to do with the decisions she made that day or how she spoke to the officers that responded.

    This is why I’m skeptical when someone cries white privilege. Even if you accept the overly generalized concept, it’s often abused as an excuse and helps perpetuate a culture that doesn’t except all other problems in today’s society. I can’t stop you from assuming you know what I think about the disadvantages African Americans or other minorities have in life and think I live in some kind of cocoon. But as far as anecdotal stories to prove the all encompassing idea of white privilege I’m fine with you believing I’m skeptical and that it’s used too often.

  12. PMD says:

    On its own, two incidents don’t prove the existence of white privilege. But in light of recent police shootings, when I hear that a white woman was actually firing shots in a suburban neighborhood and pointing a gun at the police, or that officers spent an hour calmly talking to a white man who was waiving around a rifle and threatening to shoot people in a busy downtown area, I can’t help but believe that the result would have been different for a person of color. To me they exemplify how white privilege manifests itself in 2014/2015.

  13. PMD says:

    That story is hardly sufficient to doubt the existence of white privilege. Of course some people abuse the term, and maybe it is used too often by some, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It’s so easy for the white guy to be a doubter.

  14. Kyle says:

    PMD, what admission are you hoping for? Statistically, it’s better to be white than black in the US. It’s also better to be rich than poor, and better to be educated than not. Is that what all this is about, because I don’t think that’s really in dispute.

    What is in dispute is the concept that this one thing happened, so it’s clearly evidence of racial preferences. There are far too many other variables to peg a single incident on that. What I personally dislike about the term “white privilege” and the recent trend of considering it shameful to be white is the implied concept that everyone should be dragged down to the lowest level. I thought being treated like a person was a right we were trying to extend to everyone, not a privilege to be taken away.

  15. Andy says:

    Back in my first comment I don’t think I even mentioned “white privilege.” I had issue with the fact that a guy in a affluent neighborhood was allowed to “secretly” move a police car somehow proves institutional racism. I thought it was a poor example of just trying to jump on the race-baiting train for web traffic purposes. You can give all kinds of anecdotal evidence you want, but it’s just that… anecdotal. Should we assume those two cops who didn’t shoot the 6 teenagers who attacked them in Boston somehow prove we live in a post-racial society? Doubt that.

  16. Tom D says:

    It isn’t just black civilians that are misjudged by white cops; black cops are more likely to be shot by white cops than vice versa. I live in the NYC area and can remember at least 2 cases where an off-duty black cop came upon a crime in progress, pulled his gun to stop the crime and was then killed by an on-duty white cop who arrived later. I have never heard of a white cop killed by a cop of any race in similar circumstances.

    I also remember a 3rd case 20 years ago where a black, on-duty, plain-clothes cop, with his gun drawn to make an arrest, was shot and critically wounded by a white, off-duty cop. After the black cop was hit and laying on the ground, the white cop walked up to him and fired three more times at point-blank range into his back. Somehow that cop survived.

  17. East Side says:

    Bravo to Alex and Urban Milwaukee Dial for writing and publishing this article. We need much more of this type of race-aware content in all of Milwaukee’s publications. This article is an example of the reflection on race that direly needs to happen within Milwaukee’s suburban communities. White flight, white fear, white ignorance, and white adults acting like spoiled toddlers continues to stifle our state and murder members of our communities.

  18. PMD says:

    Ugh no one is saying it’s shameful to be white. That sounds like something they’d say on Fox and Friends, right after they claim the president is trying to ban Christmas cookies.

  19. Kyle says:

    You really think no stories on White Privilege make the case that people should be ashamed of benefitting from a system they didn’t create? Oh, this should be a fun set of links to create…

    “My white guilt tends to creep up most when I’m forced to reflect on the power I wield. For instance, I will spend weeks mentally reviewing an incident when one of my staff members bears the brunt of my ignorance or proclivity for dominance. I want them to trust me, I want them to like me, and I anger myself when I learn that I may have done something that makes it more difficult for them to do either. Perhaps even more important to our work are times when my power allows me to make decisions that negatively impact students of color.” – Graig Meyer (Democrat congressman from North Carolina) (Published in A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools)

    Or one of the many posts fed to me family and acquaintances:

  20. PMD says:

    Get a grip Kyle. Seriously. Being aware of the existence of white privilege and how it may impact those around you does not mean one is ashamed of being white. Wishing white privilege didn’t exist is not the same as wishing not to be white. You are really in full-on Fox News Channel mode today.

  21. Kyle says:

    I really made an effort to cite quotes from the left, rather than anything published by Rush or Fox News. I’ve already admitted that certain races have it better in the US than others. I just think the term “white privilege” is being used in practice differently than your dictionary definition of it. There are recent studies that show the term “black” has a more negative connotation than the term “african-american” does. The dictionary definitions are the same, so clearly it’s silly for the research to make a big deal about it. A shame that’s not how the world tends to work.

  22. PMD says:

    People talking about white privilege, how it exists in their life or benefits them, how it impacts the lives of those around them, the damage it can cause, I don’t see any of that as being negative or being evidence of people being ashamed to be white.

  23. Kyle says:

    That’s the best source I’ve read on the concept. If you want to believe that this conversation isn’t doing any of those things, you’re obviously welcome to believe whatever you choose. Any evidence I give you to the contrary is clearly a sign I’m losing my grip, so I’m just going to let it go. Enjoy your bubble.

  24. PMD says:

    I’m the one in the bubble? Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

    Conversations about race and privilege are fraught with peril Kyle. Obviously there are instances of people playing the race card, and I’m sure there is someone out there who just hates being white and wishes they could be anything but. But like I already said, being aware of white privilege and how it benefits you and harms others, and talking about that, does not mean one is ashamed of being white. Hardcore right-wingers are so defensive about this. Somehow people discussing white privilege turns into claims that “liberals are now demanding white people apologize for being white.” Not true.

  25. Andy says:

    Saying white privilege doesn’t exist would be like saying racism doesn’t exist. But it’s unfortunate that the term is used in a sensational manner and as Kyle said, as a shaming mechanism for people who have no other good answers in how to deal with our social programs. PMD, if you don’t believe that, read Kyle’s last link and check out this one:

    From my point of view, the innocent people being killed, raped, robbed, etc are the real tragedies. I get more worked up over the children killed in Milwaukee this year than I do for those who attack cops and get shot. But I guess it’s easier to blame an entire race than it is to try and address an inner city culture at war with itself. A culture that victimizes far more innocent people than any police officer does.

  26. Kyle says:

    Some of the liberals I know are demanding exactly that though. It’s why I’m losing patience with the term. Conversations are all well and good, but it gets old getting beat over the head by the transgressions of others. Isn’t the whole point of this conversation that your personal experiences don’t define what everyone else experiences?

    “And if you are white, and you do not feel at least appalled, outraged, sad and ashamed, then you’re part of the problem.”

  27. Andy says:

    Forgot to mention this… Here is an excellent program that my wife is very passionate about.

    It helps facilitate an understanding between Milwaukee youth and the MPD. It shows the kids why the cops operate the way they do and even gives them a chance to take on the role of the officer and order to experience the challenges of their job. It’s a really great program.

    If the protesters spent nearly as much time giving back to the community and the media spent a fraction of the time spotlighting community programs and initiatives as they have on the police shooting cases, I think Milwaukee would be far better off.

  28. PMD says:

    That sounds like a good program Andy, but how do you know if the protesters spend any time giving back to the community? Did you do background checks on all of them and investigate how each spends their free time? No argument about the media though. They’re always going to highlight shooting cases and downplay (or ignore) the positive going on.

    I don’t read Daily Kos. They’re a little too kooky for me. And come on Andy not all of the police shooting victims “attacked a cop and got shot.” That’s disingenuous. I also don’t know anyone blaming an entire race for the problems. You spew some right-wing nonsense sometimes man.

  29. PMD says:

    I also feel like there are more examples of white privilege than there are of people sensationalizing the term and using it to berate others. And even if that isn’t true, that some nuts sensationalize the term and use it (inappropriately) to shame others doesn’t diminish the existence and persistence of white privilege and racism. I try to ignore those people. It’s one of the reasons I avoid all cable news. They give too much of a platform to people best ignored.

  30. ELH says:

    Wow, what a negative reaction to this article with a few people so vehement about their position that they continue to respond to any comments in agreement! Click bait?I don’t think so. However you may term this phenomenon of white privilege, it is very real. Yes, you can give anecdotes to prove any point but I am quite sure a cop would not have given the keys to move his car to an African American.

    Statistics show what anecdotes don’t, like the study where fake resumes were submitted for jobs for people with the same education and work history (different but equally rated and perceived schools and work places) except with something that indicated that one person was African American, like member of the NAACP or the name. Overwhelmingly, the white person was selected for the interview! There are other studies that have shown this.

    Also, the statistics that show that there is no more drug use among African Americans than among white Americans-surprised? Many people are. Anyway, this is very real. Implicit racism is another term that can describe this. Whether or not we want to admit it (and Wisconsinites are particularly bad at recognizing this) we grew up in a culture with a long history of “stories” and long-disproven “science” that African Americans were sub-human. “Christians” who enslaved African American and our country that didn’t outlaw this practice for centuries needed to believe that African Americans were not as human as European-Americans to justify enslavement other human beings. You may say that this is long ago, but it is only a few generations back.

    The eugenics movement began after the end of slavery and existing in the US, long before it was used in Nazi Germany to justify what they did. The long-lasting effects of these beliefs that seeped in our culture and transformed into other embedded beliefs and actions continued on in Jim Crow laws and the racism African Americans experienced in the north and west when some fled the south. That is why Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the US and the other African American migration cities come after us–not southern cities, by the way. African Americans were not allowed to move out of the neighborhoods they began to inhabit. There was almost complete white flight from the neighborhoods when they did move in and then were severely discriminated against when they wanted to move further afield. Redlining of loans (the movement to correct this in Milwaukee came only 25 years ago). As more European immigrants moved into the US, African Americans could not get the jobs at and near the bottom of the rung, the first jobs typically available to poorer immigrants in this country.

    Only in the last 30 to 40 years has explicit racism not been tolerated in politics and everyday life of Americans. After that “tough on crime” became the buzz word that has been used to discriminate against African Americans resulting in the war on drugs targeting with harsher penalties the cheaper version of drugs like crack but not cocaine. All of these things are well-documented, for those who don’t like anecdotes to prove a point. The science is in, but perhaps you don’t believe in global warming either.

    So, what is the relevance today? Lots of things. Take the test on implicit racism at to see where you rank. Mine showed a strong preference for white people even though I consciously work against racism, am involved in an organization with African American leaders and on and on. This is something that we can not escape in our culture because the conscious and unconscious messages are everywhere. We can’t help what is in our unconscious. There is no need to feel guilty about this but there is a tremendous need to understand it. This is a very scary phenomena when it comes to police officers who may need to make split minute decisions. And its effects are rampant all over contributing to the terrible statistics that keep getting revealed about Wisconsin and Milwaukee, the worst outcomes in the nation for African American children, 30 to 50% unemployment (depending on the source) of African American men in the city, the highest rate of incarceration of African American men in the country (by far).

  31. Black Woman says:

    I grew up with a maid, a housekeeper, private schools, etc. when people speak to me on the phone, they are shocked when they meet me. Until you are in black, Hispanic or Native American skin you will not understand. Asians are thought to be intelligent and they are adopted. They do not fit in this group. You need to read “Black Like Me” or experience it. All of the comments that say there is no “white privilege” are just wrong. This is why you notice you have a very small group discussing.

  32. Andy says:

    If my comments are interpreted to mean that I don’t believe the idea of white privilege as described here doesn’t exist, then I haven’t done a good job of communicating my point. I believe it’s too broad an idea and often used as an excuse to avoid accepting and addressing the problems in our society.

  33. PMD says:

    At the same time, too often people downplay or dismiss it and the ways it contributes to problems in our society. Maybe there’s a way for everyone to meet in the middle.

  34. marchellox says:

    First off i do not believe neither the writer’s nor this Andy person.s story,plz back it up with proof.
    As for racism in our city,may I remind everyone that our city is one of the most segregated cities in our nation,and why is that? Why a white couple working downtown chooses to buy a heavily mortgaged home in suburbs rather than a very affordable home in inner city? lets face it in wisconsin everyone is politically correct unless otherwise behind closed doors,unless you live in inner city (regardless of color of ur skin),you have no clue as to why we have taken it to the streets,blacks and whites alike..This is not just about blacks and whites,this is not just about police brutality or double standards,this is also about Haves and Have-nots,all recent victims of police brutality have poverty in common.
    we r tired of being turned down for employment or getting passed over for promotion based on where we live or color of skin.We r tired of being undeserved or not served by city -hall,police and other city or governmental agencies,we do not want POLICE-RESPONSE-QUOTA ,nor Invisible walls.
    we no longer desire to be used as a cash-cow for police to justify their high wages,they prevent no crime in our neighborhoods,and there is no respect for them,why is it that all other Gov agents r required a college degree for employment but anyone with a GED and hardly any brain is given a badge and a license to kill.
    We do not seek symphony,r not interested in anyone’s skewed,unintelligent point of view nor wish to win anyone’s heart & mind,so save it ! !!

  35. HandyAndy says:

    Just because some people will whip out the racism charge doesn’t mean that racism doesn’t exist.

    We keep hearing this “race card” nonsense. It the race card wasn’t dealt, it wouldn’t have to be played.

    Having an underclass in this country is a stupid luxury that we have to put to an end.

  36. alex kilibrand says:

    “There’s nothing of quality substance to discuss here.”

    Several hundred words and 24 hours later, witnesses observe Andy leaving the scene of the discussion.

  37. Tyrell Track Master says:

    Great article! Sad few comments, but basically terrific one.

  38. Paul says:

    White privilege is just a convenient label for what every other race calls “judgement”. Whether the judgement is good or bad is up to the individual. White’s judging other races is not peculiar to whites. Face it, EVERYBODY judges EVERYBODY. I offer Juan Williams stating that in some situations, he is nervous around other blacks (paraphrased). It’s not because the others are black so much as the “aura” they present. A white person who judges a black person because he’s black is no different than a black person who judges all cops because he was once treated badly by a cop. This comparison seems to be lost on the media and liberal mind because it doesn’t feed the white guild narrative.

    We all judge each other and most of us, no matter what color, sexual orientation, political bent, social standing or team affinity (*1) get that. It is left to the truly guilt ridden to lament the truth.

    (*1 although we all know the Packers are the best sports franchise of all time)

  39. Andy says:

    Alex, I apologize for not responding sooner. I did not realize anyone was so eager for my response. Tell you the truth, despite not seeking sympathy, marchellox’s comments gave me a tremendous sense of sadness. Again, I’m not saying white privilege as generally put forth doesn’t exist, nor racism, or many other challenges. More so, I agree that a HUGE problem is indeed poverty and economic status. This is actually, in my mind, a much bigger problem.

    Poverty and all the challenges it brings is why I believe so strongly in education, parenting, and and creating a culture where our kids believe they can be successful. Real racism exists and that is why it’s so frustrating that it’s so often used as a quick answer to so many of life’s tragedies and challenges.

    The cops are not the enemy, employers are not the enemy, and there is no purpose built anti-minority system built to consciously keep anyone down. Nothing is perfect and we have to continue to try to improve… but how can we do that if we immediately jump to racism as the cause? If the woman I was in the car accident walks away believing the cop really was racist, she’ll just go on to likely to make the same decisions if she finds herself in that situation again. We would all be better people if we could objectively do that, myself included.

    You can disagree with a lot of what I say, and that’s fine. How about we agree on a few items too, though? Education, strong families and mentors, a culture that rewards hard work and and strongly discourages criminal activity. These I think are some basic building blocks that no one can argue with, am I right?

  40. Andy says:

    Sorry, last sentence of second last paragraph, “…if we could objectively do that…” refers to a missing sentence that asked what could change if she could objectively reflect back at the situation.

  41. ELH says:

    Andy, I don’t experience racism “so often used as a quick answer to so many of life’s tragedies and challenges.” I think you are really missing something important here. Most of the allegations of racism I hear are quite real. Of course, there are bad actors of every race but you don’t like anecdotes so don’t let your experience of your car accident blind you to this issue that is really a crisis in this city. Study after study is showing that Milwaukee is really bad in this regard, including being the state with the worst outcomes for African American children. As someone else mentioned, the incarceration rate of black men in this state is the worst in the country and way above the 2nd highest, Oklahoma. The statistics are really bad. You are hearing frustrated and angry cries of racism because so many people, like you I’m afraid, don’t really believe it and if you don’t believe it, you miss it.

    Poverty, of course, is a real issue in our community but racism is a big factor in that, too. And, as Black Woman said, even highly-educated, middle class African Americans are discriminated against–stopped more often by cops, not offered jobs, etc Being rewarded for hard work is great, but being rewarded equally for hard work is essential. Being given a fair chance to work is incredibly important. A record of incarceration makes it very difficult to get a job and the rate of incarceration among black men means it is hard for lots of black men in our community.

    And yes, there has been a purposeful system to keep certain groups down. Please re-read what I wrote above. That doesn’t mean that all of the racism is intentional or conscious. Well-meaning people like you don’t think you are racist. I am white too but I know that I live in a culture with so many deep-seeded racist beliefs that all of us, including me for sure, including African Americans, too, harbor unconsciously racist thoughts, beliefs and reactions.

    I believe most cops are well-intentioned and do not believe they are racist, but they can not help but be so at least on the unconscious level. These issues are not easy to untangle. Explicitly racist laws, implicitly racist ones (that cause more harm in one community than another like the crack v cocaine laws), unconscious racism, etc have led to much higher rate of poverty, which can lead to hopelessness, abuse, alcoholism, which can lead to crime. It goes on and on. But the first step is white folks admitting that this is a huge issue.

  42. Tom D says:

    Today’s NY Times has a very interesting article on this topic.

    In 2003 a study found that job résumés with “white names” (like Brendan) were 50% more likely to result in an interview than identical résumés with “black names” (like Jamal).

    When used iPods were offered on eBay, a photo of a white hand holding the iPod garnered 21% more offers than if a black hand is shown.

  43. ELH says:

    Thanks Tom D. Great article

  44. PMD says:

    Ironically it’s basically the definition of white privilege to basically say “yeah I suppose racism exists and is a problem, but it’s not as big of a problem as poverty and economic status, and people are crying racism rather than accepting responsibility for their actions.” Only a person who has never experienced discrimination would say that. You’re almost reluctantly, begrudgingly admitting that racism is alive and well today, which it absolutely is, just in different ways than 1950. Consider yourself lucky Andy.

    And people protesting, by and large, are not anti-law enforcement, just like most people asking for abusive priests to be removed are not anti-Catholic.

  45. AG - poster formerly known as Andy says:

    So this is what I’m hearing you asking me to say. Since discrimination and racism exists, it’s best to ignore other societal issues and blame it all on racism?

    As stated before, I realize racism and discrimination exist. Tom D’s article points to a lot of study’s that support the notion of modern day discrimination. There’s no dispute there, and it’s important to try to tackle those problems.

    That being said, there’s often a lot of other issues that are completely ignored or no one wants to talk about because it’s not PC or because it might put some responsibility on the person who may or may not be discriminated against.

    The whole point of this article is to jump on the wave of outrage many people are riding after the recent police shooting stories. If we want to discuss Irony, how ironic is it that my desire to look at other societal problems and believe they may contribute more than racism does is dismissed because there’s no way I could have ever experienced discrimination… yet the very article I’m talking about is written by someone of the same demographic and literally uses a story that has nothing to do with race as a basis for his story about race. Somehow his perspective is so much more relevant.

    My point is that if a white man gets a call back for a job 20% of the time and a black man gets a call back 10% of the time (I’m making those numbers up), it doesn’t mean that the 90% of the time he doesn’t get a call back is all about race.

  46. Jackles says:

    It is human nature to subconsciousnly judge people based on their appearance. The only way to ‘fix’ it is for is to change our nature, biologically. This isn’t a problem we can fix unless we can universally change our DNA. We KNOW that we are equal despite skin color, that is the best we can do. People need to accept this fact and stop thinking it is an issue to deal with, because we already know that we are equal.

  47. Lester says:

    Fun fact: You have to possess a serious mental disorder in order to believe in something as blatantly racist as “white privilege”. It’s nothing more than the emperor’s new clothes all over again.

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