July 20, 2019

White Privilege Is Trending on Twitter

“Prompt Twitter is back at it again. On Saturday, Twitter user @freeyourmindkid asked white people to share “the most outrageous thing that you’ve gotten away with as a white person that you know damn well a black or brown person would have never gotten away with?” and asked respondents to tag their stories with #MyWhitePrivilege. The tweet went viral, trending over the weekend and garnering almost 10,000 replies as of the time of writing. A fair amount of the replies were of the conservative troll variety: “Faking a hate crime on the national stage to frame 63 million people of being racist. …oh, wait #JussieSmollette [sic] #MyWhitePrivilege is to be accused of crimes I didn’t commit & hatred I do not possess, to have my wages decreased by mass immigration while I pay all the bills.” But most seem to be sincere acknowledgments of the various benefits afforded to white people. A particularly large subset of the tweets involved some sort of encounter with the criminal justice system where, as most encounters with the police should go, no one was hurt or assumed guilty by virtue of existing. Some touched on the disparities in the health care system, where black patients’ pain is taken less seriously than their white counterparts. All were infuriating in that very specific way that structural racism always is.

And yet as I scrolled through the hashtag, all I could think was the same thing I think whenever presented with earnest admissions of white privilege: Who is this exercise for? The question is not to undermine the fact that thousands of white people apparently recognize the ways in which privilege operates in their day-to-day life. That is, unfortunately, no small feat. At its best, this sort of acknowledgement by the privileged can do more than say, a black person explaining ad nauseum why saying there are a “few bad apples” in the police force is reductive. At its worst, though, it can feel like a performance of self-flagellation in an effort to get ~ good ally ~ points from people of color.

The difference, ultimately, comes down to whom these stories are being told, and on Twitter, that’s hard to parse. It’s possible that the responses indexed under #MyWhitePrivilege are of the former variety, the digital equivalent of the conversations these white people are having with the other white people in their life about structural inequality, in which case, kudos. Not being privy to those conversations myself (for good reason), I can say that when I encounter these sort of admissions in real life, they are mostly in the latter category. And there is little more irritating than being on the receiving end of a story of how a self-avowed liberal white person got away with shoplifting or speeding or what have you. What am I to gain by knowing this? These stories, unprompted and told in person, feel more often like self-congratulatory disclosures designed to signal that the white person telling it is down for the anti-racist cause. Or an effort to get me to absolve them of their white guilt because they’re one of the “good ones.””

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."

"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."

"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."

"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."

"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."

"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."

"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."

"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."

"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."

"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."