I could have taken the easy way out this week, and put up a quick post about the supposedly racist Pepsi commercial during the Superbowl. Instead, I will jump back into the pool of "white privilege," which was the subject of a post 51 weeks ago.
Let's start with the concept of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSP)(emphasis mine):
Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP), a type of factitious disorder, is a mental illness in which a person acts as if an individual he or she is caring for has a physical or mental illness when the person is not really sick. The adult perpetrator has MSP and directly produces or lies about illness in another person under his or her care, usually a child under 6 years of age. It is considered a form of abuse by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. However, cases have been reported of adult victims. (The term "by proxy" means "through a substitute.")Then, let's meet the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites:
People with MSP have an inner need for the other person (often his or her child) to be seen as ill or injured. It is not done to achieve a concrete benefit, such as financial gain. People with MSP are even willing to have the child or patient undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to get the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill and their families. Factitious disorders are considered mental illnesses because they are associated with severe emotional difficulties.
CARW is a group of white people in the Seattle area working to undo institutional racism and white privilege through education and organizing in white communities and active support of anti-racist, people of color-led organizations. We support the self-determination of people of color, honor their leadership and are held accountable to people of color-led organizations.And then let's apply CARW's Working Definition of White (emphasis mine):
CARW believes that whiteness is an invention that has shifted throughout history. Below is a working definition of what it means to be white in the United States. To be white is to have ancestral origins from Europe and/or experience white privilege and/or experience internalized racial superiority.The concept of white privilege as applied by CARW, an organization of only whites (irony alert), reminds me of the diagnosis of MSP.
Ancestral origins from Europe: Rooted in legacies of European colonialism, the white race was initially created by English-speaking men of wealth in order to consolidate power amongst peoples of European origin. In the context of the United States, many ethnically marginalized European immigrants have come to reap the benefits of whiteness through the process of assimilation (e.g., the Irish and Italians became white over time). More recently, many have argued that Latinas/os and people of “Middle-Eastern” origin are white. CARW does not believe these populations reap the privileges of whiteness in the United States, recognizing that communities of color are racialized in distinct ways in relation to whiteness.
Experience of white privilege: Institutions provide benefits to groups of individuals based on their whiteness. As white people experience white privilege, people of color experience racial oppression. Throughout history, whiteness has been constructed as a means to inequitably distribute resources. Contrary to popular belief, white people do not experience racism (i.e., “reverse racism” or otherwise). While we acknowledge the existence of colorism, which serves to divide communities of color based on skin tone; this “light skin privilege” is not the same as white privilege. Additionally, we respect the self-identification of people of mixed heritage and do not see it as the role of white people to determine if individuals “pass” or “don’t pass” as white. Lastly, whiteness operates differently across gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, religion and other facets of social identity.
Internalized racial superiority: In this culture, white people are socialized to internally believe we are superior to people of color. This internalization is seldom acknowledged or overtly expressed, but is nonetheless present in our thoughts and actions. Whiteness operates as the norm within our society and we often believe we are racially neutral. As anti-racist white people, we see it as part of our work to name and challenge this internal process within all of us. [See also, What It's Like To Be White in Ithaca.]
The white people at CARW seem to have an inner need for racism to appear to exist in other whites, so as to garner attention for being anti-racist whites.
Whether racism actually exists in any quantifiable or verifiable manner doesn't matter. CARW has devised a fluid definition of whiteness and white privilege which cannot be contradicted by evidence. White no longer is a skin color or race, it is a concept.
The more the evidence points away from actual racism based on skin color, the stronger the white privilege argument gets, because failure to recognize racism is one of the hallmarks of white privilege. (See for example What's It's Like To Be White In Ithaca.)
To use the analogy of MSP, it matters not whether the child is sick, what is important is that the child be seen as sick so that the parent can gain the attention and sympathy which accrues to the parents of sick children.
Because the nation never can be cured of its white privilege, the opponents of white privilege never will stop getting the attention they crave as anti-racists.
* * *
And now for some comic relief. Want an example of white privilege in action? How about the treatment of Sarah and Bristol Palin.
According to the self-appointed anti-white privilege commentator below, the Palins had their personal privacy respected whereas people of color in similar circumstances would have been demeaned and subject to ridicule (foul language alert):
Like I said, sick in the head.
White Privilege Conference
Counting Non-White People at Palin Book Signings
I Am Veit
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