Friday, January 29, 2016

White Debt by Eula Biss

Powerful piece.  My only critique is with the Black-White binary (little different from a lot of other accounts these days, unfortunately). A long history of white privilege and racism with respect to other groups like Mexicans, Asians, indigenous people, for example, is not mentioned.  It's excellent on the topic of white privilege itself though.  

Here's a good quote:
I asked myself what the condition of white life might be. I wrote ‘‘complacence’’ on a blank page. Hearing the term ‘‘white supremacist’’ in the wake of that shooting had given me another occasion to wonder whether white supremacists are any more dangerous than regular white people, who tend to enjoy supremacy without believing in it. After staring at ‘‘complacence’’ for quite a long time, I looked it up and discovered that it didn’t mean exactly what I thought it meant. ‘‘A feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements’’ might be an apt description of the dominant white attitude, but that’s more active than what I had in mind. I thought ‘‘complacence’’ meant sitting there in your house, neither smug nor satisfied, just lost in the illusion of ownership. This is an illusion that depends on forgetting the redlining, block busting, racial covenants, contract buying, loan discrimination, housing projects, mass incarceration, predatory lending and deed thefts that have prevented so many black Americans from building wealth the way so many white Americans have, through homeownership. I erased ‘‘complacence’’ and wrote ‘‘complicity.’’ I erased it. ‘‘Debt,’’ I wrote. Then, ‘‘forgotten debt.’’
It's long-ish but well worth the read.


White Debt

Reckoning with what is owed — and what
can never be repaid — for racial privilege.

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