Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege, by Max Boot

These kinds of testimonies are always helpful since the truth of privilege for the privileged is often more easily heard from a peer, if you will. I discovered this piece titled, "2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege" from Kenneth Bernstein's blog (aka teacherken).  
It is very encouraging to read this piece in the new year as it may signify a social awakening of a kind and to a degree. Indeed, recently, Christian Bale made just such a statement:  "We’d Be Better Off If ‘White Dudes’ Weren’t Running Everything.
Hopefully, this awareness spreads to all corners of our society and the world.  After all, it's a global issue and not just a North American one.
Angela Valenzuela

A terrific piece about white male privilege
written by Max Boot and appearing yesterday in Foreign Policy.  It is titled 2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege and has the subtitle “I used to be a smart-alecky conservative who scoffed at “political correctness.” The Trump era has opened my eyes.”

Boot is an immigrant of Jewish background from Russia, or to be more accurate, from what was then the Soviet Union. He was born in Moscow in 1969, and has been an adviser on foreign policy and similar topics to the likes of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Marco Rubio.  Unlike a lot of those on the Conservative side of our politics, he holds a number of views that might make him comfortable on the liberal side — pro-gay rights, pro-environment, pro-abortion and pro-immigration.   He is fiscally conservative and very much for an active role for the US militarily around the world.

He has been a significant voice as an author and adviser, and has increasingly appeared on MS-NBC as one of the more notable Never Trump conservative voices.

The new Foreign Policy piece is quite open in acknowledging things to which he has previously been oblivious, on matters of race and of gender.
As he write:
A quarter century is enough time to examine deeply held shibboleths and to see if they comport with reality. In my case, I have concluded that my beliefs were based more on faith than on a critical examination of the evidence. In the last few years, in particular, it has become impossible for me to deny the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience in modern-day America from a power structure that remains for the most part in the hands of straight, white males. People like me, in other words. Whether I realize it or not, I have benefitted from my skin color and my gender — and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it.
This sounds obvious, but it wasn’t clear to me until recently. I have had my consciousness raised. Seriously.
Boot provides many examples of how his consciousness has been raised. Let me offer a few of his very pointed comments.
We are seeing pushback by some Trumpistas on how white men are the real victims, to which Boot responds
It is even more pernicious to cling to the conceit, so popular among Donald Trump’s supporters, that straight white men are the “true” victims because their unquestioned position of privilege is now being challenged by uppity women, gay people, and people of color.
On how Police actions that are inappropriate and totally out of control disproportionally affect minorities he writes
I am ashamed to admit I did not realize what a serious and common problem this was until the videotaped evidence emerged. The iPhone may well have done more to expose racism in modern-day America than the NAACP.
He makes clear that the problems of racism are not limited to police, telling us of a friend, “a well-educated, well-paid, well-dressed woman”  who was unwilling to be carrying a pair of jeans she was planning to give to another friend late in the day in her purse when she went into a department store:
Why not? Because she was afraid that she would be accused of shoplifting! This is not something that would occur to me, simply because the same suspicion would not attach to a middle-aged, middle-class white man.
As to the impact of Trump’s election, including on how the police act, Boot offers the following parenthetical remark:
(Far from being concerned about police misconduct, which disproportionately targets people of color, Trump actively encourages it.)
He references the terrific piece in Atlantic by Adam Serwer on Trumpism (about which I wrote in this Daily Kos post) that examines the nature of Trump’s base, then tells us
That doesn’t mean that every Trump supporter is a racist; it does mean that Trump’s victory has revealed that racism and xenophobia are more widespread than I had previously realized.
As to his advantage to being male, he tells us that
As with the revelations of police brutality, so too with sexual harassment: I am embarrassed and ashamed that I did not understand how bad the problem is.
and admits
I now realize something I should have learned long ago: that feminist activists had a fair point when they denounced the “patriarchy” for oppressing women. Sadly, this oppression, while less severe than it used to be, remains a major problem in spite of the impressive strides the U.S. has taken toward greater gender equality.
He brings it home in a concluding paragraph, of which I will only offer the second half:
But I no longer think, as I once did, that “political correctness” is a bigger threat than the underlying racism and sexism that continue to disfigure our society decades after the civil rights and women’s rights movements. If the Trump era teaches us anything, it is how far we still have to go to realize the “unalienable Rights” of all Americans to enjoy “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” regardless of gender, sexuality, religion, or skin color.
I think this is a very thoughtful, very honest, and very powerful piece by Boot.
I urge people to read the entire piece.

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