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Xiphias Gladius

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By the way, I DO divide the world into "good guys" and "bad guys". [Aug. 19th, 2010|05:52 pm]
Xiphias Gladius
Just so you know: if you're against the building of an Islamic community center in Downtown Manhattan, you're one of the bad guys.

If you are saying, "well, sure, they have the LEGAL right to do it, but by putting it there, they're just being provocative," then you may not be particularly evil yourself, but you're intimidated by the evil people into being one of their henchmen. People doing completely normal things like building community centers aren't being provocative. The people who you are afraid they will provoke? Those are the bad guys. And if you are saying that they should modify their behaviors to do what the bad guys want, then you are saying that you support the bad guys.

And that means that you're one of the bad guys.

And THAT means that I find you a danger to me, personally. I'm Jewish. Right now, Jews are mostly considered more or less white. But that could change. And the second it does, people will start saying things like, "Well, sure, they COULD build a synagogue there, but wouldn't that just be asking for trouble?"

Everything that people are saying about the downtown Manhattan community center, I just automatically hear people saying that about something that I might want to do someday. If you're against them, then you're against me, and you're also against justice, freedom, and every ideal that this country stands for.

Just so we're clear on that.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: dancing_kiralee
2010-08-24 02:47 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what it was, but I walked out of high school wondering why I was being discriminated against. In college, when I first thought I was gay I thought I'd found Mecca - finally a group that I could belong to and identify with who would protect me... of course it didn't work out that way, and I realized that whatever the source of discrimination, it couldn't have been an identity I wasn't aware of and didn't act on (In fact, it turns out that I'm bi... but I didn't become actively non-straight until I was 36, or 27 at the earliest, if you count poly as non-straight.)

The best language I've found to describe the way in which I was discriminated against is the language of 'white privilege.' I could not depend on being treated like a human being, with rights that should be respected. Instead, others could make a basic assumption that I was an outsider, required to defend and justify not only my actions but my existence.

Of course I can't use that language, without stirring up a racial fire-storm, because I'm light skinned. So mostly I behave, and sit silently in a corner, still wondering all these years later why I walked out of high school feeling the way I did, and unable to acknowledge that when xiphias talks about the possibility of his losing white privilege (in his case because he's Jewish) it resonates with me; like him, I experience white privilege as something that only applies to me provisionally, and which could, and occasionally has, been taken away from me, and something which I fear, and possibly even expect, to lose, not just on a case by case basis, but as a permanent condition.

And I regret that the language is such that I can not use it; and even more that it implies, simply because of the color of my skin, that I'm in a position of safety that doesn't, factually, exist.

Perhaps, xiphias, when you talk about the state of being treated the way a human being ought to be treated, you could call it something besides white privilege? Maybe cromulent privilege, where cromulent would refer to those who belong to, or are assimilated into, the dominant cultural group / gender; but certainly something that acknowledges that attaining such a state in our culture requires more than just racial assimilation.

Kiralee
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2010-08-24 02:59 pm (UTC)
"White" doesn't refer to skin color. Caucasians are, more or less, pink-ish. Physical differences which make people non-white include facial features, hair shapes, eye shape, and so forth -- while lightness of skin IS a factor, as it turns out, it's nowhere near as simple as "white/nonwhite skin" -- see, for instance, the "paper bag parties" that existed in the South, in places with historical racial mixing, but still racist -- sometimes, people would hang a paper bag outside the door -- you must be this light or lighter to come in. Our President is almost light enough to pass that test. . .

To me, this ties into a whole mess of things which end up meaning that "whiteness" is a moving target which may have little to do with skin color. A person who gives off the cultural signals for gayness lacks white privilege -- whether or not said person is white (or, for that matter, gay).
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[User Picture]From: holzman
2010-08-24 07:53 pm (UTC)
A person who gives off the cultural signals for gayness lacks white privilege

A white person who gives off the cultural signals for gayness has white privilege. They may have an impacted heterosexual privilege, but heterosexual privilege is not the same thing as white privilege. Heck, white people who are actually gay have white privilege. Heterosexuals of color have heterosexual privilege but not white privilege. LGBTs of color are oppressed both as LGBTs and as people of color.
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[User Picture]From: poeticalpanther
2010-09-15 08:36 pm (UTC)
Wow, weird disconnect. For some reason, I'd always read your comments as coming from a woman. I apologize for the mental misgendering.

I think perhaps I have another friend who has or had the same icon.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2010-09-15 08:47 pm (UTC)
I certainly don't mind.
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[User Picture]From: poeticalpanther
2010-09-15 09:01 pm (UTC)
Which I'd guessed, and which makes me quite well-inclined to you. There are many men to whom I'd never have made that statement aloud. :)
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[User Picture]From: holzman
2010-08-24 07:59 pm (UTC)
There may well have been some privilege you lacked that led to your experience in high school, but it wasn't white privilege. There's lots of types of privilege, and the all intersect with one another.

I think there's some confusion because there really was a process by which light-skinned Jews became white, meaning that white privilege was extended to them even though there was (and is) still a degree of anti-Semitism operant in society. Today, I have white privilege because law and society code me as white and I lack Christian privilege because I'm of Jewish descent and am there oppressed by anti-Semitism. Between fifty and a hundred years ago, Jews weren't coded white, but regarded as the "lightest of the black."

There was a time when people would literally say, "Jesus wan't a Jew, he was a white man" as if they were mutually exclusive categories.
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[User Picture]From: dancing_kiralee
2010-08-24 09:14 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that when xiphias says:

"I'm Jewish. Right now, Jews are mostly considered more or less white. But that could change. And the second it does, people will start saying things like, 'Well, sure, they COULD build a synagogue there, but wouldn't that just be asking for trouble?'"

And in particular when he says, "But that could change," he's not anticipating the lose of white privilege, but an increase in anti-semitism and / or the importance of Christian privilege. And the fact that light-skinned Jews became white somewhere between fifty and a hundred years ago is largely incidental to that.

In which case he *is* conflating things.

It's OK with me if society uses the terms "white privilege" or "white" along purely racial lines; what's not OK is when it starts treating all privilege as white privilege, and using "white" as a short hand either for "part of the privileged group, possessing power by virtue of birth" or for "free from [all] persecution", although I find the latter much more disturbing than the former.

I also think that some term for "free from all persecution" would be useful. I just don't think "white" is a good term to use, because if it were, it would be confused with the purely racial use of the term, which could lead to all sorts of trouble, not just for people in my situation.

What happened to me in high school is not at all straightforward. To your way of thinking, the experience wasn't universal enough to count as a loss of racial privilege (technically, in some ways, it would have been a lack of black privilege, not a lack of white privilege, since this was an environment and power structure that favored blacks; but I could hardly blame my fellow students for protesting their very real, and concurrent, lack of white privilege in society at large, not even when they took it out on me).

It's not clear to me how universal something has to be to count. As a teenager I lived in an environment, at least the majority of the time, where the dynamics of white privilege were not the same as in the rest of American society; but you're right, in pointing out, that - despite my inability to escape it - it was encapsulated in a society where white privilege was the standard. And that mattered. The question, to me, is how much it mattered.

Kiralee
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[User Picture]From: holzman
2010-08-24 10:19 pm (UTC)
I think that if you used the language of privilege, rather than white privilege, you will not run into the difficulties you fear.

xiphias and I do stand in danger of losing our white privilege, because it's entirely possible that Jews will at some time again be defined as "not-white." Syrians are another example of people who have been white sometimes not white others -- seriously, the Supreme COurt ruled on the question three times in 20 years around the turn of the century.
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[User Picture]From: dancing_kiralee
2010-08-25 12:29 am (UTC)
My problem is that I can't use the language of privilege, as you would use it, because it requires specificity, and I don't know the source of the privilege I lack. As far as I know, there is no universal term, no adjective such that privilege means "free of all persecution;" if there were I could say I lack privilege, but since there isn't, I'm pretty much shut out of the conversation (i.e. silenced).

As for your and xiphias's situation... I'm not arguing that you don't stand in danger of losing white privilege.

I'm arguing that in xiphias's post, above, when he talks about losing accepted-religion privilege, instead of using the correct terminology he calls it white privilege, thus conflating the two.

Why do you think, when he's comparing the (potential) response to a synagogue with the (actual) response to an Islamic center that he is talking about race and not religion?

KIralee

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[User Picture]From: holzman
2010-08-25 06:22 pm (UTC)
My experience is that if you flag that you don't have a word for the source of privilege you lack, that's sufficient specificity.

I think the reason there's no term for "free of all persecution" is that so very few people are free of all persecution. Class, race, skin, sex, sexual orientation, cis-or-trans status, body type, ethnicity, neurotypicality, and ability are only a partial list of the axes along which some people receive privilege at the expense of others.

As for xiphias, I think he's talking about both race and religion because there's an intersection of race and religion going on with regards to which religions get demonized for their violent extremist minorities. No one objects to building Catholic Churches near IRA bombing sites or playgrounds. No one's calling for a "No protestant Church zone" around Dr. Tiller's home. No one's on a mission to find out which Americans funded the IRA and prosecute them. And so on. The fact that the broadly dominant image of "a Muslim" is a person of color has alot to do with that.
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