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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.

[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.

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