What does it mean to be white in America?
Today? Yesterday? Historically? Has anything really changed since slavery and colonialism enslaved and dismissed whole peoples the US Constitution defines “all men…” as in “all men are created equal”?
To understand what it means to be born into whiteness and the privilege automatically conferred on us because of that accident of birth, we must examine that privilege in both the choices we’re allowed to make and the assumptions others make about us.
To understand what it means to be white in America is to look honestly and deeply into what whites have done to others in the name of white superiority or white supremacy. And to admit that, in reality, little has changed in the minds of many, probably most white men and women in America requires the exercise of standing outside ourselves, outside our institutions and outside our subtle and/or behavior to really understand how we maintain our privilege.
The concept and the reality of white privilege has been explored in scholarly terms, in sociological treatises and in legal briefs. And, still we exercise that privilege deep inside our personal and collective cultures sometimes consciously, often unconsciously, and it’s the unconscious part that needs shaking loose in order to rid ourselves of the ignorance of our own racism, to be able to admit that even we progressives are afflicted with the ability to exclude others on the basis of color and culture.
White privilege has essentially meant living where we want, when we want and not to be shuffled into the only conclaves and neighborhoods that real estate agents, bankers and government financiers want us to live. And it means having greater influence over most of the means of production and services and governance.
White privilege has for years been the subject of the annual White Privilege Conference coming to Minneapolis-St Paul for the first time. Gathering at the Bloomington Sheraton this coming Wednesday April 13th through Saturday, the 16th and sponsored by the Minnesota Justice Collaborative, the event brings together many scholars and advocates giving greater visibility and deeper understanding of what makes America tick in ways that prevents us from growing into the country we claim to envision in the documents that created this country…after we ripped it violently from its indigenous people.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI talk with the two primary organizers of this conference, themselves devoted to resolving this question of what it means to be white in America.