Anyone twenty or older who has been somewhat awake to global issues has undoubtedly heard of “WMD’s” and knows that the “war on terror” was justified via claims that “terrorist countries” had, or were about to have, weapons of mass destruction. This was revealed to be a lie – a lie even the promulgators of mass deception, the MSM, had to eventually admit. (And, as those with their heads not stuck in the sand of denial must surely realize, the U.S. is more of a “terrorist country” than many of the other places it throws that label at).
Thus, the war-cry of “they have WMD’s” turned out to be a lie – a lie that was vehemently defended by the likes of Bush, Powell, Cheney, Rice – you know, the whole US Empire gang. Yet, this gang denied their wrongdoings for sometime, trying to cover their lying tracks with claims they were misled by misinformation.
Denial seems very popular these days amongst politicians. And, while wealth is not “trickling down” as the republicans and neo-cons keep promising it well, one thing that is definitely trickling down is denial.
One type of denial I come across regularly is WPD – white privilege denial.
WPD sounds like this: “Yeah, I’m white, but I worked REALLY hard to get where I am. I am not successful because I’m white; I’m successful because of my work ethic.”
Or, it sounds like this: “I suffer from racism too. I went to a school where I was one of few white kids and I got picked on all the time.”
Or, it sounds like this, “I am discriminated against as a white person because I can’t get financial aid or scholarships. I don’t get the benefit of affirmative action. ..”(By the way, for a post that debunks myths surrounding affirmative action, see here.)
Or, it sounds like this: “I am not white. I am a mixture of German, Dutch, Scandinavian, and Scottish.” (Hello! What the hell color do you think that is? Mix a bunch of different whites together and what do you get? White!!!) Another one in this vein: “I’m not white, I am Caucasian.” Duh. You and Homer Simpson.
Many white people are very reticent to own up to their white privilege. Many, in fact, get VERY ANGRY when confronted with the claim that their white skin privileges them in NUMEROUS ways.
What these deniers often fail to realize is the concept of intersectionality. They think because they are disadvantaged or oppressed in other ways that this somehow cancels out the white privilege. But, one can have white skin privilege, or be, as I like to call it, a POWP (person of white privilege) and NOT have class privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, etc. Or, as Tim Wise puts it, “None of this means that white folks don’t face challenges. Of course we do, and some of them (based on class, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or other factors) are systemic and institutionalized. But on balance, we can take for granted that we will receive a leg-up on those persons of color with whom we share a nation.”
Or, in other words, regardless of how many other ‘oppressive marks’ one has, white skin is NOT a mark of oppression, but a mark of privilege.
Just how dangerous are these WPD’s? Very!
Like weapons of mass destruction, white privilege deniers are incredibly harmful. They damage the fabric of society. They perpetuate racism, prop-up white privilege, and create animosity within social justice movements. WPD’s keep white privilege in place while simultaneously blaming POC at an individual level for problems that are societally induced and maintained.
WPD’s are those white people that claim racism doesn’t exist while they go about being racists in their daily lives. WPD’s are those white people that always try to change the subject when a critical examination of whiteness takes center stage. WPD’s get offended when you tell them their whiteness is showing. They defend their position in society, their status, their prime place in history with all sorts of excuses, and particularly with claims that they themselves have worked REALLY, REALLY hard for any perks they have. They also love to pull out “I suffer from all the horrible stereotypes about white people” talking points such as “Because I’m white, people think I am rich and stuck up, but it’s just not true,” or, “Because I am white people think I am racist, but I am not. I have a black/Mexican/fill in the blank friend.” Blah, blah, blah.
WPD’s suffer from, as Renee at Womanist Musings calls it, the “Audacity of Whiteness.”
Face it all you WPD’s, if you ever find yourself denying your white privilege or complaining that you are oppressed because you are white, you are acting not only as a WPD but as a WMD – as a weapon of mass destruction. Racism is weapon, and one that undoubtedly takes a massive, destructive toll on society. As a WPD, you are actively attacking the world with your racist weaponry, with your white privilege denial. As Tim Wise notes, “White privilege is, in short, the problem.” (Read his excellent post, “This is your nation on white privilege,” here.)
Yes, white privilege is the problem, and white privilege deniers are a massive weapon that helps to keep this problem in place. If only we heard speeches of the like: “The USA has been found to be harboring WPD’s on a massive scale. Those of us who care about bringing an end to this world threatening fact need to take united action to help these WPD’s overcome their dangerous ways. Join with me, today, to lead our world out of its WPD dependence.”
As I don’t foresee this type of speech coming down the pipes anytime soon, and certainly not from the likes of Sarah Palin (who Sarah Benincasa spoofs as ‘meeting her first black person’ here), those of us who see WPD for what it is need to do our part to eradicate this invasive form of denial. So, POWPs and POC, I encourage you to make this week (and every week) one in which you do whatever you can to get WPD to put down their weapon.
(For a related post I wrote a while back on the social construction of whiteness, see here.)