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On Privilege

Teodrose, I very much like the tone of this article. In this time of intended division a tone of appeasement is helpful. Especially amongst the Liberals identity politics is so dominant and divisive, that when it is matched with PC-authoritarianism I can understand the emotional reactions of many white people.

But whilst understandable these emotional reactions are not acceptable and are borne out of privilege. In my view this privilege cannot be denied, and for those people it applies to it could well be a mistake to try and deny it.

The issue of privilege has to be placed in context, in the context that we are all being exploited by the 1%, the level of suffering that some poor white people suffer is horrendous - as you point out, Teodrose. Where I live in Thailand there are many MAWPs, older white men coming here to exploit the poverty of younger Thai women; they are usually turned over by the women but refuse to admit it. These men have never looked at their own privilege throughout their lives - at least it appears that way, and have different levels of placing the blame on other races. One such is a white nationalist who is currently raving about the "caravan". He does not follow through on all the analytical consequences of his beliefs, he quite simply sees that black and brown people are taking the jobs - just emotion. One time I said that it was because the 1% are banking all the money, and he was visibly knocked back but his conditioning then kicked back in. Whenever we talk about the 1% we are in absolute agreement but whenever I push that the 1% problem is more important than the race issue he has to go to the toilet or he has business etc.

The issue is why people like me who are born with privilege are willing to change, whilst most are not. Why is it that these MAWPs in Thailand can agree with me about the 1% but are much more willing to blame people of other races than focus on the root causes.

These MAWPs are often small businessmen. In order to survive in business they have had to become very focussed on making a profit competing with others for little work, maybe even competing with multinationals. The white nationalist I mentioned is a workaholic, wants to discuss with me but is always running off to do some work - financially he does not need to work. They are all Trump-supporters yet none are American, I believe that there are plenty of American MAWPs in Thailand who are Trump-voters - I just don't know them.

These people see themselves as self-made men, ignore all the privileges they have had, blame black and brown people to varying degrees, and see those people as taking benefits for doing nothing. The complete stereotyped package.

Politically I want to work with these people, I believe in a Unity Platform. We are all agreed about the 1%, happy to discuss this together - so long as their individualistic egos are not restricted, but they see race as the dominant problem even though they won't always say this. They do not face their own privilege, and do think black and brown people have it better because of perceived benefits.

Trump voters are these same privileged, MAWPs, Trump voters primarily in the $50000-99000. With regards to your article these people are privileged, they are not suffering with poverty. They have earned large amounts of money (middle income) based on affluent societies that have historically exploited. I am British. Throughout my life people including the middle-class family I come from have benefitted from affluence historically based in colonial exploitation. Now those people have irrationally voted for Brexit, economically a very unsound decision. People from my background vote Tory (Republican equivalent) because they believe the Tories are economically sound - conditioning, yet they voted for an economically-unsound Brexit. It does not make sense. To avoid describing these people as privileged is not recognising who they are, it is also hard not to call them racist as that appears to be the motivation for their voting - although MAWPs don't always say.

My own background and upbringing was simply privileged. I had a degree before I started thinking. In my grammar school there was one black boy, and I was scared of him because he was bigger than me and he was always fighting. I now know why, I didn't then and blamed him. Hardship in my life was occasionally being told off by my parents because my reports said I was immature. Privilege. I blamed my parents because we were a bit poorer than the other white middle-class people, but there was no poverty, just less privilege, and I was spoilt. I don't know the people I grew up with any more but I suspect few have faced their own privilege; they would think they achieved what they did by themselves.

These people vote Tory, it's in their DNA. Youthful socialism is OK but when you grow up, get a family and a house then you "know" it makes economic sense to vote Tory - conditioning. Eventually my parents gave up telling me I would grow out of it. I am 66. People my age voted for Brexit, I can't figure. All the people I was around when young, the 60s and 70s - hippy revolutionaries, are all now voting Tory (exaggeration) - according to Brexit demographics. It makes no sense to me.

Do these people need to escape the fact that they are privileged? I think not. The issue is how to make them see that the problem is the 1%, and that together as 99% we need some sort of a Unity Platform that attacks the 1%. What we have been doing for the last 50 years just doesn't work. Even though they have been told about privilege these people don't accept they are privileged, that is the problem they do not know they are privileged because they are white. If they were more aware overall, including aware of their own privilege, it would be better. But the awareness strategies the movement has used have failed. I feel the solution lies elsewhere - a form of spiritual activism.

In my late 20s I attended one of those conferences you referred to, and I left completely shell-shocked. I was a teacher in Brixton (London's Harlem?) - a majority black school, and two nights a week I worked in a Gresham Supplementary Education Scheme run by the black community and designed to give their students a helping hand because of the institutional racism they met in their schools. These were sound enough credentials to attend a conference run by black people on black education - I was invited by the Gresham.

I received no personal hostility whilst there but the hostility towards white people as a whole was tangible, seriously tangible; I think I recall the occasional comment as to what right I had to be there but that could have been just a feeling - nearly 40 years ago now. I listened to ongoing attacks on white people, and my mind kept shouting at me this is unfair, I teach black kids at school, am known for being fair, and I teach at Gresham, I bet half of you are just hot air. I felt like standing up and saying some of this, fortunately I didn't. In a big packed hall there were perhaps 3 other white people - not with me I was there on my own. I remember a woman looking visibly harassed. And a guy stood up, voiced some of my thoughts, and was knocked so far down I felt sorry for him; but I definitely kept my head down.

It took me the rest of the weekend to recover from being shell-shocked but I returned to school on Monday invigorated because I had felt the racism as real, the suffering was tangible, yes there were some hotheads but the conference was real and not hot air.

Once was enough for me but it was unforgettable and motivating. The animosity vitalised me, it might not have had the same effect on the other attendees.

PS I accept your point about the use of terminology reinforcing divisions but I could not apply it more than I have; where I have used such terminology I felt I had to. MAWP is a pejorative term. I am also not sure we are in disagreement as you refer to "poor whites", and MAWPs are not poor. It is my understanding that the problem Trump-voting demographic is $50000-99000 but I can't recall the reference.

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