“The fundamental black/white binary endures, even though the category of whiteness or we might say more precisely, a category of nonblackness effectively expands. As before, the black poor remain outside the concept of the American as an “alien race” of “degenerate families.” A multicultural middle class may diversify the suburbs and college campuses, but the face of poor, segregated inner cities remains black. For quite some time, many observers have held that money and interracial sex would solve the race problem, and ,indeed, in some cases, they have. Nonetheless, poverty in a dark skin endures as the opposite of whiteness, driven by an age-old social yearning to characterize the poor as permanently other and inherently inferior.”
There is much confusion about the term white privilege. It seems fairly clear to me that many people assume that white privilege is the same thing as white racism, that white people are somehow choosing to be white racists, or that white privilege implies that all of us white folks are privileged in the narrow sense of the word (i.e., receive special, largely financial, benefits). And if someone fancies him- or herself as progressive or coming from a working class background, these associations can rub them wrong way. It’s an understandable response to a concept that is difficult to understand. But, and speaking here (full disclosure) as a progressive white man with something closer to working class roots, I think it’s worth struggling with this concept in an attempt to really understand what it means, to figure out if it really is little more than a synonym for white racism.
Short answer: no. No, it’s not.
I would like to pose the semi-rhetorical question: why are we so attached to this idea of “self-reliance,” of people overcoming adversity to lift themselves out of poverty (trickle-down economics) rather than the radical notion that I am my brother’s/sister’s keeper and ought to help lift them up, out of sheer, unadulterated compassion?