September 30, 2014

The police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri makes me think of privilege more and more.

How disappointing that so many of us white people “just don’t get it.”

On August 28, 2014, Charles M. Blow wrote in his NYT op-ed: “When one has the luxury of not being forced to compensate for societal oppression based on basic identify, one is in fact privileged in that society.”

Unearned privileges are things like: Race/ethnicity. Gender. Sexual orientation. Class. Physical disability. And so forth.

Privilege doesn’t mean one is evil or bad. And, of course, those with unearned privilege are often allies of those without the privilege. White people marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Heterosexuals fight for marriage equality. Men are feminists who fight for women’s rights.

But Nicholas Kristof writes about “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.” Apparently, “many white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting…in Ferguson.” Kristof notes that “A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race it getting more attention than it deserves.”

I’m flabbergasted. Do white Americans actually think that just because we elected Barack Obama, we live in a post-racial society. I’m not only flabbergasted – I’m really angry. The U.S. is still a racist society. Just read the research.

Kristof pushes back against what he calls “smug white delusion.” Kristof gives details like: The net worth of the average black household is 5.7% of the average white household. American whites own almost 18 times more than blacks – and that’s worse than Apartheid South Africa back in 1970. And all that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The facts are appalling. White privilege is very very very real. Yes, even being poor and white is better than being black in the U.S. of A.

And then there’s the great opportunity of education. Yes, indeed. But as Kristof notes, black kids grow up in broken schools. So this society fails them.

Kristof ends with a starting point for conversation and change: “…[T]hose of us in white American [must] wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress. Yes, the progress is real, but so are the challenges…. [T]he first step is to acknowledge that the central race challenge in America today is not the suffering of whites.”



About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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