Kourtney Mitchell: Our Experiences Matter: On White Privilege and Backlash

white-privilege

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

As a radical black male living in the most hegemonic culture to ever exist, I consistently find myself keenly aware of instances in daily life to recognize and critique white supremacy. I have experienced firsthand this culture’s systemic racism. From the racist and sexist police department which harassed and conspired against my mother while she worked for them, to the fairly routine instances of micro-aggressions, racial profiling and predatory business practices all people of color endure in this culture, I have a personal relationship with oppression informing my analysis of racism. So when whites accuse people of color of being unable to let go of the past, they are missing some critical considerations.

Many whites have a difficult time accepting any attempt to redistribute wealth and resources to historically oppressed classes because they fail to see the reality of life as a person of color in this society. And when our stories are silenced, the dominant narrative of this culture can proliferate.

So I want to speak directly to whites who honestly believe society is post-racial and that they are being oppressed. I want you to listen and try to understand if you can.

‎One of white supremacy’s more insidious aspects is that it has perfected the art of double-speak. While it appears you are saying society is post-racial and we are all equal now, and therefore any redistribution of resources to historically oppressed classes is reverse racism, what you are really saying is the comfort and safety which was a result of a historically privileged position in society as leech members of a parasitic class of people is being challenged, and that makes you uncomfortable.

You want to know what I mean with that statement. Dominant classes of people are parasites, because they feed on the oppression of others. Whether or not you realize it, if you are a member of a dominant class, you are benefiting from the oppression of another class.

As a man, I benefit from patriarchy and misogyny. Members of my class of people are leeches, and that makes me a leech as well. It is my responsibility as an aspiring male ally to women to constantly critique my own participation in this culture and to do whatever I can to deconstruct the sexist and misogynistic tendencies I possess from this culture’s indoctrination. That is the minimal task of an ally, and the same applies to whites who wish to ally with people of color to combat racism. You must first admit your complicity in it.

Whiteness is hegemony. To be clear, race does not exist inherently – it is a social construct with no basis in actual biology other than the melanin levels in your skin and its relationship to how your ancestors evolved on their preferred landbase. The creation of race was a direct result of the hegemonic tendency inherent in parasitic classes of people.

“White” is purported to be related to skin color and ancestry, but what is it really? A social class. If race is not actually real, then we must consider more real, tangible indicators of difference and their real effects on the material conditions of our everyday lives. When we search for other indicators, the most glaringly obvious one is privilege and access to resources. By far, without doubt, whites own more land and possessions, earn a higher income, and experience far fewer discriminatory experiences than people of color.

It is important to understand what it means to view racial oppression in the context of class analysis. Whiteness is a class experience, and not based in biological reality. But that does not mean one can just decide to stop being white, just like I cannot decide to stop being a man as long as the dominant culture classes me as a man. As long as you are classed as white, you will continue to benefit from white privilege. This is what allies need to remember.

The identity of persons of color serves the purpose of organizing through common cause. For my culture, black identity is about survival, not about superiority or a desire to exercise power over whites. It is a response to cultural genocide, an example of class consciousness as the starting point in combating oppression. As stated in Racial Formations in the United States:

Whites tend to locate racism in color consciousness and find its absence color-blindness. In so doing, they see the affirmation of difference and racial identity among racially defined minority students as racist. Non-white students, by contrast, see racism as a system of power, and correspondingly argue that blacks, for example, cannot be racist because they lack power.

When people of color are afforded opportunities on the basis of their skin color, this is not racism. It is redistribution of the privilege of access to resources, an attempt to even the playing field that is skewed towards whites.

If you think past racism has no effect on today’s reality, you are in denial. Your ancestors were given a huge head start because they were not enslaved and they did not suffer under white supremacist Jim Crow laws and murderous gangs of thugs in white sheets and hoods. They did not suffer under the tyranny of the White Citizen’s Council, or the 3/5 law, or the Fugitive Slave Law. They did not suffer under the Tuskegee Experiments, the Japanese internment camps, the ghettos and reservations and racist police departments.

To be white in this society is to start ahead, even if you are poor. The poorest white is still privileged in ways the middle class black person is not. Rich, wealthy and affluent blacks are still racially profiled and discriminated against in various ways.

The dominant narrative of this culture – that of the white patriarch – forbids redistribution of resources and privilege, because that would mean the empowerment of historically oppressed classes, affording them a little more ability to even the score. So this culture must adjust the narrative to encourage backlash against resistance to white supremacy, otherwise the narrative of the resistance will proliferate and threaten to turn the tide in our favor. So it convinces privileged members they are being discriminated against, and that they should not consider or listen to or even hear the stories of people of color, because goddess forbid you have your identity challenged for once. You cry reverse racism and deny the presence of the same tendencies of the past because you have never lived in our world.

Of course, redistribution of resources is not the end goal. We must ultimately bring down the capitalist, industrial infrastructure facilitating white supremacist oppression of people of color. We must permanently disable the control mechanisms of the culture – the police, the military and the media – because they all play a role in the subordination of people of color, the theft of their resources and the erasure of their cultures and stories.

A comprehensive anti-racist strategy includes a critique of civilization itself. It recognizes civilization as the interlocking systems of oppression inherent in infinite growth economies. It realizes the colonial, imperialist agenda of empires as being intimately connected to the white supremacist tendency, and as being the stumbling block to real autonomy and self-determination for people of color. And it relates the destruction of the natural world to the destruction of cultural diversity among human populations.

My people are being killed in the streets, incarcerated, enslaved and denigrated, and any analysis avoiding this reality is dishonest and immoral. If we are going to attempt to “speak truth to power,” we had better at least speak the truth, regardless whether or not people are ready to hear it. We do not have time to wait for people to “get it.” We needed militant action a hundred years ago. We are far into complete biotic collapse and continued genocide of non-white cultures. We must act now to rid the planet of this scourge and ensure it never returns.

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Categories: Essays, Kourtney Mitchell, Racism

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13 Comments on “Kourtney Mitchell: Our Experiences Matter: On White Privilege and Backlash”

  1. Burt
    March 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    *stands and applauds*

  2. March 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article.

  3. Bud Nye
    March 6, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    VERY well said, Kourtney! Thanks so much!

  4. Laura
    March 6, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    The Power Elite as a Class have been systematically encouraged to steal from anyone they can subdue, through every possible manner of force they can, to coerce and THEN to falsely blame their frauds diverting their crimes to ‘someone else’ disguised by color, gender, religion, the immigrants, __what ever fill in the blank scape goat characteristic xyz____,
    This fraud was initially made possible with the advent of agriculture, beginning about 10,000 years ago. Agriculture, being stationary, allowed any person to accumulate food stores, that another person was able to steal. Furthermore, when their thefts were discovered, and the obvious questions asked, “who done it” the thieves pointed their fingers at some innocent ____fill in the blank scape goat___ person, and THEN, WE FELL FOR THE THEIVES LIES. Why did we fall for it. Why do we still fall for it. There are more of us then there are of them, and yet we are still suckered day in and day out for centuries.
    I theorize that we are all suffering from WANNA BE syndrome and a bit of STOCKHOLME syndrome.
    Howard ZInn’s “The Peoples History of the US” tells the stories of society after society that have a social systems that facilitate the covert theft of the store housed resources, and subsequently displace blame on the victims of the crimes instead of the true criminals conniving behind the scenes. These societies consistently produce a ‘preditory’ parasitic class of people. Why do the mass of society accept and agree to allowing those few 1% who happen to ‘own’ the land, buildings and machinery, the “means of production” to also automatically own what is produced by the workers. Why do we agree to this. Why do we allow anyone to hoard resources. Why do we perpetuate this extortion. If we are going along with the rule of society that says the owners of production automatically own the produced resources, then why don’t we just become worker owned co-ops instead of corporations with CEO’s. Why don’t the workers only buy from co-ops. Why are we so easily conned and manipulated.
    Manufactured consent.

    Much to consider, thanks for driving the questioning:)

    • March 14, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      Excellent addition. You may enjoy this: http://www.ishmael.org/Education/Writings/The_New_Renaissance.cfm
      “One other key idea survived, however, that is definitely neither benign nor harmless. Far from being benign or harmless, it’s the most dangerous idea in existence. And even more than being the most dangerous idea in existence, it’s the most dangerous thing in existence–more dangerous than all our nuclear armaments, more dangerous than biological warfare, more dangerous than all the pollutants we pump into the air, the water, and the land. “

  5. Dan
    March 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    As a white male I find that white people are equally adept at protecting white people from feeling guilty as they are at continuing oppression. Articles like this are so helpful because they help to take the blinders off of white people who are oblivious to the plight of their fellow citizens. Would love to see a more detailed article with cites backing up the conclusions, not because I doubt them, but because it makes them even more powerful. I also would be interested in learning more about what a white ally should do.

    • Zot Lynn Szurgot
      March 14, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      Why, thank you, Dan. Love your response. i don’t need you, or other whites, to feel guilty. It’s unnecessary, emotional, a waste of energy, and does not necessarily lead to the acts of an ally. Thanks for asking about what allies can do! Please see the second link below for a direct guide.

      “Privilege isn’t about being stupid. It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, or something with a moral or value judgement of any kind attached to it. Having privilege isn’t something you can usually change, but that’s okay, because it’s not something you should be ashamed of, or feel bad about. Being told you have privilege, or that you’re privileged, isn’t an insult. It’s a reminder! The key to privilege isn’t worrying about having it, or trying to deny it, or apologize for it, or get rid of it. It’s just paying attention to it, and knowing what it means for you and the people around you. Having privilege is like having big feet. No one hates you for having big feet! They just want you to remember to be careful where you walk.” from

      https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/

      with its entertaining parable of a gecko, a dog, and a thermostat.

      What does it mean to be an ally? It sure don’t mean feeling guilty. “Allies want to know when they have contributed to the very oppression they oppose.” -Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones

      Thanks again for asking!

  6. Ben Barker
    March 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Dynamite!

  7. Kourtney Mitchell
    March 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    @Dan: Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it. I think a more detailed article with citations is a great idea, and I’ll see what I can do with my fellow members to make that happen.

    I think the most important part of becoming an ally to an oppressed group is to do exactly what you are doing right now – listening and learning. I find that my fellow people of color just want to be heard. We want to tell our stories and we want to know people are hearing us. There are a lot more considerations, but that’s the first step.

  8. March 7, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Reblogged this on lookinbeyondthereal.

  9. Jennifer Kovelan
    March 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Wonderful piece – reminds me a lot of Peggy McIntosh!

    http://www.nymbp.org/reference/WhitePrivilege.pdf

  10. MC Kali
    July 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Fantastic article Kourtney!

    And much gratitude to your mother, too.

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  1. Our Experiences Matter: On White Privilege and Backlash | Deep Green Resistance New York - July 25, 2013

    […] Originally posted by DGR News Service here. […]

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