Archive for white skin privilege

The Word That Cannot Be Spoken (in white company)

Posted in White Supremacy with tags , , , , on January 19, 2010 by marcg

Since the candidacy of now US president, Barack Obama, there has been a reinvigorated US discussion on race. This conversation happens in all kinds of ways. Today’s New York Times has op-ed columnist Shankar Vedantam trying on the newest wig, Colorism. Vedantam cites numerous examples of how skin color prejudice. He references the prison system, hiring practices, electoral campaigns, Harry Reid’s recent exposure of having committed a rhetorical faux pas. He cites the health consequences of Mexican-American women poisoned using skin lighteners. He calls all of this colorism placing the focus on how some humans are punished for having dark skin.

Shankar Vedantam can’t use the terms white supremacy or white skin privilege although they are clearly the subjects of his article. Vedantam, a Niemen fellow at Harvard University likely knows what white supremacy and white skin privilege are. He just can’t write them. In the end, that says more to me than any of the facts or pieces of evidence in his article. We are left trying to unravel this maze of oppression and suffering inflicted on some and unearned privileges and rewards gifted to others without the linguistic benefit of being able to say what we are actually talking about: the historical advantage of humans of European descent. Gained militarily and sustained with centuries of military, economic, biological and psychological warfare.

Discussing the effects and results of centuries of racial oppression in terms that obscure the realities of the problem is not a step forward. Terms like colorism and multiculturalism operate mostly in the service of confusing the discussion and any efforts to move from discussion to action. This false conversation on race serves as a distraction and obfuscation while allowing whites and lighter-skinned elites of various ethnicity who are accepted as honorary whites, to feel as if they are working in service of progressive politics when they are really just defending white supremacy and skin privilege at a moment when rapidly shifting demographics and economic disaster has the future of the West’s global dominance in serious question.

It isn’t that no one is directly indicting the systems of white supremacy and white skin privilege. It just can’t be done within liberal institutions like the New York Times and Harvard University, white company.

Vedantam and other social and pundits present quite a challenge. To dismantle centuries long reign of white supremacy and white skin privilege without mentioning them. A plan built to fail.

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