The Manufacturing of White Victimhood

Clearly, race-based scholarships pegged to people of color are not based on notions of racial superiority or innate difference. They are predicated only on the notion that there have been real differences in opportunity on the basis of race, and that these opportunity gaps should be remedied to the greatest extent possible. Secondly, such efforts also fail the test of institutional racism. Student of color-scholarships do not perpetuate racial inequity–if anything they would have the effect of reducing it–nor do they prevent whites from enjoying equal opportunity. Indeed, without affirmative action efforts, in admissions and scholarships (and for that matter employment and contracting), whites would enjoy extra and unearned opportunity relative to people of color, thanks to pre-existing advantages to which we were never entitled in the first place. As such, to deny whites access to a miniscule percentage of financial aid awards is not to deny us access to anything to which we were morally entitled. We are “losing out,” if you will, only on something to which we have no moral claim: namely, the ability to keep banking our privileges, and receiving the benefits (be they scholarships, college slots or jobs) of a system that has been skewed in our favor.

Read the whole piece.

Axé.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “The Manufacturing of White Victimhood

  1. Our elite do not oppose Affirmative Action because it squeezes out privileged white kids, though this is what they whine about. Our elite oppose Affirmative Action because they need a lot of poor, uneducated people to make their system work.

  2. The reason that I am of the revolutionary rather than liberal mindset is that I don’t see a consistent argument in relation to the injustice of inequitable treatment on the basis of race of gender. According to the writer, “whites would enjoy extra and unearned opportunity relative to people of color, thanks to pre-existing advantages to which we were never entitled in the first place.” Yet, there has NEVER been any equitable starting point of equal rights, to which we may return. To bring the point home, let me refer to the global economy. If you live in what may be termed “the first world” then you are sucking up the richness of third world minerals and labour, just by existing. An argument can be made that you are not entitled to this, but nonetheless it is what is happening, and what you are doing by being a member of the first world and its economic structures. So another chasm of inequality is evident — and those people of colour who are fighting for their rights are still, to some degree, on the side of privilege (because they have access to first world resources which those in the third world do not have access to.)

    I’m afraid that an argument based on rights leads to what I have articulated above, which is a kind of reductio ad absurdum. I don’t think, then, that you can base an argument on rights. I think that logically it has to be based on revolution.

  3. But even in the discourse of rights, does it not follow that the 1st world does not have the right to the plurality of resources … ? And isn’t equal rights not a goal (in the future) as opposed to a place to return to?

  4. It could be in terms of some kind of left Hegelianism. Yes, I could buy that. However, my impression in relation to the article was that somehow equal rights was related to past injustices, and a need to square these up. In any case, even the Hegelian thing is on speculative (shaky) ground. I much prefer the intellectual elegance of revolution as justification.

  5. Revolution, yes, is more elegant. But revolution to … what? is always the question there.

    Wise (article author) is this U.S. anti-racism speaker and he’s talking about affirmative action, which is a liberal thing. A moderate form of reparations for slavery and its aftermath, basically. But the cant now is that it is unfair to qualified whites if there are scholarships earmarked for underrepresented minorities, etc. And the mythology is that it causes *unqualified* minorities to get scholarships, places in school, jobs – which isn’t the principle. It is very mild really, but still is seen as deviltry.

  6. From me you will always get a kind of outsider opinion, since I am not in the US. In any case, my view is that revolution can have a liberal face, at times, and that doesn’t change its actual nature. I’m not someone who believes in justifications for very much at a purely moral level. Maybe I’m too much of a Nietzschean (although, to me, revolution is not incompatible with a Nietzschean view on morality. The Nietzschean view sees that morality is always superficial in relation to the dynamics of power that underly it. Revolution admits that it is power that changes society, not morality.)

  7. Ah, yes, in the U.S. we are literally steeped in morality and the discourse of rights. It is true though that power underlies, and power is what changes – and we do not like to think of it. This is, as I realized today for other reasons, one of my blind spots.

  8. The reality of power is always before my eyes.

  9. What will things be like after the revolution, I wonder – how should the next revolution be organized, which its goals?

  10. I don’t think there is ever an “after the revolution” in a positive sense. There is always more work to be done. Also the nature of power is to solidify into structures of oppression again. See Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, for instance. The proper sense of revolution is that it is and ought to be perpetual.

  11. Cero

    La révolution permanente – gotcha! :-)

  12. Did you see my first powerpoint slideshow?

  13. Wow, it seems to come in with this address
    but not otherwise. Hm.

  14. I like Tim Wise. He is an important scholar/activist though he may not want to be cast this way.

    I started teaching for the Fall term today. I teach a class I have developed over the last decade simply entitled “Racism”.

    The first month or so is dedicated to theory and methods, etc. But I have also decided to use the rest of the term to evaluate the construct of whiteness.

    Tim Wise and Paula Rothenberg are scholars/activists that have raised the bar on interrogating what it means to be white inside of racism.

    So I introduced one of the texts called “White Privilege: Readings on the Other Side of Racism” and it was well received.

    Even the idea of looking at whiteness as a racialization, etc. They seemed enthusiastic about the course content.

    I expect the issue of Affirmative Action will come to the fore. Also, the relationship that liberal theory has to informing how whiteness layers a worldview.

    What I like Wise is his insistence that there has to be a revolution in the thinking about whiteness. I understand him to mean that it is necessary to confront whiteness and not to hide its assumptions behind a race analysis that primarily problematizes blackness in discussions of race and racism.

    I know that other white academics have called for a revolution in identity that utilizes the concept of race traitors.

    All interesting but oh so demanding of energy.

    In fact, when I walked out of my 3 classes today I could not stop from wanting to book my ticket to South Africa in a hurry.

    Peace,
    Ridwan

  15. J – the slides are really heavy and don’t load! I’m far away and they have to go through lots of wires.

    R – I’m with you on wanting to book a ticket! I should read more Wise.

  16. Yes, I couldn’t get them to load, and then I could, and then I couldn’t. Oh well.

  17. The best thing I’ve ever read on race from the white viewpoint is Robert Jensen’s *The Heart of Whiteness.* I’ve read a lot of Tim Wise too and think he’s great.

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