Opinion: Thank you for discussing white privilege

The term “white privilege” was not coined to make recent white immigrants ashamed.

  • Thursday, July 16, 2020 10:29am
  • Opinion

Thank you, Alexander Dolitsky, for raising some questions about white privilege and what it means.

There is no doubt that he like many poor white immigrants, struggled, paid dues,worked hard for what they have and contributed much to our country and society.

[Opinion: White privilege in today’s America]

Thank you.

The term “white privilege” was not coined to make recent white immigrants ashamed. It is not a racial slur. It describes a particular historical reality in our country. Another way to look at white privilege is as the flip side of Indigenous and Black un-privilege: The un-privilege of having your land violently stolen, your language and culture devalued and your children kidnapped and sent to boarding schools in order to break the back of your culture. Or the un-privilege of the shelling of Kake, Angoon and Wrangell by the U.S. military in the fall to destroy food supplies so that people would starve in the winter. All distant history, except the un-privilege of the Douglas Indian Village being burned, along with nets and fishing gear, by order of the City of Douglas, in 1962, during your lifetime and mine, while the people were away. Or the un-privilege of enduring centuries of slavery, decades of post-slavery racist terror designed to prevent you from voting. Or living where you want, or thriving economically. Or enduring more recently, mass imprisonment of Black men and ongoing racist police brutality. The end result of all that un-privilege is a vast disparity between white populations on the one hand, and Indigenous and Black populations on the other, in terms of wealth, health status,longevity and political power. That is what “white privilege” describes.

Similarly, Black Lives Matter is not a racist expression that white lives don’t matter, but a statement about the history of our country in which Black lives have been systematically devalued by whites, and by white-controlled economic and political institutions. It is not the other way around.

It is unambiguous, and “All Lives Matter” doesn’t cut it. The path to All Lives Matter lies through Black Lives Matter.

Thank you to Mr. Dolitsky for initiating this discussion.

• Michael Tobin is a retired emergency physician and climate emergency activist. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

More in Opinion

Opinion: A healthy economy will help us defeat the coronavirus

Government should be focused on the emergency before us, put lesser priorities on the back burner.

Are school closures based on science or fear?

If we believe children come first, then fears must be overcome in favor of science and common sense.

Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Opinion: Puzzled by ‘tipping point’ question

Regardless of who wins in November, do you think nastiness and divisiveness will suddenly cease?

Opinion: Not all fishermen support Sullivan

We encourage independent-minded fishermen to support independent candidate Dr. Al Gross.

Opinion: COVID-19, terrorism and the politics of fearmongering

It’s about how quickly the virus spreads after someone unknowingly transmits it.

This undated photo shows members of the Rorem family. (Courtesy Photo / Laura and Larry Rorem)
Opinion: Our experiences with both racism and white privilege

Suburban Detroit 1982: “Mom, my History teacher is prejudice and giving me… Continue reading

Opinion: Past the tipping point

In a recent Empire opinion piece, I asked if the Grand Old… Continue reading

Opinion: Our democratic republic is in jeopardy

The spectacle we’re witnessing in Donald Trump’s continued crackdown against American citizens… Continue reading

Most Read