If you have "no place to go," come here!

"The lowest difficulty setting there is."

Straight white male.

Ha! Quite true!

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Rangoon78's picture
Submitted by Rangoon78 on

*As a 17-year-old orphan, Henri Young steals $5.00 from a grocery store to feed himself and his little sister, both of whom are destitute. He is apprehended by the store clerk, and his sister is sent to an orphanage. Because the store Young robs houses a U.S. Post Office, his crime becomes a federal offense. Young never sees his sister again and is sentenced to Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas. After later being transferred to Alcatraz…

I can't disagree with the premise. As a straight white male born in 1946 , pretty much had it my way. The San Francis o fire department hired me in 1969. A few months later a court case was filed to nullify the hiring on racial discrimination grounds. I thought I competed fairly and won the job. I sure needed it with a second child on the way. Well I kept the job and retired after 30 years. Racial and gender balance was achieved in record time after that with quotas and hiring preference. Those whites who were denied positions in the decades following my hire may feel discriminated against. Sometimes I have touch of survivor guilt.

*Murder in the First (true story)

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

I guess this is where you meant your "Straight white male" link to go. I was half way expecting to be sent to some random post by Digby or Dave Atkins.

Jessica Yogini's picture
Submitted by Jessica Yogini on

In the day of President Barack Obama (D-Sky death robots and Bank of Kleptocracy), how can anyone believe that straight white male status or non-straight-white-male status is a reliable indicator of anything?
Do you seriously think that, for example Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, had a harder time than an average working class straight white guy?
I am sick of this. Completely and utterly. There was a point to this 40 years ago, although even then it made it far easier for the powers that be to destroy the middle-class working class. And on a day-to-day level, this has some value as a very crude yardstick.
But as a meme? It does us far more damage than good.
Are some of the 99% more 99% than others?

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Because your comment makes little sense if you did.

Electing an African American man did not end institutionalized sexism, no more than electing Clinton would have ended endemic sexism.

Denying that straight white men are privileged isn't helping either. Have you looked at the 1%? Mostly straight white men, the fact that there is some ethnic and gender diversity is not cause to celebrate, especially as their representation is in no way proportional.

Submitted by lambert on

In reality, increasingly not. "We're all niggers now," as we used to say on this very blog, back in the day. Except, not. It's one thing to look at (say) our relationships to the means of production, and another thing to look at all those class and cultural markers.

I think it's better to take account of the perception of real difference and find a good way to talk about it, rather than deny it (from whatever ideological perspective).

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

followed your link to a Margaret Kimberley post at the Black Agenda Report which she finished up with the observation that [my emphasis]:

Capitalism has reached its inevitable crisis, but because there is little acknowledgement of this fact, there has been almost no discussion of what that means not only for 300 million Americans but for people around the world.

Instead of getting thorough information about the world’s economy, we are told which celebrities support gay marriage and which do not. There is endless rehashing of faulty assumptions and dubious data alleging that black people are more homophobic than anyone else.

When North Carolinians passed a law which forbade gay marriage in that state the news was disseminated far and wide. Democrats suddenly demanded that the national convention be moved away from the city of Charlotte. Never mind that Charlotte does not have one unionized hotel, an issue which should have sparked outrage yet that went unnoticed among the supposedly pro-labor Democratic party.

This year will be remembered as the year of the non-campaign. Was Romney a teenage bully? Did Obama really ask his kids what they thought of gay marriage? Who knows, and who really cares. (Actually, if Romney was a teen torturer, he proved himself a worthy candidate for the presidency.) We know what Bristol Palin thinks of Obama and we know about the dog atop the Romney family car. Anyone who relies on the corporate media for information won’t know much else, and that is just fine with Obama and Romney. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

If your point here is that, nonetheless, the left in this country should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time I would say that the evidence from the last several decades suggests that that is the stuff of myth.

Submitted by lambert on

... then you need to be able to talk to those pillars using words that they can understand. (And plenty of us, me included, have little pillars of the regime right inside our heads).

The post shows one way to do that. (If the argument is that there's no such thing, any more, as privilege for, oh, people like me, there's plenty of GA experience to refute that.)

If I understand the point you're making, I believe that you are confusing the methods use by the elite to divide us with the methods we use to overcome those divisions. There are two different layers of abstraction, IOW.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

I'm reading through this Robert Helvey piece a little closer this time but, though I haven't finished with it, here's my response to your comment.

The reason why racial civil rights issues, gay marriage, abortion rights, access to contraceptives as a health care right and some other issues rage on and on or pop up for a season before being resolved is because, either, there is no consensus among the monied elite about these matters or because the monied elite doesn't much care about how they are finally resolved. In fact, it's good for the monied elite that these controversies rage because they give the general population a sense that they live in a democracy.

However, there is no ongoing credible challenge to the status quo in matters that the money elite do care about which include tax policy; (we've spent years arguing about less than a nickel's worth of difference between a top tax rate on earned income of 35% or 39.6%), the power of the Fed to determine winners and losers in the economy; national security policy; domestic security policy; government expenditures related to defense, pharma, prisons, and other industries; criminal and civil immunities for corporations (with the Lily Ledbetter legislation, for instance, distracting from the infinitely more vital issue of whether workers can bring a class action wage discrimination suit against employers); the de facto rights and privileges of the wealthy vis-à-vis government; minimum wage levels, government social spending, patent law protections, tariffs and trade deals -- it's a long list. Sometimes when the Democrats are on the outs they'll use one of these issues to rally voters (e.g. their anti-Iraq War pose during the '06 congressional campaign) but once elected they're committed enablers of the monied elite.

There are a lot of people on the left who think in order to take on the crisis of capitalism you have to transform the culture first, not the economy. There's plenty of irony there, that that would be the position of the left, but the more important take away is that that approach will never work. The rank-and-file left falls into this way of thinking because the rank-and-file left, like all ranks-and-files, doesn't do cost benefit analysis very well. They come to be willing to think that every hill is worth dying on. Then there are quite of few careerists on the left who have carved out their own little cottage industries representing minority interests while others keep themselves employed and in the game by becoming perennial champions of nothing but the upcoming electoral prospects of the Democratic party.

None of this is as complicated as a lot of even the sincerest people on the left are making it. For the underclass and the second class to advance the general population has to advance and for that to happen the left has to offer a vision of something other than that of a zero sum game. The American left needs to devote and start confining itself to confronting head on the wealthiest interests and broadest economic issues.

(And to do that, Job #1 is to attack the legitimacy of the corporate media first, each time any issue dear to the monied elite is being addressed before a wide audience -- but now I'm getting into another part of the strategy.)

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

is that using computer gaming references to communicate ideas is a useful rhetorical device in this day and age then I guess I am on an off topic tangent. If, however, your point is that your original link is to a piece of strategically useful commentary and your later post's point is that Occupy should preferentially organize around a "progressive stack" then I think you're reflecting a habit on the left to ignore the fact the United States population is 65% non-Hispanic white and that, ultimately, leftists are going to have to win some elections in order to bring about change.

Submitted by lambert on

I respond well to the linked article because, heck, I'm the whitest of white males (and straight, too). And it is true that my background, especially in reading and writing, privileges me. It's a lot like rent: It's social capital I didn't earn, that I acquired purely by an accident of birth. (With a lot else, it's not all peaches and cream, but that's not the point.)

However, "even" [though I say it] I have a hard time seeing it, since looking up the power curve, I surely do not have much. Looking down the power curve, I've got a ton.

But the phraseology gets my hackles up -- more subtly because it seems essentialist and static (as connotation, not analytically) whereas the gaming metaphor makes it dynamic.

All that said, it's also true that the power curve is getting a lot steeper toward the high end, and a lot flatter toward the low end; people losing their homes is a symptom of this.

The point is to find a way to communicate all this. And as the poster points out, life is not a game...

Jessica Yogini's picture
Submitted by Jessica Yogini on

The article was about how to use a metaphor from computer games as a better way to convince straight white males that they have it easy.
It is not only that electing Obama did not end institutional racism, it is also that Obama has been more effective at suppressing democracy and hurting people in the US and around the world than his white predecessor. Some of this comes from so many of us cutting him slack, partly because he is a Democrat and partly because he is African-American. Some of this is simply because he is intellectually brighter and more effective than his predecessor. But to some degree, the notion that straight white male privilege makes the viewpoints of straight white males less important to listen to, which means at the same time, that other viewpoints are more reliable, helped let Obama get away with evil acts that his predecessor either couldn't have gotten away with or at least would have faced far more protest about.

It is true that if one ignores class, then on average, straight white males are treated better than non-straight-white-males are treated. However, if we call that "privilege", this implies that the solution is for straight white males to be treated like non-straight-white-males. In many case, the exact opposite is true: straight white males are treated closer to the way every human being should be treated and that should be extended to everyone. In some cases, straight white males (and in fewer cases others too), are treated in a way that can not be extended to everyone because it depends on taking advantage of someone else. The term "privilege" obscures this crucial distinction.

Everyone should have the chance to make the most they can out of themselves, in every way. We should all support each other in this. As long as making the most of one's self does not involve taking away someone else's chance to do so, either by forcing them to be a prop in your play or by excluding them altogether from vital aspects of human life.

I believe that from this basic proposition, what is good in the efforts to eliminate all the diminishing isms follows naturally. But it does so in a way that also organically incorporates the question of class. And it focuses on the question of what people do, specifically what they do to us, rather than on the question of what people are. And it does so in a way that builds in a mechanism to check for integrity: "Yes, it is wonderful that you have risen above racism to become president, but it is still not OK for you to murder groups of innocent civilians or destroy the livelihoods of millions for your finance sector friends. Because that is not making the most of yourself. That is making less of others."

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

let me say that their presumed privilege does not exist. We'd have been far better off if they were minorities in terms of access, quotas, etc. (If my extreme liberal bias is in doubt, see archives.) Also, there are programs targeted for girls/women that no longer exist for young men.

There will be a backlash - count on it.

Submitted by ohio on

Facts are cool h/t Melissa at Shakesville for Jim's blog post with actually facts to counter this ridiculous paragraph.

As Jim writes,

“[B]lack males receive [prison] sentences that are approximately 10% longer than comparable white males with those at the top of the sentencing distribution facing even larger disparities.” -Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences, 2012.

“The ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings was 77.0 for full-time, year-round workers in 2009 … African American women earned on average only 61.9 cents for every dollar earned by white men, and Hispanic women earned only 52.9 cents for each dollar earned by white men.” -The Gender Wage Gap: 2009.

Poverty rates in 2009, from Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States (2009).
•For non-Hispanic Whites: 9.4%
•For Asians: 12.5%
•For Blacks: 25.3%

Hate Crimes in 2010, from the U. S. Department of Justice Hate Crime Statistics.
•Race: 69.8% were motivated by anti-black bias, compared to 18.2% that stemmed from anti-white bias.
•Religion: 65.4% were anti-Jewish and 13.2% were anti-Islamic.

At birth, the average life expectancy of a white baby in the United States is four years longer than the average life expectancy of a black baby. -U. S. Census Bureau, Life Expectancy by Sex, Age, and Race: 2008.

“30.4% of Hispanics, 17% of blacks, and 9.9% of whites do not have health insurance.” -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%) … Approximately 1 in 71 men in the United States (1.4%) reported having been raped in his lifetime.” -National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010).

“Nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6%) and 1 in 5 men (22.2%) experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.” -National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010).

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth “are nearly one and a half to seven times more likely than non-LGB youth to have reported attempting suicide.” -Suicide Risk and Prevention for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (2008).

39.3% of white first-time, full-time college students complete a degree within four years, compared to 20.4% of black students, 26.4% of Hispanic students, 42.8% of Asian/Pacific Islander students, and 18.8% for Native American students. -National Center for Education Statistics (2010).

The event dropout rate for white high school students in 2007-2008 was 2.8%, compared to 6.7% for black students, 6.0% for Hispanic, 2.4% for Asian/Pacific Islander, and 7.3% for Native American students. -National Center for Education Statistics.

U.S. population vs. representation in Congress. “In the total population, whites make up 66.0%, Hispanics are 15.1%, Blacks are 12.8%, APIA (Asian and Pacific Islander American) are 5.1%, and AIAN (American Indians and Alaskan Natives) are 1.2%. In Congress, whites make up 85.8%, Hispanics are 5.8%, Blacks are 7.5%, APIA are 1.7%, and AIAN are 0.2%. Men are 49% of the total population, while women are 51%. In Congress, men are 82% and women are 18%.” -Ragini Kathail, Race, Gender, and the US Congress (2009).

There are only four openly gay/lesbian members of Congress (0.7%). -Congress gets 4th openly gay member (2011).

Jesus Christ.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

You cite that:

The ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings was 77.0 for full-time, year-round workers in 2009...

Now then, what exactly do you think this demonstrates? As it happens Bob Somerby was discussing this very statistic recently after Rachel Maddow had raised and argued about it with Alex Castillano on a Sunday show:

...Lisa Sylvester had fact-checked this matter for Wolf Blitzer. Her report was filled with gorilla dust, just as Hartmann’s segment with Maddow would be.

But as Sylvester finished, Blitzer did what an actual journalist should. He insisted that Sylvester address the central question: How much are women underpaid? Here’s what Sylvester said:

BLITZER (4/30/12): And so, the bottom line, though: When men and women have the exact same job, do women still only earn 77 cents on the dollar, if they're doing, working the same amount of hours, have the exact same job, in the exact same field?

SYLVESTER: They have— There is definitely a gap. It is, if you’re looking at. But there are all kinds of other control factors, you know, what college somebody went to, what region of the country. If you're talking salaried workers versus part-time workers, the average for full-time workers, the difference is pay is 77 cents on the dollar.

Now, as you go along, as you control for other factors, even if you control for everything you could possibly imagine, all those things, the college, the hours worked— Men still make more than women, that gap narrows, it's about 5 cents of a difference. But it still is there, it's still real, and the truth is, men make more than women.

Sylvester kept spreading gorilla dust, as she did throughout her report. But when confronted, she finally said it: When you control for relevant factors, the wage gap narrows to about five cents on the dollar....

And moving on, perhaps you can explain exactly how highlighting these matters related to race and gender discrimination is going to lead to an improvement in those areas? I think creating the conditions for broad based prosperity is the key to the advance on any specific social problem front. The Civil Rights successes from the mid fifties through the sixties occurred during boom economic times. The Women's Movement made its great strides in the '70s, less prosperous times but I think the spirit of the preceding economic age still helped that movement along.

jest's picture
Submitted by jest on

I was going to retort, but my typed response quickly became...


Again, thank you for preventing me from showing my ass and getting all medieval on her in public.


wanderindiana's picture
Submitted by wanderindiana on

Let us take into account physical beauty and intelligence and upbringing when having this discussion. I watched a documentary on R. Crumb today, and that dude did not have a easy life. His innate talent and ability to reflect and reflect on the world that surrounded him saved his life, I'd venture to guess.