My commentary here will be brief. I just want to alert you to a current issue/debate going on here in California that can be used to help us increase our ability to see how white privilege often shows up in our public debate.
Having said that, this issue is really not about race at all. It’s about Proposition 8, an initiative passed by California voters that ended the ability of gay and lesbian people to legally marry in this state.
On August 13th , a pair of editorials were published in the LA Times. Links are posted below. They are both short and worth reading.
Lose the Ruling, Attack the Judge
A biased ruling on gay marriage in California
As you can see, neither say anything about white privilege. But, what I’d like to offer here is that there are links between the arguments presented here and the criticisms against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.
Basically, (and I’m probably abbreviating this too much) what I see is that when a group that has long held a position of power (and sees its way of life as the “norm”) fears that there is another group becoming increasingly powerful and thereby potentially 1) receiving increased benefits from the system and 2) creating a cultural shift regarding what is considered “normal”, there is a backlash. This backlash targets the less systemically powerful group as “biased”, as though being part of a “minority” group automatically makes one incapable of rendering an objective and fact-based opinion.
Let’s be clear, though, that the point I am raising is that the group that has long held power assumes that its representatives ARE absolutely neutral and are somehow more capable of generating a reasonable and fair perspective.
Pasted below is a perfectly crafted (in my opinion) satire of this issue as presented on Stephen Colbert’s comedy show in regards to how it plays out in terms of race.
Stephen Colbert’s THE WORD – Neutral Man’s Burden
We should watch out for, and argue against, this problematic tendency whenever it arises. Because regardless of how you feel about this particular issue (gay marriage)…it is all tied up with power and privilege, and the people who are in a position to wield institutional power most often in this country are still both white and straight.