White Privilege

This is a follow-up to the Florida Studio Theater discussion about RACE. More to come. See the FST blog site for the entire blog discussion. Several previous blogs mention issue of power and privilege. These interconnected realities are little acknowledged and their history is little understood. Several years ago, in my role at SCOPE, I engaged a local service organization around the topic of race. [The final report was published in 2008 and is available on the SCOPE website at http://www.scopexcel.org. I talked about “white privilege.” The exchange generated anger and objection from many in the crowd.

Let’s spend a minute talking about the historical roots of power and privilege differentials. In 2006 the Anna E. Casey Foundation published a series of reports and tool kits called Race Matters. They submit that “embedded racial inequities” persist as the major impediment to equitable opportunity and results. One example they cite that “set in motion accumulating advantages and disadvantages” relates to the benefits offered to returning service men after WWII. One of these benefits was access to low-interest home loans and down payment waivers. It was offered to every returning serviceman. But, the prevailing restrictive lending practices (not a part of the government program) favored White segregated neighborhoods. So many more White families purchased homes and began the wealth-building that sent children to college.

These policies may never had the word “race” in them but with their roots in the social; policies of the 1930′s and 1940′s and their expansion with the post-WWII loan programs, “we see the fruits of the policy seeds planted over 50 years ago.”

The Race Matters report and tool kit attempts to incorporate these realities in to the way new policies and programs and change might develop. “Today’s policies, programs and practices that fail to appreciate these platform inequities may themselves work to perpetuate – even increase – the harm, often inadvertently.”

Like many at the service club where I referred to “White privilege,” those with power and privilege know their struggles and successes and find it difficult and angering to think they (we) are not totally or at least largely responsible. The starting conditions are just not the same.