Monday, November 8, 2010

Adding and Subtracting my Privilege

**Update** Racism Free Edmonton removed from their website overnight all references to 'white privilege' that were originally posted. A screenshot of the page was saved by Blazing Cat Fur before it could disappear down the memory hole forever.
Trying to keep score is giving me a headache.

I've never thought of myself as a racist. Silly me. Being white is now apparently a hate crime!

When I was a kid, I loved the TV show Star Trek, where it didn't matter if you were green or had pointy ears or could walk through walls, as long as you were part of 'The Federation', you got along fine with everybody. Only those who were greedy, mean, rude or homicidal didn't belong, and I really can't remember if they were brown, pink, blue . ... or just had really big heads.

I don't recall Kirk having to atone for his 'white privilege', he was Captain of the Enterprise because he was the very best they had. Now, there are people who want me to believe that James T. Kirk was only Captain because he was white. Here's a white fella named Tim Wise, giving a lecture on 'The Pathology of White Privilege'. You can watch and judge your own guilt like the uncomfortable white people he's lecturing.

Put yer dukes up, I'm going to battle over the color of my skin. You see, I'm white. Yes, sad but true I'm discovering that the color of my skin is something I'm supposed to be ashamed of. Racism Free Edmonton now wants me to acknowledge my 'white privilege'. I guess that means I'm required now to do some sort of 'white shadow boxing'. They then go several steps further, asking me to make commitments to helping stop this racism that I'm the apparent proximal cause of.

This writers' experience mirrors my own growing up in Calgary in the 60's & 70's. William Belle grew up in a place very much like Calgary. Insular, mono-ethnic, safe, and mostly white. He couldn't help it either, like me, he was just a kid. Like me, his finds it unnerving, abhorent and wholly unacceptable that anyone would judge someone else by the color of their skin.

We see on a daily basis people around the world hating and killing each other because of the way they look, how they act and what they believe in. Some of these fights don't involve any white people at all. Hutus' and Tutsis' hate and kill each other, Serbs and Croats, Sunni and Shiite, Russians and Georgians, gays and straights, muslims and christians . . ... I could go on and on.

So where does this 'white privilege bullshit' come from? I mean, I could be as embarrassed as any other white guy with a job when I see some mullet wearing, tobacco chewing, dog kicking, old piece-of-shit-driving redneck heading on down the street with a hooker and a case of pilsner. But I don't take it personally, 'cause that ain't me. Except for the 'white privilege' part.

If I was to add up all my talents and privileges, and then subtract all my faults and handicaps, I'd probable come out on the plus side of whatever scale we were using. I admit it. Lucky as I was to be born in Canada, that alone would put me far ahead of the rest of the world.

But what exactly are we trying to achieve here? What possible difference is it going to make by these exaggerated efforts to make everything that's really important fair? Who's going to decide in the end when we've achieved this utopian fairness and equality? That guy (or gal) who makes the final decision is probably going to be thought of as a real asshole, by somebody, somewhere, who still doesn't think it's fair.

Alykhan Velshi, director of communications for immigration minister Jason Kenney has denounced the language of 'white privilege' as "jejune, sophomoric, retro class warfare." This fight ain't over, but I sure hope Canada's taxpayer funding for this 'racism free' campaign soon will be.

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