I went stark raving mad after seeing this video posted in a module of my Ethics course at Felician University covering multicultural counseling. Irfan and I have long talks about how upside down things are not only in the media, but in the social sciences where the truth of what one has to say appears to relate more to the color of their skin than what the person actually says.
The effect of the type of “reasoning” engaged in not only in the two paragraphs below, but in the video as well as the article on “white privilege” (just click on the link to see that article) was going to send me to the psych ward on suspicion of homicidal ideation if I did not speak up. So, I felt it best to do so in the interests of everyone’s safety. I didn’t have a lot of time to write this response so it’s rough, but it makes the points I wanted to make in essence. I think Irfan will follow-up with more to say.
So, here’s a couple of paragraphs from the online lecture material that introduce the video and the article on privilege:
Do you assume or judge people? Remember what they say about ASSUMPTION, it makes an ASS out of U and ME (i.e., to assume). As counselors we should NEVER assume. For example, when I am working with a person of color I do not ASSUME (Feel free [and I encourage you to] post about this video in the Lounge) that s/he is African American or Black, and I do not just assume someone with an accent is not American. Our clients are the experts, ASK, ASK, ASK!
Before we move on, check out this video. Warning: this might make you uncomfortable, and that is the point. This is privilege as was defined by Peggy McIntosh in 1988 and is highlighted in this article!! While I do not want to just glance over these issues, these two resources and these four lines in this lecture are, in my opinion, the most important in a counselor’s career. I strongly encourage you all to post in the Lounge and discuss some reactions related to these videos and articles.
Before you read my response below, note that I was asked to provide my internal dialogue on another page, and that this last paragraph specifically encourages students to post their reactions. So, I posted my reactions (see below). In case you can’t tell, I was so fucking angry, I could barely contain myself. I have had it. In New York City, one learns to keep one’s mouth shut about these issues because, typically, if a white person has views like this, one is not listened to, and the finger-pointing and accusations of racism start before anyone has bothered to listen to what you actually have to say, let alone discuss the issue. I am tired of moral relativism, and the notion that this type of thinking “solves” the problem of racism (rather than continuing it and creating an even more dangerous situation). We left New York City for many reasons, one of which was the daily aggression that a blond-haired, blue-eyed white woman experiences living in a minority neighborhood. It’s much safer to go after women, particularly for angry men of color like this who don’t feel threatened by a woman’s ability to fight back. I found this video to be despicable, and to illustrate, simply imagine that the roles were reversed, or that the woman here is not white but Hispanic or black, imagine that the man is white, and the woman black, any number of combinations other than the one you see. What you will see is that it appears rather convenient to now string up white women as if that’s some sort of solution. And, not only that, we are expected to be willing targets of this sort of despicable aggression, hostility, and misogyny.
I guess I could be wrong here like the “dumb bitch” that I am, but I don’t think so.
If Progressives want to understand why they’re giving Trump a very good chance at a second term, perhaps the dumbasses might want to watch this and read what I have to say. But then, they’d have to read, reason, discuss, and stop politicking, I mean pandering, for just a moment or two (like that’s going to happen).
Racism in an Elevator? Really?
I’ll say it right off the bat: I have many problems with how social science in general handles issues of race, culture, and ethnicity, and with how it is currently dominating public discourse and mainstream media. In essence, I find that race trumps sex, and women’s issues have been relegated, so to speak, to the back of the classroom. Our text displays little sensitivity to the reality of patriarchy, and at times, even suggests that we ought to be “sensitive” to patriarchy rather than challenge it. I understand that it is not my job as a counselor to change the values of my client; but it is not necessarily my job to collude with patriarchy anymore than I ought to collude with racism. Yes, this needs to be handled delicately, but I think we are only at the beginning of the work of addressing these topics correctly.
I realize that this is a complex topic, and multi-faceted and multi-layered and there simply is not room here to discuss it in full, but I will simply make a few observations about my reactions to the text, the video, and the article on white privilege.
As a white woman, I found the video “Racism in an Elevator – PSA ‘And Now You Know’” highly offensive and troubling. Not troubling because I’ve ever worried about my purse around a man of color. I have — and this statement is not going to be heard and taken well because it usually isn’t — been more concerned about my safety, at least in the United States and in particular, in two major cities, Los Angeles and New York. In these cities, when I was harassed on the street, and I was harassed often as most women are, it was primarily men of color who harassed me. This has been my experience; in stating this, I ought not to be expected to apologize for being victim to male harassment regardless of the color or culture or ethnicity of the offenders. My wide-hipped, small waisted body type simply did not attract white males.
To illustrate, when I first came to New York, a Dominican man in a bodega “kindly” offered me $3000 to spend the night with him. Honestly, he was being charming and sweet and he was rather enthusiastic, and I do not think he meant to be disrespectful. He was delighting in what he considered to be my beauty, but there was an ugly truth beneath that laughter.
Cultural competency in this context tells women to set aside their concerns about patriarchy and the oppression of women, and to be more concerned with the oppression of the oppressors of women from other countries. In fact, in Chapter Four, we have an example of such when Corey et al. (2019) present the case of Talib (p. 121). Perhaps this case ought to be considered from the perspective of questioning why any woman ought to be “sensitive” to, or perhaps more specifically, to collude with, patriarchal values. This is the problem we have when we assert that values are entirely subjective, and there are no universal truths. There is one I can think of right now, and that is that women have been subjugated from the beginning of time, and throughout the entire world.
As a Canadian woman, I find that my experience is not seen or heard by Americans. I am lumped into a class of white Americans. Americans simply do not understand that Canada does not have the horrific history of slavery that the United States has, and in fact, people escaped slavery by coming to my country. We are proud of that heritage. My personal life has always been diverse; I don’t need a textbook to tell me to have a diverse life. It has always been the case. My first boyfriend was black, and my best friend was Korean. This is not unusual for Canadians as our country embraces different cultures more than the United States ever has.
And yet, because I am white, I am supposed to feel this apologetic and collective “guilt” that Americans feel about their racism when I was not even born in this country. A small portion of Ms. McIntosh’s “I can” statements of privilege apply to me, the statements that can be universally applied to most white women. But, I have experienced poverty, homelessness, hunger, a broken home, and the loss of my entire extended family at ten years of age, both maternal and paternal members. I have experienced disability and isolation for over ten years of my adult life. For two to three years, I could not walk into the public environments Ms. McIntosh refers to. This was not “privilege” by any meaningful definition of the word.
I do not offer up these facts to elicit sympathy, but simply to illustrate why I find the phrase “white privilege” to be a useless concept, and ultimately, I believe it has been harmful not only to white women (who are now targets in the elevator for different reasons). America appears to have forgotten that half of white American women didn’t vote for a racist president. Perhaps they have forgotten themselves in all the confusion. I have more than once been called to account for my “sisters” who voted for Donald Trump. How is this cultural sensitivity? How is this not lumping me into a category of oppressors, a category I adamantly reject? The half of American women that did not vote for Donald Trump appear to have been forgotten. They have fallen into the same category as the “dumb bitch” the “gentleman” in the elevator is referring to, the dumb bitch he’d like to beat to the ground. This is why claiming a “collective guilt” is dangerous, and is only adding to the current climate that is becoming increasingly violent and threatening to us all.
As social scientists, we have to work much harder than this, and we have to be much more nuanced. It’s a start to try to address these issues, I acknowledge this. But we are doing a very poor job of it, and we’re not changing things for the better for anyone.