Thoughts from Second Life on White Privilege, Shame & Responsiblity

France Portnawak (moderate)

Every now and then I write about issues unrelated to the escape that is Second Life. Forgive me, today is one of those days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about White Privilege for a while now, and it’s time for me to try to articulate a few conclusions. What I keep forcing myself to acknowledge is that privilege comes with responsibilities – and I’ve been ignoring them.

Now, I don’t have any secret sources of information, or special analytical abilities, or a magic wand. I also don’t hold myself solely accountable for the state of the world – being white in today’s society breeds arrogance, but I haven’t lost all reason.

I do have a voice though – one of the many things White Privilege (among other advantages) gives me. So I’m going to speak my thoughts as they stand today.

France Portnawak (moderate)

You know what White Privilege doesn’t give me? The ability to truly understand much of the world.

I don’t have the experience of an Indigenous Woman in Canada – knowing, as she does, that she can be beaten, raped, and murdered and her fate will be ignored by all but those who loved her.

It doesn’t give me an understanding of what it must be like to be a young black man in America – knowing that you can be shot in the back for pretty much any reason. From the outside it looks like hunting season is open and you’re the prey. I doubt you were asked for your agreement to that though.

I don’t have the visceral sense of fear and desperation felt by those willing to gamble their lives by trying to escape hell on a small boat, operated by the dregs of humanity, aiming for shores filled with people who don’t care and don’t want you.

France Portnawak (moderate)

White Privilege comes with a cellophane wrapped basket of cringe-worthy attributes that, unfortunately, many of us insist on exercising as rights.

One of the most obvious is the need to tell other people how to fix their problems – problems we haven’t experienced, don’t comprehend and, in far too many cases, have at best enabled. (At worst? We created the situation.)

We can’t get our own sh*t together. How very patronizing of us to calmly explain to everybody else what they should be doing. This is particularly unhelpful when we’re just trying to prevent their problems from impacting us.

France Portnawak (moderate)

There is one responsibility of White Privilege that I believe we have seriously neglected. This would be holding the pasty-faced, entitled individuals we choose to be our standard bearers (and de facto spokespeople) to account.

This would include; a Government Minister or RCMP Commissioner announcing that most Aboriginal Women are murdered by “their own people” (to which the sane response is “So? Their lives matter no matter who takes them.”); talking heads who state “they understand the problem” of inner city residents because they’ve seen it from a train; media outlets who not only allow people to exercise their right to free speech but actually pay them to be loathsome; and every white official, police or government spokesman, rich person, supposed journalist, or academic who points fingers and escapes any blame.

Personally, every time one of these racist, sexist, infernally oblivious @ssholes opens his or her mouth, I’m ashamed. They shame me.

It gets worse when one of them says that “these people” need to take responsibility for themselves. It reminds me that we white people are responsible for the idiots speaking.

France Portnawak (moderate)

I can’t offer anything to the people whose experiences I don’t understand. What can I do is tell the people who represent my race that they’re screwing things up and I won’t take it any more.

It’s time for them to understand they have these positions and power only partly because of the colour of their skin. They hold those positions and power because the rest of us white folk allow them to stand up there and act on our behalf. We can decide to withdraw our support.

If our silence makes us complicit (and it does) then it’s time to speak up. We have the responsibility to call them out when they represent us in a way we don’t condone.

This is my message to them. Stop shaming the rest of us. Stop being a dick. If you can’t get your head out of your @ss long enough to recognize that there’s a problem with you (or us), we’ll replace you with somebody who can. It’s time the world started changing for the better and being white doesn’t mean I should stand for anything less.

France Portnawak (moderate)
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12 Comments

  1. Nothing to add — just “well said”.

    Reply
  2. You could have just said “How very patronizing”, but that would still have been just as patronizing as the rest.

    -ls/cm

    Reply
  3. girlforgetful

     /  April 30, 2015

    You’re assuming there are enough of us who recognize that we enjoy the privilege at other people’s expense, let alone understand what white privilege is. White people can be extremely myopic. Someone said recently to me “What do I get?” in reference to white privilege. It’s not so much about getting as it is about the absence of certain problems that other races experiences. To some people, if it isn’t a problem for them, then the problem doesn’t exist. There are days when I “hate” white people, and I’m one of them!

    Reply
    • there are days I wish I could wear my avatar’s skin :)

      Reply
    • You’re actually admitting that you indulge in racism, to the extent that you hate yourself and others in your ethnic group.

      I wish I could say I feel sorry for you, but racism is a poison that kills everything it touches. I don’t want it, and I do not want to encourage it in any way, in myself or others. I do hope you get over the delusion that hating any group of people can cause good things to happen. It can’t.

      Please stay away from me and my civil rights under the Constitution of the United States of America.

      Reply
      • girlforgetful

         /  May 6, 2015

        You’re absolutely right, hate is destructive and my comment was out of line. It is duly noted that quotation marks around words do not adequately convey sarcasm. I do not truly hate anyone because of race. Also, I promise never to visit your exclusive man-shunning women-only community, out of respect for your request to stay away from your (and also mine!) civil liberties under the constitution and vow to continue to vote only for candidates and laws that promote equal rights and justice for all.

      • Must have missed the quotes that conveyed sarcasm. Also, thanks for staying away from Chenier… it wouldn’t work well for either of us. BTW, is it really too much in a Second Life almost all about men for spaces to exist where women to be without men’s company? I’d feel worse about “shunning men” if my estate owner and I hadn’t had to resort to layered defenses to keep them out of our little corner of Second Life, so we don’t have to continually respond to the single most-asked question in Second Life – “wanna fuck?”

      • girlforgetful

         /  June 23, 2015

        Not if you’re a sexist hypocrite it isn’t, apparently. Quite the sweeping generalizations you make about men in SL, while castigating me for my remarks. And why are you continuing this conversation, anyway, after demanding I stay away from you and your sim (not that I ever contemplated being anywhere near either!)? Oh yea … cognitive dissonance … quite debilitating … “poisonous” even.

      • girlforgetful: I don’t really think it’s “sexist” or “hypocritical” to want to have a little space where women are able to relax and not navigate the maze of “I just want to make friends” from men which leads to a courtship dance that my sisters and I in Chenier just don’t want to take part in. It happened to my love and I as we were sitting together in someone else’s public sim, the IM starting “Hello, my sweet” from a man who was a complete stranger to me. My love and I left that sim because some men don’t take “no” for an answer, and won’t stop bothering you until you block or mute them. So please spare me the “sexist hypocrite” accusation, it’s tired, shopworn, and – a lie.

        As to why I’m continuing this conversation, all you would have had to do to stop hearing from me is not to make absurd accusations about me and other Chenieriennes. I’m just describing your behavior, not name-calling. THAT I leave to YOU.

  4. Blaming white people for the acts of few bad actors (i.e., the psychopath(s) who raped and murdered the aboriginal woman of who you speak – or the mostly black police department in Baltimore who apprehended and transported a man in a manner so that he died of spinal injuries) is just as racist and pernicious as blaming black people for the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson. In all these cases, a few bad actors were responsible for things which didn’t have to happen and shouldn’t have happened.

    Officer Darren Wilson was assaulted for no good reason, and had to fight to retain his weapon from his assailant. Shooting his three-hundred pound, six-foot four assailant was, according even to the most political and least-professional US Justice Department in recent history, legally justified. Darren Wilson is no longer a police officer for the reason that he was tried, not as criminals are, by a jury of their peers, but by a slavering, money-hungry press who falsely convicted him of murder in their viewers’ and readers’ minds to make money.

    If the point of all our work in race relations is to get away FROM racism, why are we running TOWARDS racism with terms like “white privilege”? This is a highly inflammatory term whose only ostensible purpose is to create ill-feeling against one particular ethnic group.

    Our laws work to eliminate the fact behind such things as “white privilege,” but the activists behind the riots in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore have demonstrated they don’t WANT the rule of law if it means that when the police are accused of crimes, they are tried in the courts. They want the rule of the mob, they want lynching, and they want to get their way by destruction – something the mayor of Baltimore encouraged them in by – in her own words –
    “giving them space to destroy.” From there to Hitler’s Kristallnacht is but a short step.

    Reply
  5. Cherie

     /  May 8, 2015

    I only recently came across your blog, and then saw this post. Racism is something very much on my mind lately, especially living in South Africa.

    Want to live in those people’s shoes? Take a trip here and stay in our backwards little country for a while.

    Although apartheid supposedly ended, racism is still abundant and taking a new course. It’s called ‘reverse racism'(which makes no sense, racism is discrimination against any race, not one specific race). Our president can sing songs about killing white people openly, and it’s ok. Companies can advertise that only people of colour can apply for jobs. Bursaries for education are almost non-existent if you are white. I, as a caucasian, that wasn’t even alive during apartheid, have had people refuse to be served by me at my job because I am white. We do not receive the same benefits from the government, we are a minority, and each year things get worse.

    Illegal immigrants are everywhere. They are criminals as soon as they step foot in our country, and yet they are treated better, tons of them selling drugs in the streets, taking jobs when almost half the country is unemployed already, the police doing nothing, while we are sought out, raped, beaten and murdered, as happened to many friends and family of mine. In Joburg, african cops were rounding up white men on small offences and allowing them to be raped in the holding cells.

    No one wants equality it seems, they want to be superior. White privilege? Feel lucky you have that. I just want to be treated like a human being.

    Reply

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