Why I Don’t Like the Term White Privilege….

But do like the terms institutional racism and inequality.

My views on racial inequality can be summed up here. I realize the argument I’m about to make will be controversial for nearly all black people, and some white people, particularly progressives.

When debating white privilege, a common argument made to debunk the whole notion is that there are many poor and working class white people who are just as unfortunate as poor black people. Although this maybe true, the black poverty rate is 3 times the white poverty rate. But this is beside the point.

The term privilege is problematic because individuals with a certain privilege tend to be unaware of the privilege. As an able bodied person, I’m unaware of the privileges I have such as the lack of accommodations for physically handicapped people in certain areas of society. In the case of poor white people, they are unaware of how privilege extends beyond class. Many have faced similar struggles as poor black people, working minimum or low wage jobs, struggling to make ends meet. Obama in 2008 elucidates their resentment against poor black people who complain:

“In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives…”

The issue here is not that poor whites are unaware of the economic privilege many whites have, but that privilege doesn’t only reflect one’s income. There is real evidence that race alone determines how one is treated in the job market, housing market, and by law enforcement. But this however, even in 2016, isn’t widely known, and especially for poverty stricken white people. This is why terms such as racial inequality and institutional racism are more effective than white privilege. It is a more nuanced way of articulating privilege and generates more discussion about the evidence listed above. The term privilege has an implicitly negative connotation, one feels guilty about having privilege. This explains why it is difficult for economically disadvantaged white people to realize that institutional racism exists. Racism today is not blaring in ones’ face, like the clear segregation of the Jim Crow Era. It is almost impossible to see a whites only sign in modern America. By saying the term white privilege, many imagine laws that explicitly state that white people get a benefit over everyone else. Such laws don’t exist in the 21st century.

Language matters, especially in the current political landscape that is more polarized than ever. The public and politicians alike fiercely oppose the other parties’ views. Partisanship in Washington is becoming an exceedingly dividing force and terms like privilege have proved to be counterproductive in the public sphere. Progressive rhetoric needs to emphasize more how racism operates, rather than alienate their opponents in debates who shut off their ears when they hear the term privilege.

 

Democrats-Even Bernie Sanders-Won’t Stand Up For Middle Class Tax Increases

One of the largest traditional splits between Democrats and Republicans is on taxes. Republicans are always looking to cut taxes and make government smaller, while Democrats stand up for a positive role of government that requires that almost everyone chip in.

For awhile now, this traditional split has been evolving as both parties grow more dishonest. Republicans still want to cut taxes, but promote mythical “dynamic effects” of tax cuts will ultimately stimulate the economy and keep tax cuts revenue neutral. Democrats still want an expensive progressive government, but now say that only rich people’s taxes need to be raised to pay for them.

If Democrats are going to have they’re ideal progressive government, it’s pretty clear that more than just the super-rich are going to need to pay for it. Almost any model of making the U.S deficit sustainable in the long run includes middle class tax increases. And in practice, big Democratic ideas like paid family leave and Obamacare have middle class tax increases built into them.

You’d think that at the very least tax increases on middle earners might be a point of debate within the Democratic party. But even democratic socialist Bernie Sanders has bailed on the idea. In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Sanders pledged that there would be no middle class tax increases besides the $1.61 increase that is part of the FAMILY Act to fund paid family leave.

In today’s political environment, Democrats seem to think it’s too politically toxic to stand up for middle class tax increases. Unfortunately, this means that Democrats are either lying to the American people or sacrificing their vision for bold, progressive governance.