Race and Privilege: A Reaction to Wilson’s “More Than Just Race”
In an American society where White Male is default and access to opportunity is taken for granted, Wilson rightfully asserts in More than Just Race that People of Color must take precautions whites do not take and indeed rarely recognize that these efforts to maintain societal comfort in their favor are even occurring (p. 1). Because special status and ease of opportunity usually go unrecognized by the privileged, it makes it easy to come up with a myriad of unsystematic reasons why persons of color, unskilled laborers and women in poverty remain unable to climb the class ladder.
There is an intrinsic and quite basic neglect to recognize the value in statistics on social problems when they contain roads to solutions and the opposite problem when they point out glaring inequalities (p. 2). Privilege suggests that 47% of people (low-skilled, low or no income earners, Black men and single women) do not contribute to society and therefor are not eligible for the benefits of a communal society. It does not suggest inequality of income, of resources, of opportunity OR maybe most importantly, it does not suggest equity in societal contributions which is actually the case for the bracket spoken about in Romney’s suggestive quote.
Wilson also points out that, as a society, if we can judge a people by the actions it takes rather than the speeches it makes, we have continually determined that systematic denial of opportunity is in the best interest of those with power. As our workforce and the jobs it contains has become more and more technologically advanced, where internet access is a necessity, a cell phone is the communication utility of need, and even McDonald’s drive-thru employees must have a working knowledge of touch screen applications, our education system continues to deny the poor and persons of color access to skills necessary for even the lowest skilled and lowest paying jobs. By allowing our poor schools to lag in computer and technology education, we begin a course of systematic racism/classism by denying even the lowest ladders to be unqualified for the lowest skilled jobs. This winds up favoring middle and upper class/Caucasian applicants (often summer and part-time student workers with more than adequate other opportunities) who may not have families or other responsibilities to support in the same way that low-skilled persons of color do (p. 8).
Due to such limited opportunities, communities and neighborhoods neglected by government and society must create and engage in underground economies and societal norms that create opportunities in the situation dealt them. These adopted codes of street and shady dealings are required for residents where they are adopted, but these reactions to limited economic and social opportunities wind up being circular, self-perpetuating limitations to upward mobility in the society right outside these communities. Because of this, the privileged outside the community can with clear conscience deny the causes of codes and any society hand in them by victim blaming and repudiation of any personal responsibility on the part of the people who live in disadvantaged communities (p. 21).
The privileged make assumptions based on this victim blaming mentality because they have never 1. Been without adequate transportation or access to it except in rare circumstances that were easily rectified; 2. Been without emergency or discretionary income, even a very small amount, where poor persons of color live paycheck to paycheck and have little opportunity to save. When these opportunities arise, they may be denied access to banking, or find their savings obliterated by even a small emergency; 3. Been without an opportunity to relocate should economy or lack of public services necessitate a move and finally,;4. Been in a situation where attachment to space and place became a real and obvious burden to spatial mobility when moving became necessary (p. 26).
Society focuses on micro causes of poverty and lack of economic and class mobility, exposing the normalcy of privileged thinking. It is only when a macro cause fundamentally changes the life or money situation of the privileged that this class acknowledges as a whole that government, culture or policy may profoundly affect individual lives. Unfortunately, even when this happens (taxes increase, the public demands more economic equity) a disconnect remains between how these changes can affect a micro situation and how huge system norms affect real individual lives of those born without inherent privilege (p. 27).