When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression

Epic Clay Shirky tweetstorm, well worth reading:

https://storify.com/davechensky/clay-shirky-on-not-getting-complacent (link dead)

Hell, I’ll manually copy paste it into paragraph form here so more people get to read it. (p.s. Clay you should know better than this Tweetstorm bullshit, which is interfering with the dissemination of an important message, so I resent it!)

I want to say something to my liberal white friends: Trump talked a lot of shit last night, but not one word of “I am your voice!” was a lie. Trump IS the voice of angry whites. He wasn’t on stage because he has unusual views. He was on stage because he has the usual ones, loudly.

He is the voice of whites who want their neighbors deported if they speak Spanish. He is the voice of whites terrorized by seeing a hijab. He is the voice of people who think legal & cultural privileges for white conservative Protestants are God’s plan, not a bias to be overcome. He is the voice of people who hear ‘hard-working’ as a synonym for ‘white.’ He is the voice of people who think black lives matter less. He speaks for millions.

During the speech, a lot of white liberals in my timeline - people like me - were reacting in disbelief. We can’t afford disbelief, not now. So, believe this: Trump could win. We can help stop him, but that means giving up on a lot of comfortable illusions. The hardest illusion to give up is the majority illusion, where we confuse our neighborhood with the world. Elections are a harsh corrective to thinking everyone agrees with you. Winning isn’t about policy, or passion. It’s about headcount. Liberals cluster, in cities and in states. My home state, Missouri, has gone from purple to red because enough liberals left. Meanwhile, California’s high-margin vote for Clinton will be wasted, because the election hinges on Ohio and Pennsylvania and Virginia.

I’m a white guy, so I’m an imperfect vehicle for this message. Follow @docrocktex26 and @jbouie, who serve hot coffee on this stuff all day. But I can remind other white people, as an insider, that the amount of white rage available for political use in America remains enormous.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

White liberals should know headcount is against us. In our communities, we’re a comfortable majority. In the US, we’re a permanent minority. Most whites vote against Democratic presidential candidates, and have done in every election since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. When Democrats committed to reducing whites’ ability to lord it over blacks, it cost the party the white vote for two generations. So far. The liberal cause has been saved by African-Americans, who are populous and disciplined and consistent enough voters to overcome white rage. Unlike President Obama’s campaigns, though, whites can’t coast on minority Get Out The Vote work in 2016, not with VoterID laws in 33 states

Trump can win, if he can whip up white rage unchallenged, if enough women vote for him, and if Red states suppress black and Hispanic votes. Trump can win, if he concentrates on white fear. That’s how you get white evangelicals to pick a libertine agnostic over a liberal Christian.

So what’s a white liberal to do? First, realize we are a minority, and we have to campaign like one. Donate to the campaign, for starters. Yes, yes, Clinton’s not as liberal as we’d like, but minorities never get the luxury of demanding a perfect candidate. Just give. Talk with pro-Trump relatives, because they won’t listen to people who aren’t white. (Statistically, they won’t know any they care about.) Donate to fight voter suppression. In November, call voters, or better, get to a swing state and knock on doors. Get to poorer communities and drive people to the polls.

Trump has promised 40% of the country what they’ve always wanted: a racist welfare state. If he persuades 1 additional voter in 10, he wins. Seeing my timeline during the convention last night made me despair. We’ve brought fact-checkers to a culture war. Time to get serious.

This statement, near the middle, struck me as quite profound:

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression

I haven’t been able to articulate the uneasiness some people experience around this topic, and that quote sure sums it up perfectly. Even worse when it’s an invisible (to you!) set of advantages, so you kind of have to take the blinders off, or acknowledge a whole bunch of other people’s perspectives – who you may or may not have much in common with – before you can internalize it.

Hard things are hard.

But I posit that the pervasive smartphone + facebook era* has had a profound media effect, almost as strong as the effect televising the racial violence in Selma had on the nation 50 years ago. It lets people virtually experience the lower level day-to-day casual racism that still exists, but was largely invisible… and certainly never televised en masse, as it wasn’t mass media newsworthy.

* by that I mean cheap, fast, powerful, video-capable smartphones circa 2012 onward, plus easy publishing of videos right from your smartphone to the world… so … recent!


I heard Joy Reid say this on MSNBC after the convention ended last night, although I’m not sure who first coined the thought. I think it’s a perfect sentiment that explains so much.


I have to admit, I favor Gary Johnson, but without enough support, that vote is wasted… I tried to endure the RNC with an open mind, but in the end, it was only Ted Cruz’s comments echoing in my head… “vote your conscience”

Probably cost him his political career.


I donate to the ACLU, but time to set up a recurring monthly donation


When Democrats stop bombing brown people overseas, and stop managing coups in South America and the ME–as Hillary did in Honduras just a few years ago, for Christ’s sake–then I’ll consider listening. Until then, liberal demigod MLK (who was antiwar and socialist, a hell of a lot more radical than liberals) said it best, and I’m paraphrasing: the greatest threat to freedom today is the white moderate. More of the same is not a solution to the rise of Trump. He, and others like him, merely verbalize the monotonous violence that has always been, from day one, the status quo of Democratic policy.


I’ve had some experiences that touch on this - conceptually.

I was once held at gunpoint by two cops who were crouched behind the doors of their cruiser (so all I could see of them was their guns and from the eyes up) - and this was the beginning of the interaction (point of clarification, it was a beat-up car ie: Sandlers POS &, IIRC, I had a green Mohawk at the time, that or long blue dreads (I forget, it changed frequently back then) - and it was the early 90’s, so not as common as today), I heard a “tweat” of a siren followed by a stern “Turn around slowly and keep your hands where we can see them”, I was questioned as to WTF I was doing (I had expired out-of-state plates, but they were in the expiry month, so still valid in both the state they were issued and the state I was in) and when I said I was waiting by the phone booth as I received a text on my pager I was then questioned while they still hid behind their doors with the guns. When I was asked if I had any tattoos (by way of identifying me) I said yes and they made me show them (from a good 10+ feet away) so I had to take my shirt of slowly. I then said I had one on my leg but I can’t get to it with out taking my pants off, so they told me to take them off - yes, I was quite literally de-pantsed(?) at gunpoint by LEO’s in the parking lot of a 7/11.

VS This:
In the early naughties a friend and I started an InfoSec company and for a while it was doing quite well (sadly Fanny & Freddy were our anchor clients and when they wen’t tits up so did we) and I had the opportunity to buy my dream car - a seven series BMW. Anyway, while driving that, I’ve never had more polite and easy going interactions with LEO’s in my life - even once, haha, with expired tags they let me go with a warning saying “people who can drive a car like this are always good for it”. The closest I got to even a frown was the time a LEO notice a mandible around my gear-stick, and with a bit of hesitation in her voice she asked me - again, incredibly politely, WTF that was. I said it was a talisman (which it is) that is a casting of a human jaw bone - it isn’t actual bone. And with that, case closed, thank you sir.

I think of things like this along the lines of how I often get treated differently by everyone I encounter when I’m wearing a tank-top vs. business casual. With the t-top, my ink shows, but without I pass as a “norm”. This is something I can “cover up”, but I imagine the prestigious prejudice people encounter as that which they cannot “cover up” (nor should any of us have to) - like when I was a child and first moved to the States and had to ask my Dad what a Limey was, what an Anglophobe was, why I was bullied for the way I talked and where I was born… but again, not the same because I learned how to mask my accent. Not that I should have had to.

I’m rambling, sorry, my head is totes :head_bandage: - please feel free to disregard the above.


I’ve had very much the same experience. Even a white guy in a beat-up car is a cop magnet - moreso in a rich neighborhood. Buying something newer lets me get away with a lot.


I don’t take it for granted that I’m a political minority. I’m reminded of that fact daily. I’m reminded of it when, even though I mostly keep my opinions to myself, attending things like diversity and LGBT issues training for the workplace, as well as acknowledging Hanukkah as a holiday deserving of recognition have made some coworkers openly hostile to me.

But I also realize being white puts me in a strong majority, and I’m grateful to the Internet for allowing me to think about what that means and what privileges it grants. I’ll never really understand the experiences of minorities but I can get some sense of what people not like me go through.

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

I’ll say, in all honesty, that I’d like to know what that oppression feels like. As a white male I hope I can find ways to use the privileged status I have to lose that privilege.

ETA: Thank you for sharing that post.


Happened to my husband. He used to have a 10 year old 4-door Nissan Sentra. He was pulled over for “failing” to signal even though he did. He said that the policeman looked startled when walked up to his window. (He’s a white dude with glasses and he was wearing khakis and a buttoned-down dress shirt.)

The startled look bothered him more than the ticket. He always suspected that DWB and DWH attracts the bigoted cops in SoCal, so this was confirmation for him.

I didn’t know that a bland Nissan was a cop magnet car, but maybe because it’s it was really inexpensive?


Long but it addresses the point. I know that as a white male there are things I don’t have to worry about. That bugs me cause I believe that a person’s skin color shouldn’t matter in how they are treated. Unfortunately, the rise of Herr Dumpf shows just how far this country has to go before all people are equal.

One more thing, if you see trolls in the comment thread, feel free to ignore them!


He makes a great point about privilege and equality, but I think his overall message is seriously misguided. He claims that white liberals need to give up their illusions and biases, but only the ones that allow them to carry on with their other prejudices. I’m a conservative Protestant from the south and while I’m not voting for Trump (Rubio was my guy - not voting for Hillary either) I know many people that are. And of all the people I know who are voting for Trump there is not a single one of them who think that Spanish speaking people should be deported. There is not a single one of them who thinks that people wearing Hijabs are terrorists. There is not a single one of them who would say a black life is worth less than others.

The fact that he applies these stereotypes to ‘millions’ of people just shows that he is a victim of the very ‘majority illusion’ he is trying to dis-spell. (And to be honest Jeff, it sounds like you are too.) I’m not saying people like this don’t exist, they do. People also exist who think high wage earners should pay 90% tax rates and people exist who think that California should be owned by Mexico. There are fringe people everywhere.

I don’t think that many would disagree with me that we have two less than optimal choices this election. People are going to vote for Trump because they don’t like Hillary and people will vote for Trump because they like his message. But I think there is another reason people will vote for Trump - people are tired of hearing that because they don’t toe the Liberal line they are homophobic-xenophobic-racist-sexist-bigots. Wanting to enforce existing immigration laws and wanting to prevent illegal movement across US borders does not equal wanting to deport Spanish speaking neighbors. Wanting tighter measures to ensure that immigrants being imported into this country aren’t extremists does not equal fear of the Hijab or thinking that all Muslims are terrorists.

Assuming that because someone (or millions in this case) is of a certain political or religious persuasion they must hate Hispanics or homosexuals is no different than assuming that because someone is Muslim they must be a terrorist. It’s two sides of the same awful coin and in this case Clay is showing his spots.


But that’s only “all” the people whom you personally know.

That doesn’t mean that there are not any people who feel like that out there. (There are, I’m directly related to more than a few.)

Regardless that it’s not a whopping 100%, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a problem.

There are few absolutes in life outside of mathematics, (and sometimes, not even then) but this entire election cycle has brought some of the ugliest and most inhumane aspects of our society’s collective psyche to the forefront.


They certainly won’t say it, probably don’t even recognize that they believe it.

I know that conservatives don’t like being called homophobic-xenophobic-racist-sexist-bigots when they support homophobic-xenophobic-racist-sexist-bigoted positions, but what you’re really asking if for people to not say uncomfortable truths because it’ll make people feel bad. I don’t really see those labels being misapplied nearly as much as seeing them making people very angry when they’re correctly applied to people who want to hold those positions, but are upset at the social stigma.



One does wonder what’s going on in the Republican party right now, but the stats are… daunting.


I would disagree. You’re equating Trump with someone with a lot more experience and competence. While I supported Sanders in my primary, there is no way that I think Clinton is sub-optimal. To even compare her with a person who has filed for bankruptcy multiple times (and yet who continues to ride on his self-perceived business acumen even though we have no evidence of his actual net worth), has been involved in over 3,000 lawsuits, has duped numerous people in a pyramid scheme, and has slandered entire groups of people based either upon the religion or ethnicity is absurb.


To be fair, he was pretty awesome in that reality TV show, though. And this country does love its celebrity presidents…


I had this conversation on a personal level today with friends in from out of town. When my children mentioned that they don’t like spending time with the particular relatives we’ll be seeing this weekend, and explained some (long) stories that show how bigoted they are, my friends’ initial reaction was that they saw the glass as half full, because at least these relatives knew to put away the black jockey whenever we come over. I had to explain that they don’t put it away to make ME feel better…they put it away because I always SAY SOMETHING about it, and it makes THEM feel bad/guilty. If I said nothing, they’d keep it in place.

You just explained this dynamic a lot better than I did!


I will take your word for it because I never could stomach him. I will admit that he did well raising his children. From all appearances, they have actual jobs with his company and they maintain a relatively low profile. I mean, they could have turned out like the Kardashians (ugh!).


How about the fact that the guy is a bigger moron than Dubya? The shit he serves up as policy makes sensible peoples’ heads spin. He’s clueless, and stark raving bananas to boot.

He could destabilise the while fucking planet.