Why It Matters, But It Still 'Doesn't Count'

Continuing the discussion from To find Hillary Clinton likable, we must learn to view women complexly:

*sighs, because I know this probably won’t end well, but I have to try.

To answer your question, in a nutshell:


It doesn’t count.

It does matter though, and I totally get your point about the ramifications that the potential horrific policy resulting from a ‘Greater Evil’ win would have upon your loved ones.

At the same time, that it’s not you directly plays a huge factor into your personal stance on the issue.

And I say this as a ‘Mixed’ daughter who loves my own porcelain-skinned, blonde-haired blue eyed mom very much… but who also realizes that while my mom is fully cognizant of the numerous struggles facing PoC, she herself is not struggling under the exact same burden; due to the fact she still has privilege, which none of her children or grandchildren do… and she knows it too.

Tim Wise has written several essays that make this point far more eloquently than I do, and he brings home the point that White people who advocate for true equality must take caution not to fall into the traps of complacency or ‘tone deafness’ simply because they consider themselves “down with the cause.”

He makes especially good points about how “personal affinity for someone who is of color, or a woman, or LGBT, or whatever, says nothing about how one views the larger group from which those individuals come.”

(That line right there is exactly why I shared that link with you, btw. I’m not making any assumptions or accusations; nor am I questioning your interpersonal relationships with people of color. Just FYI.)

Perhaps his most significant point overall is that listening to the people you’re trying to help, believing them and letting them lead their own charge to actions is always key.

All those groups I listed in the other post?

We all stand to suffer greatly, should the horrific farce that is happening before our eyes come to fruition, and the fact that you care about some of us (whom you’d maybe even fight to death for) won’t lessen that suffering; not even one iota.

What’s the worst that could happen?” is terrible logic to proceed with IMO, especially when the stakes are so very high.

Because when the shit finally hits the fan, it’s never as bad as we expected; it’s always worse.

/end rant


10th like!

and yes, your point is incredibly valid.

as a white guy who grew up over the 60s and 70s i’ve long been cognizant of the privileges i carry by “virtue” of my gender, skin, and class status. i know my biracial grandsons aren’t going to get those benefits of the doubts and double-standard biases that have cushioned my life. i can be with women and people of color as they fight for a better world and i can share experiences with them as i live my part of that fight but i can’t live their lives, their genders, their skins. i can internalize their struggles but i can’t live their struggles.

btw, i prefer the term privilege over any other formulation although i do regard the term double-standard as a decent second place formulation.

edited to make that “can’t live their lives” which was my actual point. sorry for any confusion.


Thank you.


Thanks for replying. I haven’t interacted enough with you previously to be sure where you stand.

Here’s my problem with Tim Wise. He’s rolling along pretty well, making valid points despite having an overly prolix prose style (as do I, of course) and then he comes out with this:

…white folks who are actually committed to that kind of action, and the change it would portend in the larger society, are the white folks who never feel the need to parade their interracial friendships in front of others, while the ones who wear their black and brown friends on their sleeves like trophies are the ones who rarely ever do a damned thing to alter the institutional patterns that subject said friends to myriad injustices.
Oh, and just so ya know: this is pretty much exactly what your black friends would tell you… that is, if you actually had any.

And from where I’m standing, that’s not just a purposeful catch-22, it’s flat-out racist. I’m proud of all my friends (well OK there’s an exception to that, but he’s a white male) and I do wear every one of them on my sleeve like a trophy. I hope they feel the same way.about me. Why shouldn’t I brag about the brilliant men and women of color who I choose to share my life with? I know their first and last names, I know their phone numbers, I know where they grew up and what place they consider home - despite Tim Wise assuming, solely because of the color of my skin, that I do not. Just as smart people can believe (and do) stupid things, people who aren’t racist in any harmful, overt way can have deep prejudices. And I will not hang my head and accept Tim Wise’s chastisement because of my skin color. There is no such thing as “reverse racism”, there is only racism.

Ow, got off on a rant there. Sorry. I don’t self-identify as “white”, and this is one of the few forums that forces that identification on me.

That’s not actually how it works, for me.

When I rush a kid with a gun unarmed, or take on a crooked cop, I expect to die. And although my family would be OK because I’m heavily insured, dying would mess up a fair number of my p!ans and causes.

I guess my inherent pessimism gives me some advantages. I never expect victory, so the fact that I’m still alive is a continual source of amazement to me. I will be completely unsurprised if Ms. Clinton loses the election, nor would I be surprised if widespread violence resulted from her winning. I’ll cope, or die trying, and that’s the whole plan right there.

See, when I was a boy I was small, and was beaten by other children every single weekday for years. I was literally forced to eat mud when I was four years old, I was thrashed bloody with willow switches by Mark Murphy* and his gang before I was twelve, and the first time I was savaged by a dog I was less than ten… I was in middle school when big, gentle Frankie Cephous** waded bellowing into a bunch of white kids and pulled me out.

I’m not trying to parade my ancient hardships to gain sympathy; those experiences built me. I’m telling you I understand having baggage. But here’s the thing - when does a person get to stop being patronized and categorized as “white privileged?”. Admitting to having unearned advantages, as I do, doesn’t work. Fighting corrupt cops, taking on racist school boards, adopting children of color despite being abundantly fertile - none of that works. Having friends and family who vouch for me doesn’t work. Apparently, the only thing people want to hear from a white guy is tears of remorse and self abnegation - and I’m too proud, not of my skin color, but of myself, and my admittedly small virtues, to be a whipping boy for Tim Wise. So it seems I can’t be either of the two racial stereotypes that people want me to be, and only the jesters and post humans are even minimally comfortable with that.

* later shot down by police after a rape and murder spree.

** later to do a season in the NFL, I heard.


*big sigh

I didn’t share the Tim Wise quote so that you could focus solely on that; I just used some of his words as an example.

I don’t think he’s right about everything that he writes, but he still makes some very valid points.

I didn’t share that link because I think that you fit the description that he’s laying out; if you "wear all your friends on your sleeve,’ no matter what color, then I’m sure you can indeed easily rattle off their last names and phone numbers.

He was describing a very specific subset of White folks, and taking those words personally as if he’s singling someone like you out rather misses the entire point.

I don’t want you to ‘hang your head’; I want you to open your eyes to the potential cataclysm facing minorities right now, no matter how you may feel personally.

All I can say to that is that’s a personal choice, but it has no bearing whatsoever upon how others perceive you and treat you due to their perception.

Them’s the breaks, at least until society starts evolving again.

Groovy, but again; it’s not just about you, or your expectations.

My mom would be the first to tell you that merely having privilege doesn’t mean that one never has any problems or hardships, ever; that’s not even possible.

We all go through our trials and tribulations in life, some of which are utterly horrific; and yes, that shapes us into who we are.

I could easily tell you my own tales of woe; probably tit for tat, for each of your stories… but I won’t, because that’s not actually germane to my point.

Privilege, whether you want it or not, simply means that the person who has it is likely to have a better outcome than any of their counterparts who are of color; especially when it comes to the broken legal and justice systems.


Well I’d say it’s when you stop caring about the opinions of other people who are not important to your life, for one thing. Let your actions speak louder than their words, prove them wrong with your every day behavior.

That’s how I deal with the unfair stereotypes and assumptions that some people try to foist off unto me.

You’re overgeneralizing; not all people want that. I sure don’t.

(Hashtag, not all people)

Personally, I’ll take any ally with similar core values to help further the cause of true equality, no matter what skin they’re in.

I’m not asking you to be “a whipping boy,” or to be ‘ashamed’ of yourself by proxy; that serves no useful purpose and fixes no problems.

I’m asking you to think; beyond yourself, beyond your loved ones & your personal experiences, beyond your visions of potential martyrdom… to realize that something much bigger than any one individual is at stake here.

A chain of events could all too easily be set in motion where no one is actually able to “cope” anymore, and that possibility is absolutely terrifying.


i bow to no one in my ability to empathize with others, to pay attention to the written or verbal expression of the experienced lives of others and incorporate those expressions into my reservoir of knowledge and opinions but no matter how vividly i imagine those lives, those experiences i cannot live them myself. there’s an air gap between the experienced and the vicarious and no matter how profound the empathy it cannot be completely bridged. communication and understanding are imminently possible, not only possible but desirable but that is still not the same as the lived experience of others’ lives.

@Melizmatic my answer to this question would be different from yours and perhaps the difference in perspective is simply that difference between my life as a white man and your life as a woman of color. (feel free to verbally slap me if you feel like i’m mansplaining here). my feeling is that until there is no privilege based on skin color, on gender, on sexuality, on religion, on etc. one has to live with the privelege(s) one is born with and until or unless those happen to wither away one has to recognize that privilege for what it is and adjust your thoughts accordingly.


i’m fortunate in that the republicans with whom i work, and living in texas that is a largish set, are so frustrated that cruz isn’t the nominee most of them are talking about voting for johnson.


You said it better than I ever could, having never experienced possessing such privileges in the first place.



thank you, i’ve been thinking about this ever since i learned in the 7th grade that such a thing as privilege existed. i thought of it as a double-standard when i was 12 but the first time i heard it referred to as privilege i knew i had been thinking of just such a thing.


Yeah, I apologize for that rant, I actually tried to pull up short. And I will cut my criticism of his cognitive framing down to the minimum below.

But I do understand; my eyes are open. I am prioritizing differently. People say I am a fool for sending my kids to the local comprehensive school instead of one of the privileged schools, and that I am a bad parent for refusing to put their best interests ahead of those of my society and species. I reply that I believe that acting in the best interest of the society they are embedded in is in their best interests.

Well, I thought we were specifically talking about what I am going to do in this election, and how you feel about my justifications for that, but I get your point so I’ll cheerfully accept the criticism & try to do a little better.

Exactly! That’s a great working definition, very clear. “Privilege” is a concept applicable to groups and categories and probabilities. So white privilege is applicable to whatever group of people is currently being categorized as “white*”.

Whenever anyone believes something can be truly known about an individual because that individual appears to be a member of a category, or because there’s a probability that something may happen or have happened to them, that’s a cognitive framing error, and a really bad one.

George Lakoff has written extensively about how the progressive liberal love affair with memes that propagate bad cognitive framing is sabotaging their own cause, and empowering the racist right, including orange racists. Not just poor southern whites, but even self-described Yale blactivists seem to find the insistence on “privilege” framing objectionable, which shows just how divisive and problematic it is.

That’s pretty profound, wish I’d said it.

But keep in mind I’m driving towards some collective social goals, and I need allies who share compatible visions… and here’s where I’m not willing to join up with Hillary Clinton - she’s a machine politician, and her machine is willing to sacrifice humanity in order to win an election, and call that pragmatism. The party machinery doesn’t have to care about me unless I won’t vote for Ms. Clinton.

Well, I think people should try not to be terrified. It makes us too easy to manipulate, and likely to make mistakes. And I don’t see death as something to be feared, we all die, and I’m glad of it. It’s just the suffering involved that makes the choices hard.

Our species is on a path to self-extinction, and there’s very little time left to do the great works that will be required to avoid it. I’ve taken steps to provide for my family in the case of cultural collapse or civil war (nope, not stockpiling guns or ammo, no Mad Max fantasies here) but I’m looking to work with others to achieve environmental justice, and stave off a global collapse, not just to save my family and neighbors from war. I am looking beyond this election and beyond my immediate self-interest at the larger picture. That means voting Green.


* It’s pretty weird that one of the two major Semitic peoples is accepted as “white” and the other is accepted as “black”.

Good luck with that.

Yeah, I know. But it’s kind of a first step to thinking clearly, so I keep trying.

And thanks again for the reply thread; I do think I get where you’re coming from, although I’ll try not to presume on that. Everybody’s experience is different, but people with skin in the game have an inescapable commonality that does count for something, right?

I don’t care.

This post was not about nor intended for YOU.

Welcome to the club.


If we could just get rid of blacks and feminists, everyone else (who “earned” their privilege by growing up in a financially-stable white household) would have a much easier time in life.


You forgot about Latinos, Gays, and Muslims.


I knew that I probably should have just PM’ed this to the person who originally asked the question; because no matter how clearly I make my points, no matter how much I may emphasize that this is NOT about any single individual, there always seems to be someone who will take the content as personally offensive, while missing the entire point.


Clapping so hard at this, my hands are bleeding…

not really, but well said!




Unfortunately, there is no app to allow people to “walk a mile in someone else shoes.”


Sad but true.

I try to treat everyone the same, with respect and kindness. If you do something stupid (like spout racist garbage or put down people due to their work), then I just wish you well and then walk away. I don’t have time for that kind of thinking in my life.


Thanks for this thread, @Melizmatic. This was some very, very good stuff.


I’ve had to work really hard at not generalizing other people, for a good portion of my adult life; to avoid just blindly believing in the stereotypes and false presumptions that society at large spoon feeds us, and to try to see them as individuals.

Which may be part of the reason that trying to engage in such sensitive conversations is so frustrating; it only works if both parties are actually listening and internalizing the info being shared.

It does no damn good at all when someone gets all caught up in ‘their feels’, and becomes defensive because they perceived that they are somehow being “blamed.”

Thanks, Mr. Petersen.