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Here are a few highlights from two recent discussions between Mark and Wes: First, we related the readings from ep. 189 to philosophy of language more broadly (check out this Stanford article) and follow up on some of the threads from that discussion: We talked about T.S. Eliot, James Wood, and the connection to John Searle. Later, we had some preliminary discussion to try to determine whether to have an episode at some point in the future on identity politics. This excerpt contains Wes's primary rant on that, so perhaps now that we've aired it here, we need not do so in a full episode?
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Jeremy Lovelace says
I do agree with Wes on most of the things he said about identity politics but I did want to make one comment on his (and MANY MANY people’s) misunderstanding of the term “white privilege”. To me, the proper meaning of “white privilege” doesn’t really fall into identity politics in the same way.
The word “privilege” is misleading (honestly a new word/rebranding could help). It doesn’t mean white people are all born with wealth, power or any other great thing that will make their life easy. That’s demonstrably false. The majority of white people (although a lower percentage) are born into poverty and live shitty lives to one degree or another. The phrase means that if you take white person in shitty situation born into poverty, that person’s life is LESS shitty (but still shitty) than a person of color. If you listen to a white person tell their very real, shitty story and then ask at the end if they would switch places with a random person of color or better yet, have basically the same life but be a person of color during it all and be in the same economic situation…most honest ppl quickly say no or give an instant look that says the answer for them. I think that deep down most people recognize that simply adding just enough pigment to your skin would make a shitty situation even worse.
There is a well known phrase used to console people and ourselves: “it could always be worse”…and white privileged is the recognition that going from a white person to a person of color with all other factors the same, falls into the “it could always be worse” category in our society. Your life as a white person can be a shitty struggle for survival in which you never have shit, never have any real power over your destiny, and it ends with you in an even worse situation than you were born into for sure (which certainly isn’t the classical idea of privilege). However, “it could always be worse”…you could also be a person of color in the same situation. To use Wes’ example: “you could be white and have schizophrenia…how is that privilege?” But the accurate follow up is “it could always be worse, you could be black and have schizophrenia” and the second statement is true and what is meant by “white privilege” (there is a mountain of data to back up that claim about the mentally ill and skin color if anyone needs me to link to it).
Finally, white privilege is also the recognition that your chance of getting out of x shitty situation when white is slim but is still better than person of color. You may say “slim for white person = slim for POC” but odds are odds. If you are given a 5% chance versus a 1% chance (making up numbers) the 5% makes big difference. For perspective, in sports betting, just an edge of a couple percent is the difference between being a long term winner and losing money.
All that said, I still want to reiterate that I still agree with Wes’ overall points and most of what he said in this discussion.
Mark Ledwich says
Yes, do more of this!