As a Latina that I am I was brought to the united states by the myth of the American Dream, hoping to find equality, freedom and opportunity. Becoming an American requires that immigrants like me take a new identity, to be able to be equally treated as members of the white community with all rights, responsibilities, and opportunities that American citizens have and when I mean American people I mean white people. The myth of the American Dream then falls flat on my face because it lies when it says that Americans are “equally created.
” Once I came into this country I came across the reality that in fact we are created equal but yet we are not the same because our skin color is not “white” and we have distinct physical characteristics. Life experiences made me ask, What does it mean to be white? , What is white privilege? , and what is white supremacy? And I came to a conclusion that white privilege and white supremacy can be described as a right or protection granted, advantage or favor to whites and the ability to take advantage of people that belong to minorities.
White privilege means more opportunities to whites rather than to people that actually need it; white privilege is also invisible to whites but not to minorities that have been oppressed throughout the years. The article “Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege” by Pem Davidson Buck explains on the ideas behind white privilege and how it is created perfectly. It begins with the idea behind constructing race and keeping racial categories separate. It then gets into the privileges white people have such as the right to bear arms, own livestock, and even the right to beat any blacks.
Buick writes, “More pain could be inflected on blacks than on whites. Whites alone could bear arms; Whites alone had the right to self-defense” (34). Meaning that if a white person hits you for no reason then you were not allowed to defend yourself just because you were “black,” but what if the white men was beating you to death, could you defend yourself? , no, because you were black. Nothing has change even today white still think they have the right to humiliate you because they think they are better than you.
I work at a grocery store and I always have to take the humiliation specially from white customers, because people personally ask me if I speak English or they let me know that I shouldn’t be working there because this is a white people store, I am not allowed to defend myself because I will get fire, just like African Americans were not allowed to defend themselves because otherwise they will get bit up by their owner. This article ends with psychological wage and how whites are treated differently in places of business.
“This sense of superiority allowed struggling northern whites to look down their noses at free blacks and at recent immigrants particularly the Irish. This version of whiteness was supposed to make up for their otherwise difficult situation providing them with a ‘psychological wage’ instead of cash- a bit like being employee of the month and given a special parking place instead of a raise”(Buck. Pg. 35). This also meant that the poor whites helped by supporting the unfair system and made it easier for the rich whites to have control over the labor force and economy.
Therefore, the psychological wage “paid” the poor whites because it made them feel as if being white was a privilege; it was a reward to be white and it made them look down on blacks, Indians and other minorities. On the other hand minorities were not paid because white people did not want to pay them instead they would just give them something such as ‘employee of the month’ to make them think that they were important. I believe this country is one of the riches because oppressors were always living off African Americans and other minorities’ hard work instead of giving them what they deserve.
This reading hits great points on the differences seen between whites and blacks and the differences on how they are treated. Not enough with mistreating them and not giving them the right to get a wage they also take advantage by passing laws that will make minorities sink , stay uneducated and do not let them progress. There is a stereotypical view that underprivileged minorities are sometimes considered uneducated. This lack of minorities’ education is not our fault, but the fault of unlikely outside powers such as white supremacy.
Consequently there is some truth to this specific label, but the minorities are not to blame for lack of education we did not choose to be poor we were forced to be poor and stay at the bottom of the ladder. Few opportunities are given to us, starting with housing then leading to schools which would then affect our education. This all started with our Federal Housing Agency or the FHA. In the reading The Possessive Investment in Whiteness the author George Lipsitz puts extensive research into how the FHA started and how its agency ties into minorities receiving loans or the lack of.
In 1934 the FHA was provided from the government who then gave the agency’s power to private home lenders, and this is when racial biasness came into place through selective home loans. Lipsitz says, “the Federal Housing Agency’s confidential surveys and appraiser’s manuals channeled almost all of the loan money toward whites and away from communities of color” (pg. 74). These surveys were conducted by the private lenders who had free supremacy to prove the loans to whomever they want.
Because the minorities did not get a chance to receive the FHA loans that they needed, they are then forced to live in urban areas. This is one of the reasons why people stay segregated because on one side of town you have the minorities living in the poorest side and on the other side you have the wealthiest, which are mainly white people. If we take a look at global segregation, the third world countries are mainly non-white ethnicity for example Haiti is a third world country that does not progress because the United States (one of the riches country) does not let that country progress.
White supremacy is lead by the tought that white people do not think of themselves as a race because that would bring them down and think that they are ‘inferior’. In the article “Failing to See” by Harlon Dalton, he suggests that most white people tend to see themselves in racial terms. Dalton writes “ The emergence in the 1980smof the term ‘African American’ was meant to supply a label for our ethnicity that is distinct from the one used for race. Most people, however, continue to use the term ‘black’ to refer to both.
“White’ on the other hand refers only to race. It has no particular content” (pg. 17). In my opinion Dalton is referring to the circumstance that white people don’t see themselves as a race because their race has never been an issue in their lives. For example a white person has to go through the pain of not getting a job because of their racial identity on the other hand a person who belongs to a minority race that of African American or Latino decent they do get rejected from jobs just because they either look “black” or “brown”.
Most white people never associate whiteness as race because they were taught to label others and not themselves cause if they label others as raced they themselves cannot be a part of that group. Teaching with people to not label themselves is one of the lessons thought by their ancestors in addition to the lessons of hating other people outside their with circle. In the book Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith the author writes about the way she was brought up, the lessons she was thought.
The book starts off with the author remembering a childhood incident with her parents that made her wonder about the hypocrisy she has been raised by in the Southern way of life. “ A little white girl was found in the colored section of our town, living with a Negro family in a broken-down shack” (Smith pg. 34-35). Her mother’s friend believed that the girl was kidnapped and the little girl ends up living at the Smith’s house for a few weeks. The author quickly becomes friends with this girl-Janie, until her mother tells Lillian that Janie is in fact a black girl and cannot live in their home anymore. Moreover, her mother informs Lillian that she is too young to understand why, and she should not ever ask about this subject again.
Lillian now had to explain to Janie that colored children should not live with white children. This was one of the lessons her parents thought Lillian; Smith also explains the parents’ mentality towards their children and how they are raised. Those parents enforce their children into believing that sexual desires, and all the parts of their bodies that cause these sexual desires, are shameful and should be feared; including their fear for black people. In the reading The Lessons, Smith writes, “Our first lesson about God made the deepest impression on us.
We were told that He loved us, and then we were told that He would burn us in everlasting flames of hell if we displeased Him. We were told we should love Him for He gives us everything good that we have, and then we were told that we should fear Him because He has the power to do evil to us whenever He cares to. We learned from this part of the lesson another: that “people,” like God and parents, can love you and hate you at the same time; and though they may love you, if you displease them they may do you great injury” (pg.85).
Smith is trying to explain the confusion that society creates because in one hand society teaches us that we should be treated the same because we are all humans, but on the other hand whites are better than any other person because their color is better and they are better overall. There is a contradiction in what our society teaches us. The ironic part of all is that not only white parents thought that being around black people was bad; black people also knew that being around white people was a bad social behavior.
In “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch” a reading by Richard Wright, is a chapter about his life growing up in the segregated south. He remembers what his mother tells him about the differences between whites and blacks. His mother teaches her son not to fight the white man and beat her son when a broken milk bottle, thrown by a white kid, hits him. She taught him that blacks belonged in their place and whites had their own, informing him that he did not mix with the whites. Just like how Lillian was tought to not mix with black people.
From here on out Richard Wright lived in fear of the whites and he would soon learn why his mother wished him to feel this way. When Richard went to get a job he remembered his mother’s word and talked to his white boss with the utmost respect using “yessirs” and “nosirs”. Despite his respectfulness to the white man, his boss penalized him for wanting to learn and asked him if he thought he was ‘white’. Richard witnesses countless “Jim Crow” racism throughout his life all so the white man could feel superior to him and his race.
At one point he witnesses his boss and twelve year old son beat a black woman and when she ran to a white cop he accused her of being drunk. Richard was searched for being in a white neighborhood, cursed for looking at an attractive white woman, and was forced to falsify a white man’s signature to receive books from the library. In my opinion the white man treated this boy in a bad way because his white privilege gave him the authority to do so his whiteness served the men as a protection.
Going back to what Richards mother was telling him that he was unequal to whites probably saved his life. Before he knew this he would partake in fights with white kids throwing black cinders as they returned fire with bottles. When he got hit with one of these bottles and told his mother of the happened she beat him for fighting with whites. Though terrible this was an important lesson for young Richard who would encounter racism for the rest of his life, racism that if he didn’t listen to his mother could have got him killed.
Nowadays if someone’s mother tells him or her at an early age that they are unequal to others because you look different could scar that person for life. Those words could lower someone’s self-esteem and mental state that they would be in and out psychologist’s offices for a very long time. But What if more black mothers taught their sons and daughters to fight back against oppression? Could they have made a difference? Possibly, but southern whites would do all they could in order to keep blacks as inferiors.
Though eventually blacks did take this stand it took them along time to end segregation and receive more rights. Maybe if boys like Richard were taught to fight they could have changed things earlier, but this would not come without consequences. Groups like the KKK would murder many blacks and without the significance of media to open the eyes of many white in the north it would be an extreme struggle. Believing in equality maintains inequality. If we let people brainwash us by letting us think that we are all equal we are contributing to white supremacy.
Instead of contributing to white supremacy let’s contribute to end it. I know that white supremacy will not end from one day to another but we as a society should be able to start changing this dilemma. Works Cited Smith, Lillian. “When I Was a Child. ” Killers of The Dream. Margaret Rose Gladney. W. W. Norton &Company. New York: 1994. 34-35. Smith, Lillian. “The Lessons. ” Killers of The Dream. Margaret Rose Gladney. W. W. Norton &Company. New York: 1994. 85. Buck, Davidson Buck. “Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege”.