Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Won the Lottery!

I won the lottery and I didn’t even know it. I realize that happens all the time – people buy a ticket, forget about it, and then discover days, weeks, or months later, that their numbers came up and they go cash in. But this is different. I won the lottery and I’ve been reaping the benefits day in, day out for decades now and never realized it.

I won the lottery. Not the Mega-Millions that only has drawings a couple times a week and then pays you for just 20 years.

No, I won the lottery the day I was born so many years ago today. I won the birth lottery, the one in this country that says, if you’re born white, you automatically win, you are at the top of the heap in terms of privilege in our society. And I was born white, purely by chance, through no effort of my own. That’s why it’s a lottery, a game of chance and not skill.

The black intellectual and leader W.E.B. DuBois had a name for this idea that being born white, or considered white by other whites, had value. He called it "the wages of whiteness." Books have been written about how "the wages of whiteness" were defined and paid out in everyday life throughout our nation’s history. Southern states were particularly good at keeping the masses of whites dirt poor but making it clear that although they were poor, they were still white and therefore better than others. Elsewhere, immigrant groups, such as the Irish, had to prove they deserved the wages of whiteness because whiteness isn’t just about skin color, but about being labeled white by those who matter – people who are already white.

The wages of whiteness aren’t quite as high as they were even 50 years ago due to slowly changing racial attitudes, but they remain real. Since I was born white, I was born into a neighborhood that had far less crime and better schools, giving me a head start in staying out of trouble, finishing school, and going on to college. Since I don’t look Latino, no one has ever questioned whether I’m in this country legally. If Michigan passes the Arizona-style immigration law that the far-right fringe demands, I won’t have to worry about carrying my passport around to prove I’m a citizen because I "look American." Since I have white skin, shopkeepers won’t keep a little closer eye on me in their store than they would otherwise fearing I will steal something. Since I’m white, nobody gives me a second glance when I walk down the sidewalks of our community.

Yes, I know we have a president who is African American. But Barack Obama helps prove the wages of whiteness theory. Would anyone have questioned his citizenship had both his parents been white instead of only one? Would millions of Americans have bought into that nonsense?

I won the lottery, for sure. Everyday, I try to remember that I didn’t do anything to deserve it.

2 comments:

Republican Michigander said...

I won the lottery by being born in a good family. It has nothing to do with being white. This is a load of horse manure. So called white privilege is a myth pushed by ivory tower privileged white guilt types in our universities in the name of political correctness so they can feel good about themselves and absolve themselves of guilt. It reminds me of the cult of Obama.

Go out to the hills of Eastern Appalachia and tell them they have white privilege. You'll get told to go back to Ann Arbor. Go out to parts of South Boston or Dorchester, Delray, old coal (which you people hate so much) areas in Appalachia, or here in Michigan parts of St Helens, South Warren, or part of the Flint area, or some of the trailer parks in all counties. They have so much white privilege while having the same types of poverty seen in some inner city areas. They don't get affirmative action however. Wrong color. Rich blacks from West Bloomfield and Farmington Hills do get affirmative action. They need the extra help on account of their race apparently.

""Elsewhere, immigrant groups, such as the Irish, had to prove they deserved the wages of whiteness because whiteness isn’t just about skin color, but about being labeled white by those who matter – people who are already white."""

As someone who is Irish by blood, this is bigtime horse manure. Irish considered themselves Irish. There was no so called 'white privilege" for us. Irish took power in Boston and other cities because they knew how things worked, and worked the system. Numbers. That's it. From a class standpoint, Irish moved up due to Catholic School education and hard work from our railroading and longshoremen days to auto factory and lawyer days. Nobody gave us a break. We earned everything we had.

A lot of other white ethnics didn't have much privilege either. Poles, Italians, Slavs, Scots-Irish. I suppose to you professor types all whites are the same.

Judy said...

Read the book, "How the Irish Became White" and learn a little about Irish Americans and how they fought not to be considered black, as they were initially.