Since 2015 Hillary Clinton has been very vocal in speaking against white privilege and encouraging White Americans to acknowledge their privilege.
Most recently, during one of the Democratic Presidential Forums, Hillary was asked a question about how she benefited from white privilege.
Well… Look, I mean, where do I start? I think it is hard when you’re swimming in the ocean to know exactly what is happening around you, such as it is when you’re standing on the shore. For me, look, I was born white, middle class in the middle of America. I went to good public schools, I went to good pubic schools, I had a strong supportive family, I had a lot fo great experiences growing up, I went to a wonderful college, law school. I never really knew what was or wasn’t part of the privilege, but I knew I was lucky.
Hillary received a lot of criticism for her response. The young lady who asked the question, Thalia Anguiano, a Drake University junior, stated that she felt that Hillary didn’t really answer the question. I think I would disagree.
Hillary and White Privilege
Hillary’s attempt to unpack white privilege from a White person’s perspective was not the most articulate nor was it as thorough as it could have been; however, I don’t know that I have ever a White person truly speak to the subject with the kind of nuanced understanding that those of us negatively affected by it understand. To me it is like asking a man what giving birth means to him and how it affects him. Clearly whatever answer the man might give will be lacking from the sheer fact that he has no direct experience to speak from. I feel that Hillary made a valiant attempt to describe from a personal perspective her growing understanding of white privilege and what that means for her as a White person in America as well as what it means for those who have no access to such privilege. And this is not the first time that Hillary has spoke up about white privilege, so she is trying and, at least, learning to understand.
When I think about the psychology of the mind in relation to Hillary’s anecdote I can kind of see a burgeoning of awareness happen. Her point about the migrant workers was to say that she had an experience with people who were very different from herself and while she could find some human connection of sameness through the children’s affection towards their parents, she also could see some very disparaging differences.
I am not sure what answer Thalia was looking to hear but Hillary’s anecdote about the migrant workers seems misplaced, but if you think about Hillary’s perspective and the fact that the 3 most insidious things about white privilege that make it the silent monster that it has been is that 1. Most White people are completely oblivious to their privilege because it’s a part of their reality and America being an individualistic society does not truly encourage the exploration of placing yourself in someone else’s shoes. 2. Being a part of the privileged group doesn’t offer the privileged much benefit from acknowledging that part of their “success” is based on systemic racism and not their personal merit. Which is why 3. Even when white privileged is acknowledged as something real by the White community, it is still often not addressed or spoken of. So to that end Hillary’ s acknowledgment of the issue, her attempt to gain a personal understanding of the phenomenon and speak on it is at the very least admirable.
In this current civil rights movement we are finally beginning to see so much of the rhetoric and coin phrases that have developed in the discourse on race issues in America actually being analyzed and defined in a tangible and meaningful way. The mere fact that white privilege made its way into the conversation is poignant. And the fact that a wealthy White woman who is a politician and presidential candidate attempted to answer is also a sign of progress. Granted Hillary did not hit the nail on the head and her answer does expose that she has more left to learn. But Hillary acknowledged it and admitted that she has benefited from it and she made no excuse for that nor did she apologize for it. She did the most important thing that we can ask of White Americans: denounce it.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man