The Moral Degradation of White Privilege
August 06, 2003
What happens when you approach life itself with a sense of entitlement, rather than a sense of awe?
You get all the relationships wrong.
With the natural world: its forces, its cycles, its creatures.
With other people, places, and things.
With your own self.
Since you feel you are entitled to all good things you can imagine, you are constantly functioning with lesser or greater levels of disappointment. You do not treasure what you have, but always crave more.
Since you are probably aware of the comparative deprivation of many, even if you make no conscious connection between their situation and yours, the natural injustice does affect you. You can make many choices here, from engaging in 'charity', to indulging hedonistically in things that stimulate your pleasure centers so you don't have to think. Diversions and distractions keep you from focusing on the truth of our situation.
In terms of natural law, ignorance is not an excuse. Just because you exist in the condition of privilege does not mean you exist outside of natural laws. Causes have effects, whether you are aware of them or not.
You may engage in rationalizations or justifications which all boil down to this: you are privileged, we are, because we deserve it, while others do not. Whether you bring forth religious justifications, nationalistic ones, historical ones that paint your people in a positive light as opposed to 'them', this engagement with illusion contaminates any efforts you may make to develop yourself, spiritually or otherwise.
In the realms of love and romance, your fantasy probably swirls around some variation of 'happily ever after', since this is what your sense of entitlement leads you to expect. If difficulties arise, you are unwilling to engage them. In fact, all efforts requiring time and patience are equally elusive: most often you want what you want and you want it now. This is the message being constantly beamed at you by the various media. All you desire is available to you. Now.
You are tied to matter, and this leaves you ignorant of the subtle treasures of heart and soul that lie beyond the realms of matter. Your things become idols. You covet them more and love them more than the truth. You comfort and console yourself with them, for the state of misery you are in is real, and unbearable otherwise.
You expect to be welcomed with open arms wherever you go, and you react with surprise and anger when this is not so. You believe that if you just say something, that makes it true. 'I am not a racist.' 'I am black on the inside, where it counts.' 'Race does not matter.' 'I have many black friends, so I know what it means to be black.'
You may believe that racial inequality is a thing of the past, and that the evils whites committed in the past have nothing to do with you now, or you may cite your own personal ancestry, and point out that your people had nothing to do with the past 500 years of slavery and oppression.
But injustice for many is injustice for all: it cuts both ways. You did not choose to be white and to live in the West. You do not want this privilege, and yet it is yours. You are aware that in the present equation, pleasures for you mean pain for others. Well, no matter how you feel about it, until you move to do something about it, real happiness will elude you. It doesn't matter if this seems fair to you; this is simply how it is.
Further, it is impossible for you to be truly happy living with excess while others try to live without enough. You have to give it back. And not in the form of pity or mercy or charity, which are evil things as long as vast systems persist which maintain inequality. Charity is simply another one of those diversions that makes you feel good for a second but does nothing to address the disease in the long-run.
The way to give it back is not to run screaming away from the land of plenty and play poor in 'the third world' either. Another illusion, and simply dishonest.
The only thing to do is to devote your excess beyond what you need to live to activities which will dismantle this system of privilege. It is unnatural for people to work against their own interests, but white privilege is not in anybody's interest. If the purpose of life were to accumulate material possessions in such excess that others literally die so that you may possess them, that would be one thing. But no one really thinks that is our purpose here.
Our prevailing religion entreats us to 'love another.' It does not teach that we should love some more and others less. There is a profound personal price to be paid for hypocrisy. And thus agrees that same religion.
To benefit, willingly or not, from an immoral system of privilege taints everything in your life with immorality. This is monstrous, but it is true.
This is a society of addiction, of violence, of abuse, of grotesque consumption. It maims and mangles everyone in it. Appearance becomes reality, because reality is unbearable for most.
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