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Whitefare *LINK*



What is Whitefare? I use the word to describe a system that permeates the daily lives of everyone living in the United States of America. It is an economic and political system, and it is a set of beliefs and a set of rules of behavior as well. It is most commonly known as institutional racism. But I think it deserves the name Whitefare.

This name takes the attention off of the sickness of a few bigots -- what most of us think of when we see the word "racism". Because that sickness is only one small facet of the problem. The real problem is the complacency and ignorance expected from the majority of so-called white people, and the distortion of our society that complacency and ignorance allow to continue.

We have been taught to resist the idea that we are racists, whatever we actually do in our lives, short of burning crosses and wearing hoods. Having talked to hundreds of white people about this issue, I know that. But the idea that we are dependent on a system of Whitefare might just be different enough to be thinkable.

The word "Whitefare" is intended to be a response to the myths around "welfare" being used to attack African-Americans and others. Welfare or relief programs, have, for about half a century, shifted a measly amount of our society's resources to some of the poorest among us. A majority of those recipients have always been, and still are, white.

Meanwhile, for several centuries, institutional racism, or Whitefare, has ensured the best jobs, housing, infrastructure, security from crime, medical care, tax breaks, and other benefits to one part of the society, and mostly to a small leadership group. It has led to incredible government and business waste, not through minuscule relief programs, but built into the major government programs and social expenditures of this nation -- for military weapons, highway and infrastructure construction, mortgage and business lending, and every other major economic area. A 1994 study found that $104 billion of the federal budget (including tax loopholes) consisted of corporate welfare, that is, fairly narrowly defined direct benefits to business. Welfare for the poor in the same year was $75 billion.

Yet this minimal welfare system, which never reached most African-American families, is being stigmatized as having undermined the work ethic and community morality, and created an African-American underclass. And nobody even thinks about the moral or social impact of Whitefare. Like gravity, it just exists.

Whitefare is invisible. It is most invisible to those who benefit from it, and who also suffer from it in ways that are hidden from them. This book seeks to change that.

Here, I define Whitefare primarily in terms of privileges over African-Americans. The fact is that the modern system of racism gives whites advantages over all people of color, though the privileges take different forms. I focus on black and white people because the system of Whitefare was formed in relation to, and still revolves around, the relations between European-Americans and African-Americans.

White privilege is most sharply defined against African-Americans, in most parts of the United States. This is not to say that African-Americans suffer more than any other group. Oppression is not an Olympic event. No group needs to take a gold medal as the one that suffered the most. Certainly the native nations that were here when Columbus arrived have gone through, and continue to go through, devastation at the hands of whites.

But the specific system that we live in today was made possible by the exclusion -- often the destruction -- of Native Americans. Just as central to it has been the inclusion -- and the subordination -- of African-Americans. Though people of Asian and Latin descent are a major part of our social fabric now, this is a recent development in most of the country. Whitefare has an impact on everybody in the United States, but its essential structure comes from a relationship between people descended from Europeans and people descended from Africans that emerged on the eastern seaboard.

Every social system in the past has changed radically over time. Human beings lived in a radically different world a few centuries ago, and they will live in a different world in the centuries to come. Whitefare is a powerful system, but it is not invulnerable or immortal.

But change will be slow. We will be living with this system in some form for our lifetimes. The entire world economy is still deeply warped by it for the benefit of a few. The beliefs that support Whitefare are still deeply embedded in our media, educational systems, and even our unconscious minds. Still, as individuals, we can change our beliefs and our behavior. Freeing ourselves, we can join others to dismantle the system. We can face the changes that are coming to the world around us consciously and in community with others, rather than defensively and alone. The formula from the Sixties still works -- we can part of the problem, or we can be part of the solution.

Those of who are socially identified as white obviously did not do anything wrong by being born to "white" parents. Nor are we, of course, morally responsible for anything that happened before we were born. But when, as children, we began accepting the benefits and the conditions of Whitefare, we also accepted the costs and the ugly reality behind the illusions. This bargain was not only not explained to us, it was hidden from us. But the bargain is still real. Whitefare is a fact of the world around us, and of our relations with other people who do not participate in its benefits.

An example. In 1968, as black communities erupted in outraged response to the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a white friend of mine, a fellow college student, was waiting for a phone call. His family owned a liquor store in a city where the fires were burning, and he assumed that his father was sitting in the store, probably armed, and would call on him to come and join the defense. My friend had not ever agreed to sit waiting with a shotgun for angry young black men. In fact, their anger made perfect sense to him. But growing up in his family, supported by the profits of the liquor store, loving his parents who had sacrificed to create that business, he found himself caught in an implicit contract that might put him in exactly that position. I don't think that his father ever called; but I still remember his pain, and his dilemma. The dilemma of our debt to Whitefare is not usually that explicit; but it is typical for Whitefare to creep up on, over the years, starting when we are too young to even imagine what we are getting into.

Human beings who have been raised to think of themselves as white Americans are, above all, human beings. Just as much as anyone else, we need to live in a world that does not waste most of its wealth on weapons to defend privilege, and that does not concentrate its wealth on an urban, top-heavy lifestyle that is destroying our planet. Just as much as anyone else, we need to be connected to the deep roots of humanity's experience. We need to live in the real world just like everyone else, taking our chances with its risks and rewards, rather than re-fighting battles lost or won long ago. We need full spiritual and intellectual lives, and community and a sense of the past, just like anyone else.

Whitefare stands in the way of all these parts of our humanity. Everything around us, from the state of our planet to the state of our souls, requires that we kick our Whitefare dependency.

Many of Whitefare's operations are deeply hidden, and come into our lives in ways we hardly can even understand. But it is possible to move away from it, in your heart, in your mind, in your political and economic life, and in your daily activities. It is possible to challenge and change the system around us, and to begin to close the gigantic gap of fear and resentment between white Americans and everyone else, especially African-Americans. It is possible for you, as an individual and as part of a long history of whites who have opposed the Whitefare system, to take responsibility for yourself. Let us be about our business as decent and caring people. Let us move beyond Whitefare. Let us open our hearts and our minds to the call for reparations.

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Whitefare *LINK*

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