[Marxism] Is white male privilege an "illusion"? (Was:Re:Troubled time)

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Mon Nov 27 20:02:31 MST 2006

Sayan writes, "But that was the main question in  *this discussion*.  In
other words,
whether  white low-wage workers'  self-perception of  'superiority' was
matched by their (relative) insulation from downward wage pressure (in which
case the self-perception would have a material basis), or whether it is not
so matched (in which case the self-perception would merely be an

I think this attempt to divorce the experience of *some* white workers from
the privileged status of their nationality as a whole is the key difference
between Sayan and myself. 

Sayan wants me to prove that there is no poorest or least-advantaged layer
of the white workers that is not in fact relatively better treated than the
much larger proportion of Blacks and Latinos that are similarly situated.

I view this as grasping at straws to maintain the privilege of the "class"
category in making analysis. For Sayan it isn't enough to demonstrate the
monstrously privileged position of the median in the white household or even
among full time wage workers.

With enough digging, I believe I could produce similar statistics for all
wage workers, including part-timers, for non-managerial, non-supervisory
workers, for the unemployed in terms of median and average weeks of
unemployment, but to no avail, since it is quite impossible to prove that at
least *a few* white workers don't get screwed as badly as Blacks and
Latinos. Almost certainly there are such people.

It's the old Malcolm X thing about what they call a Black Ph.D.

But Sayan's original point was that a resurection of the class movement
could be reasonably anticipated as increasing numbers of white workers were
treated this way. I think that is a fair and reasonable statement, but I
believe the data I provided is more than sufficient to show that there has
been no overall sustained tendency in this direction.

As for at least the bottomest layer of whites throwing in with their *class*
rather than with their people, all I can say is that it hasn't happened, at
least not in numbers sufficient to begin making a difference politically.

The reason for that is that privilege is more than wages. 

I am reasonably certain that even if we could isolate this layer of white
workers, none of them would have had the experience of being asked "how well
can you speak English" upon applying for a summer job a couple of years
after high school, having graduated from High School, and not just
graduated, but been class valedictorian, and not just class valedictorian
but gotten offers of full scholarships anywhere you wanted to go because you
had gotten 800 on both the math and language parts of the SAT. 

Bob Dylan explained it very well in the song he wrote about the murder of
Medgar Evers: 

A South politician preaches to the poor white man,
"You got more than the blacks, don't complain.
You're better than them, you been born with white skin," they explain.
And the Negro's name
Is used it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid,
And the marshals and cops get the same,
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool.
He's taught in his school
>From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he's in
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.


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