I was watching a program on racial diversity and sensitivity. The name of the program was “The Struggle for Equal Rights”. The program was full of truly insightful perspectives on the inequality of the American system with respect to education and employment. The program raised questions and issues about the history of white male privilege in America and how, if institutions take steps to try and correct the imbalance associated with this social privilege, it will be automatically viewed as wrong or unfair. A lot of white people are claiming reverse discrimination. But a conservative estimate of ninety percent of the top executive jobs in corporate America goes to white males. White males make up the majority of our political offices. Nothing but white privileged males has been President of the United States. And if we as a community do anything to try and correct this disproportionate playing field and give women and other racial groups a better opportunity to compete, something is wrong.
People will point to the handful of black men and the woefully fewer black women who are lucky enough to make it to the top executive levels and break through the corporate ceiling. Many people may not be aware of the fact that the corporate ceiling is no longer made of glass, but made of a new, dilithium-crystal powered deflector shield based on technology from Captain Kirk’s USS Enterprise that is able to detect and repel non-white DNA. To the brothers and sisters who are able to penetrate this more advanced system of exclusivity (or exclusion) I commend you for your achievement. But I have to ask, what did it cost you with respect to who you are and your connection to your African and African American heritage and the future of your African American children?
Many people of color who have made big successes in, or who are pioneers in breaking through the racial barriers of, the white, corporate world have done so by taking the white, corporate values, internalizing them into their conscious and subconscious while simultaneously displacing their racial instincts and identify, to make a generic corporate puppet with non-white skin, whose racial identity is kept safely within the parameters established by the establishment. So when an issue that pertains to an ethnic heritage runs headlong into corporate values and priorities, there is little doubt that corporate interest will be protected at any and all cost. The white washing of people of obvious African descent isn’t limited to the corporation. It permeates through every facet of life in America. The entertainment industry is truly the most successful at making African Americans actors, singers, dancers, athletes, musicians, producers, comedians, and anybody else you can mention, keep their distance from any issue pertaining to the black community. Kanye West may have let his passion overwhelm him during his appearance on the television show to benefit victims of Katrina. But I’m willing to bet someone told him he’d better learn to contain himself before his next album hit the market.
One insightful comment made on this program was the fact that when people have privilege they rarely willingly give it up. History is full of examples where each and every accomplishment black people made in this never ending struggle for racial equality is met with the fiercest resistance from the white privileged who consider their way of life under attack. It is written in the history books that this country filled with fine white folks would prefer to engage itself in a civil war rather than watch the enslavement of the children of Africa come to an end. It would take judgments from the Supreme Court to abolish laws of segregation and Jim Crow that were designed to keep black people in a perpetual state of subjugation and white people still resisted surrendering their privilege. And when the legal system defied white people’s attempt to stop the slow turning wheels of change, white people resorted to the terrorism of black people to keep a choke hold on the racial status quo.
After hundreds of years of privilege in this country, and more than twice that on this continent, the privilege enjoyed by white people isn’t about to be surrendered so easily. To hear white people tell their story they’re just trying to do what they can to survive. People are doing their best to convince everyone that poor white children from well to do families that are being rejected by schools trying to assure racial diversity simply isn’t in America’s best interest. But I think what these people actually mean is that it isn’t in the best interest of the privileged white Americans. The flip side of this argument is the one that shows that these well to do white families have enjoyed hundreds of years at the trough of privilege and it is now time to make sure that we reserve some fraction to somebody else who has not had the same opportunities the white privilege has enjoyed almost exclusively for all this time. Assuring racial diversity is at the center of America’s best interest.