in all my years that i have been on this earth i have not played spin the bottle once. does this mean that i’ve never actually lived? do a lot of people actually even play spin the bottle? or is its importance and prevalence stretched and exaggerated in media? these are the questions of the hour
Are teen parties with alcohol and red solo cups even real?!!?!
Part of acknowledging my own white privilege is realizing how it has actively shaped my life. A key place to look is in the job market. The average employment and income figures for members of different racial groups tell a depressingly clear story.
In Ontario, Canada, a recent study found that racialized workers (another term for people of colour) faced higher unemployment rates (average of 8.7% versus 5.8%) and were paid less (racialized women earned approximately half of white men), regardless of educational achievement.
[Table can be found in the full Growing Gap report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Table lists the annual average income for men and women of many different racialized nationalities (people of colour) compared to the income of non-racialized (white) men and women. In total, it comes down to an average of $32,042 (racialized) versus $41,335 (non-racialized) a year. Transcript of graphic below at 1]
Another Canadian report highlights the difficulties that Indigenous people, immigrants and people of colour have both in finding employment and advancing within companies. In America, there is also a well documentedpattern of significantly higher unemployment and lower incomes for those who aren’t white, and especially Black people.
[Table can be found in full at Inequality.org. Table compares the median income for non-hispanic white people and non-white people over two decades. The white group median income is consistently $15,000 to $20,000 higher. Transcript of graphic below at 2]
As a white person, it makes me uncomfortable to think that my income is tied to something other than my abilities as a worker or my educational achievement, but those statistics are pretty unambiguous. Being white helps. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to rolling in dough any time soon (privilege doesn’t equal riches), but it is part of the equation when I walk into a job interview. Researchers have done studieswith resumes using names that sound more stereotypically Black or White and have found significant bias against those candidates whose name is identified as ‘Black,’ even if the resumes are identical. With this in mind, it’s naive to imagine that my race is not a factor, even if it makes me uncomfortable to think so.
Part of privilege is that it’s handed down, so it’s a factor for my family too. My father worked in a factory for a significant portion of his life. Starting on the floor, he worked overtime and made the right connections and worked hard, and he rose up the food chain; I have benefited from his success. He has worked hard—he still works hard—but acknowledging that whiteness is in his favour doesn’t diminish his hard work in my eyes. Acknowledging white privilege is not about diminishing his hard work, but acknowledging that differences in success are not a sign that people of colour are working any less hard.
My dad was once explaining how to be successful to his (also white) nephew and I found it instructive. He told him that, “No one owes you anything. You have to go get it yourself.” He said that “no names” (his handy term for white folk of ambiguous European descent) like us sometimes made poor employees because the immigrants (here presumed to be people of colour) understood that no one owed them anything. What he was describing was white privilege, expressed as white entitlement, in action. He wouldn’t have called it that, but I was so aware of it as I listened to the conversation. I was aware of the privilege that my family can count on to support upward mobility, and aware of the ways that white people can enact privileged entitlement so blatantly that even other white people notice.
White privilege is in the way you either “fit” or don’t after a job interview at a predominantly white business. If you are entering a new company, employers can only use their imagination to visualize how you’d be on their team, and if their imagination is filled with stereotypes, that can make a difference. White privilege is the way the edges of stereotypes soften into cheap jokes for white people, but can get someone else’s resume tossed aside. White people supposedly can’t dance—it’s the only negative stereotype* I can think of right now—and what job description has that ever excluded me from? I can joke about white stereotypes because they aren’t backed up by a system that can hold them against me, but I couldn’t just shrug it off if an interviewer presumed that I had been to prison, was in a gang, entered the country illegally, or couldn’t speak English well. Racist stereotypes matter.
The work place is just one of many locations where racial and ethnic stereotypes come out and can limit people’s opportunities. What does your workplace look like, if you look for privilege? If you make hiring decisions, how do you make certain that the process is accessible to people from many communities and the selection is based on skill, not unconscious bias? I could drive myself crazy trying to figure out in dollars and cents what my privilege has bought me, but it won’t make hiring practices more equitable, employment more accessible, or workplaces less hostile. That requires advocacy, allyship and affirmative action. Let’s get to work.
*All stereotypes are negative because they are limiting expectations that make assumptions about the personality and capabilities of people.
“I wouldn’t necessarily mind people not knowing I’m gay, but I don’t like being thought of as straight — in the same way that I don’t mind people not knowing I’m a writer, but it would be awkward if they assumed I was an extreme skateboarder, because that’s so far removed from the reality of my life. But there is no blank slate where orientation is concerned; we are straight until proven otherwise. And if you’ve never seen how dramatically a conversation can be derailed by a casual admission of homosexuality, let me tell you, it gets awkward.”—My Life as an Invisible Queer (via feministlibrarian)
“Wherever perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun. Perfectionism is not about healthy striving, which you see all the time in successful leaders, it’s not about trying to set goals and being the best we can be, perfectionism is basically a cognitive behavioral process that says if I look perfect, work perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid shame, ridicule, and criticism. It’s a defense mechanism.”—
"When I interview leaders, artists, coaches, or athletes who are very successful, they never talk about perfectionism as being a vehicle for success. What they talk about is that perfectionism is a huge trigger, one they have to be aware of all the time, because it gets in the way of getting work done."
I had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads. I was assured that as long as I made the white, straight men in my scripts prominent, I could still offer groundbreaking characters of other descriptions (fascinating, significant women, men of color, etc.) – as long as they didn’t distract the audience from the white men they really paid their money to see.
Only to learn there was still something wrong with my writing, something unanticipated by my professors.My scripts had multiple women with names. Talking to each other. About something other than men. That, they explained nervously, was not okay. I asked why. Well, it would be more accurate to say I politely demanded a thorough, logical explanation that made sense for a change (I’d found the “audience won’t watch women!” argument pretty questionable, with its ever-shifting reasons and parameters).
At first I got several tentative murmurings about how it distracted from the flow or point of the story. I went through this with more than one professor, more than one industry professional. Finally, I got one blessedly telling explanation from an industry pro: “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”
According to Hollywood, if two women came on screen and started talking, the target male audience’s brain would glaze over and assume the women were talking about nail polish or shoes or something that didn’t pertain to the story. Only if they heard the name of a man in the story would they tune back in. By having women talk to each other about something other than men, I was “losing the audience.”
Is funny when doctors and other peeps act like my problem is that I’m obsessed w/ my disability. Um no. You have it backwards. The problem is I HAVE to be cuz it is a constant problem.
I’m deaf. About 25 years ago, I was working for a little while as a classroom aide at a program that worked with deaf children with multiple disabilities. All the teachers and other classroom aides were hearing, but they all could sign. Not at native signing level, but enough to carry on a basic conversation.
So, one evening, all us adults bring all the kids to a special one-night camping trip. All the kids are put to sleep, which frees up the adults to get into a circle and have some fun to ourselves for a while. People start talking, except they were forgetting to sign. So I reminded them to please sign so I could understand them. One of them told me that, no, they weren’t going to sign because this was our night to have fun and not have to think about communication.
So no one signed all night. They talked, they laughed, they had fun. I sat, feeling lost and cut off and betrayed. I remember wishing I had had the nerve to say, “No, what you mean is, you want a night in which everyone EXCEPT ME gets to not think about communication.”
I think sometimes when non-disabled people insist that we are too obsessed with our disability, what they REALLY mean is, “I wish you would stop reminding me that I have a shared responsibility as a fellow member of society to proactively ensure that we all have an opportunity to be engaged in society. I wish you would just pretend to not have a disability so I can pretend that I don’t have to do anything to enable you to do the same things the rest of us are doing.”
The luxury of not needing to think about disability in a society that is designed to lock us on the cold outside is a non-disabled privilege.