Toni Morrison on losing privilege

The allocation of finite resources. It is at the bottom of everything, or at least so much. Including how we have notions of race and privilege. It is what makes the phrase, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” sound so benign except, for some, for its connection to Karl Marx.

But in a society where the role of status (of all kinds) is, in and of itself, on display every minute now thanks to the rise of Donald Trump and those within his enmeshed world of narcissistic dysfunction, the fear of diminishing the privilege related to the status of being white is providing justification for words, deeds and behavior associated directly with hate.

Toni Morrison says this better than I ever could in her piece, “Mourning for Whiteness,” in the most recent edition of  The New Yorker.

The comfort of being “naturally better than,” of not having to struggle or demand civil treatment, is hard to give up. The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants—these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished.

So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.

In addition to making their knees tremble, this kind of terror is making them hate and feel okay about their hate. Mr. Trump and his abettors keep them focused on the fear that they could lose their socially constructed privilege of whiteness.

But those of us who are white, we have a responsibility to demonstrate the fabrication of the construct to begin with, and the necessity of eliminating that construct altogether.


One thought on “Toni Morrison on losing privilege

  1. Good morning Jill,

    True story. Last February (Black History Month) one of my white students came into the room and asked:

    “Mr. Hess, Why don’t we have White History Month?”

    I replied, “We do, we call them March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December and January.”

    While my student took a moment to take that in, my students of color in the room responded with fist bumps and high fives.

    Morrison is, of course, spot on. We have a long way to travel before the Second American Revolution is resolved.

    Do all you can to make today a better day,


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