What do The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and Bill Cosby have in common?
Privilege, i.e., their sense of entitlement.
The dictionary gives us these definitions of privilege: special right, favor, etc. grant a privilege to.
In the case of the first two, it is white privilege, or more specifically, white Christian privilege.
In the case of Cosby: Male privilege; nee rich, celebrity privilege.
Over the past several months, stories have flooded the media with news of how these entities feel especially entitled to continue their demonstration of wrong thinking. About the CCC and the KKK, the notion of white privilege and particularly Christian white privilege is defended with a few tweezed out passages from Bible scriptures, and also supported by their too-narrow reading of the founding father’s intent.
Granted, the original constitution was designed to protect a very few land-holding English and German-speaking white men; their wives were excluded. But on really close examination, I wonder how many of the current members of the CCC and KKK can actually trace their ancestry to the Mayflower!
Remember, in the early days of this country, skin color was not a determinant of white privilege. Narrowly defined, it included those who were Anglo-Saxon, Protestants, and male. The Catholic Irish, Italians, and any others who are now considered white, were not included in the first batch of the approved privileged group. In fact, it was not until the 1930s that members of these other groups were identified as white on police reports.
Make no mistake, white privileges were written into every law, decree, policy and treaty. It was, at one point, so declared that the privileged were allowed to pay some lesser ‘white’ to serve in their place during the Civil War draft! That practice marked one of the earliest rifts between the recently arrived Irish and the then ruling class of whites, igniting the gangs of New York draft riots.
Somehow, over the course of history, white privilege expanded to bring everyone who was not black, i.e., descended from Africans under the umbrella. That included their women. They felt they had been given special rights; favored over non-whites.
That brings us to present day, when the long battle for civil rights is still being fought: homosexual rights to marry; women’s reproductive rights (being challenged); and/or the rights of other minority groups to be on par with the majority; i.e., to be granted the privileges of inclusion.
Yet, every piece of conquered ground for full inclusion continues to shake the core of those who feel their white privilege is being taken away. A privilege granted, not by birthright or inheritance, but by virtue of living in a constitutionally mandated state of equality with others.
It’s been a hard pill for them to swallow. I say, “Suck it up.”
Then along comes Bill Cosby.
Talented. Successful. Rich. Charismatic. Black. Male.
He has risen above the tethers of racial profiling or stereotype. Bill has reached the stratospheric positon of being above the norm, thereby escaping the rigors of the prevailing rules and mores of the times that govern a black man’s behavior in America. Heck, he was once considered America’s dad!
It’s another mark of privilege; not having to conform, or comply, and Bill admitted in his 2005 deposition to behaving as if he had been granted the privilege to exploit women! After all, he was rich and famous, and all those women wanted access to his alleged privilege.
And if he drugged and sexually exploited them, so what?
Isn’t that what privilege offers? The opportunity to exploit. The right to take what is not yours, e.g. native lands. To claim rights that are, by nature counterintuitive; e.g., fracking for oil and gas. To declare war against ideologies, e.g. my God versus your God. To rape and plunder another person.
What is your privilege? What do you feel you have been granted that’s outside the boundaries of the constitutional or natural laws, or community standards?
I’ll give you one: you have the privilege of choice. To choose right or wrong. And may you be granted the wisdom to know the difference.
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org