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White Oppression Myths, Debunked

Illustration for article titled White Oppression Myths, Debunked

The other day, CNN astutely asked its Rhodes Scholar readers whether or not white Americans are racially oppressed. And they were serious!


As a white lady, the thought of considering myself an oppressed minority in a country where I have never been followed around a store or pulled over for Driving While White is bewildering to me. The CNN article made several claims that were so absurd they bordered on blatant trolling, and since these ridiculous myths have stood up to the actual facts that debunk them, let's fight them with absurdity.

Point: "There's no such thing as White Studies."
Counterpoint: Yes there is, but it's not called "history" like you hippies think it is. It's called Full House reruns.


Point: "There's no 'White History Month.'"
Counterpoint: That's because we have consolidated an entire White History Month into one big White History Day and we fill that day with parades full of white people doing white things like not moving their arms when they dance and drinking light beer and celebrating their whiteness, and that day is called St. Patrick's Day.

Point: Rush Limbaugh says whites are in need of their own civil rights movement, that white people need to beware of "the fire hoses and dogs."
Counterpoint: Rush Limbaugh is a Replicant.

Point: "Whites are intimidated at the polls by big scary black people."
Counterpoint: To be fair, the terrified, face-clawing racists I've had the displeasure of knowing have found all black people intimidating by virtue of existing.

Point: "There aren't any scholarships specifically for white people."
Counterpoint: Yes, but all of the money is still printed with pictures of white people. Except the Sacajawea coins, but no one uses those. I tried to use a couple at a Walgreens once and the clerk gave me the most extreme side eye in the history of side eyes.


Point: "Whites will be a racial minority in the US by the year 2050."
Counterpoint: Nothing is more frightening to The Paranoid White Person than the idea of Mexicans taking over and being just as prejudiced and xenophobic as white people were toward everyone else throughout American history. Plus, if you're like 60 now, you'll be dead by 2050 and you don't have to worry about the scary non-whites that have yet to be born.

Point: "Where are all of the cool white celebrities?"
Counterpoint: There are plenty of cool white celebrities. They're all playing hockey in Canada or forming twee indie bands with Zooey Deschanel, an as-yet-unnamed bearded male vocalist, and dozens of her ukelele and accordian-playing friends .


It seems that those who believe that white people are oppressed subscribe to what I call the Laundry Theory of Culture. You know how when you do laundry and you're washing all your white clothes in hot water and a red sock gets thrown in there and the whole entire load gets ruined? That's exactly what it's like to be white in America, according to idiots. In their addled minds, we are one Beyonce or Antonio Banderas away from becoming a load of pink sheets.

Are Whites Racially Oppressed? [CNN]

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Some commenters think white people don't want to think deeply about "white privilege" (which is a misnomer - not experiencing unfair negative treatment is not "privilege" - that word conveys benefits above and beyond the norm). It's not that they don't want to think it, but that the reality is too difficult for them to effectively inhabit. It's the same reason why someone who has never done any drugs can't understand what it's like to be a drug addict or how an atheist can't understand how someone can believe religious texts as if they were facts. It's hard for anyone who fully understand what its like to live in another person's skin.

There are, however, opportunities for even white people to know what its like to be a minority. They just have to live outside of their own culture for awhile. I'm white and have been followed around in stores, questioned by the police for nothing more than walking down the street, denied service because of my skin color, had racially-inspired negative comments shouted at me, and even been fingerprinted and had records kept on me even though I committed no crime (nor ever been charged with one). I think I have some idea of what it is like to be treated differently based on race despite having the "privilege" of being white, because I've lived in Japan for a little over two decades and that's what it's like when you're an extreme minority.

So, don't conclude ones white skin means they don't understand, but try to know that it is hard for most to understand because you really can't know what it is to be someone in a particular culture unless you can have a similar experience. It's not willful ignorance. It's just the limits of human perception and the capacity to really internalize another person's reality.