I must admit, as frustrated as I may have been in my many discussions of white privilege, they have never come to fisticuffs. Unfortunately, on Monday of this week Professor McIntyre's self-control was far less stalwart. Random thought: will tenure protect him on this one? Or is he out on a moral's clause?
People of color have long learned the merits of sucking it in. Apparently, this policy of silent annoyance does occasionally result in moments of explosive rage.
Respectable negroes learn at an early age to be diplomatically neutral, if not silent, even when we are right. We must smile when we are upset. And of course, we must demure to White folks in matters of race because as in all things they are the ultimate experts. This is the irony of race relations in America. Historically, black folk (and others) have been a "problem" to be managed. Not "managed" by ourselves per se--our agency is not in doubt--but managed, made the object of bureaucratic and legal apparatuses, and the focal point of studies, research, and policy designed to solve the race problem in America. The Racial State manages bodies, personhood, and relationships. Implicit in this relationship is that White folks do the managing, and people of color are the pieces of the game that are to be coordinated.
Counter to this narrative is the fact that racism is a problem of the White soul. It is not Black and brown folk, but rather White people, who need to reflect on their own culpability and responsibility for the grotesque history (and present) of this society spanning, world organizing concept and regime.
What follows is the eureka moment upon which conversations about race more generally, and whiteness, in particular become so heated: necessity dictates that black folks and the Other are experts on White people, and by reversing the gaze (where Whiteness and White people are now made the objects of inquiry) feelings, emotions, and expectations can become dangerously impassioned.
The moment of reversal can result in two binary outcomes. For racial reactionaries and conservatives there is a fierce denial of White privilege, one that is prefaced on an unwillingness to accept the profound impact of race and racism on American social and political life. It is tragically funny then, that the racial resentment felt by White conservatives is exactly a response to the perception that their superior position is under threat:
For White liberals, especially self-described "progressives," White privilege is met with some acknowledgment where the responses follow a predictable script: "Sure racism is real, but I am not a racist, right?" Alternatively, these same progressives may assert that, "I am certainly fighting white privilege because I am a progressive, feminist, environmentalist, vegan. My bonafides are proven, thus I share no complicity in supporting or perpetuating social inequality."
My favorite of this genus is the racist White liberal. This purveyor of the soft bigotry of low-expectations expects little from people of color. And in their patronizing, he/she proceeds from a position of inherent superiority. In discussions of white privilege the racist White liberal is oftentimes the very person who introduces the concept. Ultimately, this is just another domain within which to grandstand, all the while maintaining one's expertise on people of color, the race problem, and white privilege. It is a coup of sorts because the expertise of racist white liberals on these matters is enabled by white privilege, all the while they rally against the very thing which sustains their "superiority." The result: people of color are rendered mute as experts on the condition of their own being.
Theorizing in a vacuum, what do you think precipitated the fight in the following story? Who is more racist and frustrating? Liberals or Conservatives? Do you have a favorite white privilege/male privilege/some other privilege story? One that ends in some exciting fireworks of tears, anger, rage, or just utter exacerbation? I must ask: Who is more likely to cry as a defense mechanism and distraction? I know the answer. I just want to here others confirm it. I will beg the question: Is White privilege even worth discussing? Or is it just a dead end where one ends up wasting energy by speaking to the honest (who already "get" it) as well as the disingenuous (who pretend to "get" it) alike?
From the NY Post, the story follows:
Last Updated: 1:17 PM, November 10, 2009
Posted: 2:57 AM, November 10, 2009
A prominent Columbia architecture professor punched a female university employee in the face at a Harlem bar during a heated argument about race relations, cops said yesterday.
Police busted Lionel McIntyre, 59, for assault yesterday after his bruised victim, Camille Davis, filed charges.
McIntyre and Davis, who works as a production manager in the school's theater department, are both regulars at Toast, a popular university bar on Broadway and 125th Street, sources said.
The professor, who is black, had been engaged in a fiery discussion about "white privilege" with Davis, who is white, and another male regular, who is also white, Friday night at 10:30 when fists started flying, patrons said.
McIntyre, who is known as "Mac" at the bar, shoved Davis, and when the other patron and a bar employee tried to break it up, the prof slugged Davis in the face, witnesses said.
"The punch was so loud, the kitchen workers in the back heard it over all the noise," bar back Richie Velez, 28, told The Post. "I was on my way over when he punched Camille and she fell on top of me."
The other patron involved in the dispute said McIntyre then took a swing at him after he yelled, "You don't hit a woman!"
"He knocked the glasses right off my face," said the man, who would only give his first name as "Shannon." "The punch came out of nowhere. Mac was talking to us about white privilege and what I was doing about it -- apparently I wasn't doing enough."
McIntyre had squabbled with Davis several weeks earlier over issues involving race, witnesses said. As soon as the professor threw the punch Friday, server Rob Dalton and another employee tossed him out.
"It was a real sucker punch," Dalton said. "Camille's a great lady, always nice to everybody, and doesn't deserve anything like this."
Davis was spotted wearing sunglasses yesterday to conceal the black eye. Reached at her Columbia office, she declined to comment on the alleged attack.
McIntyre was released without bail at his arraignment last night.
"It was a very unfortunate event," he said afterwards. "I didn't mean for it to explode the way it did."
Additional reporting by Sarah Makuta