Schooling Liberals on Their White Privilege

Bernie or Bust

Responding to Donald Trump’s comments that a judge presiding over a lawsuit involving his business was biased because of his Mexican heritage, House Speaker Paul Ryan ripped into his remarks, calling it “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Nevertheless, Ryan – along with others from the Republican establishment – went on to endorse Trump for the presidency. To endorse an avowed racist for the highest office in the land while recognizing he is a racist is the textbook definition of white privilege. White Privilege occurs when those not impacted by racism, because they are white, vote for, or refuse to vote against, someone detrimental, if not deadly, to communities of color.

In my last article, I argued that even though I was a financial supporter of Bernie Sanders since he announced his candidacy for president, and even though I have deep reservations concerning Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative worldviews and neoliberal economic tendencies, I will nonetheless vote for her because she will be less damning to communities of color. Some Bernie Bros advocating Bernie or Bust are, like Speaker Ryan, exhibiting their white privilege because a Trump Administration, while undesirable, does not threaten their security, livelihood, or very life. If nothing else, Trump will strengthen white privilege more so than Clinton (or Sanders, if he would have gotten more votes and become the nominee).

Last week’s article must have hit a nerve because it received thousands of hits and scores of comments. Although I make it a personal policy never to reply to responses, today I thought I would do so in an effort to school my dear white liberals on their white privilege and explain why I, and some people of color who resonate with my views (obviously not “all,” because no one elected me as the official spokesperson), remain suspicious of liberals claiming to be our allies while shedding crocodile tears.

  • The Messiah Complex, otherwise known as the Great White Hope. Several of the emails I received reminded me that only Sanders will save us from the establishment who has sold out to special interests. All other politicians are bought. Whenever a white person is set up as the savior of “colored folk,” people of color worry. This has never worked out well in the past. Liberation can only come from those who struggle under repression and subjugation. Of course white allies are crucial, as long as they walk next to us in our quest for justice, and not paternalistically ahead of us. Besides, it is somewhat naïve to believe that the head of the empire, regardless of color or gender, would be anything except an emperor (or empress).
  • I’m the real racist. If I had a dollar for every time I have been called a racist, I might be as wealthy as Trump. When those on society’s margins attempt to establish a dialogue to investigate how they too can inhabit this country as full and equal citizens, those (including liberals) whose position within society is jeopardized by such assertions, cast themselves as the victims, while labeling Latinx seeking dialogue as “playing the race card” or as “race hustlers.”
  • Sanders is leading a revolution, not a political campaign. No, sorry, this is a political campaign. I actually lived through a revolution (Cuba) and witnessed how revolutions eat their young. Because of some of the hate mail I received from Bernie Bros, who are eating their young – (meaning critiquing those who dare to question the party line) – I maintain a healthy concern about revolutionary zeal. We social democrats believe in free and open elections, and we believe that the will of the majority who voted should not be dismissed because our candidate did not garner the most votes. Is our nominating process byzantine? Absolutely. Should it be reformed? Yes. But at the end of the day, Clinton got more votes – many of which were from communities of color. For mainly young white liberals to overrule this is not a revolution I want to be part of.
  • I’m angry at the Sanders campaign because they didn’t hire my wife. Yes, this was one of the accusations hurled at me. First of all, my wife is already employed, thank you very much. But more important, by labeling people of color “angry,” whites are then given permission to ignore every critique offered because, after all, it lacks rational thought, being instead a product of passion/anger. Also, to say that people of color’s thinking is only motivated by opportunity, specifically financial gain, is to imply we can be bought because we lack altruistic qualities, an ability to look beyond our self interest for what is best for the overall community.
  • Clinton hoodwinked people of color to vote for her, I should focus on that. My dear white liberals, please don’t show your racist tendencies by suggesting we cannot decide what is best for our communities, and that we need YOU to tell us what to focus on. For the record, I was one of the few people of color who supported Sanders, even though he made minimal efforts to deal specifically with Hispanics. But to imply that communities of color who failed to support him are gullible sheep is truly beyond the pale. Reread bullet point number one! Unlike Sanders (one of my main critiques of my last article), Clinton made a concerted effort to reach out and listen carefully to communities of color and thus was subsequently rewarded with their votes.
  • Focus on economic justice and not identity politics. Why assume it is an either/or when it should be both/and? Still, I find it fascinating that those who created identity politics since the foundation of the Republic create a national narrative where “they” are the victims. Let’s be clear, communities of color did not enshrine in the Constitution that blacks were 3/5 of a man, or established Jim & Jane Crow laws, or today maintain a law and order that racially profiles the type of person disproportionately stopped by the police, convicted by judges, and inhabiting prisons. Fixing economic injustices – as crucial as it is – will not solve racism or ethnic discrimination.
  • I’m a closeted Clinton supporter pretending to be a Sander backer. Yeah, right. ‘Cause we Latinx are so sneaky. Can’t trust any of us.

Here is the bottom line: white privilege emulating from either liberals or conservatives is equally damning to communities of color. I am just as suspicious of white liberals who assure me they get it, as I am of conservatives claiming color blindness. Right now, every four days, five brown bodies die crossing the deserts on our southern borders. Brown mothers, children, and infants are behind bars due to our current immigration policies. Children! Infants! I’m sure there would be an outcry if white children and infants were behind bars. And yet, the silence of my so-called liberal allies is deafening about this. Will a Clinton Administration end this? I doubt it. But this I know: the proposed Trump administration has vowed to make this situation much worse for brown folk. Literally more brown bodies will perish under his presidency. We people of color have no illusions about this. Unlike liberals protected by white privilege, we have skin in the game. Our vote is never cast for someone who will save us, rather for who will harm, or even kill, less of us.

Miguel A. De La Torre

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