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Why and How Big Money Promotes "White Privilege" Rhetoric

[Related: "Racial Discrimination Against Non-Whites is Rampant and Harms Working Class People of ALL Races"]

[Martin Luther King, Jr. explains (audio tape) how racial discrimination HARMS, NOT BENEFITS, working class whites]

[Some short explanations: "Is it a 'Privilege' Not to be Discriminated Against?" & True or False: An Injury to One Is an Injury to All?]

[Another author writes "How Anti-White Rhetoric is Fueling White Nationalism"]

by John Spritzler

April 17, 2013

"White privilege" is a relatively new phrase that liberals, progressives and Leftists use instead of the "old fashioned" phrases such as "racial discrimination against non-whites" or "racial inequality." It didn't used to be this way. The phrase was not current during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s against the racist Jim Crow laws. But now the phrase "white privilege" (it gets 960,000 results with Google) is quite prevalent in liberal/Left circles. How come?

The answer is that Big Money wants people to stop referring to "racial discrimination" and refer instead to "white privilege" and so Big Money promotes the use of "white privilege." To demonstrate this I need to do two things: 1) explain why Big Money would have an interest in doing this and 2) show that Big Money is actually promoting the "white privilege" phrase. I'll start with the second, if only because the evidence for it is more obvious.

The Evidence that Big Money Promotes the "White Privilege" Phrase

Fasten your seatbelt here because we’re going to be jumping from one website to another to discover connections that these Big Money folks do not want to make obvious.

The Ford Foundation promotes the use of "white privilege" by funding ("partnering with" to use the NGO jargon) an organization called "The White Privilege Conference." This organization is devoted to making sure that the “white privilege” framework dominates people’s thinking about what used to be called racial discrimination against non-whites. The WPC says of itself:

“The conference is unique in its ability to bring together high school and college students, teachers, university faculty and higher education professionals, nonprofit staff, activists, social workers and counselors, healthcare workers, and members of the spiritual community and corporate arena. Annually, more than 1,500 attend from more than 35 states, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, and Germany.”

If one looks at the organizations that The White Privilege Conference partners with by going to its web page with this information, one sees the Ford Foundation listed as a partner. The Ford Foundation has the best public relations money can buy--literally. But underneath the pretty talk about helping to make a better world for everybody, there is the fact that the Ford Foundation is run by a small number of Trustees, named on their web page.

What kind of people serve as trustees of the Ford Foundation? Some of them are, as we shall see, obvious Big Money individuals. In the case of others the connection to Big Money is not so obvious.  For example, let's take a close look at former Chair and currently member of the Board of Trustees--Irene Hirano Inouye. Her bio-sketch says that she is the President of the U.S.-Japan Council. Let's see what the U.S.-Japan Council is all about. Its web page says, in the top "Overview" section:

"The U.S.-Japan Council is a 501(c) 3 non-profit educational organization that contributes to strengthening U.S.-Japan relations by bringing together diverse leadership, engaging stakeholders and exploring issues that benefit communities, businesses and government entities on both sides of the Pacific."

More "pretty talk." So let's look a bit closer. In the second paragraph of the Overview section we read:

“The Council was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Washington, DC with staff in California, Hawaii and Tokyo. In 2012, the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) was created to support the administration of the TOMODACHI Initiative, and in 2013, it became a Public Interest Corporation (Koeki Zaidan Hojin). The U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) maintains an office in Tokyo, Japan.” 

What exactly is the TOMODACHI Initiative that the US-Japan Council was created to support? Going to its web page, it seems that TOMODACHI is about making young people happy--lots of photos of young smiling faces doing fun activities. What's wrong with that? But let's keep looking more closely. On the same page under "What's new?" I saw (back in April of 2013 when I first looked) "Secretary Kerry dialog with TOMODACHI youth" and "Clinton Global Initiative University Fellows to the U.S." On May 28, 2017 this web page asks, “Why do top Japanese and U.S. business leaders support TOMODCHI?” followed by photos of top Japanese business leaders and the logos of its “strategic partners,” which include the logos of Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley and other of the world’s biggest corporations.

Does the involvement of these top corporations and politicians such as John Kerry--who wage unjust wars involving mass murder of innocent people--mean that the TOMODACHI Initiative might be about something other than fun and games for youth? Of course it does! To see this we need to see who’s in charge of the U.S.-Japan Council that established the foundation of the TOMODACHI Initiative.

Its directors are listed in an online file. Laura Winthrop Abott is the Executive Director. She is married to Cmdr. Spencer Abbot who is a member (see its membership roster) of the ultra-elite Council on Foreign Relations (check its membership roster and you will find the members of the ruling class and their loyal servants—Rockefellers and people such as Condoleeza Rice and Bill (“William”) Clinton. People who want a more equal and democratic world, however, are not admitted to the CFR.

TOMODACHI, for some reason, no longer has a website page giving the members of its Advisory Board, but when I looked back in 2013 it consisted of Big Money players par excellence.

On the Advisory Board were Richard Armitage, President, Armitage International, L.L.C.; Takashi Kawamura, Chairman, Hitachi, L.L.D.; Yorihiko Kojima, Chairman and CEO, Mitsubishi Corporation. Also on the board were the Chairman or CEO of other corporations with less well-known (to me) names such as, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Mitsui & Co. L.T.D., Rakuten, Inc.. These are the people who, as the TOMODACHI web page explained, "provide advice, assistance, and support to help the TOMODACHI Initiative achieve its mission."

The missions that this kind of people supports are missions that make the world safer and more secure for their capitalist Big Money class. Big Money needs, more than anything else, to make sure that the billions of people in the world who want a more equal and democratic world don't develop the solidarity with each other that would enable them to mount a serious threat to the power of Big Money and its enjoyment, at the expense of everybody else, of billion dollar fortunes and privileges and power beyond the dreams of ordinary people.

This kind of people select, as presidents and directors and trustees of organizations they control, individuals whom they trust. They selected Irene Hirano Inouye as president of the organization set up to support the administration of the TOMODACHI Initiative--the U.S.-Japan Council. And the Ford Foundation in turn selected Ms. Inouye to be the past Chair and now member of its Board of Trustees.

In case there is any doubt as to what kind of person sits on the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation, its web page tells us that one of its other Trustees is Ursula M. Burns who is the Chair of the Xerox Corporation. Another is J. Clifford Hudson who is chairman, CEO, and president of Sonic Corp (number 297 on the Fortune 500 list.) Another trustee is N. R. Narayana Murthy who is executive chairman of the board of Infosys (an Indian multinational corporation with assets of more than $12 billion.) If you are reading this at a future date compared to May of 2017 (when I updated these links) the details of who is a trustee will probably have changed, but the story will remain the same.

Under the leadership and direction of these Big Money individuals, the Ford Foundation decides to "partner" with The White Privilege Conference. These people understand that promoting “white privilege” rhetoric is in their class interest; it advances their main strategy of social control: divide and rule.

This is just one example of how Big Money promotes "white privilege" as a substitute for "racial discrimination against non-whites" and similar "old fashioned" phrases. The Rockefeller Foundation and others like it do the same thing. One of many illustrations of this is the case of Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D., formerly Associate Director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, whose "informational packet" says:

“McIntosh is the author of many influential articles on curriculum change, women's studies and systems of unearned privilege. She is best known for authoring the groundbreaking article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (1989),” which has been instrumental in putting the dimension of privilege into discussions of gender, race and sexuality. Excerpted from McIntosh’s longer piece on white and male privilege - "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies”(1988) - the article has been translated into multiple languages and is read and quoted by multicultural scholars and educators all over the world. The essay set forth the concept of white privilege, a theoretical construct that has since significantly influenced anti-racist theory and practice as well as other activist movements.”

In 1993 Dr. McIntosh had a Rockefeller Foundation Writing Fellowship for her monograph, “Systems of Unearned Overadvantage” (see page 107 of the linked document). Mcintosh has received funding also from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

Clearly Big Money loves "white privilege" rhetoric. The question now is, how come?

Why Does Big Money Promote the "White Privilege" Phrase?

To see why Big Money wants to get people to stop using the phrase "racial discrimination" and start using "white privilege" instead, one needs to do something a bit unpleasant, namely try to look at things from the point of view of the privileged ruling elite. Here's what it looks like:

"I fear being removed from power by a mass movement of ordinary people who are angry at me because I make them suffer in order so that I can enjoy great wealth and privilege. I need these angry people to stop being angry at me and be angry at each other instead. Even better, I want as many of them as possible to like how I run society.

"I know that racist discrimination is a great divide and rule strategy; it makes those discriminated against angry at those not discriminated against, thus destroying solidarity, which is the only thing these people have that can challenge my power over them. But there are risks in using racial discrimination. The people might realize that an injury to one is an injury to all (as discussed here) and unite in solidarity and anger against me. Not good! What to do?

"How about this? Tell the ones not discriminated against (the whites) that that old "injury to one is an injury to all" line is false. Tell them that, actually, an injury to blacks and Hispanics is a benefit--a 'privilege'--for the whites. Perfect! Some whites will say, 'Hey, if discrimination against blacks benefits me, then why should I object to it?' Other whites will say, 'Oh, I feel so guilty benefiting from my white skin privilege.'

"Either way, it's wonderful! The whites who feel guilty will never be a threat to me because guilt never causes people to build a strong movement. Moreover, the whites who feel guilty, because they foolishly think they benefit from racial discrimination, will use their influence with the other whites to persuade them that they actually benefit from racial discrimination and have no reason to oppose it. And the more people (white and non-white both) who think that whites benefit from racist discrimination, the more that non-whites will direct their anger at white working class people, and not against me.

"Problem solved: I'll replace 'racial discrimination' with 'white privilege.' I never liked that old 'racial discrimination' phrase to begin with; it pointed the finger at the person doing the discriminating--me! 'White privilege' is much better--it points the finger at white people instead, people who have nothing to do with implementing the racial discrimination.

"I think I'll have my friends at the Ford Foundation help set up a new organization. What should I call it? I know, 'The White Privilege Conference'--that's the ticket."

What about Tim ("white privilege") Wise?

The article by Tim Wise about the Boston Marathon bombing, "Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness," is a recent example of the use of "white privilege" rhetoric.

Tim Wise is profoundly wrong. Wise writes, "White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation." The lie is in the first five words of this sentence, not in the remaining words.

Whites and others may indeed know that when a heinous crime is committed by a white person the rulers of the U.S. and their mass media will not vilify all whites as they would, say, a Muslim. But calling this a "white privilege" is false. The correct term for this is "racist (or ethnic or religious) discrimination," not "white privilege." 

It is not a "privilege" to not be the specific object of racist discrimination. The purpose of racist discrimination--the reason the ruling elite carry it out--is to divide-and-conquer ordinary people of all races, to undermine their cross-racial solidarity, so that they may all (white as well as non-white) be more easily controlled and dominated by the ruling elite. Ordinary white people are HARMED, not benefited, by racist discrimination in this way.

To describe racist discrimination as a "white privilege" amounts to telling whites that they benefit from racist discrimination against non-whites; this is exactly the lie that the ruling class wants white people to believe. This lie aims to refute the profound truth that the labor movement learned many years ago: An injury to one is an injury to all. The more this "white privilege" lie is believed (by whites and non-whites) the more the divide-and-conquer strategy succeeds in creating mutual resentment between whites and non-whites. This is why the ruling class, with its Rockefeller and Ford Foundations (and others) funds the promotion of "white privilege" rhetoric.

The word "privilege," in our English language, can either be used in the sense of a deserved privilege (such as the privilege of a qualified pilot to fly a jet plane or a licensed automobile driver to drive an automobile) or an undeserved (unfair) privilege (for example,  people of "royal blood" enjoying special privileges such as enormous wealth and exemption from some laws that apply only to ordinary people.) We all understand that an undeserved privilege is something that should be abolished. So-called "royal" people should not have the privileges of royalty; they should be like everybody else. How does this connect to "white privilege"?

Tim Wise is certainly not saying that "white privilege" is a deserved privilege, is he? ("White privilege" rhetoric is always about how it is an undeserved privilege.) So what then is Tim Wise saying--that "white privilege" should be abolished, that whites should be treated the same as non-whites, that when a white person commits a heinous crime then all whites should be vilified? Tim Wise cannot come right out and say this because it would be too obviously stupid. It would expose the absurdity of his use of the word "privilege" and his substitution of "white privilege" for the correct term, "racial discrimination."

But Tim Wise does in fact want ordinary whites to feel guilty for, and be perceived by non-whites as being guilty of, the racial discrimination that the ruling elite implement. Thus he writes (using "our" to refer to whites) that "white privilege" is "the source of our unearned innocence and the cause of others' unjustified oppression."

The ruling class lie--that whites and non-whites have opposing interests, that whites benefit from (are "privileged" by) the oppression of non-whites, that whites' claim of innocence is "unearned" (i.e., that whites are guilty of the oppression of non-whites)--this lie serves the ruling class equally well whether the people spreading it do so in the name of racism or anti-racism. In fact, the lie is made far more credible (and hence more useful to the ruling class) when it is spread by an "anti-racist" like Tim Wise than by a KKK racist. No matter who says it, it is a racist lie, intended to pit people against each other along race lines. People who promote this lie are thus promoting racism. This includes Tim Wise.


Postscript November 15, 2013. Bruce A. Dixon of Black Agenda Report writes here about how Tim Wise gave his "anti-racist" stamp of approval to a very racist government program (Teach for America, which foists untrained inexerienced novice teachers on urban black public schools):

Tim Wise has made a career as an author and speaker lecturing white Americans on racism. We suppose that's a good thing and that somebody's gotta do it. Mr. Wise is speaking at a major Teach For America event on July 19. How do we reconcile that with a stand against racism? We can't, and unless TFA is gonna pay Mr. Wise to tell them their entire practice and premise is elitist, evil and yes, racist, we're pretty sure he can't reconcile it either.

Postscript January 22, 2015. The Invention of the White Race (volumes 1 and 2) by Theodore W. Allen is an excellent history of how racial discrimination has been used by the capitalist class to dominate the laboring class and specifically how the capitalist class invented the idea of white supremacy and incorporated it into law and practice to dominate not only African-descent workers but also European-descent workers, starting around 1691 and continuing to the present day.

Although Allen uses the phrase "white privilege," he most defininitely did not believe that working class whites benefited from racial discrimination. On the contrary, he said that working class whites were harmed by racial discrimination.

Thus Jeffrey B. Perry, the editor of The Invention of the White Race, writes of Allen:

He stressed that "the logic of 'race as a social construct' must be tightened and the focus sharpened" and "the 'white race' must be understood not simply as a social construct [rather than a genetic phenomenon], but as a ruling class social control formation." This position is consistent with Allen's repeated efforts to challenge what he considered to be the two main arguments that undermine and disarm the struggle against white supremacy in the working class: 1) the argument that white supremacism is innate, and 2) the argument that European-American workers benefit from 'white race' privileges and white supremacism, that the privileges are in their class interest. These two arguments, opposed by Allen, are related to two ....[goes on to make another point--J.S.]" (vol. 1, pg. 235)

Allen points out, in one historical context after another, that "white privilege" harmed whites and benefited only the capitalist class. Here are some quotations in his book to that effect:

"If the Virginia laws of 1705 represent ruling class manipulation of the rank-and-file, the inescapable implication seems to be that the social transformation that they expressed--to the system of racial slavery, racial oppression, white supremacy--must not have been in the real interests of the majority of the people, the smallholders, the tenants and laborers, those who did not own bond-laborers." (vol. 2, pg. 253)

"...the gentry could not 'safely ignore the rest of white society' [Allen is quoting the person he is disagreeing with here--J.S.] because their bond-labor system was antithetical to the interests not only of African-American bond-laborers, but also of all the rest of the population that did not own bond-laborers. In their solidarity with the African-American bond-laborers in Bacon's Rebellion, the laboring-class european-American bond-laborers had demonstrated their understanding of their interests, and bond-laborers had had the sympathy of the laboring poor and propertyless free population." (vol 2, pg. 248)

"By shaping the homestead policy as a white-skin privilege, the ruling class had secured the acquiescence of laboring-class whites in the overthrow of black Reconstruction. Now it was time for the bourgeoisie to reveal the other side of its policy on the land question: the power of capital to expropriate a great proportion of the white farmers and cast them--racial privileges and all--into the ranks of the proletariat." (vol 1., pg. 153)

"As one eastern Virginia plantation owners, 'Civis', wrote of most of the poor whites in his area of the country, they had 'little but their complexion to console them for being born into a higher caste.' [Note! This is NOT a typo! --J.S.] Yet that one tie bound them to the plantation owners like hoops of steel, and made them 'always ready to respond to any call of race prejudice [so that they--Allen] voted with the planter, though the economic interests of the two parties of white men were as separate as the poles." [As separate as the poles! --J.S.] (vol 1., pg. 154)

"What was not normal from the standpoint of lowering operating costs was to refuse to hire Negroes as cotton mill operatives, even though the mill owners believed that African-American laborers were perfectly capable of doing the work, and possibly at lower cost...It was altogether rational, however, in terms of the maintenance of bourgeois social control, one more instance of balancing the economic and the social aspects of rulership...More than 90 percent of all African-Americans lived in the South; escape to the west and north, as we have seen in the story of the Exodus of 1879, was effectively cut off for all but the most hardy and lucky of them. Outside the South, industrial employers understood that the white-skin privilege employment policy, when combined with a corresponding racist immigration policy, was on the whole perfectly compatible with profitable operations and that it served their long-range class interests as a preventive against class-consciousness in the North and in the West, no less than in the South...Textile mill wages in the South were not only low relative to those of New England, but absolutely low with reference to their own daily needs...This historic persistence of low wages was not due, however, to the conditions of rural poverty of those tenant farmers and sharecroppers alone, or to the lack of opportunities for other industrial employment. It was bound to perpetuity because of the paralyzing effect of white-supremacism, a barrier that could not be overcome without a facing of the issue. That seems to be the clear conclusion to which the brothers Mitchell were led by their extensive studies in the field. They said: 'Managements have encouraged the maxim that the cotton manufacture is a white man's industry; the implied danger of Negro invasion is supposed to render the operatives glad to hold what they have, rather than reach out for more.'" (vol 1, pps 156-8)

Postscript January 34, 2017: Conservative had a field day reporting a speech (with a video of it) by a white woman running for Chair of the Democratic National Committee who had swallowed the "white privilege" B.S. so completely that she said the "DNC should train people in 'how to shut their mouths if they're white.'"

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