The phrase “check your privilege” has become common in popular discourse over the last decade. But do we really understand what “privilege” means? On April 7, during a livestream in our #AskOBI series, we heard from leading scholars Stephanie M. Wildman and Margalynne Armstrong, authors of the new edition of “Privilege Revealed,” in conversation with OBI Director john a. powell. Facilitated by scholar and activist Adam Ryan Chang, they discussed what has changed—and what hasn’t—in the 25 years since the book was first released, and why understanding “privilege” still remains critical to our movements for justice today.
Adam Chang: Hi everyone. My name is Adam Chang and I'm here today with Stephanie Wildman and Margalynne Armstrong. Their book is privilege revealed first published in 1996. Would you take us a moment to give us all introduction and welcome the panelists and today we mark the release of a new and updated edition, celebrating the book but grappling with the fact that many issues raised 25 years ago remains irrelevant. Also on the panel is john powell, head of the other and belonging Institute special thanks to OBI for hosting the event and making it happen and want to kind of say hi to everybody. Prof. Wildman served as director of Santa Clara Law school center for social justice and public service before becoming Prof. Ameritech, her debut children's book brave and the water comes out this month. She's authored dozens of law review articles and journalistic pieces she's a grandmother, mother spouse and a dear friend, hi professor Wildman.
Adam Chang: Prof. Armstrong is an associate professor at Santa Clara University school of Law. She teaches race and law, critical race theory, constitutional law property law and other courses. Her scholarship examines housing discrimination race and criminal law and teaching about race and privilege. Hello Prof. Armstrong.
Adam Chang: And lastly it is my pleasure to welcome Prof. john powell, internationally recognized expert in civil rights civil liberties structural racism housing poverty and democracy. john is the director of the other and belonging Institute at UC Berkeley research Institute that brings together scholars community advocates indicators and policymakers to eliminate barriers to inclusive just and sustainable society. Welcome, john.
Adam Chang: The topic of the hour is privilege. What is it, who has it and what is to be done about it their goal today is to share examples of modern-day privilege and how they continue to uphold long-standing structures of racism and other forms of oppression we also hope to spend some time discussing what allies ship and coalition building looks like. Stick with us till the end and the panel will answer questions directly from the audience and if you’re posting live on social media today please continue to use the hashtag ask OBI so we can track the conversations. And if you are interested in purchasing the book privilege revealed visit NYU press.org and you will receive 30% off with the code privilege30. It is all one word and that is up on the screen for you as well.
Adam Chang: So let's delve in. Privilege revealed holds this premise that we are all racists. This is not meant to be controversial. I'm not sparking a debate right now. But as professor Wildman and Armstrong note the sooner we come to this realization the quicker we can address actionable steps toward actionable change and note that the recognition of our own racism doesn't mean we all act with bad thoughts or intentions in fact modern racism is often so embedded in her structures that it feels hidden but even if racism is not intentional the ripple effect results in ongoing hardships for people of color. Add on that as strictly marginalized people achieve greater levels of access, representation and opportunity privilege becomes that much harder to see particularly white privilege.
Adam Chang: I want to quickly model what self-examination of privilege can look like. The book gives examples of how Blacks sometimes perform whiteness in predominantly white spaces. It made me think of how my own community adopts a kind of normative or performed whiteness in order to succeed. In what ways has my family and I performed whiteness while subverting our unique original selves. I think of numerous personal examples. How all of my first generation Asian American relatives adopted a white name, Eddie, Tony, Janet, Susan, Michael, Christina. Their Burmese and Chinese names were no longer on any formal papers whatsoever no longer on government IDs or parent-teacher school forms. And how I also encouraged my own father to give my siblings a white name, realizing that job opportunities down the line might be easily more accessible if they did this. My community’s value on being light-skinned because it denotes higher standards of beauty and wealth. My mother moving in with her new white boyfriend when I was eight years old, now my stepfather who I love, how I was told not to speak my native language, not to eat with chopsticks, these were lessons on how to fit in with my new white family. In the wake of hashtag stop Asian hate headlines over the past week include Gov. Mike Huckabee sarcastically claiming that he should identify as Chinese to avoid being canceled. And a Texas middle school teacher put on administrative leave after writing a social studies quiz if it is common in China to eat cats and dogs. Where's the privilege in their behavior. Can you spot it? if you can't quite name it but your gut is telling you there is something wrong here you are on the right path. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge that Asian Americans are really hurting right now I've had really intense conversations with my siblings, my dear friends and after the Atlantic shooting and spike in Asian hate crimes amidst the pandemic Forbes reports that Asian Americans are purchasing on social media Asian American celebrities are calling for increased Hollywood representation and Asian representation on corporate boards and suburban committees are calling for increased policing and many advocates are requesting penalties and one of the highest cursor will come with communities in the world.
Adam Chang: I will add that in my years and coalition building these changes are not necessarily my priority areas. For other communities and some even run counter to the goals of communities of color. I hope that my community looks at both established and newly formed coalition combating racism, targeting Asians with a lens of privilege, the privilege lens that we interrogate the remedies that we are seeking. Examining privilege allows us to recognize how efforts intended to promote inclusivity can contribute to marginalization. Phrased another way, unexamined privilege can result in counterproductive efforts when trying to build coalitions. With a privileged lens we can begin to ask questions like who is included or excluded when we say Asian American. Or a API. AI PDA, whose history are we taking into consideration. Whose experiences are being overlooked or ignored. Armor Asian Americans purchasing guns or is it more Asian American men. What does gender have to do with it. I hope you will sit with these thoughts as we welcome words from our panelists and I want to begin with our co-authors professor Wildman and Prof. Armstrong. Can you talk about how the first edition of privilege revealed identified and described privilege and what has changed in the 25 years since the initial publication.
Prof. Wildman: thank you Adam for giving us a lot to think about. I'm old enough to recall when we set the personal is political let me follow in the personal vain by focusing first on myself as a white person. Not because I'm particularly proud of that fact, or not proud of that fact, just that it is a fact. Even though I have had the experience of people assuming that I was not white because of the content of my scholarship about race, gender, social justice and privilege.
Prof. Wildman: But I am naming whiteness because I want to encourage all of us especially white people to learn more about race and racialization in the US and want to provoke a greater consciousness of whiteness and its role in this race story. So this is not a guilt trip but rather just a plea to notice white racial privilege the benefits that we as whites receive without even realizing it. And we may never be able to fully understand the privileges that whiteness brings. One privilege being not to notice race. Or not to notice white privilege. And another to forget about it once we have noticed it but noticing is at least a first step towards fostering that awareness.
Prof. Wildman: And of course there are many other privileges that intersect with race and privilege.Because we as humans share many concerns. Can I pay my rent or my mortgage? Can I feed my family? can I protect myself and the ones I love from Covid and can I get healthcare if I need it? Humanity is our commonality but systems of privilege draw unfair lines , stacking the possibility of addressing these concerns against some social groups and society does group people by visible and not so visible identifiers across So, categories like race, gender, sexual orientation , gender identity, physical or mental ability, religion, and many other categories we could go on. Society has made these categories matter in ways that having thin fingers or crooked toes does not matter. In terms of housing access, food or healthcare. And all of these identity strands can stack the access to human needs against or for a person.
Prof. Wildman: So the book use the image of a koosh ball which was a toy that was popular when we first did this, and I don't know if I am frozen because the koosh ball isn't showing up even though I'm waving it around in front of the camera but it is a ball, so-called, but it has strands of identity. So it shifts. Sometimes one of these categories might be more important to you. And another time another one might be. Being in eldest child in the family as part of your identity. But all the privileges, all the strands share the fact that the holder of the privilege is often unaware of it and can opt out of struggles over oppression because of it. They can say I'm tired of this because they don't have to live on the downside of being on the power line all the time so spends noticing the privileges you do hold rather than the ones that you do not. And in terms of you asked also Adam what has changed. I think over 1000 people signed up today for this webinar. So there is a community interested in this topic. At the same time that examining privilege with theories of racial and racialization like critical race theory were even outlawed by the federal government.
Prof. Armstrong: to pick up on what Stephanie has been saying with respect to what has changed, we are now in a place where people have been willing to acknowledge inequality and question why it is so prevalent in the United States despite the demise of formal and explicit discrimination and law. So exploration of systemic nature of privilege and disadvantage has expanded from something that was explored primarily in academia to some prominent media outlets, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post the Atlantic and the New Yorker. Looking at issues of privilege and its entrenchment society. They are somewhat highbrow journals in terms of not necessarily representing the broadest spectrum of American life. But the discussion is out there. And from an academic perspective in terms of what has changed with respect to privilege, there's a number of work or a number of articles and studies that have highlighted numerous human identities and characteristics that are subject to privileging or subordination. And there have been a lot of attempts to examine as you mentioned, Adam, how these identities intersect and deflect or heighten disadvantage.
Prof. Armstrong: The past year has provided an object lesson on how privilege and its absence are matters of life and death in the United States and throughout the world. Pacific Islander, Latino, indigenous and Black Americans all have a Covid 19 death rate of double or more than that of white were Asian Americans. Who are experiencing the lowest of the age-adjusted rates. So who has had the means to isolate and hold onto their work, minimizing exposure to the Covid 19 virus? who needed to keep working with the public excuse me... And what was the rate of contracting the virus among those workers? whose children were able to attend school, maintain their indications online, what schools are reopening. The answers to all of these questions require us to look at how systems of privilege determine access to the stuff that is the basic needs of our lives.
Adam Chang: I really love where we are going and we are just starting off. Thank you Stephanie and thank you Margalynne I want to continue down the thread, Margalynne that you are posing so if you want to add on to it or john, as well definitely want you to chime in can we continue to eliminate some of the ways that modern-day privilege harms society? we definitely looked at where do we start off? what has changed over the past 25 years and what has not had again Margalynne you are speaking to some really concrete examples and really matter-of-fact life and death. But if there are other thoughts or examples that come to mind and of course john, please piggyback after.
Prof. Armstrong: I would say the privileges nothing less than a threat to democracy. Privilege is manifest in the mindset of a sizable number of people who have acted on their belief that they and only they have the right and power to determine who is American, who gets the right to participate in our democracy. Perceptions of privilege are fueling current attempts to keep people out of the voting booth come out of government institutions and out of sight, particularly with respect to people who are trans gender. So the idea that privilege is entitling people to control society and perceptions of privilege are fueling... Let me stop, a belief in having a privileged status enabled the former president to urge his followers to shut down Congress and stop the constitutional process of certifying the election of the president and vice president.
Prof. Armstrong: And just yesterday the Washington Post reported that the arrested insurrectionists are 95% white and 85% male and counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic white population were the most likely to produce the insurrectionists who were arrested.
Prof. Armstrong: So these people typically hail from places where nonwhite populations are growing fastest. And so the idea of preserving the privilege that having a white and a male often status has really fueled a lot of the trauma the country is experiencing with respect to what happened in the aftermath of the election. john?
john powell: Stephanie and Margalynne are longtime friends and it was a delight to go back and look at the book again. Of course it also reminded me of our great fan and love Trina who passed away who also did a chapter with Stephanie. So it's good to be in your company. Even if it is only visually. I think the situation are complex. I have actually written a book and eyesight Margalynne and Stephanie profusely in terms of trying to unpack and think about privilege and so I think privilege is not one thing it is many things and that we are actually looking at privilege with entitlement. so just to give you an example you can tell because I'm sitting down. I'm 63... 62 or six or use to be closer to 6'5" age is catching up with me. One of the expectations as you will make hundred $50,000 more in a lifetime if you are taller so that is a privilege but it doesn't have the same kind of preciousness and boundary protection that whiteness does so there are a lot of ways that we privilege, privilege is circulated in society that does not have the same protective edge to it that whiteness does. So in some ways whiteness is more than just people are getting benefits and may be unrecognized may be unsolicited in many ways what we see is hoarding of those benefits. We see protection and fighting for those benefits. One is denying they exist and on the other hand it is a huge fight to maintain it as January 6 indicated.
john powell: Two other quick things. So number one I would say privilege is coming with certain amount of entitlement and it is organized in the larger society. It is not just an individual expression or individual experience even though it may be expressed individually and experienced individually there really is something greater. So I asked my black students at Cal a few years ago after Travon Martin was killed if they had been in a situation with a call the police and not one of them said they would. So they sort of understand that there is a larger social structure behind the individual actions and choices.
john powell: Think about the situation in Central Park where the white woman called the police on a black man. She knew what she was doing. She threatened that I'm going to call and tell them you are a black man. Knowing that that triggers a whole bunch of responses including the collective response of the state. So I think that on one hand we are talking about personal experience but we are also talking about something that is enduring and more deeply entrenched as well. One thing and I will not belabor it, but I'm one of the cofounders of a group called perception which was one of the early groups that started working with implicit bias and [indiscernible] science along with some other colleagues. And in my own work I sort of reject the notion that everybody is racist. I think we live in a racialized society but part of it is how we define racism and as we go over the literatures and racism really only [occurs in] popular discourse in the 1930s but as we go over the discourse, what racism means keeps changing. What it should mean keeps changing
and so I think it is an open discussion. In my mind what is clear is that we have a deeply racialized system and people are distributed in the system differently. And people defend the system differently. The last thing I will say is I am reminded of James Baldwin when he says there's no hope for [indiscernible] they think they are right and what he is saying is that whiteness is a social category and a social category replete with anxiety and replete with violence and disassociation. And if you attach yourself to that category and then in sort of a certain way you get invested in all of those things. And so what he is saying, as long as they think they are white he says as long as you think you're part of the elite club that has the right to be... Everything associated with whiteness in the most pernicious sense if you feel like you are entitled to that there's no hope for it, you or us.
john powell: He is not suggesting I don't think that you can just sort of say okayI am not white, right, but I think to sort of hold that position and recognize the fluidity of it. And recognize the situatedness of it. A great example and then I will stop is that there is a big debate right now whether or not Latinos will be eventually white or not. The jury is out. And not only is the jury out in terms of whether they will be white or not but behind that is what will whiteness mean in the future. Will we have a different position so it is not just who will be in the category but how do we define the category and will the category have different meanings. And it is clear to me it will. It's not clear what the meanings will be but it's clear it will be a different meaning. So one question is can it be in relationship with other groups where it doesn't need to exercise and hoard privilege or entitlement.
Adam Chang: oh my goodness I'm really vibing off the energy and comments you want to ground us because we are a third of the way through and realizing that people might have also hopped on a little bit later but we have so far talked about kind of examining privilege through academia, through policy, over the past almost 3 decades. You guys have given really concrete examples of privilege in terms of wealth, privilege in terms of race. john gave privilege in terms of height and just recognize the intersections of it all. Who biologically reaches 6 feet or taller. How does gender come into it? how is this all built in structurally again.
Adam Chang: I want to ground us back into... All right we have talked about privilege a bit. Maybe we can talk about what the privilege to do. Maybe we can turn this back to Margalynne and Stephanie given the harms caused by systemic privilege as we have been discussing threats to democracy, what people of goodwill do to... Is combating privilege, is it again, these steps and calls to action to recognize that we are acknowledging that people are calling a privilege more often now but what are the next steps here? Margalynne I will go to you.
Prof. Armstrong: sorry started talking without my microphone being on. But there is a certain amount of power that accompanies privilege. And the way that people use that power can be positive in terms of inviting other people to the table. Or in terms of challenging the advantages that being perceived as having privilege gives to you. And kind of questioning openly whether or not it is at the expense of other people. So examining whether your status as privileged is something that is simple to other people because it is not necessarily harmful to other people, but if you can make that question or ask yourself those questions about how is my privilege operating in my immediate world and what can I do to try to neutralize or even overcome the detrimental effects of it I just heard someone tell a story about her son who goes to school in a very privileged school district that has some students, primarily students of color who come to the schools on the basis of a consent decree. And her son was friends with a boy who was coming to the district and they were friends at school she would never authorize a play date. She was told that the friends of her sons talked about the fact that he was in fifth grade and no one had ever invited home. After school. And you know obviously this child observed what was happening and how he was being excluded. And was kind of brave enough to express his pain. But she had to reflect on why hadn't I exercised my power to invite this power she was afraid that this child would be invited to his home which is quote unquote across the tracks and she was afraid of that. But even in terms of acknowledging what she had done to people in a kind of public space she was beginning to check her privilege and to take the first steps towards eliminating some of the pain. That the privilege had caused. Another human being.
Prof. Wildman: I want to follow up on what Margalynne is saying in terms of how to combat systemic privilege. So many things but I think as Margalynne said trying to start by being an ally to the person on the nonprivileged side of the power dynamic might start by just all of us looking around at the spaces that we inhabit. Who is in the room. Who is in the virtual room. The person who you need to be the ally with not even be there for starters. And you can be an ally by asking why aren't they here and how can we get them here. And if they are there if the person is there check-in, and sit with them when we get to sit together.[indiscernible] The attack of the person is being attacked not as the savior you are not a savior but an ally you want to take your cues from the person in terms of what do they need to thrive in the environment. In the book I think we quoted Sheila O'Rourke, who is a white lesbian who offered some practical advice about privilege and she's suggested to give up some of the privilege by speaking out against othering that is not directed at yourself and thus being an ally to the person on the downside of the power line. So she discusses this as an approach of practicing principles of oppression and so she being white tries to intervene whenever she sees a racist interaction or exclusion and she hopes that someone else will speak out when it is a sexist aggression or a homophobic interchange that occurs, so she will not have to take the lead in that instance. So if you are educated support public schools ask politicians who ask you for money what are they doing for those who don't have your privileges. Just so many examples.
Prof. Armstrong: I just want to add that we can take steps toward being allies but we do not get to call ourselves allies. The people who we are reaching towards are the ones who decide who is going to be our ally. Who has shown enough support and I just want to say that because it is important to not think that because we have a privileged status and we are trying to work at the undermining the power of that privilege... It doesn't mean that it is noblesse oblige or something like that in terms of reaching out to others. You make efforts and attempts, but if somebody wants to become your friend it is of course up to them and it is not up to you to decide. It's up to the person. So the idea that we have to examine what we are doing in terms of opening doors and making gestures. But ultimately letting people have their own agency.
Adam Chang: you guys are bringing up for me the power of love. Back to Stephanie's initial comment about the personal being political, here we are segueing into what is the harm, what is the damage, what allies, potential allies do and we brought up here Margalynne, friendship. It sounds may be cheesy or... You know, too out there but really when we are looking at our personal relationships, our family, our friends and extending the relationship beyond, to our neighbors, our religious community and school community, there are relationships and friendships forming. I have a five-year-old. I have fostered a middle school student for a couple years and I'm realizing that media especially children's media. Media is trying to address the concept of a rainbow friendship in all shapes and forms. And I see this much more prevalently these days. So privilege revealed the book itself also talks about friendships and also talks about the trophy friend. I'm wondering john, if you want to segue us into this conversation and Margalynne, if you want to follow up afterwards but what is it about allies, friendships, what are lessons we can take away about again reaching across the aisle? what should we be wary of? what should we be aware of? anything and everything.
john powell: these are great questions and complicated questions and we only have a short time so let me give you some highlights. One I think the power issue is relevant. I have a piece coming out talking about how in much of our discussion around bridging and belonging we leached out the question of power and power matters. So implicit in what you are saying, Adam, is that the privilege in a certain situation has more power. Not that the person who is less privileged does not have power, but that shifts. To some extent privilege is situational. Actually say people who know and follow my work I take a critical perspective of ally ship because I think if we are not careful it could create sort of another stratification. If we are trying to create a space where people belong in partnerships and as you said, deep friendships and Margalynne is right someone does not get to decide to be my friend but I don't get to decide to be their friend and I would go further to say part of the issue is not friendship. Part of the issue is power. And oftentimes I say be hard on structures and soft on people. Instead we do the opposite. We are hard on people and soft on structures. And one of the things that Margalynne and Stephanie talk about in the book is essentially being structurally blind. Calling it colorblind. You know, we don't feel that practices that reproduce hierarchy, pain and benefits. To some at the expense of others. And so I think certainly while we actually have practices of bridging and bringing people together it is important but not nearly sufficient. These structures reproduce that. We have to really pay attention to that. And what I was saying about ally ship is that ultimately if I'm in a struggle I want someone who is sort of invest in that deeply themselves. Not doing it just for my benefit. They are doing it because they understand they have a stake in it. And it's complicated because in saying that I'm not saying they should appropriate it. I'm not saying that white men should go out and leave the road to racial justice for the rest of us. And so it is complicated or nuanced I should say what I am saying but neither do I want them just to say I'm going to you in your fight. Because again, and I think it is in your book Stephanie and Margalynne, realizing that one of the hard edges of privileges is really white supremacy. And so obviously we focus on the idea being disadvantaged in some way like how do we help you. It'ss like get your knee off my neck. That would help a lot. And then I could help myself. And sort of ignoring the relationship especially in universities, like help us to get in, help a faculty member get hired. The structure stays the same. So it's not that we should not do those personal things but that is limited.
Prof. Armstrong: Yeah, there is often what we can individually do is limited. And the idea
of the structures as being the real target of our efforts I think is absolutely right. But one
of the things that we have to do with respect to dismantling structures is to understand
them and help people understand how the structures are either immoral or unfair or just
harmful to our general ability as a country or as a people. To make a forward kind of
progress in which we are helping everyone to pursue their potential. One of the things
that I find this tragic about the history of our country is how much potential was wasted by the discrimination, by the legal barriers. How much has the structure of whites deprived humanity of the efforts of really capable people who would have been able to contribute had they been given a fair chance.
Prof. Armstrong: So in terms of why people should look at dismantling these structures, it is because it harms all of us. It harms our future. And even though there might be some immediately, immediate gains in kind of supporting the status quo, in the long run it looks like the human race is sort of headed distraction because the status quo is doing so much to harm the earth as well as people. And that is another subject. But let's think about what changing the structures could do for all of us.
Adam Chang: I'm going to continue on this vein of thought. This is how we do it. I do
want to continue to open up questions from the audience. So a reminder to listeners
that if you are following along either tracking your own comments or would like to pose
questions to the panel live use the hashtag ask OBI. we have a few questions coming in
and I'm going to do kind of a two-for-one situation.
Adam Chang: One of the questions we have is, is representative democracy the best solution in dismantling structures of privilege and power? and also this question of how do we move beyond descriptions of privilege and moved to systems of change? So we are talking systems no doubt about it, larger macro stuff here. But if I can quickly chime in to say I do not want to discount or assume that we have moved beyond discussion of privilege. That there is a lot of power and a lot of relationships built and changed by having this discussion. We are not done yet. I know I'm not done with it in my committee for sure. But even in recognizing something like representative democracy we have to acknowledge the conversations are also privilege. Language is also privilege. Asian Americans, a API have long recognized the barrier of speaking with our parents, our elders because of the cultural language barrier exists within our most immediate community that might not always be the case for black and white people.
Adam Chang: So once we start getting into the conversations of structural change and who is represented and invited along for the ride until we get, address the ongoing hurdles we might lose people on the journey. And I want to be mindful of that. But this is opened up now. The questions again were just like is representative democracy the best solution. How do we take our conversations to systems change.
Prof. Armstrong: with respect to representative democracy whether or not it is the best solution is a pretty difficult question because I don't know that we have ever experienced it. So many people have been deprived of the ability to participate. It would be a wonderful experiment have everybody who is entitled to vote to actually be able to do it. What is going on now particularly in Georgia is all about excluding people from participating. And when we had a lot of people participating through the work of someone like Stacy Adams, the results were fairly remarkable in terms of how enthusiastic people were when they believed that they would actually be able to have a voice. So before I discard it I would kind of like to try it.
Prof. Wildman: following up on that I feel like I'm always channeling Mari [Matsudo] because in the history of this country where it has not been a representative democracy, Mari would say look at the words and let's hold and the words about equality and justice and I mean it's pretty good words if we actually could act upon them. And you know, we don't know yet if we can. It seems like a worthy effort.
john powell: we don't know what we mean by representative democracy necessarily but the idea of democracy is that people govern themselves. And the United States have always been ambivalent in terms of this is we the people. Who are the we and who is the person. That is the penultimate question that the country is still facing. And what they did is pick up several groups and say you don't count. Dred Scott wasn't even subtle. It's that Blacks can never be part of the political community whether you are free or otherwise. And you have no rights given by the Constitution. The only right you have which ones white people are inclined to give you. Is that representative democracy?
john powell: The point is that we should be decide what kind of country we have, what kind of world we have. It is up to us collectively to do that. It's not someone else inviting us into their show. This is our show. We are part of the country. We are part of the planet. And so I think the privilege of being able to pick who comes in and who stays out is one of the ultimate privileges you can have it happens in schools and hospitals. If I can just tell a 90 second story and to share. My sister-in-law called me a couple of weeks ago and she said that her nephew, this is in Detroit, largest laxity in the country. Her nephew had[indiscernible] a kidney transplant because he lost his job and because he got Covid, Margalynne talks about black people being more likely to get covered because he got Covid he was fired. Because he was fired he lost his insurance. Because he lost his insurance he was taken off the dialysis list.
john powell: So my sister-in-law who lives in Detroit and my brother is manager in Detroit who is well-connected they called me in California, can you help. And I won't go through the whole story but I was able to call the hospital. The president of the hospital. He is back on the list and did not lose his place on the list. And I was thinking... This is privilege right? this is privilege that probably whites more often have. I have this privilege of helping my nephew. But it is problematic because why should someone have to go through that? what if someone doesn't have the connection
Adam Chang: we have talked about allyship and coalition building and how denying fact seems to be one of the ultimate privileges in this day and so much is choosing not to educate ourselves. How do you go about conversations? how do you go about addressing this level of privilege and how do you call without if it is kind of almost a face like I know I can do this and I know I can get away with it but it's almost the question of how to combat alternative facts. What do we do with this?
Prof. Armstrong: there's people who have the choice about whether or not they have to deal with reality. And it is difficult to reach somebody who has the ability to not have to respond to the pressures of real life and to make the kind of choices that people who are not so situated have to make. So I think in some ways you have to just try to keep pushing even though you realize that it might not be a war you can win. You know, Derek Bell wrote about the kind of permanence of racism and of people who are facing a lot of pressure that they couldn't really change. Still got some fulfillment out of pushing. And he tells the story about this elderly black woman in the civil rights era. Who was not going to live to see the system change she knew, but she kept resisting. And she said, Derek Bell quotes for as saying I lives to harass white people. And that was something that has stuck with me over all these years because in a way despite being unable to topple the system, there was that self-actualization and even some joy from trying to push wherever you could, wherever she could. To make the system have a harder time maintaining itself. And so in terms of actually being able to make people face up to the fact that there are not alternative facts might be impossible but it can't stop say well that's not real and here is what is actually happening even if it does not change their mind.
Adam Chang: I want to because that was a fantastic response I want to ask I want Stephanie, john, Margalynne you should know that there are so many questions coming in that we are doing our best to filter but also I'm going to do my best to combine a couple to get a two for one deal. It's a blowout sale today guys. So how can we become mindful enough to avoid grant privilege?
Adam Chang: This question is also making me think, privilege can be inherited, privilege can be
granted. How can we impact culture by again this task of avoiding, it's like withholding the power to give privilege. Is that possible is the feasible, what does that look like and then there is a follow-up question as well that maybe we can't completely put aside privilege but we could possibly use it for hire will, higher change, but again it gets back to the conversation who decides all that. Right? Yes anyone want to jump in the Stephanie?
Prof. Wildman: I want to give you all an example from childre's books which is the world and tried to enter and this is based on a study of books published in 2018. In children's picture books there were more characters who were animals than there were people of color think about that. 50% of the characters in books were white. 27% were animals. 23% were all the other people of color combined. And the number does not even describe misrepresentations, misappropriations or stereotyped characters.
Prof. Wildman: So when we talk about facts, there is a way in which the world is being portrayed to people as what the world is that starts very early. So I do think supporting schools and education in a way that is not a school to prison pipeline but actually provides education, is a really necessary step that we need to look further at. You know, what are we teaching children? how much would we gain if we did not privilege whiteness starting there.
Prof. Armstrong: certainly individually people can purchase those books that have good
representations of people of color. Because a lot that happens in our society is driven by markets. So is there a way to manipulate those or use them to your advantage or to the advantage of equality?
john powell: Ibram Kendi as positive we have to be [antiracist] not nonracist but he said secondly whenever there are huge disparities it is a powerful indication that something is wrong. So whenever we have the halls of power populated by white and women are missing and gays are missing and people of color are missing, bells and whistles should go off. That sort of tells us who is going to the elite schools, who... The data matters. It does not tell the whole story but it matters. And especially important, Adam, in terms of your questions because in terms of the unconscious we can't [indiscernible] as people learn about the mind sciences it's just that I'm going to think really hard to get rid of all my bias. It will not work. You can get rid of biases. It is the way the mind works. Bias is not something that you control in your head it is reflecting what happens in larger society so we have to do multiple things and I would say I push for structure I am not saying that it excuses individual acts. I'm saying we have to operate at multiple levels. In the US we default to the micro individual level and that is not unimportant but it will never do the whole thing. So I'm not saying ignore that allowing us to be mean and disrespectful to people because we are working on the structural level.
john powell: The last thing I will say is in terms of how we use our privilege that matters. You know, I'm a professor at Berkeley. There's a lot of privilege and power that goes along with that. So should I resign? should I quit? and or, can I use it to try to open up doors to others? I don't think I can completely or... Completely get rid of every aspect of my privilege. I'm not going to become hopefully much shorter [laughter] maybe I will but I can try to use the privilege I have one to name it but number two also to use it for opening up doors for those were less of a powerful position. The last thing I will say is in terms of how we use our privilege that matters. You know, I'm a professor at Berkeley. There's a lot of privilege and power that goes along with that. So should I resign? should I quit? and or, can I use it to try to open up doors to others? I don't think I can completely or... Completely get rid of every aspect of my privilege. I'm not going to become hopefully much shorter [laughter] maybe I will but I can try to use the privilege I have one to name it but number two also to use it for opening up doors for those were less of a powerful position.
Adam Chang: thank you so much john. I want to pose one final question and panelists please use this is your opportunity to close out with the audience. Audience members who have been so fantastic. Obviously this is not, the conversation did not start here. We are literally just this little peg along the trail. But that what we are seeing on social media today with all of your interaction that you will continue to hold these conversations within your own spaces, with your own networks, within your own following. So please continue to do that we are going to be rooting for you along the way and checking in as well. So final final thought. Again piggybacking off of the antiracist philosophy, given what we have discussed today, n something that is opposite to privilege. What would that even be. What is opposite to privilege? this is an audience question or otherwise in your own words your final thoughts and closing out with the panel today I will open it up to Margalynne and Stephanie. john, I want you to go last.
Prof. Armstrong: I think the opposite of privilege is something along the lines of equal access. So when we look at people who have education we don't want people not to be educated. We just want education to be an option for whoever wants to pursue education. And being privileged in terms of certain identity issues it would be good if identity issues were not necessarily privileged and that you were respected no matter what your sexuality or gender identity is. And so the opposite of privilege is simply not excluding people because of their not being born with access. And so the opposite of privilege is simply not excluding people because of their not being born with access.
john powell: I know we are just out of time. If you excuse that there is a Greek myth called the Golden Ball and the gist of it is that the gods, the king and queen they give them a golden ball to produce all these wonderful bounties for the whole community. They are trustees for the ball. And as trustees they get something extra. But it is not theirs. It belongs to the people. They are just administering it to the people and the myth goes that at some point they decided is for them. It's not for the people. It is for them. then it becomes a plague. If you have something that you think it is only about you there is a saying my father is a Christian minister who used to say gifts in life are God-given. What your gifts are are God's gifts to you. What you do with your gifts is your gift to God. And I think sometimes we hold onto them. I am smart. I am rich. I am this. And so it all is personal and it all belongs to me. There's not always an opposite word. So think about it and that speaks to the asymmetric nature of power. SO the N word. What is the opposite of the N word? there is not one.
john powell: So I think to some extent privilege is one of those words where we can talk about... Non-privilege but it's not quite right. The last thing I will say is that it's not enough to stop discriminating. We create structures and systems to do something. So we want a society that is fair and inclusive and that is belonging, that is loving. We need to affirmatively design systems and structures to do that not simply to say let's stop discriminating. But let's design the structures to do what we want them to do for all of us.
Adam Chang: thank you so much, john. Thank you to you and OBI for having us, on behalf of the entire panel, Stephanie Margalynne, john, thank you to the audience for tuning in and sharing with us in our of your afternoon and that is a wrap. This was amazing for the audience felt like this was just the tip. This was not enough. We need to have more and we will. Thank you all. It's an honor to know all of you. And we will see everyone again.