At least from my sheltered point of view a relatively seldom used cliché has suddenly become the basis of massive numbers of apparently never ending, extremely “earnest” conversations.
Those conversations are mainly heard on NPR.
Sometimes they creep into some Sunday TV news.
But they are mainly on NPR, or its several Public Radio siblings.
So what is the previously seldom used, but now ubiquitous, cliché?
It is “white privilege”.
As an old white man, I wasn’t completely unaware that such a thing existed and that it probably more or less applied to me, life to date; but I never thought much about it; I never looked at my non white compatriots as needing to concede anything to me because of “white privilege”; I would have said in many cases that my view of the significant success achieved by many non white people was proof that, while “white privilege” existed beyond any reasonable doubt, it was beginning to not amount to much in real life.
But, since the seldom used cliché has burst into being an everywhere-you-listen basis for dividing America, I have started listening more closely.
And I have heard something – something I find totally credible – different from was my previously understood , rather benign conception of “white privilege”.
I could – here – go on at length about that previously held understanding of the term - before and after.
But that would bore me to tears, so, I would suppose that it would bore anybody reading this.
So all I am going to say is that Pink Floyd, in Dark Side of the Moon, pegged it.
They said: “No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”.
And that is it, distilled.
White people,with special emphasis on males, are the beneficiaries of a magical osmotic transfer of “purpose’ and “destiny” and “inevitability” and … whatever.
It is just theirs; it isn’t something that seems to exclude anyone; but it is, nonetheless, just theirs.
I almost want to use the German word Zeitgeist to describe it.
Since it is inherent to the species, they have no idea that most everybody else doesn’t share it.
And that has been my current view of “white privilege”.
But a better view, I think, is what Pink Floyd had to say in Dark Side of the Moon.
What they said is: “No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”.
And if you don’t know that there is a “starting line” – or where such a thing might be if you think such a thing might exist – then you will never find it; and therefore you, of course you will never hear the starting gun; so you will never be in the race.
And, I think, that is what “white privilege” is all about.
A corollary emerges: the Trump era has started because a politically significant – but miniscule in total vote – portion of the population sees its “white privilege” disappearing.
Why is it disappearing?
It is disappearing because more and more non white people are stumbling by accident, extreme talent, luck, intelligence, or all of the above, onto the racetrack after the starting gun has fired, and, because of extreme talent, luck, intelligence, etc. or all of the above are “getting ahead”; and “god fearing christian white people” don’t like that.
All the mad old white men and women who want to decry their situations, and who all say that they never had any privilege, white or otherwise, are obfuscating the fact that they at least knew there was a “starting line”.
And they knew that a “starting line” meant there was, probably, a “starting gun”.
And they knew where the starting line was was.
And if they didn’t show up on race day that was their fault.
And if they did show up and didn’t hear the starting gun and didn’t start the race, there were a lot of others, just like them who also showed up, heard the gun, and got in the race and got somewhere; everybody doesn’t win; especially if they don’t even start.
Even if “everybody” is white.