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Whitetocracy: A Permanent Impediment to Racial Equity

September 1st, 2016 | Posted by David Whitfield in Racial Justice

“I am free to say to you that, in my opinion this government of ours is founded on the white basis. It was made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered by white men, in such a manner as they should determine.” [Italics mine]
       Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861)

“I am a great, great-grandson of slaves who were not:  lynched, tied to a tree,   beat to death, burned alive, drowned, dragged to death, castrated, and made to eat his severed penis until he lost conscious. I am also the son of a Mississippi sharecropper.”

This quote is from the introduction to my unpublished manuscript about my life’s journey.  It describes Whitetocracy as defined in the above quote by Stephen A. Douglas.  Whitetocracy is a system of cruelty, hatred, violence, greed, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, etc.  So, please stop pissing on our feet and telling us it’s raining because we are neither a democracy nor an oligarchy.  Stephen Douglas’ quote paints a picture of how America was built. It was built on the backs of Black Africans for Whites, by Whites, of Whites, ergo, a Whitetocracy in which representatives are not elected freely as in a democracy:  Built for the people, by the people, of the people.  And as long as Whitetocracy exists, the races will never live in harmony; there will be less racial equity. Whitetocracy will not allow it because as Douglas decreed, everything is founded on the “white basis,” and that includes decision-making.

Who has Decision-Making Power? Some 66% of police officers are White men; 95% of prosecutors are White men and 90% of inmates are Black men; and 65% of all elected officials are White men. Some cops and prosecutors are members of hate groups (as FBI has stated). Ergo, Blacks and other nonwhites are potentially doomed when it comes to justice. The government is controlled by 90% Whites; and 65% of government offices are held by White men; yet they constitute only 35% of the population. Nearly 85% of all businesses are owned by Whites. Nonwhites are about 40% of the population and own about 15% of businesses. Nearly 90% of upper-level management plus executive positions are occupied by Whites. Think of what that portends for employment of Blacks and Hispanics in this Whitetocracy; plus discrepancies in wages among different ethnic groups and women will remain. Wealth is no different.

Who has the Wealth? Wealth predominantly resides among Whites who constitute 96.2% of the 1%-group.  Bernie Sanders claims the “top 0.1% of Americans have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%; that’s one in a thousand. Per CNN & Kaiser Family Foundation, median household income varies: Whites–$60,250; Hispanics–$42,500; and Blacks–$35,400. Median household wealth is the widest gap: Whites–$134,230; Hispanics–$13,730; and Blacks–$13,030.  Many of these variations, not all, stem from a major business decision made centuries ago which will be covered in Whitetocracy II.

Does Hard Work of Nonwhites Matter? Meanwhile, these gaps or discrepancies can be devastating.  And (with exceptions) it doesn’t matter if we make good choices or bad choices because Whitetocracy is here to keep us in tow, telling us to stay in our lane.  An example is President Obama.  Despite his accomplishments, there was a concerted effort to delegitimize him, his presidency: He was called a Muslim; he wasn’t an American; he was born in Kenya. Comments from the Whitetocracy badgered him to show his papers or his birth certificate; and when he showed it, it wasn’t authentic enough. There was a rally where “Off with his head,” was yelled. “Bomb him!” Someone shouted. All these aspersions were met with relative silence. He is threatened on average some 32 times daily, unlike any other (White) president.  Why was he persecuted? My conclusion is Whitetocracy.

The Whitetocratic Straw That Broke GOP’s Back.  Or did it? In my view, a telling example of Whitetocracy is the 2016 GOP presidential candidate who has insulted every group except Cajuns; and that’s because he hasn’t had an opportunity.  Despite his graphical insults of women, Mexicans, Native American, Blacks, etc., some 14 million Whites voted for him. If we were not a Whitetocracy, he would not be the GOP candidate.  And the way Whitetocracy works, he has a grand opportunity to become America’s next president. If that happens, racial equity will not only decrease, it will die; there will be more hatred, violence, killings, burnings, etc. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center, in schools across America, Nonwhite children are already feeling increased pressure from White children since Trump came on the political stage; acts of violence against culturally, ethnically different others have increased.   Imagine another generation socialized into a culture of Whites, for Whites, and by Whites:  Whitetocracy.  Does it mean Whitetocracy today, Whitetocracy tomorrow, and Whitetocracy forever?  It’ll take all of us working in concert to minimize or eliminate Whitetocracy so we can live our vision of justice for all.

What are your thoughts?

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6 Responses

  • Tom Whalen says:

    David, I think you are addressing one, if not THE major issue facing our nation today. Here’s a question for you though: how can I use my white, male privilege to destroy white, male privilege? So far the only way I think have been able to make a dent is in my classroom – making my students have the same difficult discussions around sex and race that you made me and my classmates have, by mentoring, through the ballot box, and by advocating. Nevertheless, the hatred and bigotry continues, if not increases.

    • Tom,
      Thank you so very much for your comment and question. Your question about what you can do is not a simple one. The issue or issues are complex with a strong smell of pathology. I think of what (just to name a few) Jane Elliot, Tim Wise, Jon Stewart, Alan Johnson do. They behave in ways that help bring attention to the hegemonic institution of Whiteness/privilege. There’s the “Whiteness Project.” Take a look at what these and others are doing. What’s needed too, is more people working either in teams or in concert to gain critical mass in minimizing or better yet, eliminating this pathology.

      Alan Johnson has a piece titled, “What Can WE Do?” There’s a little poem in the article called “Stubborn Ounces.” Here goes:
      “With these tools in hand, we can begin to think about how to make ourselves part of the solution to the problem of privilege and oppression ….
      (To One Who Doubts the Worth of Doing Anything
      if You Can’t Do Everything)

      “You say the little efforts that I make
      will do no good; they will never prevail
      to tip the hovering scale
      where Justice hangs in balance.
      I don’t think
      “I ever thought they would.
      But I am prejudiced beyond debate
      In favor of my right to choose which side
      shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.”

      I hope this contributes a bit to the answers to your questions. At first, your name didn’t show up in your comment; now I have it, Tom! And I thank you so very much for responding. I just hope you will continue to at least think about this destructive issue.
      Thank you so very much from the bottom of my being.

    • Natalie Mattson says:

      Hi Tom, I like you, am working to answer this question “How can I use my privilege” to disrupt my privilege? In my efforts to learn about my White privilege, I often find it easier and more accessible to see and focus on ways non-whites are minimized or held off. Seeing the gap we have created for others to live with and seeing the ways I am advantaged in my White skin.

      Here is what I often do:
      • Work on seeing all the places I am advantaged or lifted up by my Whiteness.
      • Focus on ways I move in the world with ease and agency and try and learn which ones are built in via the systems around me in society.
      • Use my privilege to derail others and (with everyone’s dignity intact) explore or unpack what is said around me when I hear code words like “those people” or “you know what I mean” and explore the meaning underneath them.
      • Watch for where I advance my needs over someone else’s and focus on who are those I am will to “power over” with my agenda (needs); is there a pattern? Sometimes it is as simple as ensuring I do not advance ahead of someone else who was waiting longer (and possibly not “seen”).
      • Require that I actively get used to the discomfort of disrupting others and Whiteness.
      • Own it (privilege) when I see it unfolding in my life…Check this out… I somehow did not register my car last winter and had been running around with outdated tags (for 6 months) while traveling to WA to CA and back (yikes) without any problems. Also, I rarely consider taking ID on my neighborhood walk (why would I need to prove who I am?). I get to lean on the fact that I am not threatening to most or maybe even _seen_ (by officers) so I cruise along in my ease and out of compliance. And on and on…
      • Practice self-reflection a lot and out myself (using or receiving my privilege) whenever possible
      • Share decisions, share space, share the air (space for those often not heard) = share power

      I find that I have to know who I am as a White person and how I wield my Whiteness. Then I can disrupt it.

      Classroom wise… have you found exercises like the Horatio Algers exercise and the like? It is powerful and physical (you move around like David’s “Take a Stand” exercise). Videos like Making Whiteness Visible (youtube)? So much more to explore and I would enjoy continuing this, too. I will think more about my process and post again.

      • Tom Whalen says:

        Thank you Natalie. Those are some great insights. I will check out those exercises. I have a freshman Intro to Business class and I would like to address all these issues. Today we spent 30 minutes discussing how to eliminate the 78% pay problem suffered by women. Next week – white privilege.

        I don’t David did the “Take a Stand” exercise when I was at Gonzaga. I need to find out about it.

        • Natalie Mattson says:

          Hi Tom,
          So much going on in the world right now!!

          This is a great video and a catalyst for a lively discussion on the ways some are advantaged in our current climate, policies, workforce, etc. “The Unequal Opportunity Race” is a short film for the African American Policy Forum, showing metaphors for obstacles to equality which affirmative action tries to alleviate. For more information, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX_Vzl-r8NY

          Take a Stand asks you to choose to ‘take a stand’ under a sign to represents your thinking and response about a statement the facilitator reads. The signs to stand under are absolutely right, absolutely wrong, right with reservations, and wrong with reservations. The statements are challenging leaders i.e., loyalty is more important than integrity, and so on. David loves this exercise and does it well. I will encourage him to chime in. We need to recast the exercise to discuss equity! Enjoy.

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