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Hullabaloo


Friday, March 16, 2018

 

A game of hide the privilege

by Tom Sullivan


This poster from the era of the Dawes Rolls advertised land for Native Americans prompting opportunistic white men to pay to be Indian, via Indian Country Today.

My roommate cracked up.

I said I'd told my mother about a friend who'd gotten another kid into treatment. The other kid was a junkie. She grew visibly uncomfortable at the idea that I knew people with ... "problems." She couldn't say the word junkie.

"Problems?! Problems, man?!" my roommate burst out laughing, waving his hands about wildly.

"The guy's a junkie! He's got a two bag a day habit! You could say he's got problems!!"

Then in his twenties and attending an upscale university, as a teenager in Boston he'd been a heroin user himself.

All these years later, it's still a thing in white suburban communities that they don't engage topics that make them uncomfortable. It's their privilege not to.

Washington Monthly's Nancy LeTourneau points to a school controversy outside Milwaukee over a Martin Luther King Day assembly exercise. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that parents in the mostly white community of Oconomowoc complained about the discussion of privilege in society:

Oconomowoc Superintendent Roger Rindo said he was directed by board members during a closed-door, executive session shortly after the Jan. 15 assembly not to allow future activities around the topic of privilege except in classrooms where it is related to a specific course and teachers can provide appropriate context.
Like the all around us kind of context?

White parents must have turned up the heat:
The timing of the board's edict, just weeks before the February resignation of Principal Joseph Moylan, has fueled speculation that Moylan was pushed out in part for allowing the student-led exercise during the assembly Jan. 15.

Board member Steven Zimmer, a friend and supporter of Moylan, also resigned, in protest. He said last week that he "disagreed with the way board members used the MLK Day assembly to push (Moylan) out."
The January 15 assembly included an exercise featuring a "privilege aptitude test" from the National Civil Rights Museum. The introduction explains:
The following exercise invites you to try to contemplate as to how our lives are different from the lives of others due to the privileges with which we live or privileges we have not. Each of these questions are relevant to your race, class, creed, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
Sorry. Not allowed. What keeps this union from becoming more perfect is stifling discussion about unwritten social rules that make a mockery of "created equal." How's that for context?

You have to wonder what the ancestral residents of Oconomowoc might think about who is and who is not privileged.



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