Tuesday, February 20, 2007

SECRET #1: The Big White Elephant

Part of the denaturing process is represented clearly in who is interviewed. By my count, there are 29 people featured (some dead and just quoted). I was impressed that they included so many voices. But consider that 28 out of 29 of them are North American. Consider that 24 our of the 29 are white males. That only 5 of them are female and that only 2 of them are people of colour.

This shapes the discourse - these people have all had a very particular life experience. There are many experiences they have never had, simply because they’re white and male. The tone of the movie, the examples chosen, the realities that are acknowledged (and more importantly left unacknowledged) are all filtered by this.

For a powerful example of this - consider watching this 27 minute news piece where, only a decade ago a white and black man from similar age and class backgrounds were secretly filmed going through identical experiences but treated totally differently.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6921625143558152171

Of course if you bring up the way that their gender or whiteness might have been a part of their success they brush it off as negative thinking and focusing on limits.

After steady economic gains in the 1990s, Latinos, African Americans and other people of color have actually lost ground since 2000, according to United for a Fair Economy’s newest report.

· In 2000, the African American unemployment rate reached a historic low of 7.1%, but it has been 9.9% or higher since January 2002. Latino / Hispanic unemployment rates also dropped from 8.0% in 1988 to 5.7% in 2000, but rose again in the last four years.

· About half of the progress in the median income of people of color from 1996 to 2000 was wiped out in the following three years. For the first time in 15 years, the average Latino household now has an income that is less than two-thirds that of the average white household. After slowly increasing from 55% of white income in 1988 to 65% in 2000, black median income fell again to 62% of the white median in 2003.

· Throughout the 1990s, poverty rates fell across the board, declining fastest for African Americans and Latinos. But since 2000, more than one third of that progress in reducing poverty among African American families has been erased, as 300,000 African-American families fell below the poverty line from 2000 to 2003.

· Private retirement income and inheritances remain scarce among people of color.

· Ownership of homes, stock and businesses remains disproportionately in white hands. While homeownership is up for all races, most people of color still rent, while three-quarters of white families own their homes.

· Business owners of color, who are largely small business owners, received only minor tax breaks from the four Bush tax cuts. Most tax breaks for business and investors have landed with those who are wealthy and white.

Quick - name a native american billionaire.

Can’t?

Try a native american millionaire.

Really? Still can’t.

Try naming a black billionaire (besides Oprah).

Michael Jordan? Are you sure?

Okay - name a white one. Now wasn’t that easy?

Why was that so easy? Could it be that there’s more of them? And could there be reasons for that?


Maybe the trillion dollars of unpaid slave labour?

Or the stolen land that allowed the whites to build their wealth (but let’s not mention the 100 million - yes 100 million - native americans who were ‘cleared’ off their land. And by cleared we mean murdered of course).

What if I pointed out that the wealthiest families in the USA virtually all were major slave holders? And that it was this slave labour that gave them the head start.

And what if I pointed out that there are more slaves in the world today than there have ever been (27 million). And that they’re almost entirely people of colour?

No. We’d better not mention those things.