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Language Log

Monday, Jul. 26, 2021 - 11:11 a.m.

Yesterday I did this transcript of this guy talking about racism and whiteness mostly in a professional context, and he was asked what whiteness is to him. And he said it was just being completely oblivious and non questioning of the advantages that have accrued to you by virtue of your race alone. And he gave an example of a conversation with his Uber driver who was a retired CEO of a large company. He had told the story that he had been at university, wrote a paper about some medical infrastructure, some important guy read it and ended up funding his business, which became quite successful.

Interviewee said, this guy clearly had no idea that that was not something that would ever be offered to him as a black man, someone just saying, “ah, you seem promising and competent! Come run this business for me.” It would NEVER happen.

It seems very boomer to me, too, but there are definitely still subsets of young white people where it can still work that way.

He also did a good job of sketching out how it works in academia, too. If you have good mentors, you get invited to meet important people, members of national boards in organizations of your discipline, then in a few years you’ve met 4/5 of the board members and when positions come up you’re able to somehow bypass lower or intermediate stepping stone positions in your career, whether via good letters or someone putting a word in or whatever.

That’s not just about race but also ableism, to me.

It all reminded me of a discussion I had with MIL about a friend’s son who had been repeatedly passed over for promotions in favor of candidates of color. “That’s not right, either.” She said. I guess they’re all mad that the advantages he accrued by virtue of his race and class and presumably neurotype and sex didn’t pay off the way they were supposed to. Clearly those black candidates were nowhere near as competent. Cry me a river.

Yesterday we were driving through her neighborhood and she said of the houses, “at one time these would have seemed like mansions. Now these are just regular houses. Now over in (wherever) there are some really huge beautiful houses.”

I was like, these are still mansions to me. It’s not the world that shifted, it’s your context. And that you’ve apparently completely lost sight of that is… regrettable, let’s just say.

She was also talking about how good the city services were, how responsive the cops and ambulances. It just makes me sick.

I never want my privilege to be invisible to me like that. I don’t mean to slam on her specifically, but she definitely partakes of that blindness.

Anyway the guy in today’s transcript, who is giving a talk because he’s successful in his industry, was also like, “and if you want to start something small or do something amazing that’s way above your head, it’s not above you”, and describes this guy flying in from NZ to work with his nascent company and being mad that they had a basic little office but gave them the work anyway. Puts u a pic of his team, all white people. There it is.

That lack of awareness. Also he’s said some ableist things and presented some extraordinarily misguided folk interpretation of evolutionary psychology, so… it’s not improving my opinion of people who work in his industry.

Anyhoo. Just working through it all, myself. That’s all I can do.

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