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(en) US, White Power 2005 By Joel Olson, Bring the Ruckus

Date Tue, 28 Jun 2005 09:14:40 +0300

Two recently published studies document the continuing
power of white privilege in American society. In April the U.S.
Bureau of Justice released its annual study, “Prison and Jail
Inmates at Midyear 2004”. In the same month the Urban League
published its annual study, The State of Black America 2005.
According to the Bureau of Justice, 2.1 million people were
imprisoned in jails and prisons in the United States in 2004.
Nearly half of them (910, 000) were Black. In other words,
African Americans make up roughly thirteen percent of the
overall population of the United States but constitute
forty-three percent of the prison and jail population. Whites,
meanwhile, make up about seventy percent of the U.S.
population, yet only thirty-six percent of prisoners are white.

One in eight Black males age 25 to 29 were in prison or jail in
2004 (i.e. 12.6%). Just 1.7% of white males of that age were
imprisoned (and 3.6% of Latinos). Black females were 2 1/2
times more likely than Latinas and 4 1/2 times more likely than
white women to be incarcerated in 2004.

In economics, the Urban League reports that Black males
earn, on average, only seventy percent of what white males
earn. Just forty-eight percent of Black families own their
homes compared to seventy-five percent of white families, and
African Americans are twice as likely as whites to have their
home mortgage applications denied. The median net worth of
Black families (i.e. economic assets like home and car equity,
savings, and stocks) is $6,100. The median net worth for
whites is $67,000. Based on this analysis, the Urban League
concludes that “African American economic progress is
stagnant and in some areas, declining.”

The statistics go on: Black life expectancy is 72 years versus
78 years for whites. African Americans are five times more
likely to die of homicide and are ten times more likely to be
HIV positive as whites. They are twenty times more likely to
be victim of a hate crime, yet are sentenced to death four times
more often than whites. A Black person’s average jail
sentence is six month’s longer than a white’s for the
same crime. These are the costs of being Black in the United

Looked at another way, these statistics also represent the value
of being white. To say that Black people are unfairly
disadvantaged in this society is but another way of saying that
white folks are unfairly advantaged. For example, to say that
Black families have ten times less net worth than whites is to
say that the average white person can expect to have ten times
more wealth than the average Black person. When 12.6% of
young Black men are incarcerated compared to 1.7% of young
white men, that means the average white man can reasonably
expect to not be incarcerated in his lifetime, while the average
Black man has to treat it as a serious possibility (this is
especially true when you consider that one in four Black men
today are in some way caught up in the criminal justice
system: prison, parole, etc.). When Black unemployment is
10.8 percent and white unemployment is 4.7 percent, that is a
form of informal unemployment insurance for white workers,
because a white worker is 2.3 times less likely to be out of
work than a Black worker. This is the old “whites are first
hired and last fired” system that operated during
segregation in a new form.

These white privileges, which the great scholar and agitator
W.E.B. Du Bois called the “wages of whiteness,”
continue to be one of the main obstacles to working class unity
in the United States. White working and middle class people
are more concerned with protecting their racial privileges in a
competitive society than in challenging the unjust nature of the
entire system. This is the reason behind white support for
school vouchers, privatized health care, tax cuts for the rich,
increased policing, and “family values.” All of these
measures are, in their own way, a means to perpetuate white
advantage and Black disadvantage without appearing explicitly
racist. To abolish these privileges is not only to create a more
just society. It is also the key to building a revolutionary
working class in the United States.

Joel Olson is a member of Bring the Ruckus and the author of
The Abolition of White Democracy (University of Minnesota
Press, 2004). He can be reached at joelo@agitatorindex.org.

Copied from Bring the Ruckus* web site:
* Bring The Rukus is an antiauthotitarian anticapitalist
direct action revolutionary initiative.

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