Roundtable: Deconstructing White Privilege

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Roland martin hosts Chaz smith, Michael Skolnik, and Eddie Glaude in a conversation about white privilege– what is it, how does it work, and what role does it play in the fight against racism?

By YouTube Originals

Roland Martin hosts Chaz Smith, Michael Skolnik, and Eddie Glaude in a conversation about white privilege– what is it, how does it work, and what role does it play in the fight against racism?

This recording was made as part of Bear Witness, Take Action, a Livestream event assembling artists and activists to listen, learn, and take action in support of the Equal Justice Initiative. Donate here: https://eji.org/

Transcript provided by YouTube:

00:03

Hey, folks, Roland Martin here,

00:04

host and managing editor of “Roland Martin Unfiltered.”

00:06

Let’s continue our conversation

00:08

dealing with the issue of race in America.

00:13

What is the responsibility of white privilege?

00:15

My guests, Chaz Smith, a comedic YouTube content creator

00:19

with over 800,000 subscribers and 44 million views.

00:23

Also Michael Skolnik. He is an entrepreneur,

00:25

film producer, news commentator,

00:27

civil rights activist, and motivational speaker.

00:29

Michael doesn’t have enough to do.

00:30

He is a partner and cofounder of The Soze Agency.

00:33

Previously he was the president of globalgrind.com.

00:36

And closing us out, Eddie Glaude, Jr.,

00:39

an American academic, chair of the Department of African-American studies,

00:42

and the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor

00:45

of African-American Studies at Princeton University.

00:46

Is it a double-sided business card, Eddie?

00:48

He’s also a MSNBC contributor. All right, folks.

00:51

Let’s get right into it.

00:52

Michael, I want to start with you.

00:54

You’re the resident white guy on our panel.

00:57

The responsibility of white privilege.

00:59

We’re seeing companies responding.

01:01

We’re seeing politicians,

01:03

but are we seeing a real response to race in America?

01:06

Well, Roland, I’ve certainly gotten older over the years,

01:09

and I’ve seen a lot in this country.

01:11

It is not enough for us white people just to recognize our privilege

01:14

or speak of our privilege or talk about our privilege.

01:17

We must act on that privilege,

01:20

and we must act to dismantle the systems and the structures

01:23

that hold up the 400-plus year

01:26

history of racism in this country.

01:28

So, as an ally, I have spent the majority of my life

01:32

to move from an ally to an accomplice.

01:34

It is no longer good enough just to be an ally.

01:36

It’s no longer good enough just to say I’m gonna show up for black people.

01:40

I’m gonna show up when people have asked for me to show up.

01:42

We also have to show up when they are not asking.

01:45

We have to show up when they are not the ones in the street,

01:47

when we are in our family rooms or in our dining room tables

01:50

or having conversations at our jobs.

01:52

Eddie, you’re at Princeton.

01:54

They’ve had to deal with these issues.

01:56

Woodrow Wilson, a very racist president.

02:00

This has been an issue on college campuses, too.

02:02

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the way in which

02:04

Princeton narrates its history,

02:06

black folk are like latecomers.

02:08

We are the recipients of charity.

02:11

We’re not integral parts of the story of Princeton.

02:15

And so part of what the students were demanding in that moment

02:18

is really how do you tell a story of Princeton

02:21

that is not heralding a past, but actually as aspirational,

02:25

that actually reflects the current Princeton of today

02:28

and the values that animate and organize the institution.

02:32

And this is really important,

02:33

usually when there’s a critique of white allyship,

02:38

is that there’s a view of racial justice

02:40

that’s being held and proposed by our “white friends”

02:45

that’s philanthropic in its orientation.

02:48

That they view racial justice as a charitable enterprise,

02:51

something to be given, right?

02:54

And as long as we think about racial justice in that way,

02:58

we’re caught within the frame.

02:59

So we have to have our white brothers and sisters

03:01

deconstruct this idea that racial justice,

03:04

that justice period, is a gift that they can give to anyone.

03:08

It’s not theirs to give anyone

03:10

because it’s not their possession.

03:12

Now, Chaz, in Dr. King’s book

03:14

“Chaos Or Community: Where Do We Go From Here?,”

03:16

he literally talked about that.

03:17

He said how white America was not fully prepared

03:21

to even deal with the history of this country

03:23

because they have never really confronted it.

03:25

Isn’t that the same with white privilege?

03:27

That there are people who say, “Wait a minute.

03:28

I don’t have any white privilege.”

03:29

– And they’re white. – Right. Right.

03:31

White people believe that they don’t have privilege

03:33

just because they just don’t experience

03:35

what we experience as minorities.

03:37

I can say that myself, as a man, I don’t experience

03:39

the same things that a lot of women do.

03:41

I realize, “Whoa, okay.

03:43

There might be something else going on here.”

03:44

Michael, is part of the problem the phrase “white privilege” anyway?

03:48

Because when people hear that, they think, “Oh, privilege means, oh, rich people.”

03:52

And so there are people who say, “I don’t have any money.

03:54

I’m broke, so therefore, I don’t have white privilege.”

03:57

Yeah, I mean, also privilege also insinuates there’s a superiority

04:00

even in that saying “white privilege.”

04:01

It still– it reinforces at times, you know,

04:04

the racism, the inherent racism that is in this country.

04:08

But I also want to say, Roland, as white people,

04:10

racial justice is not about us giving black people anything.

04:14

Racial justice is also about liberating ourselves

04:17

from the racism that has been ingrained in us

04:20

since we’ve been children, since we’ve been taught

04:22

as young people in this country to believe we’re better,

04:24

to believe we’re superior, to believe that we’re smarter,

04:27

to believe all these things that are not true.

04:29

And so our job of recognizing that privilege inside of us

04:34

is to relieve ourselves of that cancer which is racism.

04:37

To get rid of it so we can liberate our minds

04:40

and be in much greater relationship

04:42

with those black brothers and sisters

04:44

and Latinx brothers and sisters,

04:45

AAPI brothers and sisters,

04:47

so we have removed ourselves of that disease of racism,

04:50

or allieved ourselves of that disease of racism.

04:53

Or elevated our minds to a greater level of consciousness

04:57

by doing the work to recognize what we have

04:59

and what that privilege does to us,

05:01

which creates that cancer and creates that disease, which I don’t want,

05:05

and for my white brothers and sisters who are watching now,

05:07

I promise you, you don’t want.

05:09

Eddie, is part of the problem–

05:11

and I’m not letting anybody off the hook,

05:13

but is it part of the problem

05:14

that we’re dealing with white folks,

05:17

just like black folks, who’ve had to learn “his story” and not actual history?

05:23

And so it becomes, “Well, no, this is what I was taught.

05:25

I didn’t know these things.”

05:27

There are people who say, “Jeez, I was an adult

05:29

before I actually learned about these real issues.”

05:33

Isn’t this also part of the problem with white privilege

05:36

and what we’re confronting in America right now?

05:38

You know, Roland, that’s such a great question.

05:40

You know, and in some ways, we have to describe it

05:42

as a kind of willful ignorance.

05:45

And I think part of what has to happen, I think,

05:47

is a kind of re-narration,

05:50

kind of retelling of who we are.

05:53

That’s what the 1619 Project sought to do.

05:56

It brought up a whole host of questions,

05:59

but it sought to re-narrate the story.

06:01

When we begin to tell ourselves a different story

06:04

about the evils, about the cruelty,

06:06

about the joys, about the triumphs

06:09

where black folk and brown folk are not objects of charity,

06:12

or we’re not latecomers or we’re not being civilized,

06:16

but we’re coparticipants in the project.

06:20

Then we open up space to imagine ourselves differently.

06:23

I’m really honestly believing and hoping

06:26

that this will not just be a trend,

06:28

that people are truly going to begin to see people

06:33

of all colors and ethnicities and backgrounds as equals.

06:36

That people will begin to have equal opportunities.

06:38

That these systems that have– that have been–

06:41

that America was built on

06:42

are gonna begin to be stripped away

06:44

and the foundations will be rebuilt

06:47

in ways that all people will have greater opportunities

06:50

to push for what we know is right.

06:52

Michael, what is a white ally?

06:54

What does a white ally look like,

06:56

and what sort of things they should be mindful of

07:01

when it comes to language

07:02

and also leadership in black spaces?

07:05

So, one, is first to believe black people.

07:07

Two, in this moment and in this movement,

07:10

this movement is leaderful.

07:13

Don’t think you are showing up with the answer.

07:15

It is leaderful with black people.

07:17

It is leaderful with black women.

07:19

It is leaderful with queer black people.

07:21

So when you go to the march, and please go to the march,

07:24

bring your children, bring your loved ones,

07:26

bring your parents, show up at the demonstrations, show up at the protests.

07:30

But when you go, ask, “Where can I be of service?”

07:34

Not “How can I help?”

07:35

“Where can I be of service?”

07:37

Should I march in the back? Should I march on the side?

07:39

Should I put myself in between the police and you?

07:41

Where can I be of service? So first is recognizing your place in this moment.

07:48

speak up, stand up, say something.

07:51

It is not about getting kudos or getting applause on social media

07:55

or your black friend saying, “Good job.”

07:56

It’s about you knowing who you are as a human being

07:59

and who you are as a white person,

08:01

and saying that I am not going to witness this and be silent.

08:05

That to me is the next step

08:07

of where us white people have to go beyond allyship,

08:11

into a level that this is, as Eddie said,

08:13

this is not charity work.

08:16

This is liberation work. For us, too.

08:20

To carry that disease in your head?

08:22

When you get cancer– I’ll shut up. I speak too much.

08:24

But when you get cancer, people tell you,

08:26

“I hope you get through it. I hope you– eff cancer.”

08:30

Racism is a cancer. I want it out of my system.

08:33

I have to do the work to get it out of my system.

08:36

And I beg, I urge any white person watching this

08:40

who feels that sensation of racism inside of them

08:43

to look deep inside of them and say do they want to live

08:46

a life of fear, a life of hate, a life of pain.

08:48

Or do they want to live a life

08:50

of joy and liberation and freedom.

08:53

Jimmy Baldwin makes a distinction in “The Evidence Of Things Not Seen”

08:57

between white people and people who happen to be white.

08:59

And he says, “I love– I happen to love

09:01

a lot of people who happen to be white.

09:03

And then there’s white people.”

09:05

And he’s trying to get us a sense of what the ideology

09:10

to overdetermine how one understands one’s self.

09:14

Michael Skolnik, Eddie Glaude, Chaz Smith.

09:17

Gentlemen, we appreciate it.

White Privilege

This post was previously posted on Youtube.


Photo credit: Screenshot from video

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