White Male Privilege Exists, Defense Department Points Out
A Pentagon Equal Opportunity training manual points out the obvious.
Trending on memeorandum is a Fox News story titled “Pentagon training manual: white males have unfair advantages.”
A controversial 600-plus page manual used by the military to train its Equal Opportunity officers teaches that “healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian” men hold an unfair advantage over other races, and warns in great detail about a so-called “White Male Club.”
“Simply put, a healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian male receives many unearned advantages of social privilege, whereas a black, homosexual, atheist female in poor health receives many unearned disadvantages of social privilege,” reads a statement in the manual created by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI).
Where they get this idea is beyond me. I mean, just look at all the unhealthy black lesbian atheist women in positions of power!
The manual, which was obtained by Fox News, also instructs troops to “support the leadership of people of color. Do this consistently, but not uncritically,” the manual states.
That’s just blatant discrimination right there. Usually, we teach troops to disobey orders from their leaders. Well, no, we don’t.
The 637-page manual covers a wide range of issues from racism and religious diversity to cultural awareness, extremism and white privilege.
I obtained a copy of the manual from an Equal Opportunity officer who was disturbed by the course content and furious over the DEOMI’s reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center for information on “extremist” groups.
“I’m participating in teaching things that are not true,” the instructor told me. He asked not to be identified because he feared reprisals.
“I should not be in a position to do that,” he said. “It violates Constitutional principles, but it also violates my conscience. And I’m not going to do it – not going to do it.”
What Constitutional principles are being violated? What’s untrue or violates this individual’s conscience? We’re not told.
DEOMI instructors were also responsible for briefings at bases around the country that falsely labeled evangelical Christians, Catholics and a number of high-profile Christian ministries as domestic hate groups.
No information is given in the piece about any of that. An earlier report from the same reporter, however, notes that some Army EO instructors were freelancing and using SPLC materials that labeled the likes of the American Family Association as “hate groups” on the basis of virulent anti-homosexual teachings. The Secretary of the Army has personally ordered that practice stopped.
The subject of white privilege emerged in a 20-page section titled, “Power and Privilege.”
“Whites are the empowered group,” the manual declares. “White males represent the haves as compared to the have-nots.”
The military document advises personnel to “assume racism is everywhere, every day” and “notice code words for race.” They are also instructed to “understand and learn from the history of whiteness and racism.”
“Assume racism is everywhere, everyday,” read a statement in a section titled, ‘How to be a strong ‘white ally.'”
“One of the privileges of being white is not having to see or deal with racism all the time,” the manual states. “We have to learn to see the effect that racism has.”
That’s a bit pedantic, perhaps, but hardly objectionable. The whole point of the “privilege” argument is that those in historically powerful groups are less likely to even notice subtle differences in treatment. While it can be, and often is, taken too far, the premise is demonstrably true.
On page 181 of the manual, the military points out that status and wealth are typically passed from generation to generation and “represent classic examples of the unearned advantages of social privilege.”
“As such, the unfair economic advantages and disadvantages created long ago by institutions for whites, males, Christians, etc. still affect socioeconomic privilege today,” the manual states.
Is this even debatable?
The guide also points out that whites are over-represented and blacks are underrepresented in positive news stories, that middle class blacks live in poorer neighborhoods than middle class whites and that even though there are more white criminals than any other race, the news coverage of black criminals is about equal to the news coverage of white criminals.
This is both undeniably true and debatable. That is, the fact that whites, which comprise 77.9% of the society, comprise a larger percentage of the criminal population than blacks, who comprise 13.1% of the society, isn’t the whole story. At the same time, though, constant reporting on even a disproportionate violent criminal element among a minority group skews the perception of that group in the majority population.
The military manual goes into great detail about a so-called “White Male Club.”
“In spite of slave insurrections, civil war, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the women’s suffrage movement leading to the 19th amendment, the civil rights movement, urban rebellions and the contemporary feminist movement, the club persists,” the document states.
DEOMI states that “full access to the resources of the club still escape the vision of equitable distribution.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Louis C.K . (NSFW, strong language):
Sorry I’m being so negative. I’m a bummer. I don’t know–I shouldn’t be. I’m a very, you know, lucky guy. I’ve got a lot going for me: I’m healthy, I’m relatively young, I’m white …which, thank God for that shit, boy. That is a huge leg up. Are you kidding me? Oh, God, I love being white. I really do. Seriously, if you’re not white, you’re missing out. Because this shit is thoroughly good. Let me be clear, by the way. I’m not saying that white people are better. I’m saying that being white is clearly better. Who could even argue? If it was an option, I would re-up every year.
“Oh, yeah, I’ll take ‘white’ again, absolutely. I’ve been enjoying that. I’m gonna stick with white, thank you.”
Here’s how great it is to be white: I can get in a time machine and go to anytime, and it would be fucking awesome when I get there! That is exclusively a white privilege. Black people can’t fuck with time machines! A black guy in a time machine’s like, “Hey, anything before 1980, no thank you. I don’t want to go.”
But I can go to any time! The year 2. I don’t even know what’s happening then, but I know when I get there…
“Welcome, we have a table right here for you, sir.”
“Thank you. Oh, it’s lovely here in the year 2.”
I can go to any time–in the past. I don’t want to go to the future and find out what happens to white people because we’re gonna pay hard for this shit, you got to know that. We’re not going to just fall from number one to two. They’re gonna hold us down and fuck us in the ass forever. And we totally deserve it. But for now, wheeeeeeee!
Now, if you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an asshole. It is great. And I’m a man. How many advantages could one person have? I’m a white man. You can’t even hurt my feelings! What can you really call a white man that really digs deep?
“Uh. Ruined my day. Boy shouldn’t have called me a cracker. Bringing me back to owning land and people, what a drag.”
No, no, no, NO, James. We live in a post racial society. Just wait, the usual suspects will be along any second now to tell you how hard it is being a white heterosexual Christian man what with the blacks and the browns getting an unfair advantage thru affirmative action and the gays walking around holding hands (or worse!) and the Muslims trying to get Sharia law enforced everywhere, and the women???? What is up with them???? Got half the money and all the pussy!
ps: great Louis CK rant.
And in that spirit, I give you “White People’s Problems”
Man, Louis C. K. is FUNNY. They had one of his shows on the airplane seat-back entertainment thing when I was on a flight a while back and the other passengers were looking at me because I was laughing so hard.
As far as the “white male privilege” thing goes, well, yeah, obviously. But I do have to say–and maybe your experience was similar, James–that while my military career was not free of racial tension, I found a far higher level of mutual respect and “color blindness” there than I’d experienced before I joined (in 1986).
It doesn’t hurt to be tall and blond, either.
Are you telling me that WHITE people get a better break in the USA than others?
Has the GOP heard about this? I bet they could find a way to benefit from that. (At least… for a while.)
Of course, with their track record, they would likely find a way to totally mess that up.
Yup, and that’s the key factoid right there – these people “feel bad” about what they’re being told because it conflicts with the things they were taught growing up, therefore UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!
Okay, I’ll bite.
The facts aren’t the problem, it’s the presentation. The excerpts presented above do little to promote “equal opportunity” and even subliminally push concepts of inferiority.
Why do “people of color” need special support in their leadership? Are they somehow inferior to other leaders?
How about a positive “equal opportunity” message:
“support the leadership of those with demonstrated leadership abilities. Do it consistently. If you find yourself being critical of them but cannot articulate an objective individualized reason, look to see if some underlying bias due to race, sex, sexual orientation, etc. is influencing you criticism. If so, STOP it. Such influences are unhelpful and degrade unit cohesion.”
See the difference? In the manual’s version those poor leaders of color need mommy Pentagon to tell everyone to let them play. In my version, there are leaders and the troops are told to leave their bias outside the gate. And they are responsible for being aware of their biases.
And if they could do that, life would be great. But they’ve shown, over and over and over, that they’re not able to even recognize their own biases. Therein lies the problem.
Most amusing of all — following the links to the original FOX story leads to a lengthy interview with former Congressman Allan West. Whose reaction is kind of like watching a Lou Pinella vs Umpire rant — you know what he’s going to say but the artistry, the AUDACITY of the actual event still fascinates you.
Are you aware of your biases? Am I? The answer to both is no. Bias by it’s very nature occurs on the unconscious level. It is only by having them pointed out that people become aware of them.
It may have something to do with how sometimes “leadership” qualities in “people of color” are actually considered threatening as opposed to, you know, worthy of promotion.
I’m no editor, but I find your revisions to be unsatisfactory and unnecessary. The original sentence conveys the very same idea, but with better economy and clarity.
I appreciate your response, but my opinion is that there’s always a way for people to rationalize their irrational feelings. Sometimes you’ve got to proactively fight those feelings. I’m sure every officer makes some mistakes, but the exact same mistake might be perceived differently depending on who made it.
While I can’t speak for the whole thing (being white and male) but I had a drill sergeant who would smoke soldiers who didn’t go to church or, “Sweat the devil out of you,” as he called it.
A related thing has happened. Look at how this healthcare discussion went off the rails at Marginal Revolution.
Do subsidies protect Obamacare against the adverse selection death spiral?
In particular, note that I talked patiently about health care, until in each thread, an opponent outed himself as a full on racist.
That is why you have training. Not to promulgate some vague edict about supporting leaders of color but to cause people to confront their biases and become self aware.
And do you think that
is a proactive, effective means to fight those feelings?
Does one say argue this leader of color is “trying his best’?
Perhaps it is only my “white privilege” but I’d find such “support” insulting. Would a leader of color not also find it insulting to receive such pity support?
This is so confusing. I was finally beginning to accept the currently popular conservative notion that White people are now the people most victimized by discrimination and affirmative action in America today.
Shorter JKB: we should have anti-discrimination training, just don’t say “black.”
Why would any sane white American male ever join the military? Let the privileged minorities take that responsibility if you can call it that.
Why would any Christian male of any color die for this evil nation that has already taken 55 million innocent lives in the name of ideology? Isn’t that part of why we fought WWII?
@john personna: That’s a huge misrepresentation of JKB’s point. Do you honestly not see the difference between “support black leaders” and “don’t discriminate against black leaders”?
It appears to me that there is a pretty broad consensus at this point that white male privilege exists and that it’s a problem because it blinds us to the potential value in people who don’t quite fit the mold. The question and the difficulty lies in figuring out how to change, how to lead.
If you think it’s simple, you’re probably part of the problem.
I don’t fault the Army EO for what they did, it was accurate. Was it the best way to lead? I don’t know. I suspect they will get better at it as we learn more.
Incidentally, I’d like to recommend Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi, which addresses issues of stereotype threat and identity in a very powerful, research-based way.
I think JKB’s later comments got worse.
30 odd years ago I had a girlfriend who’s father was a diplomat. She did not live in the US till she was 17, and she lived in a Muslim country from 11 to 16.
She was very blonde with stunning blue eyes.
No one ever questioned if she was a real American.
I think I will tune in to Fox so I can catch them calling BS on any and all claims of racism.
Nothings more hilarious than listening to guilt ridden white racists complain about racism.
“Assume racism is everywhere, everyday,” read a statement in a section titled,
Umm speak for yourself a-hole
No, there is something funnier. Or sadder.
That would be when white people fret about anti-discrimination efforts.
Ya’ll… If you’ve not served in the military then your civilian experience is not sufficient to opine on military culture. Sorry. I know you have feelings that somehow make you think your opinion counts. Any racial bias is curb stomped thru basic training and field exercises. Once the shit hits the fan, you will give two fucks as to what color the soldier is because your life depends on the efficiency of the guy next to you. All this white guilt being shoved down our throats is only raising awareness that we’re different, which is condradictory to training – no one’s special and the color of their skin totally illerelvant to any soldier worth two shits, so shut the fuck up and take your white guilt to the ghetto and actually do some good, motherfuckers.
Shorter MLK: Judge a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin
Yes, I’ve often heard Black people say that it was a distinct privilege to be subject to slavery, apartheid, and Jim Crow laws for over two centuries.
What’s really hilarious here is that JJ thinks it’s so obvious that white privilege exists that it’s absurd of the army to mention it, while his co-blogger Doug will go to his grave denying there’s any such thing…
The most abused and misunderstood thing King ever said, which is saying something. Sure, he’d have been happy to live in an American where that happened, where one’s skin color never had any impact on the chances of success. If we’d achieved that colorblind utopia, what you say would make perfect sense and courses like this would be unnecessary. But only a fool thinks that this country is colorblind and never uses race as a basis for judgment.
As Kari says, that’s the goal. There’s just no reason to get panties in a bunch when the military tailors a course to their members. There, saying “black” and even “encourage black leaders” might be the way to achieve the goal.
Basically Fox and you would prefer a course tailored to your sensibilities.
@JKB: The trouble is, even when we think we’re judging “equally”, we’re judging based on our unconscious biases.
E.g. the number of women getting hired for orchestras shot up when candidates played audition pieces behind a screen, when that the hiring committee didn’t know the sex or the name of the candidate.
E.g. the exact same resume, without photo, received a much higher percentage of rejections when the candidate had a “typically black” name.
We’re all biased. We might as well admit it.
That isn’t what he said and he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the training.
@grumpy realist: The orchestra example is a great one. The resume one, though, is a flawed study. Names aren’t just indicative of race; they’re also indicative of class and culture. Do the same study but compare resumes with names like “James”, “John” and “Eric” to resumes with names like “Cletus”, “Billy Ray” and “Bud”, and I’ll bet you’d find a much higher rate of rejections for the latter group as well. Not to the same degree, of course, because racism is obviously a thing, but my point is just that the study didn’t properly control for the non-racial implications of names.
Your comment seems to assume that this statement is the entirety of what they are told in that part of the training. I am willing to bet that this statement wasn’t left to hang on its own. Examples were given and the concerns you brought up in your alternate phrasing were almost certainly covered if we read a couple of paragraphs before and after that phrase in the training.
A friend of mine played for the LA Philharmonic. He told me the old interview process. A screen was put in front of a door. A coordinator said “candidate 1”, who then came in and not seen by 3 judges, played a selection. The process was ruled racist, because too few black musicians were selected.
I said “what!” He said “oh yeah, they can hear who plays black.”
That in my opinion was a little over the top.
funny, why would anyone want to join a non existent club anyway? white people can’t stand each other for the most part- they’re very competitive and strive to out do everyone(not just white folks).
they also vote for different political parties, wth is up with that free thinking stuff ? and don’t get me started on the white neighborhoods, all those nice houses with trimmed lawns and such- just waiting for some minorities to walk by so they can shoot ’em. still wanna join?
@R.Dave: No, and that would have been interesting–how well does “Sallie Mae” do against “Elizabeth”?
Which is another reason why I’m curmudgeonly enough to think you should name your child some wonderfully traditional name for official use. Then use nicknames for daily use.
(I once complained to my mother about my name. She looked over her glasses at me and said: “I was reading War and Peace at the time. Be glad you weren’t named Natasha.”)
The thing that struck me about JKB’s comment was that he thought the military should be training it’s people to only support those senior officers who have demonstrated strong leadership capabilities to the satisfaction of the junior service member. Now there’s a plan for an effective military…
Everyone should remember that in the U.S. Army, whites are overrepresented in the combat arms such as infantry and special operations whereas blacks are overrepresented in the support units such as maintenance. Due to structural changes in the Army to create more war fighting soldiers and fewer support unit soldiers, the percentage of the Army that is blacks has been going down.
What is odd is the best way for blacks to advance in the Army is the same advice that blacks receive in the corporate world: take the line operation jobs and avoid the support positions such as human resources or resource management.
Now that is funny. But in the military now and forever, weak superior officers may have their orders followed but only the strong leader who has demonstrated such to his/her subordinates are followed as leaders.
@JKB: “But in the military now and forever, weak superior officers may have their orders followed but only the strong leader who has demonstrated such to his/her subordinates are followed as leaders. ”
That’s exactly true, as long as you happen to be living in a comic book.
Racism is like sexuality: If you don’t tell people about it, they’ll never have to deal with it in any form.
Okay, obviously you have to say something about it, but explicit details will only get them thinking in explicit details. Vague generalities (“just abstain from sex”, “just be color-blind”) are a much better solution.