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Talk About White Privilege

I’m not one who buys into the FOX News conspiracy theory about how Obama is a Marxist revolutionary acting as a puppet for Bill Ayers, but this critique of Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn is interesting.

Today, the wily Ayers and his wife sit pretty atop American society: he, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago whose traveling lectures find him hailed in the press as an “anti-war activist” rather than a terrorist, and who enjoys the fawning attention of the New York Times Magazine’s Deborah Solomon; she, an adjunct professor at Northwestern, one of the most prestigious law schools in the nation, and a former employee of white-shoe law firm Sidley Austin — despite apparently having never been admitted to the bar. (A hiring partner was friends with Bill Ayers’ father, Thomas Ayers, once a CEO of Commonwealth Edison in Chicago. Sidley Austin also employed Michelle Obama as an associate and Barack Obama as a summer associate.)

Bill Ayers, in fact, has been lavished with praise by none other than the Southern Poverty Law Center. In a 1998 edition of its magazine, Teaching Tolerance, he is described as a “civil rights organizer, radical anti-Vietnam War activist, teacher and author.” Ayers, the SPLC tells us, “has developed a rich vision of teaching that interweaves passion, responsibility and self-reflection.”

Talk about white privilege. Ayers and Dohrn — themselves white — committed a slew of criminal acts on the way to persuading most of America that whites are something worse than the devil, but escaped unharmed. Only the occasional pesky journalist from Fox News bothers them now, with Ayers responding by threatening to call the police (apparently the racist pigs are sometimes useful).

This passage from the article reminded me of a conversation I had once with an ex-Black Panther where he mentioned that white radicals in the 60s were typically treated much more leniently by the law than black radicals. For instance, the leadership of the Panthers was targeted for assassination by the FBI and local police, or subject to frame-ups for capital crimes or other serious offenses.  On the other hand, members of groups like the Weathermen could carry out bombings and end up pleading guilty to lesser charges and given lenient sentences or put on probation. This was likely because the authorities saw student rioters and groups like the Weathermen for what they were, i.e. privileged white kids trying to play revolutionary who were more of a nuisance than anything else, whereas groups like the Panthers, AIM, Young Lords, Young Patriots, etc. represented a genuine insurgency by the lower socioeconomic levels, thereby posing a much greater threat to the system.

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4 replies »

  1. Weathermen David Gilbert and Judith Clark are still in prison for their roles in the 1981 Brinks robbery. It’s a strange coincidence, don’t you think, that the customer information for the rental vehicles came from a store managed by Dohrn? Several Weathermen did hard time, but the leaders got off scot free.

    I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist either, but I find it hard to believe that two people as educated and well-connected as A&D believed any of the stuff in those crazy communiques. They also had a significant role in shifting the discourse of the US left from class struggle to its current neurotic obsession with white skin privilege. An academia focused on cranking out thousands of Tim Wise clones hectoring the white proletariat for its privilege will never threaten TPTB.

  2. “An academia focused on cranking out thousands of Tim Wise clones hectoring the white proletariat for its privilege will never threaten TPTB.”

    I’ve heard this said a thousand times, and none have put it better. Kudos to you for distilling the agenda of the totalitarian left humanists into a single, perfect sentence.

  3. I think that the whole discussion about privilege is really a waste of time. It’s always amusing to see on the left guilty white people bemoaning their privilege and attempting to atone for it while at the same time heaping putting people who are considered oppressed on a pedestal and praising them no matter what their actual conduct is.

    Privilege is also ironically also attacked on the right as well. That is if those who are more affluent hold views that the right does not like then they argue that it is the fact that these people have been sheltered from the real world by their privileged upbringing. A great (or rather horrible) example of this conservative mentality is thishttp://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/yates7.html article by Steven Yates who actually has written better things in recent years. This article by Thomas Sowell is another example of that same mentality http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/culture/education/academia/5266-the-vision-of-the-left.html. I was somewhat surprised to see a similar argument from Keith’s former mortal enemy, Aster in the comment’s section of Charles Johnson’s blog from 2009 http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/04/22/direct_action/#comment-20090425070234. Btw, I revise my opinion of her, I think in my response to Michael Parish’s assessment of left-libertarians, I gave her way too much credit. For all of her banter about rationality, it seems to me that her politics are almost entirely emotionally driven by her own personal issues which seem to overshadow everything else. She wrote on a post on the left-libertarian forums that David Brooks has progressive views, this David Brooks! http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2007/02/writing-from-scaffold-in-defense-of.html

    Indeed people have become less submissive to traditional forms of authority in the last several decades and I think that is the thing that conservatives hate about the last several generations. The fact is that conservativism thrives in world of material scarcity, ignorance, and misery. I would also point out that libertarianism in it’s modern incarnation was a product of the 60’swhether the latter Rothbard liked it or not. Libertarianism itself was not invented in the 60’s, David Frum’s imaginary world (http://www.frumforum.com/were-the-founding-fathers-libertarian) notwithstanding, but it’s current incarnation was. Lately I have been reading his writing’s from that period and then reading his 90’s stuff, talk about a contras(From the 60’s, check out this obituary of Che Guevara! http://murrayrothbard.com/ernesto-che-guevara-rip/, that even shocked me). Having also read other libertarian writings from that early period, one of the things that jumps out at me is the optimism that was inherent at the time and I think was one the elements that early libertarianism had in common with the social currents of that period, the fundamental conviction that a more desirable world could be attained. Ultimately, the difference between conservatism and liberalism (as Rothbard pointed out himself in “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty”) is whether such optimism is warranted or not.

  4. “Indeed people have become less submissive to traditional forms of authority in the last several decades and I think that is the thing that conservatives hate about the last several generations.”

    No doubt about it. They’ve only said as much a million and one times by now.

    “The fact is that conservativism thrives in world of material scarcity, ignorance, and misery.”

    See Afghanistan or Myanmar.

    “I would also point out that libertarianism in it’s modern incarnation was a product of the 60’swhether the latter Rothbard liked it or not. Libertarianism itself was not invented in the 60’s, David Frum’s imaginary world (http://www.frumforum.com/were-the-founding-fathers-libertarian) notwithstanding, but it’s current incarnation was. Lately I have been reading his writing’s from that period and then reading his 90’s stuff, talk about a contras(From the 60’s, check out this obituary of Che Guevara! http://murrayrothbard.com/ernesto-che-guevara-rip/, that even shocked me).”

    I think there’s more consistency to Rothbard’s work in these areas than what is often recognized. He always regarded the primary enemies as war and centralized governments, and he tended to align himself politically with whomever he thought was doing the most to oppose these at the particular moment. He showed a very consistent approach on this. He was an isolationist during WW2, a states’ rightser in the late 40s, a Stevensonian Democrat in the early Cold War period, a New Leftist in the Vietnam era, an anti-Reaganite in the 80s, and a paleo in the Clinton era.

    As for his relationship with the New Left in the 60s, he initially had very high hopes for the Carl Oglesby variation of the New Left: http://reason.com/archives/2008/03/26/writer-on-the-storm However, by the end of the 60s Rothbard recognized that anything good about the New Left had largely been overrun or destroyed by the totalitarian left. In fact, Rothbard very early on recognized what the remnants of the New Left were evolving into (present day totalitarian humanisn, as I call it). If you sift through back issues of the Libertarian Forum, you can see how Rothbard was very prescient and observant about all of this:
    http://mises.org/journals/libertarianforum.asp

    See in particular his obituary for the New Left from 1970:
    http://mises.org/journals/lf/1970/1970_03_15.aspx
    And his critique of the takeover of the Democratic Party by the remnants of the New Left in 1972:
    http://mises.org/journals/lf/1972/1972_06-07.pdf

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