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Racism and White Privilege, Deconstructed

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Racism and White Privilege, Deconstructed

The notion of race has always been problematic due to many controversies behind racial differentiation and segregation that have existed in society for several centuries. In their texts, Pem Davidson Buck and Beverly Daniel Tatum make an attempt to gain a comprehensible insight into the concepts of racism and white privilege by looking at the historical development of these phenomena as well as their contemporary perception.

Buck’s article deals specifically with how racial distinction and further disparity between the Whites and minorities developed throughout history. Essentially, the author argues that the central driving force of the construction of the white privilege is the result of institutionalization and various legislations that were initiated by the white upper-class power consolidators (Buck 33). Native Europeans were constantly forced to “settle for being white” and separated – factually and figuratively – from the people of color (Buck 34). Moreover, in order to compensate the lack of social and financial security for the working-class white people, those in power promoted the image of “whiteness as a privilege in itself”, which contributed to the notions of white manhood and womanhood for the years to come and functioned as “psychological wage” (Buck 35). Thus, both people of color and low-class white citizens were exploited through reinforcement of the social and racial division established by the state.

Tatum, in her turn, addresses the issue of racism and its understanding, especially among the young generation of white people who often make no distinction between racism and prejudice. Whereas both are ingrained and internalized by society members since early childhood, there is a significant difference in their functioning and impact on people (Tatum 125). Therefore, the author strives to define racism and emphasizes that it is “a system of advantage based on race”, whereas prejudice is simply a toxic preconception (Tatum 126). Generally, Tatum repeatedly illustrates how every white person, irrespective of their attitudes or intentions, benefits from racism precisely due to the fact that it is systematic and institutionalized. This is why, according to the author, there is no, for instance, “black racism”, since it lacks privilege and constant reinforcement by society (Tatum 129). Thus, only going against the established views of racial differentiation and hierarchy of entitlement would make it possible to fight racism.

While it is hard to comment on Buck’s text that gathers objective historical facts and establishes a retrospective view of the white privilege, there are certain positions of Tatum’s argument that appear controversial to me. Particularly, the writer states that



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