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Posts published in “Day: May 1, 2022”

Not what you think

meador

When I first saw the term “white privilege” being used commonly in discussions on race, I assumed it meant I had it easier than people of color simply because I am white. I assumed it was a broad condemnation of whiteness or even an accusation of white people taking something that doesn’t belong to them.

I was wrong.

If you get mad every time someone mentions white privilege, read on. You just might see white privilege through new eyes.

White privilege has an actual definition and it’s not what many people think. If you know me or if you read my regular columns or essays, you might be familiar with how I came to understand one of the most divisive terms in the current vernacular.

I am going to repeat a number of incidents I have personally witnessed. I am going to contrast them with what people of color experience — people of color close to me. The final example is a deeply personal one. At the end of this column, I will give the actual definition of white privilege.

White privilege starts very small. As I cross a crosswalk in front of an older white woman in a Lexus, I get six-or-so paces beyond her car when I hear her hit her loud electric door locks. Turning, I see a Black man crossing a dozen paces behind me. That is white privilege.

I can shop at Nordstrom, free to wander without scrutiny. But the store security staff closely watches the Black man who came in right after me. That is white privilege.

White privilege is another department store offering a wide variety of makeup colors for white women but few for women of color. White privilege is a white woman entering a boutique with a large shoulder bag and being allowed to browse at her leisure while the Black woman behind her is asked to surrender her bag at the counter before she can shop.

I can enjoy excellent service at my favorite bistro while the Black couple two tables over experience mediocre service because the waiter incorrectly assumes they’re lousy tippers. That is white privilege.

White privilege is when a fellow resident of my secure apartment building holds the lobby door open for me even though he doesn’t know me but then quickly pulls the door shut behind me because a Black man is heading in next.

White privilege is me relaxing poolside at a resort, unmolested by hotel staff while the Black family two rooms down is repeatedly asked for their pool pass, their parking permit or to show their room key to prove they are legitimate guests.

White privilege is me ordering breakfast at a diner, then settling the bill when I’m finished while the Black party seated across the dining room is asked to pay in advance because the white manager thinks they look “suspicious.”

White privilege is me applying for a loan to buy a house and getting approved, even without stellar credit when a Black family of similar means is denied repeatedly. White privilege is a Black home appraised well below its market value but increased by a full third when the bank orders a second appraisal before which the homeowners “whitewash” or remove all objects indicating the occupants are Black.

White privilege is me able to win a seat in our state legislature and freely canvass neighborhoods in my constituency while the Black woman elected in the next district has the police called on her repeatedly as she hands out reelection campaign leaflets in her district neighborhoods.

White privilege is me carelessly fumbling with my documents when a police officer stops me for a minor traffic violation while the Black man the cop stopped earlier had to very carefully maintain awareness of where he slowly moved his hands, asking permission each time he did so, trying not to appear to be reaching for a weapon. White privilege is the same cop allowing me to remain in my car while he writes me up when the Black motorist would have a much higher chance of being handcuffed — emasculated, humiliated — detained and left to sit on the curb before being released and handed his ticket.

Remember when I said I had a deeply personal example?

White privilege is me getting busted on federal cocaine charges in the early 1990s and enjoying a complicated adjudication that included six months in a cushy federal halfway house instead of prison time when a Black man would likely still be serving his prison sentence for the same crime, even as I type these words.

That, my friends, is white privilege.

White privilege is generally defined as societal privilege benefiting white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly when they are otherwise subject to the same social, political or economic circumstances.

White privilege has nothing to do with how difficult a white kid’s childhood was or the difficulties a white adult is experiencing. White privilege is not related to abuse, poverty, sickness or persecution.

White privilege manifests itself in those little details you never thought about because you didn’t have to — details Black people face constantly. The term itself is unfortunate because, to many white ears, white privilege sounds pejorative if we don’t understand its true meaning.

We shouldn’t be arguing over white privilege.

White privilege isn’t anything to be ashamed of — we didn’t ask for it. White privilege isn’t something we can give up. But to understand our friends of color, we must be aware of it. White privilege makes our lives easier in ways we very often do not consider.

Next time someone brings up white privilege, don’t react defensively. Try to see everyday, ordinary life through the eyes of a person of color — they are reminded of their skin color many times, every day.

We are not. That is white privilege.

Matthew Meador is a former food and wine writer, senior editor and a rare moderate Republican who now writes political commentary. Previously, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt has served in various capacities on political campaigns, for pollsters and for elected officials. Contact him at matthewmeador.com.

Photograph © Octagon via Wiki, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported, GNU Free Documentation License
 

The coming abortion battle

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If you’re wondering what political issues aren’t top of mind for most Oregonians but may get there in coming months, abortion should rise to attention.

It’s worth considering now, ahead of the upcoming primary election, for this reason:

Sometime in the next few months, likely in or near June, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which is widely expected either to overturn the long-standing Roe v. Wade ruling or wipe out most of its effect, with the result of allowing states, as many have started to try to do already, to effectively outlaw abortion. Neighboring Idaho is one of the states moving in that direction.

All of that is driving abortion-related activity from red states to the blue. The Boise-based Planned Parenthood organization in Idaho has leased office space across the Snake River in Ontario, evidently intending to provide services there for Idahoans who will no longer be able to get them in their home state. The pressure in Oregon will grow for providing those services - maybe especially in parts of the state where the pro-choice view isn’t popular.

Oregon has, over the last couple of decades, moved firmly in the pro-choice direction. The legislature, with gubernatorial support, has supported the right to abortion with increasing specificity, especially in a 2017 law (the Reproductive Health Equity Act) which even effectively makes many abortions free of financial cost to the patient.

Whether that’s the end of the story in Oregon may depend on how the elections go. If either of the major Democratic nominees, Tina Kotek or Tobias Read, win in November, they would be unlikely to change Oregon’s law or policies in that area, other than maybe to adjust existing principles to new conditions on the ground. Kotek was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon, which said she is someone “who will champion bold policies that expand access to reproductive health care for Oregonians and anyone who might be forced to travel to our state for care.” Read’s views appear to be similar to Kotek’s.

Independent candidate Betsy Johnson seems to be in the same territory. She remarked recently that “I am pro-choice and Oregon will remain a pro-choice state when I am governor.”

The Republican candidates are a far more complicated story.

Asked about support for an Oregon counterpart to the fetal “heartbeat” laws, which involve private rights of action (critics call it bounty hunting) passed in Texas and Idaho, Republican candidate Christine Drazan said that, “I’ve never shied away from my pro-life values, but a private right of action is a dangerous precedent that could just as easily be used to curtail constitutional rights that conservatives value.”

That stand on the heartbeat law may make her an outlier among the Republican contenders. Most have not explicitly gone public on the subject, but there are some data points to work with.

Oregon’s oldest (formed in 1970, before Rose v. Wade) and largest pro-life group, Oregon Right to Life, has endorsed at least four Republican candidates: Drazan, Bob Tiernan, Bridget Barton, and Bud Pierce. Since the group relies on candidates to spread the word of endorsements, there could be others who haven’t remarked about it directly.

One candidate non-endorsee who seems displeased about it is Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, who seems to have gone the furthest among the Republican candidates in declaring he would act broadly against abortion if elected. “Oregon is a taxpayer-funded abortion tourist destination,” he said. “Politicians are more concerned with propping up the abortion industry than actually helping women and children. It’s time we recognize the value of the unborn by protecting their right to life in our laws. As governor, I would propose and support any common sense limits on abortion that are allowed by current Supreme Court decisions.”

Probably, however, any of the Republican candidates if elected in November would face enormous pressure from their base to do whatever he or she could to push back against Oregon’s state legislative policy.

And how much could a governor do?

A governor can’t unilaterally change the law, and the chances of the Oregon legislature changing enough in this election to do that are nil. But a governor can make a difference.

Bear in mind that Texas Governor Greg Abbott didn’t need or ask for legislative backing recently to block for searches of traffic from Mexico: He did it administratively. In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown used extensive emergency powers to impose restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. What powers might a Republican governor attempt to use to limit, or hamstring, abortion in Oregon?

We don’t really know for sure. But if one of the Republicans does prevail in November, we may find out.

This column originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle.