By editorial board • 

Terms like ‘white privilege’ trigger oversensitive officials

Many people have a hard time understanding the concept of white privilege — often because they are privileged whites who in fact have a hard time understanding any experience other than their own.

Exhibit A: “I don’t believe white privilege exists any more than black pride,” said Yamhill County Commissioner Rick Olson in a meeting this week while discussing diversity training proposed for county employees.

Of all the astonishing things about that quote, perhaps the most astonishing is that it allowed Olson to appear even more politically tone deaf than Commissioner Mary Starrett when she expounded on the same topic Aug. 8. (After initial hesitance, Olson did eventually approve funding for the training on Thursday.)

Starrett noted fewer African Americans commit suicide than people who share her complexion. “To me, it just seems that more whites than blacks consider life not worth living,” she said.

Starrett also embraced the stereotype of Asian people being more affluent and boasting higher IQs. On that basis, she said, “We can talk about Asian privilege.” Yet, she went on just one week later to warn against painting people with a “broad brush.”

We know white privilege doesn’t exist, Starrett said. How? The people who lived in tents and RVs along Northeast Dustin Court were white.

She definitely is not the only one who just doesn’t get it.

Some people never will. It’s futile trying to explain to them the inherent advantage of being born white in the United States. Indeed, offering such an observation is good way to ruin a family Thanksgiving.

But this sort of training is routine, even in Yamhill County. It really isn’t worth this level of official foofaraw.

If Olson and Starrett are a couple of elected snowflakes, easily “triggered” by certain words, there’s no need to upset them. We can just change the nomenclature. We can remove words like “white privilege” and “microaggression” if it will keep them from popping a blood vessel.

People do not need to embrace the concept of white privilege — or even grasp it — to appreciate the importance of understanding the different experiences of some of those around them, whether it be related to race, culture, gender or sexual orientation, or one of a multitude of disabilities or disorders.

Still, the irony of three white people getting worked up over whether they need additional insight into diversity is hard to ignore. So is the irony of three white people on a newspaper editorial board responding, for that matter.

The greatest irony of all might be that the request for additional training came from members of the county staff themselves. They believe training in ways to best address diversity issues would be valuable.

Policymakers suggesting they know better reflects a rigid top-down attitude, which is the essence of blindingly white privilege. Changing that attitude is important for a government that purports to help all of its constituents.

Refusing to understand others, refusing to listen, refusing even to admit you might have something to learn, rises above mere “microaggression.” It’s a sign of moral dry rot.

If the $19,000 being spent can replace even part of that decay, we consider it a bargain.

Comments

RobsNewsRegister

Their is nothing wrong with diversity training, but it is rather naïve to be surprised when definitively divisive terminology such as "white privilege" spurs a reaction by "oversensitive" individuals. The first word, "white", is an adjective that divides humans by the skin pigment in which they were born. The second word, "privilege", implies an entitlement that isn't earned. These are merely the Webster definitions of the words themselves. When combined, the two form a phrase where you can invariably get a defensive response.

Mike

Robs. How would you describe a group of people with a common skin tone who benefited culturally, socially, and economically in many ways by the sole virtue of their common skin tone? And in the same way how would you refer to a society which imposed negative life consequences on a people with a common skin tone? Would any of your descriptions be divisive?

RobsNewsRegister

Mike- I guess I've known far too many legal immigrants who see this country as a land of freedom and opportunity; which is why they strove to come here. I think those of us whom grew up in the United States oft fail to see some of the amazing attributes of the country in which we were born.

If skin color being 'white' is the determining factor that determines success in this country, so much so that you can label an individual as having privilege "available only to a particular person or group" per the dictionary definition without any other knowledge of said individual, then why doesn't this group have the highest per capita income by an almost $20K/year margin? Where does dividing people into groups and sub-groups and sub-groups of sub-groups stop?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

Bill B

Feels like a Sunday morning sermon rather than an editorial.

A New Generation

Ironic indeed, when something designed to educate and bring people together drives us further apart. So sad.

Joel

Can someone at the NR tell us who the primary author of this editorial is? I'm really surprised at the aggressive and mean spirited tone. It's not uncommon to see that tone here in the comments but I think this is the first time I've seen it in an editorial written by the NR themselves.

Joel

This editorial is frankly appalling.
The concepts of "white privilege" and "microaggression" are subjective beliefs of those on the far left. They aren't facts despite the way they are taught as fact in liberal universities. They spring up from feelings and the life experiences of some. They are a dogma...no different than the beliefs of those of us (like me) who are devoutly religious.
Their are many of us here in Yamhill County who share Mr Olsen and Ms Starretts views. Our views are also subjective and not fact based...they come from feelings of what is right and wrong in the world as well as our life experiences.
Let's show some respect for each other. No need to try to force your dogma on others who happen to see the world differently than you do.
C'mon NR you're better than this!

gregtompkins

I was in Portland again today at a trade show. Had to chuckle about all the “in our America” and “celebrate diversity” signs I saw there. What “diversity” are they referring to be celebrating? There is no diversity in Portland. All I saw was self hating white leftists being all idealistic with no actual clue what diversity even means. There are a lot of Portland transplants now living in McMinnville with this same “celebrate” attitude. Spend some more time in coffee shops drinking coffee from the Amazon and being idealistic and lazy.

Scott Gibson

Excellent editorial. It's quite appropriate for the local paper to call out two of our county commissioners for their blindness to the issue of white privilege. It is not surprising from Starrett, but Rick Olson did catch me off guard in suggesting white privilege does not exist, and I don't even begin to understand why he thing black pride is a myth, if that was his point. I can see white privilege in so many areas of my own life. When I think of what my life would have been like if I had been Hispanic or black, I can only believe that it would have been a much tougher climb to get where I find myself today. A little humility and understanding on the part of our commissioners would be welcome. Kudos to Casey Kulla for a clear-eyed view of the world.

RobsNewsRegister

Mr. Gibson. I believe we are conflating race with local cultural characteristics when using divisive terminology like "white privilege". If race is the determining factor, you still need to explain why the minority racial subgroup you didn't mention in your post earns on average almost twenty thousand dollars a year more than those that are "privileged". That is a 31.5% increase.

The breakdown of the family in inner city black communities is well documented. The vast majority of these children grow up without significant paternal involvement. Until root causes around this breakdown are addressed, we are wasting our time.

As we have seen from the devastation in white sural communities in the Midwest and the opioid crisis, skin pigment does not make one immune to the effects of familial breakdown. I will concede that the ill affects may be worse for the inner city child however, but that is due to higher population density, not race.

Joel

Mr Gibson's response is a clear, unvarnished look into the way those on the extreme left think these days. They have found "the truth" about such things as white privledge and a host of other politically correct doctrines. Others who have not found "the truth" or who have found a different truth must be reeducated and taught how to think. And if they object to being reeducated, they deserve to at best be "called out" and at worst be beaten into submission (see antifa). Very disturbing.

Joel

If you read the last sentance in Mr Gibsons post, and think deeply about what it implys (in light of what i wrote above) it is absolutely stunning. Mr Kulla earns his praise because of his "clear eyed view of the world." Wow.

Joel

And Mr Gibson, if you had been born a hispanic or black you wouldnt have needed to look to self loathing white liberals to pave the way for you by shaming themselves and other whites. No, you would have used any bias or prejudice or disadvantage you experienced as a powerful source of motivation to climb faster and higher in pursuit of your life goals. And by so doing you would have blessed your self and your family all the more. Your perceived weakness would have been turned to your greatest strength.

Joel

Alright, I'm done. Heading outside for a nice walk. Gotta get by blood pressure back down. :)

Bill B

Would expect nothing less from Mr. Gibson. He is so far off center that I'm surprised he's able to stand up.

Finch

I have never thought in terms of color and raised my kids that way as well. Go sit and watch children at play. They don't give a rip about color -- they play and interact so innocently. Go to a concert or sporting event and watch all different races enjoy their surroundings. They're not thinking about politics and all the other crap dividing this country-- they're living their lives.

This craziness has stemmed from one side. I refuse to walk around feeling guilty for anything. I chose to live my life, work and raise my family. Life wasn't easy raising a family in the beginning but through hard work and determination things got better and then very comfortable.

This attitude of guilt being taught to our kids is insane. Adults are creating this mess and it's wrong. I work with many people of other nationalities and they are happy. The media and people leading this country are spreading this crap and it needs to stop.

RobsNewsRegister

Good insight Finch. My worry is that, unless extremely lucky, there are times in life where you are going to fail and have to pick yourself up by your bootstraps.

I have to wonder what happens to these poor American kids who buy into this philosophy and have a ready-made-excuse to quit. Meanwhile, legal immigrants of color work their tails off and economically kick everyone's butt. The mean yearly earnings for people of Indian, Pakistani, and Taiwanese descent are over $100K a year.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

Finch

You are correct Rob. Many of these students value education and opportunity and go on to do great things.

There's just too much enabling and helicopter parenting these days.

Mike

What was the term used for over the sensitive, Show flakes? You don't have to feel guilty. You can even have friends of various shades of skin pigments and from different cultures. But it is hard to deny that folks of a certain skin tone have an advantage in our society. The advantage does not guarantee success. In most cases at the low end of the economic ladder the advantage simply diminishes or medicates the consequences. Police don't suspect quiet as often, a Judge might be more lenient. Getting a job might be slightly easier. Not reason for guilt. It is who we are. Those of you are show flakes and take offense at using skin pigment connected to privilege need to relax. Although you are correct. Our leader and other politicians are definitely using skin tone and ethnicity to create groups and call them enemies. And I agree with you it is sad.

Motherof3

This is not even the issue. When asking HHS Director who pushed this the stats of any white privelege in our county and any issues that HR has had to resolve surrounding this, they said they didn't have any. When asking Commissioner Kulla, he said he is not aware of this. When Olson was inquired he was uncomfortable but then gave in. I then asked if there's any proof that the vendor hired has even trained on this, has experience on this and has a full educational platform on it. No they do not. the HHS Director is sadly pushing partisan politics into the government that should be bi-partisan. We have astronomical numbers of homeless, opioids, meth and by and large they WHITE. Yamhill County's issues are housing for low income/homeless, foster care and the over-drugging of them and the fact that our HHS and Public Health have been not only compromised by partisan politicians but Pharmaceutical vested interests. Commissioner Starrett was right to deny a vote on this.