I was on the elliptical today watching ESPN because the news depresses me at the gym. Fortunately, ESPN showed a snippet of their “Outside the Lines”* interview with Redskins team owner, Daniel Snyder. He took this interview not to defend his team’s shitty preseason performance but to defend his football team’s name because it’s a rich tradition and he has never met a Native American who objects to the name. He somehow missed the Oneida Indian Nation, the Hoh Indian Tribe, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and the other twenty tribes and fifty Native American groups protesting the name.
To be fair to Mr. Snyder, everyone understands the importance of tradition. The Native Americans slurred in his team name probably understand and appreciate tradition better than anyone. Their tradition is a little bit different than wearing another culture’s ceremonial headdress to celebrate adult men giving each other concussions. Their tradition is one of persecution and subjugation under people who look and sound an awful like Dan Snyder. Different traditions, but both special in their own ways.
Dan Snyder’s position is one of privilege**, standing on the field, wearing a shirt he was given for owning a team he inherited. He has never known poverty or being mistreated for the color of his skin.
But we learned today that, though it helps, you don’t have to be a white man to enjoy privilege. CeeLo Green, songwriter of the ironically titled, “Fuck You” and previous co-host of The Voice pled no contest last Friday to giving a woman ecstasy during a dinner date. The woman alleges she was slipped the ecstasy, passed out, and woke up in CeeLo Green’s bed the next morning***. A rape charge wasn’t filed due to lack of evidence. Mr. Lo Green then tweeted the following:
Followed by: “If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously! so WITH Implies consent,” which I think means that awake, I’m allowed to decide but if I’m passed out (whether I got myself there or was helped by a spiked drink) I’m a hollow shell to be used as any man sees fit. Also, maybe that just being with a man means you’re DTF. I slept through my inarticulate rapist classes in college, so I’m not sure if I even agreed to take them. The tweets and his account have since been deleted.
Bieber committed his crimes in Canada today, so i don’t have a great celebrity candidate for abusing white privilege. Even without a figurehead, many of us enjoy the privilege of not being hassled by police just because of the color of our skin. We enjoy walking up to a porch looking for help when our cars break down without being shot to death. We enjoy the right to protest without being harassed and moved to multiple locations without being told why we were in police custody. Black Americans face a systematic betrayal by the American justice system day in and day out. I do not have the authority to speak about systematic racism but I will say that not shutting up about Ferguson (both the death of Michael Brown and the subsequent mistreatment of protesters there), Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, and countless others is key. Talk about all of it. If you’re among the privileged, those conversations will be uncomfortable and guilt inducing. That’s pretty small compared with being denied equal rights; privilege at its core. Enjoying a privilege denied to others is profiting from systematic prejudice. And tolerating any kind of privilege legitimizes all of it.
*Respect for ESPN’s pun game.
** A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
***To be fair, if CeeLo’s date had never gone out with him or if she’d worn date rape drug detecting finger nail polish or not been audacious enough to have a vagina at all, she might have been fine.