Class-Struggle Road to Black Freedom: Part Two
Marxism vs. the Myth of "White Skin Privilege"
Publisher: Workers Vanguard
Date Written: 18/09/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX17871
The victory of the socialist revolution in this country will be achieved through the united struggle of black and white workers.
Noel Ignatin, who developed the concept of white-skin privilege, disparages the prospect of integrated struggle, writing that white workers "have more to lose than their chains; they have also to lose their white-skin privileges, the perquisites that separate them from the rest of the working class." In other words, no gains can be attained until white workers reject their purported white supremacy. For Ignatin, the role of white leftists was to uncritically support the "black liberation struggle," while confining their own efforts to organizing only white activists and admonishing white workers to shed their privileges. Of course, he and his cothinkers offer no prescription for how to do so, other than telling white communists to go up to workers and "say frankly: you must renounce the privileges you now hold." In practice, this instruction meant calling on white workers to give up their jobs, accept lower wages, renounce upgrades and reject job protections like seniority rights, which had been won through hard-fought union struggles to shield militant workers (black as well as white) from dismissal at the whim of the bosses.
No less than black workers, many white workers also live one or two paychecks away from the street. They, too, have rent or mortgage payments, car notes and repairs to pay, child support, medical bills, tuition, etc. Admonishing white workers that they are complicit in black oppression and should shed their jobs and other means of survival is, to be kind, not a very realistic way to convey the unity of interests of black and white workers and the need for joint class - and ultimately revolutionary - struggle. Rather than uniting black and white workers, such appeals echo racist lies that white workers' interests are threatened by black equality
A postulate of the whiteness studies and "privilege checking" crowd is that being white is a choice that one can reject. Coates adopts this outlook in his new book, Between the World and Me. He repeatedly refers to white people as "people who believe they are white" and who seek a piece of the "American Dream" at the expense of black people. Meanwhile, in the real world, Rachel Dolezal, then a leader of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, who identified as black despite having been born white, received a torrent of abuse when exposed for trying to choose not to be white.
What rejecting ones whiteness is all about is captured in "The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron," a June 2003 contribution to Ignatin's journal Race Traitor. Why an oxymoron? According to the author, to be white means to accept domination over non-whites; but even if you oppose this domination, you can't not be white because you are white! So what can one do? The author has an answer: sympathetic whites "must be willing to do what the people most affected and marginalized by a situation tell them to do."