White Privilege, Joe Biden Style

White Privilege, Joe Biden Style

He attacked Ryan the way supporters wish Obama had gone at Romney. Here’s why that will never happen.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

(The Root) — It’s good to be white.

That’s the phrase that kept bouncing around in my head as I watched the vice presidential debate. After absorbing the horrible defeat of President Obama by Mitt Romney in the first debate, I was reminded by Dr. Blair Kelley during This Week in Blacknessand The Root’s postdebate coverage of the constraints that were placed on the first black president.

There is a legitimate fear that he may be viewed as angry by those who are already predisposed to believe that about blacks in the first place — the very real reality that some people would feel uncomfortable and less willing to vote for what they perceived to be the “scary black guy.” The day before the first presidential debate, conservative media pushed a video of Obama giving a speech in 2007 that they called “angry” and filled with “class warfare.”

So the worry of seeming angry isn’t something black people are just making up. It’s a regular aspect of our lives that many nonblack folks have a hard time grasping.

Then came the vice presidential debate. Within the first 10 minutes, Vice President Joe Biden had already called something Rep. Paul Ryan said “malarkey.” I’m fairly sure that’s some sort of world record in debates. For the next 90 minutes, we watched as Uncle Joe (come on, you know he’s like that wacky uncle you like but you have no clue what he’s going to say) interrupted, laughed at and virtually put his finger in GOP vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s face while outwardly mocking him.

My inner Democrat took great pleasure in this, but my outer Negro shook his head at the very thought of Obama doing the very same thing. I needed to see someone have a fit on that debate stage while pointing out how ridiculous some of the Romney-Ryan claims have been, but it was a bitter sting to remember that Obama wouldn’t be able to do it in the same manner.

Republicans have called Biden rude for his reactions to Ryan, but imagine if this were the first black president laughing at his opponent. I can feel the apoplectic hand-flailing and spit-flying responses already. Fox News would devote a six-hour block — nightly — to how much of a dick the president is. The racist memes would be flying out so fast and furious, our heads would spin.

But not with Uncle Joe.

Biden was the angry attack dog that Democrats expected Obama to be. He was annoyed, direct and indignant. He scoffed at the very idea that Ryan had any point about anything. It was so bad that at one point I tweeted, “Thank God there’s no ads in this debate. If they took a break Joe Biden would pee on Paul Ryan to show dominance.”

Now, the argument can be made that age was part of the reason Biden could get away with this. Being the older of the two debaters, he is afforded certain things that aren’t afforded the younger Ryan. An older debater can take the role of teacher and school his opponent.

But I’d argue that if Biden were black, he wouldn’t have been able to pull that off. If Biden were black, I’m not sure he would have thought he could pull that off.

Some folks reading this (or skimming angrily) are horrified at the very notion of asking what if Joe Biden were black. They clutch their pearls and shriek, “Why do you have to play the race card?” To those people I say:

1. Shut up.

2. There’s no such thing as the “race card.” It’s called “my life.”

3. Seriously, shut up.

4. Look in a mirror next time before you leave the house. Your privilege is showing.

In America, race plays both an active and passive role in all of our lives. Last night was one of those passive times. However, the implications are still as damning as they ever have been. In 2012 the fear of the scary Negro is still so real it reaches the highest office of the land and dictates its occupant’s actions.

Like I said, it’s good to be white.

Elon James White is a writer and satirist and host of the award-winning video and radio series This Week in Blackness. Listen Monday to Thursday at 1:30 p.m. EST at TWIB.FM and watch at TV.TWIB.ME/LIVE. Follow him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave l Mother Jones


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I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave

My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine.


Illustration by Mark MatchoIllustration by Mark Matcho

“DON’T TAKE ANYTHING that happens to you there personally,” the woman at the local chamber of commerce says when I tell her that tomorrow I start working at Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc. She winks at me. I stare at her for a second.

What?” I ask. “Why, is somebody going to be mean to me or something?”

She smiles. “Oh, yeah.” This town somewhere west of the Mississippi is not big; everyone knows someone or is someone who’s worked for Amalgamated. “But look at it from their perspective. They need you to work as fast as possible to push out as much as they can as fast as they can. So they’re gonna give you goals, and then you know what? If you make those goals, they’re gonna increase the goals. But they’ll be yelling at you all the time. It’s like the military. They have to break you down so they can turn you into what they want you to be. So they’re going to tell you, ‘You’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough,’ to make you work harder. Don’t say, ‘This is the best I can do.’ Say, ‘I’ll try,’ even if you know you can’t do it. Because if you say, ‘This is the best I can do,’ they’ll let you go. They hire and fire constantly, every day. You’ll see people dropping all around you. But don’t take it personally and break down or start crying when they yell at you.”

Several months prior, I’d reported on an Ohio warehouse where workers shipped products for online retailers under conditions that were surprisingly demoralizing and dehumanizing, even to someone who’s spent a lot of time working in warehouses, which I have. And then my editors sat me down. “We want you to go work for Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc.,” they said. I’d have to give my real name and job history when I applied, and I couldn’t lie if asked for any specifics. (I wasn’t.) But I’d smudge identifying details of people and the company itself. Anyway, to do otherwise might give people the impression that these conditions apply only to one warehouse or one company. Which they don’t.

So I fretted about whether I’d have to abort the application process, like if someone asked me why I wanted the job. But no one did. And though I was kind of excited to trot out my warehouse experience, mainly all I needed to get hired was to confirm 20 or 30 times that I had not been to prison.

The application process took place at a staffing office in a run-down city, the kind where there are boarded-up businesses and broken windows downtown and billboards advertising things like “Foreclosure Fridays!” at a local law firm. Six or seven other people apply for jobs along with me. We answer questions at computers grouped in several stations. Have I ever been to prison? the system asks. No? Well, but have I ever been to prison for assault? Burglary? A felony? A misdemeanor? Raping someone? Murdering anybody? Am I sure? There’s no point in lying, the computer warns me, because criminal-background checks are run on employees. Additionally, I have to confirm at the next computer station that I can read, by taking a multiple-choice test in which I’m given pictures of several album covers, including Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and asked what the name of the Michael Jackson album is. At yet another set of computers I’m asked about my work history and character. How do I feel about dangerous activities? Would I say I’m not really into them? Or really into them?

Macduff Everton/CorbisMacduff Everton/CorbisIn the center of the room, a video plays loudly and continuously on a big screen. Even more than you are hurting the company, a voice-over intones as animated people do things like accidentally oversleep, you are hurting yourself when you are late because you will be penalized on a point system, and when you get too many points, you’re fired—unless you’re late at any point during your first week, in which case you are instantly fired. Also because when you’re late or sick you miss the opportunity to maximize your overtime pay. And working more than eight hours is mandatory. Stretching is also mandatory, since you will either be standing still at a conveyor line for most of your minimum 10-hour shift or walking on concrete or metal stairs. And be careful, because you could seriously hurt yourself. And watch out, because some of your coworkers will be the kind of monsters who will file false workers’ comp claims. If you know of someone doing this and you tell on him and he gets convicted, you will be rewarded with $500.