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Tim Wise on White Privilege

December 18, 2008

While doing some work on immigration today, I came across this speech by Tim Wise on youtube.

He does a great job at articulating oppression and intersectionality both in a historical and contemporary setting. In particular, I like the way he ties the concept of white privilege to current anti-immigration rhetoric.

In case you don’t have time to watch the whole video, here are a few key quotes:

“At some level, again, working class white people are being harmed by white privilege. Relatively, being advantaged, right? Being given a leg up, being given a membership to the club, but in absolute terms, being kept economically subordinated by the very thing that gave them a sense of superiority. How’s that for irony?

Then, in the present era, this hasn’t stopped, this is not ancient history. Now, we have people running around insisting that we should close the border with Mexico because if we don’t the wages of working class people will continue to fall. The implication being that the only reason workers are paid like crap in this country, is because the border is open.

But if you believe that, you would actually have to believe, that if that border were closed, that all these owners of capital and industry would just say, ‘Oh well you figured us out. Here it’s a raise.’

Do we really believe that the only thing keeping bosses from paying people more is the presence of low-wage medium semi-skilled labor from South of this artificial border? Is that really what we believe? We know that if that border is closed, it isn’t going to be closed to capital. It isn’t going to be closed to goods. If you have a border that can be crossed by capital looking for the highest return on investment, or goods looking for the highest price, but labor is chained to it’s country of origin, how is that going to work to the benefit of working people? By definition it doesn’t. By definition it immiserates the working class. Divide and conquer.”

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