The myth of white privilege

When I hear the term "white privilege," it is as if someone just scraped his fingernails down a chalkboard.

My white family comes from the Appalachian coal regions of Pennsylvania and for generations never had "privilege."  My maternal grandfather immigrated from Ukraine when he was only fifteen years old, became a coal miner, and never went to high school.  He faced prejudice and bigotry for having an accent and for being of Slavic heritage.  He endured incredible hardship for decades and died at 62 from black lung disease. 

Good health care was lacking, and two of his six children died in early childhood.  For much of his life, he went to work in the dark, worked all day in the dark, and then came home in the dark.  He befriended rats in the coal mines, since experience taught him how rat behavior could alert you to impending danger.

My grandfather's history is not unique.  White immigrants such as Italians, Irish, Polish, and other Slavic peoples also struggled in poverty and faced ethnic hatred and bigotry in America.  

Professor Ed Falco writes, "[T]he largest mass lynching in U.S. history took place in New Orleans in 1891 – and it wasn't African-Americans who were lynched[.] ... It was Italian-Americans.

"After nine Italians were tried and found not guilty of murdering New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy, a mob dragged them from jail, along with two other Italians being held on unrelated charges, and lynched them all." 

An editorial in the New York Times referred to the victims of the lynchings as "sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins."

Did you know that during World War II, Italian-Americans who were believed to be loyal to Italy were put in internment camps in the U.S.?  Thousands of others with Italian heritage in the U.S. were also placed under surveillance.  Italian-Americans never received any reparations from our government.

Jay Dolan, a writer from Notre Dame University, noted that the Irish in America in the 1840s and '50s "were preferred to the [African-American] slaves when it came to working on the docks, because, as one official put it, 'The niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard, or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything.'"

Anyone who lived during the 1960s and '70s in America must remember the relentless derogatory ethnic "Polack" jokes.  The Polish jokes in the 1970s were particularly offensive – so much so that the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs complained to the U.S. State Department.

Poor white folks have been slurred from the very beginning days of our nation, being called "crackers" and "squatters."  The term "white trash" was first coined in our country in 1821.

Today, 17.3 million white Americans (about twice as many as African-Americans) are listed as living in poverty.  More than 4 million white children live in poverty.  These unprivileged white people live desperately, with widespread alcoholism, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and unemployment.  Their children can only dream of a college education.

Is it white privilege to be called "trailer trash"?

Is it white privilege to be a hopeless unemployed white American in the crumbling Rust Belt region?

Where is the privilege in the white ghettos of Appalachian America

Charles Murray, a conservative scholar, wrote Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, a book on the plight of white America.  He recently attempted to discuss this book with college students at elite Middlebury College and was violently prevented from speaking.

Do liberal Democrats even care about the struggles of the millions of impoverished, unprivileged, and forgotten white people in our country whom Hillary Clinton labeled as "deplorables"? 

Charles Murray warns, "Our nation is coming apart at the seams."

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