Paul R. Lehman,The Problem with European American PrivilegesNovember 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 2 Comments
Tags: Caucasian, Race:White or European American
Many European Americans when told that they enjoy special privileges and treatment do not believe it to be true. One reason they find it hard to believe is because it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary; in other words, what they experiences everyday is normal to them. And that is precisely the point.
One of the first privileges European Americans enjoy is that of being normal. When someone is raised around people who look just like them, then everything is ordinary. When someone who does not look like everyone else is introduced into the environment, that person becomes the not normal, different or alien person. Many European Americans do not realize all the privileges they enjoy because of their group identity simply because theses privileges are taken for granted. Being normal, for example, means that one can go into a department store and ask for nude colored stockings and be given stockings that match their skin complexion or go to a cosmetic counter and asked for a natural color make-up, and be given a make-up that matches their complexion. Today, most women can usually find stockings and make-up that matches their complexion, but the colors will not be labeled nude or natural. Those colors are reserved for normal people.
Many of the privileges enjoyed by European Americans not instantly shared by non-European Americans usually go unnoticed by European Americans. Take, for example, an incident in a baseball card store. A mature European American female walks over to a table with plastic baseball card covers. She picks up a hand full and walks over to the cashier. The cashier, who is also European American, asks her how many covers she has. She answers “around twenty.” Without hesitating the cashier rings up the cost of twenty covers. Right behind this woman customer was a young African American man who visits the store on a regular basis. The cashier asks him how many covers her has, and he answers “twelve.” The cashier takes the covers from the man’s hand and counts them separately to “twelve.” Why did he not do this with the woman customer? He did not do it with her, probably, because to the cashier she was normal and therefore, trustworthy.
Another example of how being normal is a privilege, involves a middle-aged African American who for some twenty years walked in a public park near his home. The community is predominantly European American, so anyone who is not considered normal will stand out. Many people visit this park on a regular basis. However, whenever the local police department changes the area of coverage for a policeman that includes the park for the first time, the police will always observe the African American man to see if he is really walking in the park. The reason of his observing this man is simply because he looks out of place—he does not look normal in this setting.
In my book, America’s Race Problem, a chapter on normalcy provides a more detailed discussion of this subject. The idea of normalcy, although it might seem insignificant, literally often determines the quality of life for non-European Americans. Many stories of European American privileges have been reported in the media, but not necessarily under the rubric of privilege. For example, many years of complaints of African Americans not being served at restaurants like Denny’s had gone unnoticed until law suits were filed claiming discrimination. Unless European Americans were members of the African Americans party, they never realized that African Americans were not being served. European Americans generally expect to be treated in what they consider a normal way because society has led them to believe they are the only normal human beings.
European Americans have been led to believe that they biologically represent the mold of the normal human being. To them, people of other ethnic groups represent a variety of races that are not quite like them. So, those ethnic people who approximate the physical qualities of the European American or who do not standout as different get to enjoy some of the privileges of the European Americans. Those privileges are experienced in the job market where people generally want to work around people who look like them. The same attitude of wanting to live with or near people who look like them exists in real-estate, school, church, and social clubs. People who are not normal stand out, and people who stand out are not valued the same as the normal ones.
What has happened in America over the years is a behavioral changes in the minds of all Americans because the idea of European Americans being the only normal people in the world. The standards and values of society although not taken from European Americans, have been assumed by them. The standards of beauty, family, conduct, intellect, as well as others, were all forced to look to the European American for value. If whatever the element was, if it did not meet the approval of the European American, it received little value.
The problem with normalcy in America is that it is bogus because America is a multicultural society and different ethnic American groups have their own standards and values, although European American standards and values have been forced on society. Accepting the fact that normalcy is a social creation by and for European Americans is a bitter pill for them to swallow, but accept it they must. European Americans base their belief of normalcy and that it is biological fact. Unfortunately, both beliefs are wrong. The concept of a white race was created by society, and the Caucasian race was simply the idea and opinion of a German scientist and classical anthropologist, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who in 1800 based his classification of a race primarily on the size of their heads—craniology.
The idea of race and normalcy is not such a complex subject as some might want to believe. The problem comes from learning the fact about the commonalities of human beings and accepting those facts. Privileges enjoyed by one group for a long period of time are not easily relinquished. After all, who wants to be looked at or told that they are not normal?