When White Privilege Interrogates White Privilege in America

The Cheap Talk Extravaganza

Believe-you-me. Excess manure needs to be cleared out of the way before we can go any further.

I’m in police custody, detained as a result of investigators uncovering a stash of thirty hot laptops at my residence. I demand that I be allowed to interrogate myself. After all, it wasn’t my hands that pilfered those computers. They’d been jacked over a decade ago by a distant relative who lived with my uncle. All I was doing was typing this article on one of the laptops. It just so happened to be your laptop that was stolen back in the day. Now I’m sure you’ll agree that interrogating myself will suffice?

Having cleared the manure pile, I admit that it never occurred to me that the very people who benefit from white priv (privilege) are capable of conducting a serious interrogation of their own leg-up in American society. What we need to be very clear about is that this menace to society, while it’s a toying game to some, is not child’s play in the lives of many. It’s a crime against equality, democracy, and justice. It’s the icing on New Jim Crow’s birthday cake. It’s the ironclad link between modern-day hustlers pushing the post-racial card and a society that sought to justify Manifest Destiny and chattel slavery by claiming that it was fulfilling the work of the good book, saving indigenous communities and Africans from their own savagery.

Which brings us to Oxymoron 101—privileged white people interrogating themselves. A member of this class—New York Times contributor, distinguished pundit of American TV news programs, you name it—emailed me the other day to admonish my inquiries (see kuvumi.org) into this scourge on society. She also stated that my arguments, had they not unintentionally, deliberately ignored privileged white people who seriously interrogate themselves with honesty and understanding of how they perpetuate injustice. Lately, the wryly-poetic voice of Donald Trump often comes to mind when the contradictions of this antisocial group hit overdrive. Having the suspects in question interrogate, or even seriously interrogate, their own infractions can only result in a—complete disaster.

Serious interrogation doesn’t live in a stand alone, contemplative vacuum nor is it fulfilled by interning oneself in Jane Elliot’s Angry Eye Experiment. In the field of criminology, where white privilege fosters one social malfeasance after the next, interrogation serves a greater purpose. Its ultimate goal is to pave the way for corrective action—justice. Case in point, security officials tasked with interrogating terrorist suspects perform their jobs to gather intel that results in the foiling of terrorist plots and detainment of terrorist leaders and accomplices.

When a member of the privileged white class in America tells me that they’re interrogating their privilege, unintentional doesn’t enter my vocab. I deliberately ignore them. Until their probe reaches a decisive conclusion and convictions proceed—until they strip themselves of their privilege and penalize their crime, there’s no need to try and convince me of privileged-minded fairy tales. Over 500 years of American history are best qualified to inform society that this group of people, in their heart of hearts, serious interrogation or not, are unwilling to render their societal privileges null and void.

Conceding inheritance of white privilege, though it has become more frequent in the past few years, often conjures parsimonious responses. Even Hillary Clinton, having been put on the spot at the 2016 Brown and Black Democratic Presidential Forum hosted by Fusion, braved a reply that started with, “Where do I start?” when asked how has she benefited from her white privilege. Though her sincerity was questioned, more importantly, her response wasn’t tied to any moral or legal measure aimed to right the social and institutional mechanisms that enabled her to be in a position of privilege in the first place.

When no links are established between interrogations and legal, corrective action, we’re left with nothing more than musings that appease the ear and postpone justice for those who’d been systematically wronged. But please, my dear white privileged, be my guest with your self-induced interrogations. If you ever reach a point where you feel that all law-abiding techniques have been thoroughly exhausted and the root cause of your privilege remains elusive, give Dick Cheney and George W. Bush a ring-ding. Apart from shared privileges, they’d be more than happy to advise you on self-imposed torture and Abu Ghraib humiliation techniques to produce those long sought after answers. Or maybe you’d do it just for the sport of humiliating yourselves.

Why can’t a legally-binding, international tribunal of UN Human Rights specialists and maybe, let’s say, reps from Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Norway, and Grenada address white privilege and supremacy in America? If not, the privileged white class will occupy the self-interrogation room at police headquarters after I mosey out the front gates, thirty stolen laptops strutting behind me. “Here, here, laptop computers! Come on, boys. Hop in the car and let’s go home.”

Yo, I needed a seriously happy ending just like the privileged white class in America needs one.

Julian Cola is a translator in Brazil. He has a BA (cum laude) in Portuguese from the University of New Mexico and will pursue post-graduate study at the Universität Basel (Switzerland) in the fall. His articles and translations are published at Truth-Out, Kuvumi.org, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and elsewhere. Read other articles by Julian.