• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Privileging White Skin: Monetizing the Class Struggle with Chelsea Handler

My wife and I watched a new Netflix documentary, “Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea” on a day Pres. Trump retweeted words that his ouster via impeachment would spur a civil war. In her 64-minute documentary, Chelsea Handler interviews whites about their skin-color privilege, with a running commentary on the winners and losers of whiteness.

She speaks with Orange County, Calif. GOPster women. One wants to move past the economics and politics of skin color issues. The past is past.

A white rapper with a rap sheet from Tennessee is politically conscious of white-skin privilege. He speaks about this process from his experience in the so-called criminal justice system. Hell, yes.

Handler’s commentary is informative, in the way that personal experiences can be. Her sharing of teen encounters with the police is revealing. She went free. In contrast, her black boyfriend with whom she visits a quarter-century later gets 14 years in prison. He is one of the 2.3 million Americans behind bars, disproportionately black and brown, as Ava DuVernay shows in 13th, her 2016 documentary about the U.S prison-industrial system. The U.S. is five percent of the world population and locks up 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners, disproportionately black and brown Americans.

As some of Handler’s interviewees show, white-skin privilege means they have a blind spot to the perils of living while black and brown, e.g., subject to police and vigilante violence for reasons of poverty and skin color 24/7. The perpetrators of these injustices go free generally, thanks to their overwhelming power to maim and murder. This is the rule in a society that legitimates the rule of law to perpetuate white-skin privilege. “Law, especially criminal law, is deeply embedded in this white-mind framework,” writes Zillah Eisenstein in Abolitionist Socialist Feminism: Radicalizing the Next Revolution (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

Race however is not always and everywhere a skin-color issue. Handler ignores this. We should not. Why? This can help to show us how race is a social construct.

Handler’s ancestors changed from nonwhite to white, racially speaking. For example, Handler’s and my Jewish ancestors set foot in America as nonwhite folks. They faced discrimination in ways big and small. They were an inferior race to the so-called elite race of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

Those racial relations changed. Jews whitened when policies such as Social Security excluded agricultural and domestic workers, largely brown and black Americans. Handler’s family like mine benefitted from access to Federal Home Administration-backed mortgages that excluded black and brown Americans. In this way, generational wealth flowed away from racial minorities and to whites. The U.S.’s widening wealth gap has a history.

White supremacy and its history of a chattel labor system birthed racial capitalism. Its sustaining power in part comes from white-skin privilege, “the public and psychological wage” of whiteness, according to W.E.B. DuBois.

However, we, socially, should not rely upon a celebrity such as Handler with capital from Condé Nast Entertainment, a transnational corporation, which is investing in the Internet, to attack white-skin privilege. In brief, return on that investment is the force behind the production and distribution of Handler’s documentary. It is a commodity to grow the wealth of investors. Apparently, we have arrived at a point that a documentary about white-skin privilege in America is a business opportunity. The social reality of this phenomenon reveals many things. One is the disarray that besets the U.S. working class.

It has been stronger in the battle for peace and social justice. For example, the 1960s’ anti-war, and black and brown movements, created their own facts on the ground against the Vietnam War and Jim Crow segregation. People lost their jobs and lives in this struggle. Its power, culturally and more, moved millions progressively and as a result spurred a corporate counteroffensive against New Deal and Great Society programs and policies.

Handler’s new documentary is a case of monetizing social struggle. This is a sign of what the late economist Samir Amin called “decadent capitalism.” We can and must do better.

More articles by:

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 23, 2019
Kenneth Surin
Western China and the New Silk Road
W. T. Whitney
Stirrings of Basic Change Accompany Protests in Haiti
Louisa Willcox
Inviting the Chief of the Grizzlies to Our Feast
Jonathan Cook
The Democrats Helped Cultivate the Barbarism of ISIS
Dave Lindorff
Military Spending’s Out of Control While Slashing It Could Easily Fund Medicare for All
John Kendall Hawkins
With 2020 Hindsight, the Buffoonery Ahead
Jesse Hagopian
The Chicago Teachers Strike: “Until We Get What Our Students Deserve”
Saad Hafiz
America’s Mission to Remake Afghanistan Has Failed
Victor Grossman
Thoughts on the Impeachment of Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Celebrity Protesters and Extinction Rebellion
John Horning
Spotted Owls and the National Christmas Tree
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail