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
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail