Less than 48 hours after an egomaniacal, snooty, three-toed, sloth-looking wet diaper joked about being a “house nigger” on Friday’s episode of Real Time With Bill Maher, white supremacists armed with bats, bricks and cans of Pepsi rioted in Portland, Ore., at what they deemed a “free speech rally.”
The day after the “Portland Purge,” city officials in Charlottesville, Va., announced that they had issued permits to two white supremacist organizations to hold rallies this summer. The hate group ACT for America has also teamed up with organizations around the country to sponsor an anti-Muslim “March Against Sharia” in 26 cities June 10.
These incidents have all been explained as consequences of the constitutional protection of free speech. According to their organizers’ logic, being white in America affords them the ability to aggravate and incite people of color because, apparently, freedom of speech is a white privilege.
The term “white privilege” originated from a 1988 essay by Peggy McIntosh entitled, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies.” The work was later condensed into a shorter essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” (pdf).
In her writing, McIntosh listed the ways in which she was afforded white privilege, including not being pulled over by police because of her race, the ability to shop without being harassed or suspected of shoplifting, and enjoying the ability to live in whatever neighborhood she could afford. While all of these things ring true, they underscore an often overlooked fact about the central theme of her thesis:
These aren’t privileges; they are rights.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of privilege is:
A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.
‘education is a right, not a privilege’
The reason white America gets to enjoy these rights is not that they receive a “Get out of hate” card at birth; it is that the Constitution of the United States guarantees these rights to every American citizen. Walking freely through a store or driving safely down the street isn’t supposed to be an entitlement born out of an unseen advantage, like having rich parents or being part of royalty. A privilege is the opposite of a right. The only reason people of color don’t get to experience these things is racism, not white privilege.
The “protesters” in Portland were marching in support of Jeremy Christian, who allegedly stabbed two people and injured another aboard a commuter train. As The Oregonian reports, Christian’s social media content is thick with references to white nationalist organizations, Nazi insignias and violent rhetoric. Isn’t the following Facebook post the definition of a terrorist threat or incitement to gang violence?
Why is this important? It’s important because if Christian were black and openly flaunting his allegiance to criminal organizations and speaking of committing illegal acts, he would likely have been flagged by the Portland Police Bureau’s gang database. According to The Oregonian, how you conduct yourself, your appearance and who you associate with are all determining factors that can land you in the gang database. Christian has a criminal history, publicly supports white supremacy and looks exactly like what you’d expect to see if you snatched the hood off of a Klansman. So why wasn’t Christian listed?
Well, even though Portland is the whitest metropolis in America, with a black population of less than 3 percent, the PPB’s gang database is 64 percent black and only 8 percent white. Christian had the freedom to assemble with whomever he wanted to because of the First Amendment. Christian was free to say whatever pleased his heart because it is his right. But the reason the government didn’t monitor Christian’s hateful speech, associations and actions that eventually exploded into a double murder is that Christian is white.
White supremacist groups like the ones coming to Charlottesville can waltz into city halls and get permits for hate rallies because the First Amendment guarantees them the right to peacefully assemble—regardless of their beliefs. Despite the fact that their rallies are almost never peaceful and they loudly proclaim their desire to wipe out immigrants, non-Christians and people of color, they are still afforded the blank check to come together in whiteness and rail against the mythical “white genocide.”
Richard Spencer, who was (and I mention this only because it is his claim to fame. Also, I absolutely love white-on-white violence) famously punched in the face on live TV, was recently allowed to speak at Auburn University under the cover of the First Amendment.
Media reports often refer to white supremacist fight clubs like the Proud Boys (who go to protests to punch 95-pound women in the face) and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights (FOAKboys) as a “fraternity.” Oath Keepers parade around with guns and openly promise to disobey the government with lethal force but are never called a gang.
Remember when Black Lives Matter protesters were “thugs” and “going about it the wrong way”? Remember when they rioted in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore? Remember how they were such a nuisance during the die-ins after Eric Garner’s death?
Now every weekend, there are white women in pink pussy hats or some other aggrieved group staging a march. But when the scientists, white women, teachers, health care advocates or one of the other members of the Caucasian contingent protest using the same tactics they vilified BLM for, they say they are “resisting.” The melee in Portland this weekend was called a “skirmish,” but headlines described a recent Las Vegas Black Lives Matter protest this way:
To be fair, violence did break out—when a Donald Trump supporter wearing a “Make America Great Again” shirt grabbed a female protester by the throat and slammed her to the ground.
Similarly, the Capuchin-monkey-looking late-night host we call Bill Maher—who looks as if he belongs on the shoulder of an organ grinder—can throw the n-word around all willy-nilly because he knows he has the First Amendment in his back pocket. After he was kicked off of ABC for arguing that the 9/11 hijackers were “not cowardly,” he made himself a martyr for free speech. He backed up the white man’s claim to free speech by bringing on Milo Yiannopoulos on his HBO show this season, painting the racist hero of the white supremacist movement as a victim of “political incorrectness.”
Remember the black people whose free speech Maher defended? Remember when he publicly advocated for Isaiah Washington’s free speech when he was kicked off Grey’s Anatomy? Did you see the episodes when he had Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan on Real Time to discuss political correct ... ? Oh, wait—Maher didn’t do any of that.
When you hear white supremacist asswipes like Richard Spencer, the Ku Klux Klan and Bill Maher conjure white tears when their freedom of speech has been infringed upon, remember that they don’t care about the universal right of free speech; they care about their own free speech. (To be fair, Maher is not really a white supremacist asswipe; he really is a white, supremacist asswipe. He doesn’t believe that white people are better than everyone. He just believes that he is better than everyone—the comma placement makes all the difference.)
The hooded terrorists, the “alt-right” gangs and the one particular TV host who believes he can denigrate black people because he regularly inserts his penis into black vaginas don’t want freedom of speech, because that would mean equality. They want the privilege to say whatever they want, but still be able to make Colin Kaepernick a pariah. They want to fight anti-fascists but condemn black-on-black violence. They want Milo Yiannopoulos to be able to spew his rhetoric while calling for boycotts when Beyoncé’s clothes remind them of Black Panthers.
They don’t really give a damn about the right to free speech.
They’d rather have the privilege.