Is white privilege worth $700 billion

I hate to be the skunk in the picnic, but there is a dramatic inconsistency between the three years that Katrina survivors have had to wait for assistance, or even the two weeks that Texans have had to endure the brunt of Hurricane Ice and the late-night, weekend, concierge service that Wall Street gets when it decides to tap into the Treasury.  The same administration that refused $40 billion to cover children’s health care, has an unlimited line of credit.  In six months, the Bush administration has doled out more than $115 billion a month in bailouts, with a grand giveaway coming down the pike.

Hugo Chavez never had these kind of ambitions to nationalize corporations.   So, to understand why President Bush and the Republicans thought sub-prime borrowers should face the personal responsibility for their choices ,while Wall Street must be protected, one has to go back to the bottom line.  The Katrina survivors and subprime borrowers are black.

A good book on white privilege is Inheriting the Trade by Thomas Norman DeWolf, which describes a far-flung group of white relatives who are horrified to learn that their ancestors were major players in the slave trade, both in Rhode Island and in the Cariibean.  There’s also a new film out from PBS about Lee Atwater. They address the Willie Horton controversy with greater depth and insight than I’ve seen, and Ishmael Reed, Sam Donaldson, Joe Conason, and Republican operative Roger Stone provide
great insight about how it was carried off.

I rarely rave like this, but *Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story* is a brilliant film. Nothing less than a complete re-appraisal of the last 30 years of American politics, with stunning archival footage of Atwater’s  rise from controversial winning campaigns in South Carolina to teaching
both George Bushes how to campaign in 1988.

The film explains the issues Obama is struggling with, which go  misreported or fly under the radar in American political life due to the  subliminal advertising techniquest this film exposes. *Boogie Man* has  humor, balance, perfect pacing, and is brimming with insight and  discussion topics. The producers offer much-needed correctives to the conventional wisdom surrounding such famous political moments as the  Tank Ad, the Revolving Door Ad (I always thought it was called
“Revolving Doors”) and George H.W. Bush’s Inaugural Speech. I would be
fascinated to know if we scholars have published these insights before,
or they’re original to the director.

*Boogie Man *will take its place as one of the great docs about American politics and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win an Emmy or a Peabody. Professors such as Jack Bass are great in the film, but tremendous kudos  go to Ed Rollins. His deeply emotional testimony about his relationship
with Atwater makes the film not just a lecture, but living history,  illustrated by gripping archival photos from the White House that I’ve  never seen anywhere.

I joined their mailing list and was just informed that PBS Frontline will be airing the film later this fall, after the election. I would urge everyone to buy and teach it now, because it explains vast changes
in American politics we’re seeing around issues of race, class, the culture wars, and the rise of the South. I got my copy from their  website at: and I believe they’ve lowered the
price by $50.


3 thoughts on “Is white privilege worth $700 billion

  1. Pingback: Film
  2. Thank you for mentioning my book, Inheriting the Trade, in your post, John. White privilege is a subject that many of us white folks are excellent at avoiding. Engaging in study, conversation, awareness, and acceptance of the impact of such privilege in the systemic nature of race-based oppression in this country and elsewhere is the first critical step in repairing the harm and healing from these historic wounds.

    If readers of your blog are interested in further information they can go to the book’s website (, my blog (, and to the website of the film of our journey which was also shown on PBS (POV) this summer (

    I will definitely keep a look out for “Boogie Man.” Thanks again…

    Peace, Tom DeWolf

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