Unpacking White Oppression

Unpacking White Oppression

I am a white male. I have never considered myself racist. But I was. Maybe I still am.

I recently read an article in Vice titled “White People Explain Why They Feel Oppressed.” Some of it seemed accurate to my experience, and some of it didn’t. So I thought that I would add to it here. To be clear, I don’t feel oppressed at all, but I know white people who do.

Specifically, what resonated for me in the Vice article was the “what is racism” section. This part of the article asserts that some white people see racism solely as an interpersonal thing, and do not consider institutional racism. They do not behave in racist ways, and therefore believe that they have no responsibility for racism that ocurs in America. I went for many years with that perspective.

In college, the first woman I ever truly fell in love with was African American. She ultimately was not interested in me (not because of race at all – she dated plenty of white guys). She and I stayed friends, and years later, she and her Dominican boyfriend (now husband) came to visit me. I had never met her boyfriend before, and he quickly seemed to be challenging me and looking hard for something that he could seize upon as a provocation from me – particularly something that would show me to be racist. One could chalk this up to simple jealousy of a potential romantic rival, but there seemed to be more to it than that.

I was so taken aback by the experience that afterward I started really thinking about race and what role I might play in it. By then, I had taken part in numerous protests against racist incidents and against institutional racism, and I considered myself about as un-racist as one could be. My conclusion (which proved that statement wrong): some people of color wrongly blame all white people, myself included, for the actions of our white ancestors.

It wasn’t until years later that I came to understand why that perception was off base. For Caucasian readers, I’ll offer an analogy. Imagine a contest between two equally gifted runners. One is tied to the starting line. The starting gun goes off, the other runner naturally wins, and feels proud of his accomplishment, not noticing the rope around the other runner’s ankle.

It is true that today’s African Americans are not slaves, and today’s white Americans have never directly engaged in slavery. But whites are the clear and undeniable beneficiaries of slavery, and to ignore the pervasiveness of that reality distorts one’s view of America. The wealth of white America was built free of charge by hundreds of years of black slave labor. When slaves were finally freed, they were not handed their proportionately equal share of the wealth that they and their parents and grandparents and great grandparents had created. They were simply told that they were now free to participate in the marathon, and that the rope tying their ankle to the starting line was irrelevant. Freedom.

And even with this economic disadvantage at the starting point, their new freedom did not mean instant equal opportunity to succeed. Decades of widespread and legally enforced segregation compounded with physical violence, intimidation and emotional abuse followed.

After advances by the civil rights movement, such outright racism from whites receded into the kind of things that continue today ­– redlining (banks denying home loans to blacks who are just as qualified as whites who do get the loans), “driving while black” traffic stops, unequal treatment by the criminal justice system, fewer successful job interviews due to the candidate “not seeming like the right cultural fit for the company,” unease among whites at seeing groups of African American males but not at seeing groups of Caucasian males.

So did the fact that I did not personally engage in slavery or discriminate against people of other races mean that I did not have an entire life in which I enjoyed advantages that people of color did not experience equally – advantages whose absence is so foreign to my reality that those advantages can easily seem completely invisible to me? And are those advantages no longer a factor today, now that our “post racial” country has had eight years of an African American President? Of course not. I enjoy things as simple as being able to get behind the wheel of a car without having to consider that that act alone can result in a lethal confrontation with law enforcement.

And that leads me to the main point that I think the Vice article misses.

Everyone, of all races, has a different cultural definition of what racism is, and therefore racism needs to be viewed on a continuum. Some believe that once slavery ended, so did racism. Some disagree with that, but believe that as long as they don’t attend KKK rallies or burn crosses on people’s lawns, the racial slurs that they drop occasionally are not really racism. Some believe that if they don’t use the “n” word, they can hold silent perceptions of racial superiority and not be considered racist. Some believe that as long as institutional racism exists – discriminatory hiring practices, differences in treatment by the justice system, differences in access to education, etc. – that the fight is not over. And some believe that as long as any individual anywhere thinks a racist thought, the fight must continue.

So this is where “white oppression” comes in.

Depending on where a white person falls on the above continuum, they may sincerely believe that racism is a thing of the past, or at the very least, that they do not participate in it. And if they believe that, it is very easy for them to see things like affirmative action as “reverse discrimination” creating a systemically unfair disadvantage for them based on race. Such a white person can hear left-leaning people saying that part of America’s problem is that the country is run by “powerful white men,” and that white person can feel discriminated against when those same left-leaning people jump down their throat for making a generality about “young black men.” They can hear some African Americans drop the “n” word freely in conversation, and can feel oppressed that they are considered racist for using the same word. They can hear “Black Lives Matter” to mean “only black lives matter” rather than “black lives matter too.” Repeated life experiences viewed through the lens of “racism is over” can lead some white people to have a sense that they are being oppressed. They can cite a litany of instances in which they believe that they – and all white people – are discriminated against.

Race is complicated even further by geography, class and economics. Some rural whites live in far worse poverty than some suburban African Americans, and have far less access to educational and economic opportunity. For those whites to be told that they are experiencing “white privilege” is like grinding salt into the long-festering wounds of an existence that has seemed endlessly devoid of hope. For those rural whites to believe – in some cases accurately – that their meager, hard-earned pay is being disproportionately redistributed through the tax system to the benefit of the (more diverse) suburbs and cities further reinforces a sense of systemic victimization that seems the exact inverse of “institutional racism.” Backlash against all of these sentiments and experiences created part of the tide against “political correctness” on which Donald Trump rode into office.

I have no solutions to offer, other than the obvious platitudes like “treat people with respect” and “don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” But I hope that this piece at least offers a little more understanding of the phenomenon of “white oppression” from both sides of the table.

– rob rünt

March 13 – 19, 2017

March 13 – 19, 2017


Articles & Editorials:

Main Stories


The Definitive Trump-Russia Timeline of Events
(Politico – 3/3/17 – updated as new information comes out)

Trump Reverses Pledge To Mandate U.S. Steel For Keystone Pipeline. A Direct Beneficiary Is A Russian Oligarch With Close Ties To Vladimir Putin
(Huffington Post – 3/6/17)

Russian Spy Ship Returns Off U.S. Coast, Near Sub Base
(CBS News – 3/15/17)

New Web Site Dedicated to Ongoing Tracking of Trump-Russia Connections
(US Representative Eric Swalwell)

Trump’s Budget

“America First” – Trump’s Proposed Budget
(The White House – 3/16/17)

What Trump Cut in His Budget
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

If You’re a Poor Person in America, Trump’s Budget is Not for You
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney justifies cuts to programs like “Meals on Wheels” and school lunch for low income kids because the programs are “just not showing any results.” Apparently feeding someone who can’t afford to
(CSPAN – 3/16/17)

Fact Check: Budget Director’s Claims That Programs Don’t Work
(New York Times – 3/17/17)

White House Cites Satire Column to Tout Budget
(The Hill – 3/17/17)

Mental Illness

In a Repudiation of Trump, a Senior House Leader Rejects Wiretap Claim
(New York Times – 3/15/17)

Trump Says Obama Wiretapping Accusations are Based on Some News Reports
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

Spicer says Trump ‘stands by’ unproven allegation that Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

British Complain After Trump Spokesman Cites Wiretapping Report
(Bloomberg – 3/16/17)

US Makes Formal Apology to Britain After White House Accuses GCHQ of Wiretapping Trump Tower
(Telegraph, UK – 3/17/17)

White House: No Apology to British Government Over Spying Claims
(CNN – 3/17/17)

Ahead Of House Hearing, Committee Head Says No Evidence Of Collusion Or Wiretapping
(National Public Radio – 3/19/17)

Trump Says Merkel Meeting was ‘Great,’ Then Blasts Germany for NATO Bills
(Los Angeles Times – 3/18/17)

German Defense Ministry Contradicts Trump, Says it Doesn’t Owe U.S. Money for NATO
(Washington Post – 3/19/17)

In One Rocky Week, Trump’s Self-Inflicted Chaos on Vivid Display
(New York Times – 3/18/17)

Other Stories That You Should Know About:

Conflicts of Interest

Kushners Set to Get $400 Million From Chinese Firm on Tower
(Bloomberg – 3/13/17)

Hate Crimes

Temple De Hirsch Sinai Vandalized With Anti-Semitic Graffiti
(KOMO News – 3/10/17)

Internal White House Dynamics

‘People are Scared’: Paranoia Seizes Trump’s White House
(Politico – 3/15/17)

“There was an article that week that talked about how you can surveil people through their phones, through their — certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. We know that is just a fact of modern life.”

– Kellyanne Conway
    Counselor to the President

Keeping Track of the Basics:


Trump’s Mental Health:“The Elephant in the Room”
(MSNBC, 2/23/17)

Ready or Not, Here Come Trump and North Korea
(Bloomberg – 3/19/17)

When the Fire Comes
(Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist, New York Times – 2/10/17)

Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

Why the Poorest County in West Virginia has Faith in Trump (Video – 10:32)
(The Guardian – 10/13/16)

Cartoons, Images & Videos

Cartoon by Tom Toles, Washington Post:


Source: Unknown


Source: Unknown


Posted by @vicsepulveda


Posted by Occupy Democrats:


Footage of Irish Prime Minister delivering St. Patrick’s Day address calling attention to Trump’s immigration policies as Trump stands feet away from him:

John Oliver of “This Week Tonight” describes the Republican replacement for ObamaCare
(Warning: some profanity)

Posted by US Senator Bernie Sanders:



Source: Unknown



Source: Unknown



Source: Unknown


Source: Unknown


Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: Trump Tax Day Marches nationwide to let President Trump know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest march here!
  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Scientists and people who believe in and support science will be having marches nationwide to encourage the use of science and facts in creating government policy – find your nearest march here!

Resources & Organizations

On Not Forgetting

On Not Forgetting


On Not Forgetting

On Monday, I had lunch with a friend – a very thoughtful Jewish man and one of my favorite people in the entire world. The conversation eventually turned to politics. Having had relatives who were caught up by the Holocaust, he has visited the concentration camps in Germany as well as the Holocaust Museum in Germany and in Washington DC. He said that the most chilling thing for him in those places was not the photos or the artifacts. It was a video screen at the Holocaust Museum in DC. It showed no graphics or photos, just text, slowly scrolling through the small, incremental changes – small lines drawn and then crossed and then redrawn and crossed again – that took place in what came to be known as Nazi Germany. Each change was undesirable, but ultimately tolerated. The cumulative effect was the extermination of six million human beings.

– rob rünt




In the early morning hours of February 27, 1933, a fire rapidly engulfed the German Parliament, known as the Reichstag. The building was gutted, and firefighters found several bundles of what they determined to be fuel sources. A young communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested nearby and was sentenced to death for setting the fire.

Less than a month earlier, Adolf Hitler had been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Historians widely credit the fire – and the resulting anti-communist and anti-immigrant hysteria that Hitler stirred in the German population – with Hitler’s ability to quickly consolidate power. The day after the fire, he convinced German President von Hindenburg to indefinitely enact an emergency decree suspending civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the ability to communicate by mail or phone without government intrusion. Historians still debate whether the Reichstag fire was actually set by Nazis or communists. It should also be noted that Hitler did not rise to power advocating the mass extermination of human beings.

In the United States, on September 11, 2001, 21 terrorists used commercial airlines to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with an additional plane crashing in a field in Pennsylvania. As the day wore on, news anchor Tom Brokaw, struggling for something new and profound to say after hours of nonstop coverage, called the attack “an act of war, nothing less than that” and likened it to Pearl Harbor. After the attack, America responded militarily against an entire country, Afghanistan, for a criminal terrorist act committed by 21 individuals.

President Bush later turned his attention to Iraq as a potential source of terrorism that needed to be responded to “preemptively,” warning that we could not “wait for the final proof – the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” So we went to war with Iraq over what most Americans now acknowledge (and what critical thinkers at the time recognized) as flimsy evidence.

In the meantime, Americans had quickly come to accept things previously unacceptable: government intrusions into electronic communications without judicial authorization, torture of suspects, indefinite detainment, secretly authorized executions by American drones overseas – which sometimes killed innocent people, and which continued even into the final months of the Obama Administration.

The number of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 has been small, even with many of the above measures reversed under Obama.

Last week, in response to Federal Judge James Robart putting a temporary nationwide  hold on the executive order on immigration, Donald Trump tweeted “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” The Trump Administration then asked an appeals court for an emergency stay of Judge Robart’s order.


What follows from this point is purely speculation and should be taken as such.

I call your attention to the language used above: “emergency” stay; “If something happens blame him.” Given how few terrorist attacks have happened in the past 15 years, such imminent crisis-oriented language from the White House sounds very dire (Full Article – New York Times). Terrorist attacks are horrible, but they also account for far fewer deaths in America than many other obscure causes (Source: START). And if the goal is to prevent needless American deaths, thousands of times more Americans die each year from smoking (Source: Center for Disease Control), which is preventable, or heart disease (Source: Center for Disease Control), which is also preventable.

Trump is surely aware of how September 11 caused many Americans – even many who had opposed President Bush – to get behind their President. As former news anchor Dan Rather said on September 17, 2001, “wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where.”

And if Trump is not aware of the history of the Reichstag fire, his Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor Steve Bannon – former executive chair of the alt right/white nationalist news source Breitbart, a man with a thorough knowledge of history, and a man who Trump inadvertently signed an executive order appointing to his National Security Council – certainly is.

Vigilance, perspective and critical thinking are important tools for Americans right now.

– rob rünt

Note: After writing this piece, I discovered that economist Paul Krugman wrote a piece published on Friday indicating that he is of a similar opinion (Full Article – Daily KOS).

“We’re going to have to do things we never did before … that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy.”

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
November, 2015
(Full Article – Huffington Post)


Sunday, Jan 8, 2017

Welcome to the first installment of “The Week in Trump.”

This Sunday blog is for people who wish to avoid gawking at the Trump train wreck for the other six days of the week, but who also believe that it is healthy and important to stay informed on matters that can significantly affect them. Here you will find a summary of the week’s most essential news and ideas (with links to the best reporting on the stories), artwork, videos and my personal thoughts. Once you’ve been thoroughly bludgeoned into despair, I will then restore hope, with info on the latest actions and upcoming events that you can participate in, as well as helpful resources and relevant organizations that you can support to make a positive difference.

I have long been obsessed with justice and the free flow of complete, accurate information. Now that both appear to be in peril, I consider it my civic duty to help others get the information that they need in a quickly and easily digestible form. It is my promise to you that I will provide the most accurate, factual information that I can. That does not mean that I will be objective. It means that I will be factual. If you think that this can be a useful weekly resource for you, please bookmark it or subscribe. Remember: we get to decide what the light at the end of the tunnel will be.

     – rob rünt



Articles & Editorials

Take It From A German: Americans Are Too Timid In Confronting Hate
(Full Article – The Daily Beast)

On Monday, in one of the first acts of the new Congress, Republicans attempted to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent oversight group with a track record of sending Congresspersons to prison when they violate the law. (Full Article – MSNBC)  After media attention and a swift and strong negative public outcry, Congress quickly undid the measure before noon the next day. (Full Article – MSNBC)  Shortly before Republicans backtracked, President-Elect Trump tweeted that the “timing” of the move was distracting, leading some news outlets to attribute Congress’ reversal of course to his strong leadership. (Full Article – CNN)

In recent weeks, President-Elect Trump has chosen not to avail himself of most Presidential daily intelligence briefings – something that most Presidents want to get as much of as they can in order to get up to speed on important matters about which they will need to make decisions. He has also been dismissive of US intelligence agencies’ assertion of Kremlin  interference in the U.S. election, leading to concern among legislators and members of the intelligence community that our next President will not make his decisions based on the best information.  (Full Article – The Guardian)


This unexpectedly led to a development that is likely to be a pattern with the Trump Administration, either out of poor organization, poor internal communication, or a deliberate strategy of floating an idea publicly without having to commit to it (or some combination of the above): someone from Trump’s inner circle told the Wall Street Journal that Mr. Trump planned to overhaul and cut staff in the nation’s intelligence agencies – a story which was then repeated by other news outlets (Full Article – The Hill), but which Trump later denied when asked directly.

Trump remained dismissive of the Russian hacking story even after a full report (declassified version here) from US intelligence officials. (Full Article – CNN)  However, he is interested in finding out who in the intelligence community made public the information about the Kremlin’s interference in the election.


In other news, Russians appear to have just hacked into accounts of Arizona state lawmakers. (Full Article – AZ Central)

An analysis of “Putin’s real end game.” I agree with much of the assessment of Russia’s involvement and what we’re up against, but disagree with much of the proposed response to it. Your thoughts? (Full Article – Politico)

Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’ (Full Article – The Guardian)

“Having studied authoritarian states for over a decade, I would never exaggerate the severity of the threat we now face. But an American kleptocracy is exactly where president-elect Trump and his backers are taking us. That’s why I have a favor to ask you, my fellow Americans….

… I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.

Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others.

Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.”

– from the blog of Sarah Kendzior

A general overview of the election results, what they mean, and where to go from here. In my better moments can live up to the “where to go from here” part, but snark is a definite weakness for me. (Full Article – Charles Eisenstein Blog)

 Cartoons, Images & Videos

Cartoon by Will McPhail, New Yorker:

Posted by Americans Against Trump:


Cartoon by Paul Noth:



Posted to Instagram by Alec Baldwin:



 Personal Thoughts & Experiences

On Monday, I had lunch with a friend – a very thoughtful Jewish man and one of my favorite people in the entire world. The conversation eventually turned to politics. Having had relatives who were caught up by the Holocaust, he has visited the concentration camps in Germany as well as the Holocaust Museum in Germany and in Washington DC. He said that the most chilling thing for him in those places was not the photos or the artifacts. It was a video screen at the Holocaust Museum in DC. It showed no graphics or photos, just text, slowly scrolling through the small, incremental changes – small lines drawn and then crossed and then redrawn and crossed again – that took place in what came to be known as Nazi Germany. Each change was undesirable, but ultimately tolerated. The cumulative effect was the extermination of six million human beings.

 Events & Actions

Resources & Organizations