Commentary: White Supremacy and White Privilege

Kate Mellon-Anibaba speaks on Wednesday night at the unity rally

Earlier this year, I was criticized for my support for free speech, with the suggestion made that my white privilege means that the hateful speech of Milo may not personally jeopardize me as it does more marginalized communities.  I pushed back at the time, arguing that my white privilege simply obligated me to act when injustice occurs and stand up for those who lack the voice to defend themselves.

What became clear this past month, and certainly in the last week, is that white supremacy knows no such boundary.  The men with torch lights were marching with Swastikas against Jews and with the chant of “blood and soil” and “you will not replace us.”

At the same time, my obligations of white privilege came in handy when a friend of mine was suddenly arrested on trumped up charges and beaten by the police in Sacramento.  What I lack in material resources, I make up in experience, and I was able to get her a top-notch attorney, he was able to get bail reduced and she was able to be released from jail and home to her young child.

Last week was a reminder of the good and bad of the community of Davis.  In response to Charlottesville – itself a college town very similar to our own community – the residents of Davis, more than 500 came out in a support of “unity.”  There were fiery speeches from Mayor Robb Davis, Congressman John Garamendi, and Chancellor Gary May.

While Congressman Garamendi delivered a fiery frontal assault on Donald Trump, I found the words of Robb Davis and Kate Mellon-Anibaba most telling.

A decade ago, when I began this, I grew quickly frustrated at the Davis community for turning a blind eye to complaints of racial profiling and disparate treatment of people of color by the Davis Police Department.  Many in the community ignored the pleas of people of color and cheered on as the Davis City Council shut down the city’s Human Relations Commission, which was seen as an irritant by raising the issue of police misconduct and pushing for civilian review.

And yet, there was a the community just two years later supporting proudly and by huge margins the nation’s first black president.

There is a disconnect between the seeming indifference that liberal and progressive Davisites take to local issues of race and their response to more national and distant issues such as Charlottesville.

When the speakers were focused on global issues of race, of pushing back against Donald Trump, of the injustice of neo-Nazis running free with torches – the crowd was enthusiastic and engaged.  When the topic turned to more local issues like the Picnic Day 5, many were quiet and indifferent.

Mayor Robb Davis related a story in Virginia from 2009 and called it a wake-up call to the fact that hatred still existed in this nation.

“I think we’re all awake in the last seven months,” he said on Wednesday.  “I’m not talking about waking up because I’m proud of it.  I’m ashamed to say I woke up.”

He said, for people of color, “these things have never gone away.”

The mayor was able to articulate in a very real way what white privilege is.  He lives a good and comfortable life and white privilege gives him the chance to ignore the problems that people of color face on a regular basis.

He said, “All of those things are the basis of a systemic racism that exists in this country and I had the privilege for many years just to ignore it.”  He said he’s lived a good life, “but all around me there are people who were experiencing a different reality and they still are.”

The question, he said, is, now that we have woken up, “now what?”  He said, “I believe that if we are going to confront these issues, if we’re going to confront differential impacts of the effects of police, if we’re going to confront inequitable funding of schools, if we’re going to confront the school to prison pipeline, then it’s got to be local efforts.”

Kate Mellon-Anibaba drove home a similar point in a different way.

She said in her speech, “In Charlottesville this week we got to see obvious racism, the kind that is so blatant that it alerts all your senses to its pure evil, and makes us sick to our stomachs.  The images of white men holding torches, spewing hate and physically hurting people… this is easy to denounce and separate ourselves from…”

She called us “the good white people.”  Those who have diverse friendships, people of color for family members, we don’t care what color people are, etc.  But she argued, “saying these kinds of things are problematic, it has to STOP.”

We can’t just be good people, but rather “we have an obligation to do work here in this community and surrounding areas.”

These are the lessons I take home on every day basis.  I have personally witnessed massive amounts of injustice in the last year and my obligation is to use the voice that I have, and the privilege of safety that I largely live in, and bear witness to that injustice because I have been blessed enough to be granted a bully-pulpit that people will read and respond to even if they don’t agree with me.

I have seen pain like you would not believe, I have held the hands of those who have lost their family members to police violence and to a system that is indifferent to its own inequities and injustices.

In response to the Imam’s comment, Mayor Davis told us that “we live in brittle times.”

He said, “The hurts are deep.  Words were spoken that are harmful and hurtful.  One statement cannot be enough.”

In June, in the wake of the sentencing of Lauren Kirk-Coehlo, the mayor talked about the fact that “[t]he brokenness of our punitive system was fully on display in the way this was handled.”

He said, “Our criminal justice system is broken and people are afforded rights and privileges based on not just race, class…people who have few means are not afforded the same privilege as those who have more.”

We have seen this first hand.  We have seen this in the handling of the Picnic Day 5 prosecution, the actions of the police in their treatment of people of color.  I saw this personally with my friend as I saw that, through my intervention, I could make a difference, but then had to wonder how many others lacked the resources and the wherewithal to escape their predicament.

What I have learned this year is that whiteness is not a privilege but rather than obligation – an obligation to make a difference in the lives of other and to use our privilege not to benefit our own selves or to line our own pockets, but rather to bring up justice and mercy to our communities.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    I would like to put this more bluntly. For those of us at the “top of the ladder” in American social structure, the white and the economically comfortable, there is a very stark choice. We can extend a hand to those who are struggling to achieve equality, or we can push them back down. The third choice which Robb Davis and I had been making until recent events was to simply not look, not only at our own comfortable circumstances but at the fact that others did not share our comforts. I think it is long past time that we extended the helping hand.

        1. Howard P

          I hit the wrong level of reply… I get your clarification David… not sure Tia shares the same mandatory/voluntary view…

          Am all for the voluntary… been doing that for decades… the obligatory = mandatory part is a ‘turn-off’ to me…

          We (spouse and I) do lots, both financially and time… voluntarily… someone tells me I “have to”, or worse, “you should do that and much more” does something to the hairs on the back of my neck, unless the speaker has travelled at least “5 miles” further than we have…  call it a personality defect.

        2. David Greenwald

          I Think my commentary should always be taken as a general comment not as something aimed specifically at any one person.  Rather it is we as a community…

  2. Ron

    Not a comment regarding this (entire) article.  However, one thing that has changed in the last 10 years or so is the vastly increased use of cell-phone cameras.  This has allowed all of America to see events (e.g., involving police), which would otherwise not have been seen.

      1. Ron

        I was really impressed by Rodney King’s statements, during the subsequent riots (“Can’t we all just get along”?).  You’d think that (of all people), he’d be the angriest. Instead, a call for peace.

  3. Ron

    Ron (quoting Ron):  “However, one thing that has changed in the last 10 years or so is the vastly increased use of cell-phone cameras.”

    Perhaps one of the more interesting things is that even when something is captured on video, different viewers don’t necessarily “see” the same thing.  Even if it’s replayed, multiple times. (And, of course videos don’t necessarily capture the entire event.)

  4. Jerry Waszczuk


    I would like to put this more bluntly. For those of us at the “top of the ladder” in American social structure, the white and the economically comfortable, there is a very stark choice. We can extend a hand to those who are struggling to achieve equality, or we can push them back down.

    Tia has the  point. 
     However , “ the nice” Garamendi’s  fiery frontal assault on Donald Trump or  the  Anibaba’s  worthless propaganda about “the good white people.”   or sign “Black Lives Matter” won’t do any good until the white and economically comfortable like Garamendi  will not take care of 50 million deportable on food stamps and other government’s  assistance programs .   Most of deplorables are African -Americans . The large 50 million  number of deplorable was left behind by  the Obama’s administration.  You will not feed deplorable and their kids forever by useless and meaningless propaganda. Deplorable need real food and others goods as   Garamendi and deplorables have exactly same stomachs     like  Anibaba  has .   The numbers of deplorables are growing and they getting angry, frustrated  and agitated. The deplorable’s  anger and frustration is being vented in demonstrations, rallys, , marches  and lately by  attacking the Confederates statues and monuments around the country . The question is what is going to happen after all statues would be removed , destroyed or stored in safe place .the provoked  KKK , neo -Nazis and White Supremacists would be  totally  condemned and even prosecuted or outlawed . ?  What next Tia ?   What Garamendi and other like politicians like him regardless of their party affiliation to these 50 millions who are struggling to achieve equality . Is Garamendi and others politicians will bring back jobs to USA from communist China and other foreigners country and take care of fellow Americans first  who are struggling to survive and to achieve at least some equality .?   The narchists organizations like  the Antifa  are not getting smaller. They getting bigger and members of these organizations are getting  more radical and they going to fight at any occasions they will find .  The radical left is quite   different than radical right because of social structure and  economic status  taking into considerations  the  numbers.  However,  the radical left is not less but more dangerous than radical right .  President Obama in October 2010 ordered to crack down on radical left in the few states .  Look at the long list of the left wing organizations in relation to this FBI raids of 2010.   

        1. Ron

          Jerry:  I suspected as much.  Just teasing, for my own amusement.  🙂  Hope you don’t take offense, at that.

          It’s hard enough posting (and not being misunderstood) when English is your first language!

          Hope you keep posting.  I don’t always follow or understand what you’re stating, but you do provide some perspectives and information that I’m not familiar with.

        2. Jerry Waszczuk


          I don’t take offenses for such things . I know myself  . For more serious stuff like legal briefs I using proffesionals Proof -Readers to translate my thoughts .

          Good shot Freudian slip.  I liked when I saw it .

    1. David Greenwald

      This gets us way off topic, but I don’t think the idea of getting jobs back is a winning strategy.  I prefer an economic development approach both locally and nationally and I think Garamendi has been very supportive of our efforts:

      1. Jerry Waszczuk


        Is of topic . Tia made a point and  I respondend because I know this stuff.   I lived my life through many turmoils when communist in my  native  made whole population deprolable and poor . Poland has 40 milllion poulation . It is less people than deplorables in USA on the food stamps and welafare.  It does not matter what political  system is in the country .  If you have nothing and you poor like dirt  and you have no hope for better life than we know the rest . Nice Garemendi’s and Anibaba’s  slogans won’t help anybody . I know the communists slogans  about equality  and happienes for all  spoken  for the  hungry proletariat .  Garamendi’s  support for in innovative technologies means nothing .  Obama held  power for 8 years . Washington is a elite swamp which  forget about the  millions of American living in Ghettos and below the poverty line .

    2. Claire Benoit

      Jerry – a better word than “deplorables” for what you’re trying to say is “distressed”. Some politically correct words are “underpriveleged” and “disadvantaged” but I assume you’re not especially pc.

      Deplorables is harsher than the Polish translation… I don’t think it’s the word you want to use in this context.

      I didn’t know you were Polish and translating to communicate. I am impressed.

      1. Jerry Waszczuk


        I using  the “deplorables ” word or  term quite frequently.  As you know Hillary Clinton during her election campaign labeled or condemned the  half of Donald Trump ‘s supporters as basket of  deplorables .  In exact words  Clinton stated :

        “To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.” 

        Clintons use of word “deplorables ” was vague and ambiguous .   In fact the millions of  people labeled by Clinton as ” deplorables ”  were people which theoretically should  vote Clinton or Sanders instead for Donald  Trump . I don’t know if you are using Twitter .On the Twitter  have many Trump’s supporters t who are using the word “deplorables ”  or “deplorable” in the context as being “underpriveleged” and “disadvantaged” .  I am not really translating . I am writing fast on the  blog not taking time to correct my grammar and my text looks like I am  translating something from Yiddish to Polish and from Polish to English .

        Best to you



        1. Jerry Waszczuk

          Hillary and Obama were  inventors of “Deplorables”.  50 millions on food stamps . Hillary got slammed by  the food stamps recipients and now we are writing about ” White Supremacy and White Privilege” David . With your skill  and education you should be Sabastian Gorka for Dems Party .

  5. Keith O

    What happened?  There was a post by David that I had read earlier this morning and wanted to respond to.  It looks like a whole slew of comments have disappeared.

    [moderator] should be back now.

      1. Howard P

        I suspect you unintentionally ‘made a funny’, Jerry… if something ‘disappears’ (have no opinion/judgement on whether that happened or not)  it’s kinda’ hard to point it out!

        But the log out/log in is a good idea…

  6. Jerry Waszczuk

    I see the all  posts .  Nothing was deleted . Strange .  Maybe I only see my posts . Davis Vanguard’s  Soviet Union -Russia KGB collusion .

    1. Howard P

      It can also happen when one accidentally hits the ‘ignore commenter’ thing… happened to me a couple of months ago… took me awhile to figure it out…

  7. Jerry Waszczuk

    Keith . Yes I see my David’s and Claire original posts about “deplos” . Did you pasted these post in your thread ? If so than I don’t see . I se only:
    “Jerry, do you see your posts, David’s and Claire’s where you were discussing “deplorables”?  It was at the bottom of this thread”

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