Monday, July 22, 2013

A Modest Proposal: Tax White Privilege

A very modest proposal:  If we accept racial profiling as a "racist public safety tax" -- a sadly necessary denial of African American individuality, in which African American males give up the presumption of their innocence, their 4th amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures and occasionally, their 5th amendment right to due process in the taking of their lives by the state and vigilante forces in return for increasing white people's sense of public safety, then, a specific counter-vailing incentive should be brought to bear to keep this to a minimum, a check and balance.

So, I am proposing a White Privilege Public Safety Tax: a tax imposed on all white citizens and residents of the United States of America.  This tax would create a fund to compensate those people of color who are mistakenly profiled by state agents and vigilantes.  For example, a young black man who was stopped and frisked only to find school books and a smartphone would receive a sum of money to compensate for the disturbance of his peace, the wasting of his time and his humiliation.  How much money?  Enough to insure that city officials would put significant pressure on the training of police to minimize unnecessary stopping and frisking.  At least a couple hundred dollars.  And for a death in a situation created by profiling: how much is young life worth?  Millions.

There are a lot of details to work out.  Who decides when a police intervention in the lives of a citizen is the result of racial profiling?  It would seem that a panel of people of color would have to have that power.  A panel of whites would have a conflict of interest.  To those who would object, saying that the justice system should be race neutral -- I would reply that train has already left the station.  We have already accepted a racialized system of justice in this country; now we are just trying to make it a more level playing field.

Would the TSA be included?  Of course, people of color are profiled frequently in airports.  White people should have to pay for the ease with which we so frequently move through the security lines.

What about Neighborhood Watch vigilantes, like George Zimmerman?  I would predict that police forces would start to take more control of such groups, if they were on the financial hook for deaths that these untrained, yet encouraged, vigilantes' actions.

One other benefit of such a "white privilege public safety tax" would be that many white people would begin searching their family trees to discover the people of color in their ancestry, beginning a process of reversing the construction of "whiteness" as a racial category.  The Irish and Italians might want to go back to when they were considered "not white", and connect again with their experiences of being the shunned outsider.

A tax on white privilege might hasten the creation of a self-consciously multi-racial America.

6 comments:

A UU Republican said...

(1) Police work would be impossible without some form of profiling. All people are profiled, of all races, ask any cop. It's not racism. It's reality. And it works. Not only do white police offers rely on profiling, but non-white police officers have to rely on it too. It's part of their job. It keeps the community (and themselves) safe from harm.

(2) Taxing white people for being white and for having "white privilege" (as perceived by others) is racist.

Tom Schade said...

Yes, UU GOPer, it is racist. But as I said, that train has already left the station. We have a racially biased public safety and criminal justice system.

I suggest you re-read the post before this one. http://www.tomschade.com/2013/07/racial-pofiling-racist-public-safety-tax.html.

A UU Republican said...

I don't buy the premise that our criminal justice system is racially biased. But I respect your point of view. There's not much I can add to this discussion without inadvertently pissing each other off, haha.

politywonk said...

Not up to the usual rigorous thinking. A better post challenges us to be more conscientious about attacking our class problem -- which implies that not all white folks are living in privileged splendor. The minimum wage worker sleeping on her sister's couch with two kids on the floor might not be subject to the police, but trust me, she doesn't feel privileged. And the guy who couldn't afford to be a proper father to those two kids -- which in his mind meant regular meals, housing, and a trip to Disneyworld -- is not feeling especially relieved that he's not the subject of some racism-crazed vigilante. To be honest, there are various kinds of victimization in today's world, and there's no point in overlooking that some of them contradict some of the others.

Tom Schade said...

Hmmm, I despair for the state of our educational system.

Google "A Modest Proposal". http://blog.wsd.net/ahartvigsen/files/2009/03/modest-proposal.pdf

Jane Spickett said...

Thanks, politywonk. "Raceandclass" is not one word.