Kavanaugh Situation Says a Lot About White Male Privilege

Man in suit holding the Earth

It’s no secret that white male privilege, specifically UPPER CLASS white male privilege, is so ingrained in our society that usually most of us don’t recognize it. That’s sort of the definition of privilege I guess. But other times it’s so apparent that it slaps us right across the face. That was the feeling I had today while I was listening to people defend Brett Kavanaugh against accusations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford at a party in the 1980s when she was 15 years old.

Most of the Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee admitted in advance of her testimony that they were unlikely to change their votes on the nomination after Dr. Blasey gives her testimony to the committee on Thursday. Senator Lindsey Graham said that he wasn’t going to deprive Kavanaugh of high office when he has an otherwise sterling reputation based on the as-yet unproven allegations of a woman (who, by  the way ALSO has a sterling reputation). Graham said: “Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this. What am I supposed to do? Go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?”

So, let’s parse those words. “I’m not going to ruin this guy’s life over this.” Senator Graham is saying he isn’t going to deny Kavanaugh his seat on the Supreme Court over these accusations. Would that “ruin his life”? It will if a seat on the Supreme Court is something that Kavanaugh is entitled to.

But why is he entitled to it? Are you entitled to get every job you apply for? Nope. You and I can be denied a job just because the HR person doesn’t like the font you used on your resume. You can be denied a job because there’s a picture on your Facebook page that looks like you might be doing something that a potential employer interprets as inappropriate. Or because you have a beard. Or because you don’t have a beard. We’re not guaranteed of anything. Why should Judge Kavanaugh be? Because he’s a rich white guy.

Let’s be honest: if you’re a black person in this country, you can have your life ruined — in fact, you can have your life ENDED — just because you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if you’re in the RIGHT place, you can be shot dead. And what will some people say? Well, you were probably doing something wrong. That you should have just put your hands up, that you shouldn’t have talked back. Because, you know, none of us are guaranteed of anything, right?

Except if you’re a rich white dude who went to all the right schools, and know all the right people. You’re guaranteed of everything, and you’re entitled to occupy one of the highest offices in the land. And you’re not going to get denied of your right just because some nobody comes along and offers credible evidence that you’ve done something wrong.

We all work hard in this life. We all put in our time and hope that we’ll be rewarded for it. But some people don’t just hope for it. They expect it, because they are entitled to it.

We have an assumption in this country that some of us are simply more deserving of things than other people are. The big cars, expensive homes, yachts, membership in exclusive clubs, box seats. You can tell who they are because when they show up on TV they’re wearing a dark suit and their hair is combed just-so and their tidy wives sit primly beside them, and they’re using a bunch of three-dollar words. That’s how they let you know they belong to that group of folks who deserve the good things in life more than you and I do. And all of their prep-school friends circle the wagons to make sure they get it. Dr. Ford will testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning, but a committee vote is still scheduled to move forward on Friday morning, as though absolutely nothing has happened. Apparently she is not entitled to anything.

[Update: as of 7:00pm on Wednesday, a total of 5 women have come forward to accuse Judge Kavanaugh. The vote on his confirmation is still scheduled to go forward on Friday morning.]

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