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Manning: OK, GOP, Let's Talk Privilege

GOP Presidential candidates discussed privilege on Thursday during a debate in Texas. Sarah Sunshine Manning says it's more than just privilege.

Did a GOP Presidential candidate just substantiate the notion of privilege in the recent GOP debate? Oh yes, he sure did.

I just about spit out my dinner while hearing Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American Senator from Florida, throw some serious shade at Donald Trump, smackin’ him upside the head with the “privilege” jab during the GOP debate Thursday night. 

Rubio came out swinging with all sorts of fiery one-liners, but it was this statement on privilege that is already getting “memed” like crazy, and swirling throughout social media via punchy video clips.

Rubio to Trump: "Here's the guy who inherited $200 million dollars. Do you know where he would be without $200 million dollars? Selling watches in Manhattan."

The crowd roared. Privilege. Boom.

Privilege is not a popular topic among the GOP. But concerning Trump, this statement is not surprising. 

Mind you, the GOP is a party who fancies themselves as exemplars of hard work, whose individual successes are, as they claim, attributed to pure grit and work ethic. They fancy themselves as models of the adage, “pull yourself up by the bootstraps,” and the GOP, at large, continues to perpetuate the lofty myth of American meritocracy. 

All you have to do is work hard, right? And everyone else who suffers, impoverished, jobless, or downtrodden in America, it is no one’s fault but their own, right? Wrong. So, offensively, wrong.

Not only is the notion of American meritocracy wrong, but it is extremely dismissive, it is oppressive, and it is an outright lie that reinforces racism and classism. Inherent in this myth of American meritocracy lies the oppressive phenomena of victim blaming, and this is outright sanctioned by the political party who claims to stand on Christian virtues. I’m not Christian, buuut, I think charity, kindness, and empathy were attributes of Jesus, no?

Evidently in the white-washed-fairy land of GOP meritocracy, not only does privilege not exist, but affirmative action is the devil, and charity is dead. In this white-washed GOP fairy land, residents severely lack empathy, and they actually exalt the bold bigotry of leaders like Trump. 

I do not ever want to visit this scary ass, confusing, contradictory, white-washed-fairy land. Are there any Indians in the white-washed-fairy land of the GOP? Apparently, there are. How the heck this this happen- Rhetorical question. I digress.

Back to the GOP debate, where Rubio, the light-skinned brown boy called down the privileged monster, Trump. And perhaps I’m not alone, as a liberal progressive, feeling somewhat proud of the Cuban-American, who likely has indigenous blood running through his veins, when even as a GOP he dared call out privilege among a crowd of Republicans in a “David and Goliath” showdown.

While many of us brown folks are anxiously hoping for anyone but Trump to get the Republic nomination, I wished in vain, following that scorching moment, that the brown guy might swing a little deeper- that’s not just privilege that Trump rides the coattails of- its white privilege, and it doesn’t make you weak to say it. It makes you stronger.

White privilege is among the most bitter of pills for the GOP to swallow. And as a matter of fact, one African American GOP staffer was fired in 2014 for “pulling the race card” while mentioning white privilege and racism in a string of Facebook posts. Following her termination, a GOP spokesperson, justifying the termination stated, “our party needs to stay focused on what’s most important… and this nonsense has led to confusion and distraction.”

The GOP may never acknowledge white privilege, let alone the many by-products of racism, such as police brutality that disproportionately affects people of color, or systemic racism in the public school system, on college campuses, in media- the list goes on, and on. Instead, they would rather silence the issue and withhold the vital healing conversations. Don’t expect the GOP to champion the issue of racial equality any time soon.

By avoiding and dismissing conversations of privilege, white privilege, and systemic racism, the GOP callously withholds important pieces of not only the collective liberation of American people of color, but the GOP is also withholding vital pieces of the American reconciliation puzzle. Without addressing historical and ongoing racism, we will likely remain divided, and that line in the sand dividing us is being dug even deeper by the likes of Trump, and all others who perpetuate the myth of American meritocracy, while simultaneously dismissing the notions of privilege and racism. 

Truth is, there will be no healing, no reconciliation, without acknowledgement of the pain experienced by people of color. It’s not just privilege that needs to be called out, Rubio, its white privilege. Don’t be afraid to say it.

In my wishful world of brave and unapologetic brown folks who seek liberation and equality, I would add this to Rubio’s jab: Do you know where Trump would be without white privilege? Begging Jesus for forgiveness, and definitely not leading the GOP polls with droves of resentful and racist white-Americans behind him.

It’s white privilege, Rubio. Let’s call it what it is.

Sarah Sunshine Manning

Sarah Sunshine Manning (Shoshone-Paiute, Chippewa-Cree) is a mother, educator, activist, and an advocate for youth. Follow her at @SarahSunshineM.