BY LINDA BENTLEY | March 16, 2016

Obama’s Army briefs soldiers on evils of white privilege and oppression

Four hundred soldiers of the 67th Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon, Ga. Received an Equal Opportunity briefing on April 2, 2015, which included a discussion about “white privilege.”

WASHINGTON – Upon learning about an Equal Opportunity briefing provided on April 2, 2015 to the 67th Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon, Ga., which included a discussion of “white privilege,” Judicial Watch, a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain copies of any and all presentation materials used.

Judicial Watch filed its request on May 6, 2015, asking the Department of the Army to produce the records within 20 days.

In its request, Judicial Watch called attention to president Obama’s Jan. 21, 2009 memorandum concerning the FOIA, in which he stated: “All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA ... The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.”

On Feb. 10, 2016, 10 months later, the Department of the Army responded by providing a copy of the PowerPoint presentation titled “Power and Privilege” from its Third Quarter Fiscal Year 2012 Equal Opportunity training materials.

The presentation begins by defining power as the “ability of a person in a relationship or workplace to influence others in the relationship or workplace psychologically and/or behaviorally.”

The slide titled “Power Supporting Facts” states, “It is part of society and cultures” and “Power enables privileges.”

Moving on it defines privilege and states, “Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do.”

It goes on to state, “Privilege has become one of those loaded words we need to reclaim so that we can use it to name and illuminate the truth.”

It breaks down privilege into two groups, one called “unearned entitlements” as “things that all people should have like feeling safe in public, being accepted, valued for what they can contribute.”

The other it defines as “unearned advantage” when unearned entitlement is restricted to certain groups and becomes a form of privilege.

Describing what privilege looks like in everyday life, the Powerpoint states, “Privilege grants the cultural authority to make judgments about others and to have those judgments stick.”

It goes on to state, “Privilege means being able to decide who gets taken seriously, receives attention, etc.”

A slide titled “The luxury of obliviousness” explains how “race privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans or to how white privilege affects them.”

It states, “To be white in America means not having to think about it.”

Asserting privilege is always at someone else’s expense and always exacts a cost, it states, “Everything that’s done to receive or maintain it, however passive and unconscious – results in suffering and deprivation for someone.”

It claims our society attaches privilege to being white, male and heterosexual.

And on the flip side of those blessed with privilege, it states social forces tend to press upon people to “hold them down, hem them in and block their pursuit of a good life.”

It states, however, belonging to a privileged category that has an oppressive relationship with another isn’t the same as being an oppressive person who behaves in oppressive ways.

The next slide, titled “The Diversity Wheel,” appears to, perhaps unintentionally, make a strong argument against diversity and affirmative action programs by stating: “The trouble around diversity, then, isn’t just that people differ from one another. The trouble is produced by a world organized in ways that encourage people to use difference to include or exclude, reward or punish, credit or discredit, elevate or oppress, value or devalue, leave alone or harass.”

The briefing goes on about how we must name things such as privilege, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, classism, dominance, subordination, oppression, patriarchy and all the isms, because naming something draws attention to it and “makes you more likely to notice it as something significant.”

In response to the question, “What is the trouble we’re in?” it declares by privileging some groups at the expense of others it “creates a yawning divide in levels of income, wealth, dignity, safety, health and quality of life,” while promoting “fear, suspicion, discrimination, harassment and violence.”

The slide about “The Social Construct” states, “Most of what we experience as ‘real’ is a cultural creation. It is made up, even though we don’t experience it that way.”

For an example it asks one to consider the “black woman” in Africa who hasn’t experienced white racism and does not identify herself as a black woman, only as an African woman.

But because of the social construct, she only became “black” when she came to the United States “where privilege is organized according to race, where she is assigned to a social category that bears that name and she is treated differently as a result.”

It then addresses the most powerful barriers to change by stating, “The trouble we’re in can’t be solved unless the ‘privileged’ make the problem of privilege their problem and do something about it.”

Because it’s so easy for those in dominant groups not to do something, is cited as the single most powerful barrier to change and states, “Understanding how to bring dominant groups into the conversation is the challenge.

In conclusion it states we must reclaim these lost and discredited words in order to “use them to name and make sense of the truth of what’s going on. Reclaiming these words begins with seeing that they rarely mean what most people think they mean.”

It provides examples such as, “Racist isn’t another word for bad white people … Oppression and dominance name social realities that we can participate in without being oppressive or dominating people … Feminism isn’t an ideology organized around being lesbian or hating men.”

At the very end, under “Check on Learning” it asks the following questions:
• Does Power and Privilege exist more today than it did 50 years ago?
• Has the American society made progress regarding diversity, power and privilege?
• Has it become more relative towards wealth?
• Is privilege a “white only” thing?
• Can power and privilege be used for good or is it just a good thing to have?

The final slide declares, “Equal Opportunity is Everybody’s Business.”

This particular briefing is apparently not unique to Army training materials and can be easily found as one of the many popular educational materials on Power, Privilege and Oppression; Social Justice; and Diversity by executing a simple search.

One need not join the Army to learn how privilege is the other side of oppression or how privilege can make others’ lives difficult because society disenfranchises and oppresses people who are not privileged.

Numerous universities, including ASU, even offer Master’s Degree programs in Social Justice.