05 February 2021

Who sees this photo as symbolic of white privilege???


Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, a San Francisco public high school teacher, wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle objecting to the privileges symbolized by Sanders’ style of dress at the inauguration.
Seyer-Ochi addressed the topic with her students, who she said were also upset by what they saw as the implicit message being delivered by Sanders’s choice of outerwear.

“What did they see? They saw a white man in a puffy jacket and huge mittens, distant not only in his social distancing, but in his demeanor and attire,” Seyer-Ochi wrote, adding, “What did I see? What did I think my students should see? A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens.

“I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie.”..

“I mean in no way to overstate the parallels. Sen. Sanders is no white supremacist insurrectionist. But he manifests privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel,” Seyer-Ochi wrote. 

Commentary and backlash to her outrage in an article on Yahoo News, where they note that "Sanders monetized his viral fame to raise more than $1.8 million for various causes from the licensing of T-shirts and other merchandise with the now iconic image. The beneficiaries include Meals on Wheels, Feeding Chittenden, the Vermont Parent Child Center Network, the Chill Foundation, the Bi-State Primary Care Association and senior centers."

Some people just need to feel victimized, IMHO.

Addendum:  an interesting variety of opinions in the comments.

32 comments:

  1. Bigger issue missed he is a Vermonter that's now they dress in the winter

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    1. I don't think that point was "missed." It would have been well known to the commenter, but willfully ignored.

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  2. I'm with you on this one, Stan!

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  3. Time to remind you all that it is not up to white people to decide what is or isn’t racist. It is up to us to listen.

    I haven’t paid a lot of attention to this, but I have seen several African Americans and other PoC explain how this meme is powered by white privilege. If you disagree, fine, but at least listen to what such people have to say instead of dismissing them as whiners.

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    1. I am certainly a privileged white person, so perhaps I'm incapable of understanding this. Can you perhaps explain it to me (ELI5) or offer a link where the white privilege of this photo is explained? Thanks in advance.

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    2. Just to continue for a moment. The teacher's op-ed doesn't criticise Bernie for attending the inauguration - though that is definitely a result of privilege. She castigates him specifically for his CHOICE of CLOTHING:
      "I don't know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would h=show up at the inauguration of our 46th president DRESSED LIKE BERNIE. Unless those same folk had privilege. Which they don't." [caps added for emphasis]

      So what it is about his clothing that annoyed her (and reportedly many students in her high school class)???

      Help me out here.

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    3. I believe the implication is that, as a white person, Bernie could dress warmly and casually, in a nylon coat and wooly mittens, when someone in a less-privileged social class would have had to shiver in a dressy topcoat and leather gloves to prevent their appearance as being seen to be "not suitable" for a formal occasion such as a presidential inauguration.

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    4. This is indicative of this country's racial divide and resulting failure to effectively interpret just how that divide can affect how we see, and choose to see, various social norms and their resulting consequences within their underlying cultural context(s). Dressing to the nines, particularly in oppressed, impoverished or minority communities is a way of garnering and displaying personal and societal respect. In majority, ruling establishments and communities, one's power, respect and social standing within that overall hierarchy is a given- visual cues and reminders are of less significance since the power, social standing and authority is unchallenged and understood.

      Clothing and manner of dress remains an important symbol and signifier of respect, humility and social standing in certain communities to certain degrees to this day, particularly during occasions and ceremonies of particular significance.

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  4. Fuck that lady. That's Vermont formal wear as far as I'm concerned, suitable for a wedding, bat mitzvah, or college graduation. Substance over style.

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  5. From a person of colour on Facebook:

    “ Now that the Bernie memes are (thankfully) dying down, I’m going to take a risk by expressing my indignation. After a day that featured rich diversity and which brought to light a brilliantly talented young black woman, what was the enduring image? A standoffish, cantankerous white man who refused to participate in the day and was celebrated for his disrespect for the decorum of the moment. No one other than a white man could have been allowed to let that shit fly, let alone be lauded for it.”

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    1. I'm not on Facebook. Could someone ask her why he/she thinks that Bernie Sanders is "refusing to participate" in the day. Perhaps it's the posture rather than the clothing.

      I checked re his outfit: the components reportedly retail for about $2,500.

      https://www.instagram.com/p/CKRv8RUrnjR/

      Not "dressing down" by my standards.

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    2. Dressing down doesn't imply cheap clothing; it's about appearance, not cost. Indeed, expensive clothing that doesn't look expensive is a classic example of class privilege.

      People from marginalized communities have to work harder to be taken seriously, and appearance is part of that.

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  6. The "Enduring Image" as you say was created by THE MEDIA, not Bernie. He didn't want to be cold so dressed for the weather like any rational person.

    Blaming him for becoming a meme is just plain stupid.

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  7. Notice that all the women, including the VP, were dressed to the nines, wearing clothing and outerwear that looked beautiful and classy but would not have been as warm or windproof. Can you imagine the public outrage if any of them had shown up in a warm parka and mittens instead?

    Women of color, especially, know that they can't even run to the grocery store looking like Bernie did.

    I was too busy laughing at the memes at first. I appreciate that a teacher taught me to pay closer attention to the larger picture.

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  8. I think you’re missing the point. The issue my friend (and others) have isn’t Bernie per se, but the fact that he got so much attention that it eclipsed other aspects of the inauguration. Perhaps this isn’t the point made by the article you posted, but for a person of colour it must be difficult when, for the very first time in history a woman of colour is being inaugurated as VP and all ANYBODY can talk about for a whole week is the grumpy white guy in the bleachers.

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  9. Being mad at Sanders for the meme is silly. And he isn't really dressed any different from the people around him. So I still think that teacher is grasping.
    Also, my first read of her opinions was that she was a disgruntled Hillary supporter, still harboring grudges from 2016... blaming Sanders for Hillary's loss.

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  10. Wow, lol, hahahhahahha. This is hilarious Stan, you don't understand or feel something so it must not exist, or doesn't make sense?

    Do something for me, go into any retail space and count how many disheveled hair, poorly clothed, "alternative" aka full sleeve tattoo, gauged ear people of color are working there. I can almost guarantee the number is zero. Do you know why? Unlikely you'd be in a store where you'd find such a person (it'd be somewhere deep in the 'hood)

    To be in just about any professional establishment, people of color have to "clean" "well-dressed" "presentable", even cultural differences about what may be ok like male diamond earrings are frowned upon. This is life, it's pervasive and it happens whether people are meaning to or not, "racist" or not.

    Conversely, in these same stores you will see "Bernie", mussed up hair, poorly dressed, slovenly at times. The fact he can even make it so far without getting a real haircut (or comb?) speaks to this privilege. There are no VICTIMS, it's just pointing out the reality. You'd never ever ever see a Don King haired politician, the very thought probably makes you laugh. Everyone please step off your horse and be careful, it may be higher than you realize.

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  11. As per the comments that he was just dressing warm and any sort of formal dress would be too cold and just unreasonable, technology is amazing when it comes to cold gear. Never heard of thinsulate? And if this is the case then where is his hat?

    One personal story, local place of business had a "Bernie" working there that straight scared me. Horribly dressed in store-issued clothes somehow, never did his hair, facial stubble out of control, crazy colors in head hair and facial hair. All I had to do was look at his coworker of color and say "must be nice" and he laughed and said "yup!" - There is absolutely no way this young black man would have/keep his job with such d├ęcor.

    It is what it is. POC with undone hair is crazy or dangerous, others can be merely "quirky" with the same. Sorry for the late night stream of consciousness response.

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  12. What I saw was a man, half a generation older than me, that does not have the sense to wear a hat on a windy and cold day. I would expect someone who resides in Vermont to have more sense.

    Thank you to Ingrid Seyer-Ochi for demonstrating the way to become more united, which has been President Biden's theme in the months leading to his election and inauguration.

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    1. "As Joe Biden was sworn in at 11:50 a.m. as the 46th president, the temperature in Washington was 42 degrees with mostly cloudy skies, based on conditions observed at noon at Reagan National Airport. A brisk wind from the northwest was sustained at 20 mph, gusting to 28 mph, producing a wind chill at 33 degrees."

      Whether that is cold enough to require a hat depends on whether or not you're in the wind - and what the reference standard for "cold" is where you normally live.

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  13. Seems to me it has a little more to do with celebrity privilege than white privelege. There are probably some celebrity POC that could show up to an inauguration wearing less formal attire and it would be equally acceptable.

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  14. Maybe try picturing someone else in his place. Imagine of Obama had shown up dressed like that, sitting like that. What if Pelosi had shown up in a puffy coat and giant mittens? You know the outcry that would have ensued. Obama was vilified for wearing a tan suit. Michelle was vilified for showing her upper arms. You honestly don't think that if Obama had shown up wearing that jacket he would have been ripped on every media medium for being disrespect to his old friend?? He absolutely would have. The fact that Bernie was not is privilege. Privilege because he obviously never had to think about it. Privilege is the ability not to care.

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  15. Silverback white privilege here. In [1980s] grad school one of my mentors advised that you turn up to a job interview in a jacket and tie to indicate that you give-a-shit enough about the job to jump through that conventional hoop. It was that much of a mark of respect for the situation. When I graduated to my first job I ironed a clean shirt every day until I realised that the star young professor came to work in a comfy favorite sweater that was unravelled to the armpit on one side. On apparel-power, a pal sent a report about what Jill Biden was wearing at the inaug-ball and I sourly asked what Joe was wearing - it not being an issue for The Man.

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  16. I think there are examples of white privilege all over the place, but this isn't one of them. I just see an old guy who dressed sensibly for the weather and is social distancing for safety because we're in the middle of a freaking pandemic.

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  17. In that screenshot up above, Bernie looks to be dressed in a similar fashion to everyone else. I think the dress "requirements" are different for those in the audience as opposed to those on the stage.

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  18. Brand aside, I can buy a puffy coat at TJ Max for $59.99 and spend the rest of my day worrying about children of color who are struggling to adjust to the virtual classroom in an education system funded by local taxes, American police policy resulting in wholesale slaughter of people of color, a profoundly unequal representation of the population in congress, education and healthcare funding being eclipsed by military needs, persistent draconian drug laws, a lack of mental health services, racism in medicine, the anti-choice agenda, white nationalists in positions of power, the anti-science agenda in American education and governance, the housing crisis in many American cities, Rand Paul's outfits, Mitch McConnell's outfits, the cost of Donald Trump's lifetime secret service detail, the Q Shaman's organic diet, that one insurrectionist's Mexican vacation, and then maybe Bernie Sanders' puffy coat.

    And yes, I've read the comments, and yes, I'm white, and male, and educated. And you know what? I have just as much a right to discuss and decide what is racist and representative of white privilege as anyone - because racism is a social phenomenon not bound to any one characteristic of people - a characteristic of the population, not of one group - a solution that needs everyone's involvement and not the appointment of arbiters of racism chosen from the ranks of the oppressed.

    And you know what? Bernie's outfit *IS* representative of white privilege. So is my car, and the education that got me the job that allows me to afford it. So is the desktop computer on which I type, even though I'm not rich. It's important to note where privilege exists - and it exists everywhere, but if the Bernie memes are really that painful to encounter, I recommend that you don't leave the house, because there's a lot more where that came from.

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  19. I looked forward to each new shopped photo of the man who should have been president this year and four years ago. They were funny and germane.
    I wish he hadn't forgotten a hat.
    Was he invited to the "stage?"
    I am white and have a new coat, but I feed the cows in a 50 year old synthetic fiber car coat well duct taped.
    If folks want to squawk "white privilege," better find someone else.

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  20. Discussions of privilege tend toward hot takes and needless offense so maybe I am walking into a minefield here, but the most generous interpretation is, as noted above, that a politician of color wouldn't become an internet celebrity for dressing in an entirely reasonable but informal way, they would be more likely to have been embroiled in a tan suit style controversy. Politicians of color have their behavior and dress more strictly policed by society and the media.

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  21. Perfect example of just how toxic identity politics can be. Anyway, compare Sander's net worth with Jennifer Lopez, woman of color who sang the signature song of a poor white American labor organizer. Dems are in deep trouble with this identity tangent.

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  22. So reading through some of these comments, I'm not sure anyone has really nailed down what is trying to be expressed here in terms of privilege.

    The privilege is that he can wear what APPEARS to be a less than distinguished sub-formal attire and not only "get away with it" in terms of not being castigated for being inappropriately dressed, but celebrated for it. When I say inappropriately dressed, I mean that this is a formal occasion that demands (whether sensibly or not) formal attire. See here: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/latest/a35257486/michelle-obama-outfit-biden-inauguration-2021/ This is how Obama dressed for the occasion. Imagine if Obama had worn an appropriately thick PARKA for the occasion instead of a formal outercoat. He would be warmer, but also perhaps criticized for appearing to be "thuggish." Parkas and African Americans are synonymous with the two.

    #12 of Peggy McIntosh's "unpacking the invisible knapsack" essay alludes to this: I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race. This isn't a case of dressing in second-hand clothes, but rather not dressing "appropriately" for the occasion. Being able to dress as Bernie without having to worry about how this would reflect on Black people, is a privilege. We don't look at Bernie and think that this is a reflection of how white people act, or old people act. It's just Bernie. It reflects ONLY him. Whereas the Obamas have much more riding on their appearance. It reflects the "Successful Black America" not just Barack and Michelle.

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    1. Thank you. I have been watching this post for a well articulated explanation and I appreciate what you offered.

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