Bob Filner Taught Us About White Privilege

Bob Filner Taught Us About White Privilege

Bob Filner is a classic white supremacist

Privilege comes in many forms. It is usually a distinction favoring those of a certain race, economic status or education. The line designating privilege may occasionally become blurred, but it only requires a scenario as bizarre as the one playing out in San Diego around Bob Filner to remind us that we are very much a culture of haves and have-nots.

With a sizable portion of the population believing that justice was not upheld in the case of George Zimmerman, we have begun to examine the boundaries of division in this country, but we are using examples of race-against-race crime to shape and drive our discussion. However, the example of Filner in San Diego is a much stronger indicator of the deepening chasm among gender, race and education in the United States.

More than 18 women have accused Filner of sexual harassment. His accusers include a psychologist, military members and those who worked for and were ultimately beholden to him for their livelihoods. Untold numbers more could still be out there. When considering the frenzy that has been visited upon San Diego’s City Hall, it becomes easy to understand why a woman wronged by Filner might choose to stay in the shadows at this point, rather than facing public scrutiny or a media firestorm. In light of that, the tremendous effort required on the part of the women, who have come forward, is nothing short of remarkable.


In fact, it is a feat only matched in remarkableness by Filner’s stupefying arrogance in his refusal to step down from office in the face of the charges levied against him.

Filner’s actions wreak of desperation and are symptomatic of the same cowardice demonstrated by despots and dictators faced with insurrection. Oftentimes, the selfishness that has been there all along takes hold. A very rapid, public and sometimes violent upheaval soon follows.

His current situation is not the result of one single instance of privilege. Rather it is the last stop on a long line of privilege that has been doled out over a lifetime. A man who is broken and thoroughly disgraced bewilderingly clings to an inflated sense of entitlement, and we wonder why.

It is because the privilege we grant to educated white males in positions of power perpetuates this. It fosters an environment of acceptance around Filner’s buffoonish behavior, and it ultimately drives his victims to stay silent, convincing them that their accusations will not be heard.

The past five weeks of hand-wringing by the press, Filner’s misguided attempts at redemption and the general arrogance he displays amid mounting calls for his resignation proves those women right.


Now Filner claims the ultimate prize; getting to leave office on his own terms.

For decades, Bob Filner’s political career, the world’s longest Benny Hill skit, had been allowed to continue. Being white and male gave him leeway beyond the status afforded to him by the power of the offices he held first as Congressman Filner, then as Mayor Filner. Like two Jeep owners passing one another in a subdivision, he was given the proverbial white guy head nod. Given the assurance, “You’re awesome. Keep on truckin’.”

His constituents, supporters and advocates in the press would not have tolerated this behavior from a Filner doppelganger of color or of the female persuasion. Frankly, we would have thrown in the collective towel a very long time ago.

Calls for his resignation would have been unyielding and merciless.

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