By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
There is some confusion over the term “white privilege.”
Apparently, quite a few white people are convinced that this term is hogwash, because upon birth they weren’t given a pot of gold and a new Firebird.
Simply because they’ve faced some hardships in life, they believe that that is clear and convincing proof that they have no more advantages in America than the average minority.
Of course, that’s not what the term white privilege means.
It’s not a force field that protects you. It’s more like a secret code that gets you better deals – on literally everything from bank loans and jobs to hassle-free shopping and not dying during routine traffic stops.
But maybe that’s too difficult, too arbitrary to understand. So, let’s try taking a look at white privilege in action in real life.
This week, APR’s Bill Britt broke a story about one of the Governor’s cabinet members continuing to receive a salary from the University of Alabama. Joanne Hale, who worked as a university professor, is still receiving a salary and benefits from UA despite serving on Bentley’s staff.
Such an arrangement would appear to be a direct violation of an Ethics Commission opinion issued last year that specifically addressed “loaned employees” from universities.
But then, questionable ethics is nothing new for UA. A 2015 al.com story noted the deep personal and financial ties between several UA trustees and Bryant Bank, owned by the son of former football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Seemingly half of the university’s leadership is associated with or on the board of the bank – a huge conflict of interest. Especially when one of the bank’s board members is the son of the Governor.
A few years ago, UA’s new president, Judy Bonner, with the trustees’ blessing, hired her brother, Jo, to a made-up gig paying him $350,000 annually. Jo Bonner’s resignation from the legislature to take the job also left State taxpayers on the hook for about $2 million for the special election to fill the seat.
Yet, nary a word of rebuke from the Governor and no real uproar among the people.
Across the state, on The Plains, there were similar conflict issues at Auburn University for years.
A recent State audit of AU found numerous issues from failing to report ethics laws violations to improper purchases to a DEA raid.
There’s also the small matter of a trustee, Jimmy Rane, being caught up in Mike Hubbard’s conviction on felony ethics charges.
In addition, since 2010, the school has endured a grades scandal that landed it on the front page of the New York Times, had several former football players appear on HBO to claim improper benefits and a year ago I wrote about a ticket scandal that bordered on outright fraud and embezzlement by the university’s top athletic department officials.
But again, not a peep from Robert Bentley.
Not even two years ago, when the UA trustees tried to kill UAB football, creating a huge public outcry, did Bentley even so much as attend a board meeting.
You know why?
Because he was busy attending board meetings at Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University and writing letters to those schools to demand financial records for petty nonsense.
While millions upon millions of dollars at Alabama, Auburn and UAB shuffled back and forth between the usual, white suspects, ASU and A&M were put under a microscope by Bentley for absurdly smalltime acts.
Bentley literally removed a trustee from ASU’s board over a conflict of interest issue that consisted entirely of the trustee’s daughter and son-in-law receiving a university contract for $5,000 over three years to supply blow-up “bouncy houses” for home football games.
I’m not making that up.
At A&M, Bentley sent letters demanding more information about whether the president paid taxes on a $3,000 per month housing stipend and whether the president’s chief of staff was improperly reimbursed for moving expenses.
At ASU, Bentley initiated a forensic investigation that has crippled the university, yet in more than four years has failed to produce even an allegation of a misdemeanor crime.
And public perception in this State went right along with Bentley.
ASU and A&M are run by crooks and thieves.
care run by businessmen making good deals for themselves.
That’s white privilege.
Although, you could call it by its other name: Good ol’ fashioned racism.