Whenever there are discussions about fighting white supremacy and white privilege, it inevitably circles around to the main hindrance to change — being comfortable. White people favor their comfort to the degree that they will sacrifice the rights and lives of anyone so long as they can remain comfortable. Now is this part and parcel of white people — yes.
However, for those of us raised in colonized countries or even influenced by the hype of “white society”, we all favor our comfort over someone’s life.
It’s a hard truth and painful to admit but it is still truth. This “white comfort” we participate in to impacts marginalized groups and increases the longevity of white supremacy and privilege.
Don’t believe it. Let’s look at a couple of companies you’ve likely heard of that need to change, and we still support them or know people who support them. This will be the equivalent of that conversation about race with white people i.e. “white comfort”.
You may get defensive. You may justify why you are favoring your comfort. But this is not an attack. It is an observation.
Let’s look at two instances where Amazon fails miserably.
Amazon, headed by Jeff Bezos, routinely advertises on alt-right sites such as Breitbart (a site spouting ridiculous conspiracies as well as a champion of white supremacy). While many other advertisers on Breitbart felt the heat from people threatening boycotts, Amazon remains unmoved.
They’re even promoting (on Amazon Prime) a comedy special from Owen Benjamin who jokingly tweeted that though he is “against slavery” he “kind of want[s] it[slavery] to come back”. He’s also attacked David Hogg, Parkland survivor, telling him to “enjoy gay college”.
And yet, if you were to google his name right now, his Amazon Prime videos are the first things to come up.
Next, Amazon is on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s 2018 “Dirty Dozen” list. This list is for the worst companies regarding mistreatment such as racism, sexism, assault and severe, unsafe work conditions that can result in death.
Employees at Amazon factories — where they’re pressured to package about 400 items an hour — have been forced to pee in trash bins, work in the factory in 115 degrees and in other hazardous conditions. People have been injured because the necessary safety guards were not in place and Amazon would then deny them workers compensation and even fire them.
For people who are drivers — through third parties — for Amazon, it’s not any better. Because of Amazon’s guarantee delivery and the amount of packages one truck has to deliver, drivers often run lights, are forced to go to the bathroom in the trucks, and are shamed into working while injured. All so those packages reach you on time.
And, despite Jeff Bezos being the richest man in the world, his employees are not paid much, work without necessary safeguards and pressured to adhere to time constraints to a degree that further damages them physically and mentally.
Yet many of us continue to order through Amazon — favoring our comfort and accessibility over the lives of people. That is “white comfort”.
Apple’s first quarter for 2019 (that includes the holiday sales from the end of 2018) was $84.3 billion. They, like Amazon, have more than enough to pay their employees a fair wage as well as provide them with a safe work environment.
However, Apple suppliers — who make the components who make up their products, don’t always provide these humane conditions.
Workers in factories, for example Catcher Technology in China, make parts for Apple products like the I-Phone. They are paid under $2 per hour, stand working for hours, are not allowed to turn down overtime and, again, are not given proper gear (mask, goggles, gloves, etc.) when dealing with dangerous chemicals.
They are given paper masks, which provide little protection, and cotton gloves that allows oils they use to make parts to soak into their gloves and irritate their skin. The noise from making the parts are so loud that — since they don’t have protection for their ears either — it can lead to hearing damage.
If the employee tries to quit, they’re told they won’t receive their pay for the hours they’ve already worked.
Granted, this is not Apple’s company, but it is their supplier and they are doing little to put pressure on companies like Catcher Technology to change their inhumane practices. If an NYU student easily went undercover at one of the these companies to see how employees were treated, Apple could do the same.
But they don’t and we still continue to purchase their products — for ourselves and/or for loved ones. Again, we place our need for the latest phone above human life.
When we are confronted with this information and are asked to take a stand and tell other people to take a stand, we fall back on traditional “white” excuses.
“Well, the Apple workers aren’t in the US, so it’s not really my problem.” Or “it’s not my people suffering.” These are some of the most dangerous statements. Inhumane treatment, like racism, is everyone’s problem because it isn’t and never will be an isolated incident, and denying/allowing it helps it to grow and spread.
“I’m only one person, they’re not going to change for me.” You’re right. But if someone is talking to you about taking a stand, then it’s two people. If you decide to take a stand and talk to people as well, it will become three and so on. Tackling a problem this size, like racism, depends on numbers and conviction. Basically, what are you willing to sacrifice to make life better for everyone?
If everyone decided, for one week maybe even just a day, to not buy Amazon or Apple products, we would see action on their part. With companies of this size — where the millions are usually given to the few at the top — you have to hurt their bottom line to the degree that those people at the top are affected.
These are not the only companies, just examples of some of the biggest. Also, tackling a problem this size, like racism, depends on numbers and conviction. Basically, how strong are your convictions and…
What are you willing to sacrifice to make life better for everyone?