Dilbert cartoonist doesn’t understand white, class privilege

I’m not the one who readily ventures into the world of the entertainment industry and what “news” celebrities are making nowadays. I rarely write about celebrities and their latest gaffes, wardrobe malfunctions, how many children they have and what crime they’ve been arrested for.

I typically bump into interesting shenanigans celebrities are up to on more serious websites. That was the case tonight when I checked out theRoot’s website and saw anarticle that discussed Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams’ criticism of Keli Goff. Adams’ goes on a tirade against Goff, who criticized Gwyneth Paltrow for arrogantlyproclaiming “working her ass off” (and not her privileged lifestyle) got her to where she is today.

I couldn’t resist this big mess of contradictions and ignorance…

From Popeater.com:

Interviewer: So, there is a contingent of people who are for some reason irritated by you. Do you know what I’m talking about?

GP: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Why do you think that is? I have my theory, but I’ll say afterward.GP: My theory is twofold. I think there’s a part of me that because I think I do a lot, I think my work ethic is the reason why I’m successful. I think that a lot of people don’t want to put in effort and it’s easier to not change, not do something good for you, not work on your relationship, not make yourself a meal, not work out. [They’re just] pissed off at someone else doing that. Everything in my life that’s good is because I worked my ass off to get it and to maintain it. I also think, for example, like Mario Batali used to make fun of me all the time if I had soy milk in my coffee or if I was doing a cleanse or something. He used to grill me like, “Oh what are we eating? Squeezed out asparagus and seaweed?” And now he’s the one doing a cleanse and having almond milk. I think people mistake me trying to be the best version of myself for me telling them you’re not, or they just think well, what does that make me then, you annoying f**king person on the soapbox. But I can’t please everybody, all I can do is focus on the people who seem to appreciate what I do and put into the world. I’ll just do what I’m doing because, especially now, we live in a world now where everybody is able to express their opinion.  

Interviewer: And anonymously.

GP:Yeah, which almost sort of rules out the opinion. If everyone has an opinion then no one has an opinion. Ultimately, it’s not about me.

Interviewer: It’s about themselves.

GP: Exactly. It’s a projection. Sometimes if I hear of something really unkind or somebody’s really misunderstood me or something like that for a second I’ll be like, “Oooh wow that hurt,” but almost immediately I’ll be like, “poor guy.” What state are they in that they’re seeing that or projecting that.

Interviewer: Can we talk about…?

GP: What’s your theory?

Interviewer: Oh, that people are jealous. I know I’m going to sound like a suck up, but you’re gorgeous, have a great career, two beautiful children, married to a big rock star. It all looks so effortless. You’re well spoken. It just rubs people the wrong way. You look perfect.

GP: It’s funny because I’m so not. Of course, some of it is luck. My parents had money and they sent me to a good school, but it’s like, what do you choose to do with that? You can rely on that and not do anything with it or you can say, “How am I going to justify that good fortune? How am I going to say my parents didn’t waste their money on me?” I just think I’m really all about hard work and I honestly feel like anyone can have or do what they want as long as they put their mind to it.

I’m going to ignore the obvious brown nosing the “reporter” was engaging in. It was sickening to read such pandering. I know that type of journalism (and I use that very liberally) is rampant in entertainment media, but it’s just disgusting to see it in writing.

As an aside, Paltrow has been baptized in the waters of white and class privilege with her outlook on life. Her patronizing view of life is nothing short of what those with wealth continue to preach to those who don’t have a dime to their names: they, too, can and will lead a prosperous life if they just work their asses off. No matter what their racial, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin may be, everyone in America (if they adhere to the capitalist constructs of hard work and individualism) has a chance to succeed if they just focus really hard on what they want.

Goff, however, took it further and so eloquently broke down the subliminal message behind Paltrow’s comments:

Let me start by saying that I happen to be someone who does not hate Gwyneth Paltrow or “GOOP”(whatever that is). I think she’s pretty and talented, and on a side note her Oscar gown this year happened to be one of my favorites, but this interview finally made me understand why she engenders such enmity among so many. It’s not because she’s pretty and talented (okay, that may be part of it). It’s because, like a lot of privileged people, she’s under the delusion that she earned everything that she has, and then has the audacity to gloat about it. 

In an age in which America’s class-divide is greater than it’s ever been, our patience has simply waned for the George W. Bushes and Gwyneth PaltrowsAnd there’s something infuriating about listening to people born into the Dream — silver rattle in one hand, silver spoon in the other — lecture the rest of us on how easy it is to obtain — if we’re just willing to “work our asses off” like they do

As I noted on The Dylan Ratigan Show, Gwyneth, for instance, was born to Hollywood royalty. Her father Bruce was one of television’s most legendary directors of shows like St. Elsewhere and her mother is the acclaimed actress Blythe Danner. I’ve heard nothing but great things about her family — a rarity in Hollywood — and I think it’s wonderful that she was so fortunate to have that. But when you credit landing one of your first film roles to “your Uncle Steven,” as in Steven Spielberg, who directed a young Gwyneth in Hook, you have officially relinquished the right to say that “Everything in my life that’s good is because I worked my ass off to get it.” 

Goff does an excellent job by explaining how Paltrow’s comments are part of the problem of a well-to-do person giving themselves a pat on the back without clearly examining how a system set up by their people to benefit their people is rigged in their favor.

In an attempt to drum up his fan base, Adams criticizes Goff as just another writer who trumps up stories to bolster her resume and reputation. Then, like many white men who like to downplay or outright deny the existence of privilege, he goes in for the kill:

It’s worth noting, in the interest of context, that Goff was born with a few advantages herself. She’s beautiful, smart, and apparently had the resources she needed to make it through NYU and go on to get her Master’s Degree at Columbia University. If you ask Goff what made her successful, would she credit her hard work and leave out her other obvious advantages? Or would she answer honestly and say, “I’ve worked hard for what I’ve achieved, but it didn’t hurt that I’m a brilliant, smoking-hot African-American woman in 2011. I’m just saying that people don’t generally talk about their advantages. To do so would be…wait for it…gloating.

Adam’s blog entry is a big ol’ mess. He tries to use a little bit of humor, but he comes off more like an arrogant jerk who basically hasn’t a clue on what he’s talking about.

In his attempt to discredit Goff’s analysis, Adams cleverly points out what he perceives to be Goff’s advantages: being a “beautiful” black woman in the post-racial age of the Barack Obama presidency. The problem with Adams’ opinion is he leverages his white privilege to dismiss the credibility of Goff, a black woman, and her argument. He casually alludes to Goff’s “advantage” as being a black woman in the era of America having a black president as if she is on the same playing field as the likes of Paltrow and himself. White and class privilege allows those in power to view society through a one dimensional lens that blinds them of that system’s inequality because they’ve never had to live life through the eyes of the oppressed or navigate their lives around a system designed to keep them as second class citizens.

This dismissal and projection is a common side step done by those who refuse to confront–and question–how the class and white privilege system has benefited and carried them throughout their life. Proponents and advocates of the class and white privilege system often are in denial as to how much this privilege plays in their advancement. It often shakes them to their core whenever they realize that perhaps their privilege had more to do with their success than hard work and persistence.

What Adams fails to realize is Goff is inherently at a disadvantage because of the white and class privilege system he and Paltrow continue to uphold and impose upon The Others. Goff has no advantage as a “smoking hot African-American in 2011 as the Paltrows and the Adamses of the world continue to pull the strings on the glorification and acceptance of whiteness at the expense of the poor and minorities. The Paltrows and the Adamses of the world continue to condescendingly promote their obedience to capitalist tenants–hard work, individualism, liberty–as mechanisms on how they became yet another American success story.

Adams clearly is not interested in examining the system of white and class privilege and how he and Paltrow benefits from wielding power granted from the system as a reminder to the poor and minorities of their second class status. He is uninterested in understanding how he effortlessly utilized his white privilege to dismiss Goff as essentially another whiny, over privileged black woman who probably got into NYU on the basis of affirmative action.
The cartoonist is only interested in protecting what he’s rightfully earned and obtained in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Adams’ defense of Gwyneth Paltrow is not a defense of the actress; it’s a defense of the system he and Paltrow have a vested interest in preserving.