Recently, I was labelled in a post by an age-old high school pal, asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel obligated not only to publish his query but likewise my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than only a handful of folks on Facebook.
Here’s his post:
To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “White Privilege” of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully set myself in the shoes of someone from a background/ race/ belief/ gender/ nationality/ torso form that differs from my own induces me part of their own problems, according to what I’m now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life( as far as I know ), I’m somehow complicit in the misadventure of others. I’m not saying I’m colorblind, but whatever racism/ sexism/ other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not showed in accordance with the rules I treat others( which is not the case with far too many, I know ). em > strong>
So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I necessity people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I merely want to understand( but not from the media ). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone . em > strong>
Here’s my reaction:
Hi, J. First off, I hope you don’t intellect that I’ve quoted your positions and induced it part of mine. I envision the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I imagine my response necessity much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time see.
Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/ racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime, In reality, I merely spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday, because I recognized many of my friends especially the white ones had not yet been idea what I’ve experienced/ dealt with unless they were present( and aware) when it passed.
There are two reasons for this:
1) Not only as a human being do I repress the painful and uncomfortable in an attempt to make it go forth, I was also taught within my community( I was raised in the’ 70 s and’ 80 s it’s changed somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out or rock the boat. To just “deal with it, ” lest more difficulty follow( which sadly, it often does ).
2) Fear of being questioned or rejected with “Are you sure that’s what you heard? ” or “Are you sure that’s what they signify? ” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning-but-hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.
So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I truly want to answer. But as I do, please know a few cases things first:
1) This is not even close to the whole listing. I’m cherrypicking because none of us have all day.
2) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have suffered.
3) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “Where did all of this “re coming out”? ” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or dark-brown person living in America today regardless of wealth or possibility.
4) Some of what I share covers sexism, too intersectionality is another term I’m sure you’ve hear and wishes to threw quotes around, but it’s a real thing, too, just like white privilege. But you’ve requested a focus on its own experience with racism, so here it moves:
1. When I was 3, my family moved into an upper-middle class, all-white neighborhood to be closer to my Dad’s new undertaking. We had a big backyard, so my mothers constructed a pond. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood sons started throwing stones into. White boys.
One day my mom ID’d one as the son from across the street, went to his home, told his mother and fortunately, his mother belief mine. My mama not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pond and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that.
Then Mom a primary school teacher and ever the lecturer even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked permission. Everyone became pals. This one has a happy purposing because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that the white privilege in this situation is < strong> being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hatred . strong>
2. When my older sister was 5, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant but in her intestine, she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d considered my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some sons verbally assaulted his daughter and gotten away with it, it had way too early introduced her( and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant: that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s impressions just because of our skin color. Or our achievement.
If it’s unclear in any way, the level here is if you’ve NEVER had a defining moment in your childhood or their own lives where you recognise your skin color alone stimulates other people dislike you, you have white privilege .
3. Sophomore time of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Some day within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So, I doubt it will surprise you I was alleviated when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester.
The point here is ,< strong> if you’ve never been “the only one” of your race in a class, at “states parties “, on a occupation, etc. and/ or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation, you have white privilege . strong>
4. When we started getting our college adoptions senior year, I remember some white male classmates pissed that another black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t exhibition. An actual pal of theirs. Who’d operated his ass off.
The point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving objective of the assumption that when you’ve < strong> achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it, ” < strong> that is white privilege .
5. When I got accepted to Harvard( as a fellow AP student you were witness to what an academic animal I was in high school, yes ?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day.
The first was the white physician giving me a physical at Kaiser:
Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.”
Doctor: “Where are you going? ”
Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts? ”
The second was in a storage, go looking for supplyings I needed from Harvard’s recommended “what to bringing with you” listing:
Store employee: “Where are you going? ”
Store employee: “You entail the one in Massachusetts? ”
The third was at UPS, shipping off containers of mentioned “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white son mailing containers to Princeton and in front of a white female mailing her child’s containers to wherever:
Woman, to the son: “What college are you going to? ”
Woman: “Congratulations! ”
Woman, to me: “Where are you sending your containers? ”
Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts? ”
I think: “No bitch, the one downtown next to the liquor store.”
But I mention, gesturing to my LABELED boxes: “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.”
Then she mentions congratulations but it’s too fucking late.
The point here is ,< strong> if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, that is white privilege . strong>
6. In my freshman college tutorial, our small group of 4-5 was assigned to read Thoreau, Emerson, Malcolm X, Joseph Conrad, Dreiser, etc. When it was the week to discuss The Autobiography of Malcolm X , one white boy boldly claimed he couldn’t even get through it because he couldn’t associate and didn’t think he should be forced to read it. I don’t remember the words I mentioned, but I still recollect the sentiment I think it’s what physicians refer to as “chandelier pain” as soon as a sensitive region on a patient is touched, they shoot through the roof. That’s what I felt.
I know I said something like my whole life I’ve had to read “things that don’t “ve got something to” do with me or that I relate to” but I find a way anyway because that’s what reading is about trying to understand other people’s perspectives.
The point here is, the canon of literature studied in the United States, as well as the majority of members of television and movies, have focused primarily on the works or accomplishments of white men. So if you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/ was/ could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media, that is white privilege.
7. All seniors at Harvard are invited to a fancy, seated group lunch with our respective dormitory Masters.( Yes, the latter are called “Masters” up until this February when they changed it to “Faculty Dean, ” but that’s merely a yummy little side bowl to the main course of this recollection ). While we were being served by the Dunster House cafeteria personnel the black dames from Haiti and Boston that operated the line daily; I still remember Jackie’s kindness and warmth to this day Master Sally mused out loud how proud they must be to be servicing of the nation’s most effective and efficient. I don’t know if they heard her, but I did and it constructed me uncomfortable and sick.
The point here is ,< strong> if you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a dinner by a well-paid faculty member’s patronize and racist assumptions about how grateful black people must seem to be in their presence, you have white privilege .
8. While writing on a television show in my 30 s, my new white male boss who had only known me for a few cases periods had unbeknownst to me told another novelist on personnel he imagined I was conceited, didn’t know as much I reckoned I did, and didn’t have the talent I reckoned I had. And what exactly had happened in those few days? I disagreed with a pitch where he indicated our lead female character carelessly leave a jackpot holder on the stove and burn down her apartment. This character being a professional caterer.
When what he said about me was disclosed months later( by then he’d come to respect and rely on me ), he apologized for prejudging me because I was black and female. I told him( not unkindly, but with a psyche shake and a smile) that he was ignorant for doing so and clear had a lot to discover. It was a good talk because he was remorseful and open.
But the phase here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving aim of a boss’s prejudiced, uninformed “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege . strong>
9. On my very first date with my now husband, I climbed into his car and ensure baby wipes on the passenger side storey. He said he didn’t have kids, they were just there to clean up messes in the car. I twisted to fasten my seatbelt and assured a stuffed animal in the rear window. I committed him a appear. He mentioned “I promise, I don’t have kids. That’s only there so I don’t get stopped by the police.”
He then told me that when he drove home from work late at night, he was get stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car, and they assumed it was either pilfer or he was a drug dealer. When he told a cop friend about this, he told Warren to throw a stuffed animal in the rear window because it would change “his profile” to that of a family man and he was much less likely to be stopped.
The point here is, if you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared, stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the policemen on the way home from your gainful employment( or never had a first date start this style ), you have white privilege . strong>
10. Six years ago, I started a Facebook page that has grown into a website called Good Black News because I was shocked to find there were no websites dedicated alone to publishing the positive things black people do.
And let me be explained how biased the coverage of mainstream media is in case you don’t already have a clue as I curate, I can’t say to you how often I have to swap out a story’s photo to make it as positive as the content. Photos published of black folks in mainstream media are very often sullen or angry-looking. Even when it’s a positive narrative!
I likewise have to constantly alter headlines to 1) include a person’s epithet and not have it only be “Black Man Wins Settlement” or “Carnegie Hall Get 1st Black Board Member” or 2) rephrase it from a subtle subjugator like “ABC taps Viola Davis as Series Lead” to “Viola Davis Lands Lead on ABC Show” as is done for tell, Jennifer Aniston or Steven Spielberg.
I also receive a fair amount of highly offensive racist trolling. I don’t even answer. I block and delete ASAP.
The point here is ,< strong> not having to rewrite stories, headlines or barter photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share narratives of hope and achievement and justice, that is white privilege . strong>
Okay, J, there’s more but I’m exhausted. And my children require dinner. Remembering and reliving many of these minutes has been a stres and a drain( and again, this ain’t even the half or the worst of it ). But I hope my experiences shed some illumination for you on how institutional and personal racism have affected the entire life of a pal of yours to whom you’ve only been respectful and kind.
I hope what I’ve shared makes you recognize it’s not just strangers but people you know and care for who have suffered and are suffering because we are excluded from the privilege you were supposed to not be judged, questioned or assaulted in any way because of your race.
As to you “being part of the problem, ” trust me , nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. Just like nobody should be mad at me for being black. Or female. Or whatever. But what IS being asked of you is to acknowledge that white privilege DOES exist and to not only to treat people of races that differ from yours “with respect and humor, ” but also to stand up for fair treatment and justice, to not let “jokes” or “off-color” comments by pals, co-workers or household slide by without challenge, and to continually make an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so we may all cherish and respect our unique and special contributions to society as much as we do our common ground.
With much adoration and respect,
A version of this post originally appeared on goodblacknews.org