I have been thinking about this blog for some time. I decided to put some of my thoughts down after I spoke with a dear friend. For the purpose of this title and discussion, I will use White and Black to identify the races.
I ask that, you, the reader, expand your mind and thinking. I believe when a person thinks beyond their comfortable sphere, one is able to appreciate diversity for its beauty. Additionally, I believe when one takes an introspective journey to recognize his or her own privilege, one becomes transcended and one’s soul is cleansed.
What is White privilege? I did some research. Looked all over. Sounds corny, but honestly, I Googled what is White Privilege. I strongly suggest that each reader do their own homework and if there is something I missed, please add so I can learn.
I thought this writer did an excellent job of providing some foundation to the understanding of white privilege. There are others. Whichever source one uses, it seems to me that the most common understanding of White privilege is this definition.
White privilege is a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country. Source.
I like that definition and most of the other definitions allude to the same conclusion.
During a recent conversation, a friend of mine, a white woman, acknowledged that she has a lot of privileges. She went on to say that her children, all white, have no idea about how much privilege they have. She indicated that she will teach them eventually and that she is so blessed to be privileged compared to what I have to go through on a daily basis.
This conversation with my friend struck a chord and I decided to share it with my readers. I want some readers to take that internal trip. Look inside your hearts and souls. By doing so, I believe your disagreement will be well founded. Looking within yourself might cause you to feel guilty and if you feel guilty, you might miss the point of this dialog.
I responded to my dear friend that she has every right to feel what she felt. At the same time, I didn’t think she should feel this way because I know her to be one of the biggest allies on the planet. As a White woman, she advocates for the weak, poor, and the not so fortunate, to have what she has.
I assured her that if most of those with White privilege did what she did, advocate for the poor and weak, give back to those communities in ways the offer them hope, and continue her life’s work, the world would be a better place. Of course, being the modest friend that she is, she said “thank you, but…”
Consider these scenarios and questions:
Imagine if every time a Black person went to the store and was being followed, a White customer who notices that intervene and set the store clerk, another White person straight. How do you think the shopping experience for all would be different?
Imagine you are a police officer and your partner profiles a Black driver and you disagree with your partner. What do you think police killing of Black men would look like?
Imagine you are a White person at a bank applying for a loan and you overheard a Black person is turned down for a loan. Clearly, from what you had been hearing, it is obvious to you that the Black person applying for the loan is more qualified than you are. Imagine if, based on what you heard, you decided to talk to the bank manager about how disgusted you are that a Black man is denied a loan. What do you think will happen to qualified Blacks who apply for loans for some of the same reasons Whites use loan funds for?
Imagine you are a manager and you have a White supervisor that tends to throw out applications that have names that sound Black, even though he or she is qualified. Imagine you intervene to make sure that that applicant is interviewed?
Imagine in the same situation you overheard that the supervisor wanted to hire the Black applicant because they are Black, a token, and not because they are qualified. But you, a White staff told your supervisor that is not right because you believe that Black person should be hired on merit. Can you imagine working next to an intelligent Black person with skills as supposed to being hired based on their color?
Imagine if this whole idea, White privilege was non-existent. Imagine a level playing field for all humans. Imagine if Black Wall Street was still standing today.
Imagine that every person with White privilege used their privilege to do the right thing. Some of the right things such as ensuring that everything enjoyed within White privilege is enjoyed by all. Just imagine using that power to make things right for others.
As someone with White privilege, I am asking you to take that internal road trip – it’s an attitude analysis. Check your attitude about everything that is happening around you. Try to see how it is impacting all of us psychologically and emotionally.
I don’t profess to say that it is an easy journey. I am not pretending that it is simple. I am not ignorant to the possible fear of seeing a certain uncomfortable truth. I am sure of one thing, saying nothing, doing nothing, and watching the world around us fall apart because we chose to remain silent, impacts everyone, Whites, and Blacks.
Look at the economic crisis that is happening around the world. Clearly Black people cannot be blamed for any of it. To place blame on Blacks for the economic crisis in Puerto Rico and Greece, is to ignore the fact that our leadership, the ruling elite, are White, with privilege, access to wealth, and access to call out some bad apples within. Those same elite rulers have the ability to share and spread the wealth, potentially avoiding the crisis.
The short sighted idea is that we should not call out those with White privilege that can bring about positive change by sharing the privilege. The long-term impact, is that families of the same White privileged folks that chose to remain silent, will feel the pain.
For example, I recently read a report about the lynching of Blacks. I am positive that some bystanders with White privilege could have said something to put a stop to those barbaric acts. For whatever reason, they didn’t. Some of those reasons may be comparable to reasons why Whites with privilege today are not stepping up to share the wealth.
Today, bystanders’ children are caught in a spiral of hate and we stand about wondering how that happened. It happened because we failed to speak up to the injustice done to Blacks by those with White privilege. The same failure to speak up now could be a sign that we have not really learned from our history.
I have read and continue to read much about White privilege, the history of ruling classes, the history of classism, elitism, oppression, slavery, and White privilege, and note that the continued pattern is our own doing. As Pogo puts it, “we have met the enemy and it is us.”
At the end of the day, my dear friend is a White woman, she acknowledge her privilege, she realizes that her children, all young, may not know the world they will grow up into, and is willing to teach them about their privilege and how to use it for good cause. I thought I would share this with the rest of the world and call out to leadership, White privileged leaders to sincerely look to history, use your privileges to make a difference, and bring about positive change.
I should let you know now that my dear friend is a Deaf White woman. Take note and imagine how she acknowledged that even though she is Deaf, she is White and has privilege. She said, “my children are privileged because they have access to communication that other Deaf and Hearing children do not.” By this she means her children’s primary language is American Sign Language.
Her 2-year-old reads and writes at the 4th-grade level. The kid is a whiz, like mom. The apple did not fall far from the tree.
My friend is an advocate of Deaf people. She blogs about injustice toward Deaf people and people with Disabilities. She fights for justice for people with Disabilities with a strong focus of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She uses her privilege to teach others to take notice of attitudes toward Deaf people that hurt our population.
I am proud of her because she is using her acknowledgment of White privilege to connect Deaf and Hearing worlds. I believe those with the same power, White privilege, can do the same, use their privilege to connect the world in a positive way to bring about positive change.
The real question is will they? Will you?