Hey guys, let’s get uncomfortable! Let’s talk about being white, having privilege, and the movement of Black Lives Matter.
If you're reading this and you're white, you have this little thing called “white privilege.” Hold on, chill, you don’t have to worry or feel guilty—it’s nothing you can control. However, it is something you should acknowledge, be aware of & attempt to understand. I think this is one of the biggest things that white people have trouble comprehending—they immediately take it personally as if it’s some sort of insult or guilt trip, then become defensive and try to act like it doesn’t exist. It does exist & you benefit from it everyday.
I’m at the top of the privilege pyramid: I’m white, male, and I grew up in the suburbs. The only thing that brings me down a few tick marks: I’m a redhead. Yes, I burn easily. No, I don’t have a primarily Irish heritage. Yes, I have a soul (or do I?), and yes, the carpet matches the drapes (I’ve never understood this one, is this not true for some of ya’ll?). Oh, and yes, I know I’m turning red, I can feel it & you pointing it out is only making me redder. Thanks.
So...What the hell is this so-called white privilege? White privilege is essentially the ability to go through life with relative ease, comfort, and freedom in almost all social and economic situations compared to people of color (POC). There’s many different levels of privilege (Google: intersectionality) but for the sake of simplicity, I’m just addressing the general concept of white privilege. Regardless of where you are in the economic ladder: if you are white, you still have an advantage, whether you realize it or not.
"I need examples, Andy, I still don’t believe you.” Ok, no problem. Here’s a couple questions to consider:
- Have you ever (truly) feared for your life when getting pulled over?
- Have you ever been pulled over for no reason?
- Have you ever been stopped by an officer and randomly searched while walking down the street?
- Has anyone said something like “You’re pretty/handsome for a (insert color of your skin) person.”?
- Has the hair that grows naturally out of your head been the center of unwanted attention? - Example 1, Example 2
- Have you been dismissed or feared over how your name sounds? - Example
If you’re white, I’m guessing most, if not all, of your answers were “No.” If you are a person of color, you probably said “Yes” to some, all, or at least could relate to some of those questions. I’m hoping this is a very basic demonstration to help (white) people understand what white privilege is. When you read those questions, you probably thought something like “why would that happen to me?” …let it sink in for a sec. Boom! You got it… that’s what white privilege is. We have the privilege of not dealing with these types of things. They are not present in our daily lives, this is what makes white privilege invisible to those it benefits the most…white people.
"OK, so what do you want me to do about it, Andy?” So glad you asked. First: accept & understand the fact that you have white privilege. Second: Share this riveting revelation with a friend who is still in denial. Thirdly: Support people of color & the movements/organizations that support them. In the end: The best thing you can do is make an effort to educate yourself and your peers. Knowledge is power!
Now, very quickly, let me explain why Black Lives Matter. A lot of white folks immediately think this phrase some how degrades, belittles, or disregards the life of others. First off… how? Do you see the word “only” in front of “Black Lives Matter”? If so, you need to get a new prescription for those glasses. Honestly, I think the reason white people misinterpret the name of this movement has to do with white guilt & subconscious prejudice…but I’m not smart enough to dive into that. Here’s the point: Black Lives Matter is simply stating that black lives matter… Why? Because historically & present day, black people have not been treated equally, especially in the face of the law & police brutality. If you truly believe “all lives matter” then you believe black lives matter… get it?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no scholar, I’m not an activist, and I certainly don’t know everything. But, I hope that this very quick overview will help bring awareness to some of my fellow white counterparts. Racism is very much alive today—all around the world. It’ll be a very long time until racism is eradicated…it may never be. But, you have the choice to be on the right side of history. A step in the right direction is better than no step at all. Making an effort to understand what white privilege is and how you benefit from it will help push us forward & will help you better understand the perspective of movements like Black Lives Matter.
One last thing. Kinda random. This should go without saying, but unfortunately, this happens way too often. If you are white & say the “n” word in any way—regardless of your intention: Stop.
Thanks for reading, ya'll! I've been wanting to write about this for a while, but I've always struggled with articulating myself. I spent a few days on this and I hope it comes across positively. Feel free to reach out if you want to discuss further. Feedback is also highly encouraged (especially on grammar mistakes, I'm trying to learn)! And, make sure to follow me on Instagram ;)