June 20, 2015

White Privilege

11147111_10205802338151693_6201042400768936469_nEvents over the past several months have put me in a particularly reflective mood and we’ve all been a little quiet on this site. We designed this site with the idea that we were going to explore what it means to live the good life. We intended to share our thoughts on parenting, technology, holistic health, relationships, volunteerism, friends – you know – the daily sing-song of our lives but now, on the heels of yet another senseless murder of black people, I’m empty. I sit here thinking what really is the good life? Is it going to church without fear of being gunned down? Is it that my teenage son can wear a sweatshirt with a hood and not be made to feel like he is a threat? I did say “made to feel” because we’ve witnessed too many cases where black youths are made to feel that they are a threat, even when there is no threat. This is just one small example of behaviors that blacks in this country experience every day …and this my friends, whether we want to name it, acknowledge it or even admit it is white privilege.
I used to not understand this term. I didn’t believe that I was privileged. I mean I work hard, am well educated, have more that I can need or want but does that make me “privileged” in terms of my race? I didn’t get it but now, after witnessing such acts of blatant racism and hear people dismiss it as someone else’s problem, I’ve come to understand that I am privileged in ways I didn’t understand before. We, meaning white people, can’t understand the fear and rage because we simply haven’t experienced it. You and I may not have asked to be privileged – in fact, I would say we did not and yet we are. We were born to a place in the world and that place is largely determined by our race. It is also largely determined by the socio-economic status of our parents. Socio-economic status drives education just as much as education drives socio-economic status. Education alleviates poverty – it’s all a cycle that we are a part of. I’m not writing to debate this. Google your own research, it’s true so just read on with me here and accept the fact that if you are white and reading this, you are privileged.
Our white privilege does a few things – it continues to separate us. We cannot continue to say “oh, how sad, another shooting. I feel so sorry for those people”. THOSE people are OUR people. We ALL belong to each other. Those that know me personally have heard me say those words on more than one occasion. What do they really mean? For me, and I can only speak for me – I obviously don’t represent all white people – for me, it means that I can’t understand the fear because I haven’t experienced it. People don’t cross the street when I’m walking toward them with a few of my friends because they are afraid of me. I can’t understand the rage and retaliation expressed by some because I haven’t experienced systematic racial discrimination. Yet, if it is happening to others it is happening to me. We belong to each other. White privilege separates us. It also makes us uncomfortable. Most human are natural conflict avoiders and in this case, the “conflict” is within our own emotions. I admit it, my own feelings confuse me sometimes. What is this I’m feeling? Sadness? Discomfort? Anger? Hurt? Resentment? It all mixes up inside and that leaves me confused. That is the only word I know to describe it. I can’t really process the evil, violence, depravity that has affected so many but I also can’t stick my head in the sand and think “well, that will never happen to me so I don’t have to worry about it”. …because “not having to worry” is the personification of white privilege.
Since the shooting in South Carolina, I’ve read many immediate posts calling for new gun control, new “understanding”, new forms of what boils down to meaningless words. Until our words and actions align, things won’t change. Until white mothers look at black sons as their own and until white people stop turning away from what makes one uncomfortable, things won’t change.
So what can we do? I know I can acknowledge that I haven’t had the same experiences as some black people and I don’t have to feel guilty about that. I can’t undo my birth status but I can be an ally – condemning racially targeted violence, standing up for all humanity, never tolerating or avoiding confronting someone who is treating another fellow human as “less than. I must be a voice for the voiceless. I must use my privilege to make a difference in this world. I don’t know yet what that difference will be for me – for some, it’s adoption, for some it’s involvement in various community programs like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, for some it’s mentoring, for some it’s financing another person’s education – the point is, I can do something starting with using my voice and platform to say “I condemn this. I stand with my brothers and sisters. I do not accept one who belongs to me being treated as less than me.” You can do something too. How will you use your privilege? That my friends is living the good life!


2 Comments

  1. June 21, 2015

    Well said! We can’t go on thinking the problem isoso big that our personal actions will be too small to make a difference. They can quickly add up and turn the tide of this nation.

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  2. Tahnika Rodriguez:
    June 24, 2015

    We cannot continue to say “oh, how sad, another shooting. I feel so sorry for those people”. THOSE people are OUR people. We ALL belong to each other.
    ~RRJ

    Love this statement. Because it takes that attitude & supporting action to make a change. Well-written Ronna-Renee

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