Things have been gloomy in the social media circle these days. Ever since the election, an outburst of hatred and racism has taken off. At the same time, those who claim no racist affiliations despite their support for a candidate who does continue to insist they are not racists. Sadly, actions speak louder than words. No matter how much you claim to not be racist, or homophobic, or anti-women rights, or an enabler of ablelism, the cold fact is that if you voted for a candidate who supports all those things makes it very difficult for someone like me to ignore the reality behind your choices. One of the worst things, for me right now, is seeing white folks going out of their way to prove that they are not racists…or make comments and disclaimers that although well intended may be interpreted differently.
I came across a Facebook status a couple of days ago in which somebody I know (or thought I knew) vents in an angry and resentful tone about how he is NOT white privileged. According to his post, he is not somebody who has enjoyed any level of white privilege because, as he put it, his father and grandfather worked hard for everything they had. He proudly claimed that although they were dirt poor, they continued working towards their goals without any kind of help from the system or from anybody else. Sadly, his claim of not enjoying any “white privilege” is nothing more than his own internalized racism and inability to simply put himself in another person’s shoes. His statement also subliminally suggests that people of color are the ones who have been privileged. Really?
White privilege is not about you not having worked hard for what you have. The fact that some may see it that way, simply implies that people of color got it easy because they played the “race card”. It sends the message that you, really, do not understand nor do you want to understand where WE come from. White privilege is about the fact that you WERE able to work hard for what you wanted BECAUSE you were not harassed about doing so based on the color of your skin. You were not denied the right to learn to read and write, the right to vote, the right to higher education, the right pursue your dreams no matter how wild they may seem to others. White privilege is about the reality of you having grown up dirt poor and still had the chance to move up because you have not been afraid of being harassed, discriminated and even killed just because of your color. Your father and grandfather did not fear for their lives…did not have to endure being sold like cattle, or forced to ride in the back of the bus, or humiliated and treated like animals because of the color of their skin. White privilege is about being able to have your teenage son out there without fear of being killed by police because of a routine traffic stop, or because he simply looked “too brown” to be trusted. White privilege is about seeing yourself in the history of this nation from a position of power. White privilege is about you not being able to see how and why people like myself are so hurt and so afraid about the hatred and pain that has fallen over our country after the election. White privilege is thinking that telling people to get over it and move on is the right thing to do.
White privilege is thinking that wearing a symbol to identify yourself as an ally, actually, makes you one.