I am white. I am privileged.
My family is from the belly of Ohio and I can’t begin to tell you the things I heard growing up about black people and Muslim people.
It ranged from “you’ll get canker sores if you kiss a black boy” to endless heated rants about muslims taking over Dearborn. Even after growing up hearing all of the negative assumptions, racist statements, black jokes, and being warned of being disowned if I ever dated outside of my race, I couldn’t help but be completely enamored with everything my family advised against. I stepped into communities I had always heard were horrific and dangerous. I walked up broken steps to an illegal living space where a girl I had met was raising her baby. I clearly remember seeing through the floor while using the bathroom, all the way down into the kitchen.
I would meet and marry my ex after just eight months of knowing him – six months pregnant with his baby and joined by the grandfather that once told me not to kiss black boys. He adored Brito and my husband changed the minds of white people that had been fed racist bullshit their entire lives. He did it by being himself. It wasn’t his duty to educate the ignorant whites, but he shook everything up with his kind heart and big smile.
I never really realized how privileged I was as a white woman. I never thought about it or really noticed the small things that now shine like a spotlight right in my face.
I remember my husband calling me from the side of the road one morning at 6:00 am. He was on his way to his job he’d had for six years and had been pulled over for the fourth time that month. He wanted to talk to me while he waited for the officer to come back with his license.
The officer upon returning to the car exclaimed – “I can’t believe it, you have no record!” Brito laughed and joked with the officer, seemingly unfazed. I remember laughing with him about it while he shrugged it off. He made excuses and would say “what do you expect? I’m a black man, wearing a baseball hat in an old car” – He expected it.
He knew it was coming because he spent his entire life dealing with it.
With his calm and collected demeanor, I was ok with it too.
After our sons were born I would experience hatred and ignorance first hand. Parking lot encounters with white men pointing their fingers at my boys and pulling an imaginary trigger. I remember the first time the N word was thrust at my husband while we walked our sons down the street in our neighborhood. But mostly I remember being openly overlooked as we searched for a place to live in predominantly white neighborhoods. There was never an explanation but my husband took it hard.
My sons have grown so much since their father and I parted ways, but I see in them – him. I see the kind heartedness and the passive laugh. Even when my youngest son was being called a monkey by his classmates, he laughed it off and made excuses for the boy that said these words.
My sons are black and let me tell you, this has me in this space between owning my privilege and trying to take all of this racist bullshit and owning it – so they don’t have to.
I am often asked whose kids they are or if they are hispanic. I am asked where their father is, and I’ve read hateful posts saying I don’t post photos of them because they aren’t as cute as my white daughters.
My sons were once accused by a neighbor – of stealing out of his garage.
Why? When there were so many other people in the area that could’ve done this.
I feel powerless and completely unprepared for raising black men. With their father unable to be in their lives – I am tasked with teaching them things that I will never understand.
Raise your hands up if you’re ever pulled over, so you don’t get shot.
Always walk with a friend.
Never wear a hoodie after dark.
Don’t raise your voice in a public area.
Don’t draw attention to yourself.
Privilege doesn’t mean that you get things handed to you because you’re white.
It doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days or that you aren’t struggling.
White privilege doesn’t mean you don’t work hard.
White privilege means, you were born into your skin and because of that skin,
You are less likely to go to prison.
As a white person, the likelihood that I will go to prison is about 4-11%.
For a person of color the likelihood is 88%.
Think about that.
When I shop in a store, I am less likely to be followed. Because I am white.
This is a societal disease that continues to hang over people of color all over the world and no matter how nice, equal, polite, informed you are… You can’t say that as a white person you aren’t privileged.
It’s simple. You are.
One of the most eye opening pieces on this subject that I have had the privilege (see what I did there?) of reading is Peggy Vincent’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – I’ve included an excerpt below.
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
Instead of using your energy explaining how not privileged you are, use it to educate yourself and become more aware of your words and actions and how they affect those around you.
If you’d like a head start…
Here’s a few books!
Top two photos by Topher Delancey of Topher Delancey Photo
Portraits of the boys by Amy of Aimlee Photography