My friend Seth says that to believe in something you do not have to believe in it, you just have to experience it. And through experience, I believe this to be true. But I think there is another element that needs to be present.
Awareness of your experience.
There will have been many who will have read and watched the stories about George Floyd and Christian Cooper and still argue that white privilege is a myth.
Not that the evidence hasn’t already been there for everyone to see, if you really want to “see” that is. But two major events over the past few weeks and as recently as a few nights ago demonstrate this. With more and more stories continuing to come out.
All you have to do is compare the response to recent protests to see this. In one instance we have mostly white people showing up to State Capitals with guns, aggressively using intimidating techniques against the police, permitted to do so because the police don’t react. All because they couldn’t get a hair cut.
On the other, a group of people, protest peacefully, yet forcefully about the murder of a man of color and they are tear gassed and attacked by the police.
If your initial reaction to these two protests is to find some way of explaining the former, then this is a sure fire sign that you are asleep to your white privilege.
Two stark images have also been compared a lot in the past few days on much social media. That of a white police offer kneeling on the throat of George Floyd, ultimately killing him. The second is the iconic image of Colin Kaepernick kneeling in front of the flag during the National Anthem.
This is the second test.
If you have at any point complained at the image of a black person kneeling and viewing it as disrespecting the flag but don’t bat an eye lid at the sight of a white man killing a black man, then you are complicit in the problem of racism.
You are either explicitly racist or you are unconscious to your white privilege. Because lives are being needlessly taken in the black community, the one privilege we can no longer rely on as white people is to pretend there is not a problem.
There can be no more separation of obvious clear racists ideas and behaviors and not being aware of your privilege.
It just won’t and can’t fly anymore.
I believe that any time someone is unable to simply sit with another person’s pain and must find a way to reason it or make it seem like a non issue, it is because there is deep unprocessed pain they are experiencing themselves.
There can be no other reason as I see it for why white people, whether they are aware of it or not, who enjoy such privilege as not being afraid they will be killed, feel they must downplay racism, than because they experience some level of fear of the other that they have not dealt with.
I’ve been challenged over the last couple of days about something else that I believe is evidence of my white privilege. Something that perhaps I myself had buried because to face it would be painful.
I can be quick to complain when another school shooting occurs in this country, when there are those who go straight to “thoughts and prayers” but do nothing practically that could stop a tragedy happening again.
But am I any different, when it comes to the murder of innocent black men?
I can post a meme in solidarity or change my profile picture. And just like “thoughts and prayers” there is nothing wrong with this. Except it’s not sufficient. At all.
I can’t sit back any longer and trick my whole body and being into thinking I care because I am saddened by what I’ve seen happen this week and countless weeks before, but not actually do something.
That is simply hiding under the allusion of seemingly taking something seriously without any of the actual work. It is disavowing the very need for change in the first place.
But it takes getting out of my comfort and doing something. On a wider scale, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been disturbed by some issue I’ve seen online, yet scrolled by every petition, every action I could easily take to play my small part in changing it.
Martin Luther King Jr wrote,”I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.”
I don’t want to be more devoted to my own comfort and white privilege than actually doing something that will help black people live without the fear of getting stopped or worse by a policeman, simply because of the color of their skin.
Of course, I could always do nothing. I could simply retweet others who are doing the work in an effort to convince myself I too am doing it, I can write tweets that show how upset I am without actually doing anything. All these I am guilty of.
Nothing will change for me either way. That is what it means to have white Privilege. But like all privilege, it is a privilege that comes at a cost. And it’s not a cost I will ever have to pay.
So I want to do something about it. We’re told from an early age that we can change the world. But what we’re not really told is that we need others to help. It will take us all to change a system.
And for white people to become true allies to black people, we must play a critical part. Especially as we are guilty of creating the systems that have for hundreds of years caused pain and abuse on the black community.
A quick google search was all it took to find some great resources on what we can do as white people to encourage and support our friends, family and co workers who are black.
I will be taking my time to work through some of the ideas and actions presented here because now more than ever, it is time to really make use of the privilege I did absolutely nothing to earn.
Please join me.
10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism
Travis Jones: How Can White People Be Better Allies To People Of Color?
75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice.