Once upon a time I didn’t understand white privilege, it’s specifically meant to be unnoticed.
Then I had to make a decision, a decision that would ultimately confront me with my own personal racism‘s nurtured into me by a world that affords me unseen privileges just because I look the way I do. I had to confront and battle the idea that because I look a certain way, those with more privilege and less privilege can take what they want from me without my choice taken into account. I had to decide if I really can like/dislike each person for who they are and not base those choices on blanketed grouping by color or race.
As a white woman I am in the upper middle of a multi-layered, difficult and terrible truth. I, without intention or often knowledge, create racist scenarios in which those with less privilege than me are subjected to. I, without any other reason than being white, can walk through the world differently than non-white people. AND I HATE THAT. I am truly one of the least racist people you could encounter. I truly do not take a persons skin color into account when I interact. It was a conscious choice I made that has become simply part of who I am.
But I forget that the world takes my skin color into account in everything I do. I am able to “not care” about color BECAUSE of my color. If I were not white, I would not likely be able to be as “free thinking” as I am about race.
I have encountered racism all my life – not directed at me usually, but its always present existence has been known to me all my life. Living in so many military bases throughout my life, living in glorious cities that boast people from every country, I have seen how racism can tear people down.
My country that brags that it is “FREE”, whose sacred lady claims that all are welcome on our shores, drapes invisible blankets of racism over everything. It is not free for everyone, it is not a land of opportunity for everyone. It is a land of elite privilege for the elite, a land of gifts for the select gifted, a land of honor for the “accepted as honorable”, a land of “you can get this much if you’re a little more like the elite than the others”,and a land of hand-outs for those that are choking in the invisible blankets.
My own personal encounters with ism is more specifically in the realm of sexism. White male privilege dominates all the isms, with the class structure being its only divider. The higher the class, the more privilege. But even the lowest class of heterosexual white male dominates all the other sexes, races, and genders.
White male privilege is dominant and excruciatingly destructive all while being “invisible” to those who have it. But as a white woman, I am still covered by a myriad of privileges that I have to work hard to see. I still have less worries than men of color and even less than women of color and often even less then any color of gender different.
I used to think it was an American phenomenon but I was wrong. It is a global disparage. I am more often now encountering remarks and lifestyles that display white privilege with such extreme that it seems to scream and yet it is still invisible to those that have it.
My students color their pictures with blonde hair and blue eyes, because they want to see themselves that way. My friends and their friends openly make racist, sexist, religion bashing, and gender bashing comments without a thought that these comments are simply an invisible cloak that helps them remain in a non-earned status of privilege.
What can I do? I can’t help what I look like any more than any one of color can. And for the first time in close to 30 years I have made a blanket racial decision. (I am just not into Asian men…..I have tried to find the beauty that so many talk about, but as a whole, Asian features do not move me in any way)
I acknowledge that I live in a world in which I have far more privilege than I should based simply on my color. But I also feel that I have worked really hard to be who I am and I deserve many of the privileges I have based on that. However, I don’t get them because of my work, I get them because I’m white. So what do I do?
My children, of mixed races, are also given and not given basic privileges based solely on how white they appear. As they walk down the street, they are faced with fully different things to worry about and need to make decisions on how to carry themselves as they walk down that street, based solely on how the world perceives them as being more or less white and whether they are male or female. I spent far too long not understanding just how little I educated my son about how to deal with the racial confrontations he would have to deal with, the blankets that covered the world and smothered him. As a woman, I was more aware of educating my daughter about the sexisms of the world. But I can never know what it is like to be feared simply for being, for existing the way my son can be. Nor did I educate my other son in understanding his white privilege as a white male with some affluence.
So what do I do? As a human, as a woman, as a mother?
Now I understand that white privilege exists and I pay attention to my own behaviors to try to avoid creating the scenarios in which I contribute to the negativity of white privilege. There is so much more to understand, and far more to learn about how to help change the standards and remove the blankets.
Now what do I do with this knowledge?
Update: Well, I have been surprised at the number of responses and comments waiting in my inbox to be approved. I have decided that most do not need to be approved. I wrote this for the purpose of trying to continue my own education about how to do my part in creating the change needed for the world to stop seeing color and race as a way to treat people.
It is only through awareness, through discovering the invisible blankets and shedding light on them, that we can find ways to create true equality.
I watched this UpWorthy video and thought it was a good example. Please watch it.
- White Privilege/Black Baggage (queenlyandconfident.com)