When The Light Bulb Switches On And Illuminates My Privilege (And My Resulting Thoughts)
It hasn’t even been two weeks and I’m exhausted. Spent. Weary. Frustrated. Angry. Sometimes hopeless and lost. Sometimes utterly confused and confounded.
After spending my entire 50 years on this earth thinking I was an exceptionally enlightened and empathetic white man when it comes to issues of racism and bigotry, my eyes have recently been opened so much wider to reveal how little I have understood. As I am embracing this revelation, I have been ravenously devouring any and all information and education I can find. This pursuit of knowledge and evolution of self has been arduous, but paired with the insatiable need to share what I am growing into understanding in the hopes of influencing change in others, it is grueling.
And I find myself today asking my brothers and sisters of color, “How have you done this every single day for as long as you have lived?”
That is what has struck me to the core at this moment.
As I wrestle with new understandings and knowledge, as many other white people are doing because we are suddenly thinking about these things more fervently due to recent events in our country, I realize how ridiculously insignificant this moment in my life is in relation to centuries of entire races of human beings who have been living this from birth to death.
Damn you, privilege. There you go again.
At the moment that this thought entered my mind, I was thoroughly depressed, disheartened, and destroyed. To think that from the moment a baby with darker skin is born it is already fighting for equality. For respect. For dignity. To prove its own humanity. And for no other reason than the wrongly-assumed, self-aggrandizing superiority of people with a lighter skin color.
To think that from childhood through adulthood and to the grave, people of color have been required to prove daily that they are just as human as the white man.
How have you done this? The thought simultaneously infuriates and breaks me.
That is the moment that my sadness and sympathy turns to extreme admiration, respect and even awe for my brothers and sisters of color.
How ironic is it that those who have taken the brunt of racism in this country each and every day of their lives are actually stronger, braver, and dare I say better human beings than those who have been attempting to bury them beneath the humiliation of indignity, prejudice and hatred? How beautifully poetic is it that those who have wrongly redefined “minority” to mean “Inferiority” have instilled in those they wish to shackle a depth of passion and self-worth and humanity and dignity that exceeds their own?
I am not stupid enough to believe we are nearing the end of this fight. I know that this road has been a long one and may very well continue for much longer. But today I am encouraged because I see the soldiers, the warriors, that have been bearing this unreasonable burden and fighting against it with everything in them for so much longer than I have and I know they will never give up. They will not stop until every human being not only accepts but celebrates the truth that all men and women are created equal. And today I am encouraged because I know that as I join the battle I am following the lead of greatness toward that which is fundamentally right and true.
This post was originally published on my Facebook profile on 11/22/16. I am working on moving previous related posts from there to Medium in order to continue the journey here that I started sharing there.