I was once asked by a black woman (she was an instructor at the University I attended) what it meant to be white, of my all white classroom. Many of the standard answers came out, privileged, “normal”, safe, etc. I raised my hand and replied: “invisible”. I received a lot of curious looks, and a question as my reply: can you expand on that? I answered:
I am one of how many white people in this room right now. I’m male, and the only thing going for me is the fact that I’m tall, but that does nothing to make me more visible. Women here in have said a lot of things about men not taking into account that I’m in the room, not thinking that some things they say might offend. Everyone knows you’re around and so they know they must be on their best behavior. Who knows what they say when you’re not. I have my arms and legs, so they have no idea that I’m actually disabled, so they can say and do what they feel about that too. Sexual orientation is always an elephant in the room, but for fear of offense they hold their tongues. In other words, while there may be a lot of stigma about being white, the one thing I never have to worry about is being seen by others. In other words, if people cared about the fact that I’m here, they’d take a few moments to understand that I can be just as offended as a black person can, or a woman, or a Little Person or a person with a visible disability, about what is said or done in the presence of others.
When things are visible, like skin color, anything that goes against the norm is subject to ridicule. Do you not look like that white leggy blond? Ridicule. Do you not look like that beefcake in a speedo? Ridicule. You have a penis so you must be a predator. You don’t have a disability. You are white so you have privilege.
I am invisible. If you don’t believe me, go to the store with me sometime and watch how people are when I’m around: walk in front of me, hog aisles and act like I’m not there, move in front of me in line. That’s my normal. I am tired of being invisible.