How to Use Your White Privilege for Good
Simple lessons I learned today…
I am taking a chance by writing about race. I am a white woman, living in Canada, who is starting to become more and more aware of the privilege I live with, and don’t even notice.
While Canada is not as racist as it’s neighbor, the United States, we still have problems. Racism is still rampant. Racism against First Nations people, people of color and immigrants. I see it and hear it way too often.
My awareness of race and racism began slowly and gradually.
I, of course, watched the mini-series Roots when I was a child and loved it and hated it. It scared me. I cannot forget my horror at seeing Kunte Kinte get his foot chopped off. The rapes. The violence. That’s when I first realized things were different.
Plus, I am an avid reader and reading opened doors into the lives and thoughts of people of color. Movies such as The Color Purple, which I watched over and over, Twelve Years a Slave — which I admit made me shut myself in the bathroom and weep — and others, also provided insight and empathy.
While these movies touched me and helped me realize what people of color have lived through, I also realize that I have NO idea what they lived through.
Or live through now.
I wish racism would go away. It’s hateful, horrible and cruel. Lives are being lost, people are getting hurt.
Wishing isn’t useful though. Actions must be taken.
I want to do something!
As I was looking through articles on Medium I came across this story by Ezinne Ukoha:
Wow. I loved it — it impacted me. When I asked Ezinne what I could do she suggested to be ‘more aware and mentally absorbent in my life’. Yes, Ezinne, I will do that, I want to do that.
I also received a response from Derek Womble which gave me some practical ideas.
Michelle, I think one of the most helpful things you can do, for yourself and for people-of-color, is first recognize and acknowledge the reality of your privilege.
It doesn’t matter whether or not your parents or grandparents immigrated to the country poor and “pulled themselves up by the bootstraps”.
Being white grants privileges to some that many of us will never receive. As a result, those of us without privilege can have our journeys in life altered in some very detrimental ways.
Secondly, when you see racism, don’t be silent about it. Your privilege also grants you the superpower to have your words heard above those of others. Had it not been for all the white people speaking out about the two men being arrested in Starbucks, I doubt that the media attention would be what it is now. Silence = Complicity.
Lastly…be prepared to be uncomfortable. If white people think race issues make them uncomfortable, imagine what it must be like for a child-of-color having to realize that THIS is some nonsense that they will have the spend the rest of their lives dealing with?
You’re asking questions, which I think is a good start. Many never even take that step. — Derek Womble
This is excellent practical advice. For all of us privileged people who truly hate racism, who want to help but are confused and unsure of what to do — here is where we start.
- Recognize and acknowledge our white privilege
- Speak out against racism when we see it.
- Prepare to be uncomfortable.
God, I want to help. So I will take Ezinne’s and Derek’s advice. Be a voice in the wilderness. Help. Stand up.
White privilege is real. Let’s use it for good.