I was born on third base. The bases were loaded. The batter had a 3–0 count.
A white, heterosexual, cisgender male in Suburbia, USA with two white, Christian parents at home. Dad worked hard and Mom stayed home to make sure I knew how strong the love she had for me was. When I was five we moved from one suburb to another suburb with “better schools.” It just happened to be blindingly white.
The privilege continued.
I have been pulled over by the police more than a dozen times, and I have never once thought I was in danger. I have never once thought, “keep your hands in view, don’t reach quickly for your license, address the officer as Sir or Ma’am.” The only thought usually is, “Ok, how do I get out of this?” Because sometimes the rules don’t seem to apply to me; they actual favor me. It is just a matter of figuring out what the right thing to say is to get off scott free. Why would I worry about police brutality since I never did anything other than go 15 over the speed limit?
I have never considered the ramifications of checking the box next to “white” on a job application, or considered “prefer not to answer.” It’s like I instinctually knew that “white” was the right answer. I have gotten every job I have ever applied for.
I have never considered what a bandage would look like on my skin.
Every single CEO of every company I have worked for, and every single manager I have ever had looked like me.
I am always able to comfortably sit where ever the hell I want in the Naperville Buffalo Wild Wings.
And maybe the most pervasive privilege I have, is that I haven’t had to think about racism, talk about racism, learn more about racism, let alone be subjected to it. Because in the Wheaton/Naperville bubble I have existed, white is normal, and race refers to not white. The discomfort and inconvenience of addressing these deep, centuries old tragedies that I thought only affected people on the south side of Chicago, or in Biloxi, Mississippi, far outweighs the brief discomfort of hearing about it…until now.
I may be late to the cause, but movements are built by addition.
I am sorry it has taken so much pain and anguish for me to wake up. My sister has been telling me this for years. Systemic, Institutional racism. “Oh that sucks sister, but I am swamped at work, or I just had kids, or I am stretched so thin, or I’m not racist.” I don’t think I have ever used the phrase my dad would use, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” but I cannot be sure. Brushing aside the discussion is a selfish, comfort seeking act.
I implore my white friends to not let this just blow over, because when we do it usually does. I ask that people take a moment to think about 401 years of racial inequality, injustice, and murder, before they worry about the windows at the local GAP. Just like saying all lives matter, blurring the line between looters and protesters sets us back.
The system that put me on third base from birth cannot be changed from the outside alone; it needs to be an inside job. And that means me and the white men in this white America we created need to step up and treat our collective progress at least the same as our individual progress. We need to lift up minorities and women instead of stepping on them on our climb to the top. In fact, we are already at the top so we need to pause and reach back down to pull them up. For me that means sharing what’s in my heart instead of remaining silent because it might hurt my business, or because it might make me uncomfortable, or because I might get something wrong, or because I don’t yet know the stats and evidence fluently enough to have a dialog with the vast number of people around me that might see it a bit differently. I saw a picture online of a sign that says, “White People. Do Something.” Well let’s go! It won’t be fixed overnight, and it won’t be easy.
I don’t know exactly what to do next, but here is my start. I promise not to conveniently forget about this in a couple weeks. I will diligently listen and learn. I will use my unearned privilege to help fight back. I will speak up when another white man says something racist because he assumes I am part of the fraternity. I will not be a safe zone for racist rhetoric. I will learn to be uncomfortable. I will VOTE. And maybe most importantly, with the help of my lovely wife, I will instill these ideals in the fabric of our family and raise our three white boys to be allies and advocates.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
I will do better. We must do better.