My white invisibility cloak
Last night, as I was tucking into bed with my white husband in our white sheets, in our white room, I thought about invisibility. This is privilege that I, as a white, hetero, able-bodied female possess—as do many of my white peers.
I can wear a hoodie at night while walking and not have anyone think twice about what that means. No one would question where I was going or what I was doing with a hoodie up. If I go into a store, the worst thing that will happen to me is that I will be ignored. In fact being ignored is something I have taken so for granted that I have failed to understand that this too is a privilege…a uniquely white privilege.
I belong. I fit in. My reasons for walking are not questioned. I have no inherent criminalization attached to my body because of who I am. If any assumptions are made about me, they are so banal as to never affect my daily existence. They do not adversely contribute to the way I am able to move (or not move) in society.
For the most part, I don’t have to act a certain way to be liked. I’m not told to be less aggressive so that I don’t offend people. There are millions of others who have said all of this before me and who have said it better. My ability to write this and to be taken seriously, is another privilege I have. I’ve never been called an angry white person or a crazy white woman. In fact, no one ever ascribes the word “white” when prefacing an adjective that I may, or may not be. I just simply am.
That’s one of the many reasons why—as I was reading my Facebook yesterday after the Zimmerman verdict—I was so inexplicably sad. I was sad that the individuals who seem to be happy about the verdict were apparently all white. That those same individuals chose to bring up inner city violence, as if they had ever personally thought about it before this verdict was read. As if they are part of the groups of people that are actually trying to curb the violence—Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker talks about this much more eloquently than I.
The people who are writing these posts on Facebook are white. They say that the George Zimmerman case has “never been about race.” They say that racism in America is just a liberal buzzword, that racism is over. These are the same individuals who talk about reverse racism and being colorblind. Even though those very beliefs are rooted in racism.
White people have taken to Facebook (and elsewhere) to tell others how they should be responding to the verdict and why everyone else is misguided and wrong. White is the moral authority, white is the decider of what is and is not just, white is telling others what can and cannot be considered racism.
Last night as I was watching the defense press conference, attorney Mark O’Mara was discussing how millions of people have experienced the tragedy of losing a child, how he himself had lost a niece to cancer. Perhaps without his knowledge—certainly without his thinking about it—he sought to negate the tragedy and circumstances around Trayvon Martin’s death. It is one of the many ways in which white people continue to minimize the experiences of others. O’Mara was attempting to say that we all experience loss, this loss is no different. His loss, while tragic, is an individual tragedy, this is not the same as systemic and widespread abuse and oppression. This is yet another instance of white people trying to make discussions about PoC or race about them, about their experience, their hardship, their life.
The following excerpt is taken from the blog stuffwhitepeopledo:
“White people tend to assume, often without realizing that they’re doing so, that the ways the world around them has been established, organized, and supplied are the most convenient and best ways for people in general. However, those ways are often instead the most convenient and best ways for white people, and not for others. And yet, white people usually fail to even see that.” […]
“One way that obliteration occurs is when white people think they’re talking about just plain “people,” but they’re actually talking about “white people.” I used to do that, and I probably still do in some situations. But now I find that common white tendency chilling. Frightening. White speakers, and usually their white listeners, often fail to realize that their universalizing assumption that the group of unmarked “white” people they’re talking about does not include all people. And that it actively excludes them. I suspect that on the other hand, non-white people often do realize that’s what’s happening — that the “people” in question are actually white people, and that non-white people have been erased from the picture.”
I am not invisible. My perception of my own invisibility itself is a white privilege. These privileges, however, are not invisible. They have always been there for all to see; exposed, raw, and ugly.
Please feel free to check any privileges which I may have missed.