Most of you will never know what it’s like to feel eyeballs watching you like a hawk while you shop. You’ll never know what it’s like to study extra hard just so you can be taken as seriously as other students. You’ll never have to have a discussion with your children to let them know that when they’re pulled over by a cop they must do everything they’re told and keep their mouth shut. You’ll never know what it’s like for people to be surprised by how eloquent you are, how smart you are or how many credentials you have because the bar was set so low. You’ll never hear, “where are you from?” over and over and over again, even though you were born and raised here. You’ll never have to wonder, if your child is driving a nice car, how many times they’ll be pulled over. You’ll never know because THIS is white privilege.
I grew up in a very diverse city. I grew up around people of all nationalities and backgrounds. I was married to a black man. I had a son, who is 1/2 black but will always be identified by society as black. These experiences have allowed me to witness things that I normally wouldn’t as a white woman…but my white privilege means that I am still an outsider looking in.
But one day, very soon, I’ll have to have a discussion with my son about why he was called a derogatory name at school. I’ll need to prepare him for the constant and subtle barrage of racial expectations from his peers, his mentors, the media and society. I’ll have to talk about why expectations are different for him than other people that don’t look like him. And, I’ll need to explain why, when a police person pulls him over, he will need to do anything and everything he’s asked without saying a thing.
I was torn about posting this. I’m not black. And there will be some people seeing and reading this who’ll be angry I posted. But I think that’s a big part of the problem. It’s not a black issue. It’s everyone’s issue. And until that’s addressed, it’ll perpetually be us vs them.
Here’s what I want. I want parents of non-black children to have discussions with their kids about this very subject. I want them to admit to their children that they will have privileges others don’t, simply because of the colour of their skin. I want them to go above and beyond posting their ‘outrage’ on social media. I want them to educate themselves that this is not a US problem, this is not a police problem, this is not an angry black person problem, this is not a poor black person problem, it’s not a gun problem, this is not a problem that just exists in the ghetto or something that black people have to ‘just get over already’…
This is a subtle and systemic issue, that happens every second of every day to people who are not white. And the issue stems from privilege. Privilege can’t be taken. Black people can’t rise up and steal privilege. They can’t even earn it. It has to be bequeathed by the people who have it. Until it is, the imbalance will always exist.