I remember the first time I fully realized the extent of white privilege. I felt completely embarrassed that I had been so oblivious to the world I was living in. It wasn’t until it was spelled out for me, and I was talking about it openly with my diverse coworkers. I’m thankful that my colleague was so explicit in explaining things from her perspective, and this article is for her and every other minority who faces the brunt of everyday racism.
I’ll begin by saying that when you’re born white, it’s so built into your daily life, you’re asleep to it. You hear the words “white privilege” and you think, “oh well that’s not me.” You might rationalize by saying, “I grew up poor, so I don’t qualify” or “white privilege only exists in the Trumps of America” and my favorite one “I have a diverse group of friends.”
This article isn’t about shaming white people. It’s about not knowing what you haven’t experienced. Just because it hasn’t happened to you, doesn’t mean that it’s not someone else’s reality. And when minority groups are educating you on theirs, pay close attention. Really listen, instead of feeling like you immediately need to defend yourself and other white people.
So why is it so hard for white people to stare at their privileges straight in the face? Obviously, I can’t speak for all white people, but I can speak for some. We don’t want to associate ourselves with anything to do with racism. We are careful about everything we do and say because we don’t want to be mistaken for racist. We fear that if we identify with white privilege in any manner, then we are the enemy.
My dear white friends, it is necessary that you identify with your white privilege. The only way that things can begin to shift is if we start talking about it openly, especially with our fellow white friends. When you become aware, you must make other white people aware.
You must be aware that if you are white and poor, you are going through life experiencing classism, not racism plus classism, like a lot of minorities do.
You must be aware that if you are white, you are less likely to be stereotyped, no matter what you are wearing and where you are walking.
You must be aware that if you are white and are looking to buy a house, you won’t be reminded that this is a house for “sale” not for “rent.”
You must be aware that if you are white, you will most likely grow up learning about the history of people of your own skin color in American history in school because world history has only recently become more broadly introduced in K-12.
You must be aware that if you are white, you won’t walk into an expensive store being looked at more closely, or even followed, while shopping.
You must be aware that if you are white and poor, most of the time you can still find a job. If you are a poor minority, you may receive government handouts, which is not a privilege at all, as some may argue. It’s my theory that it keeps white people on top in the decision-making positions, regarding those who are portrayed as “taking advantage of the system.”
You must be aware that if you are white, your job right now is not to defend white people. Some use black on black crime as a rebuttal, but crime has a direct correlation to poverty. And the poverty that exists today may just still be a product of the U.S. housing policies back in the 60s.
You must be aware that if you are white and are a misbehaving white boy in school, you are more likely to be viewed as “special”, “gifted”, or “unique.” In contrast, if you are a misbehaving black child, you are more likely to be suspended.
You must be aware that if you are white, you are in the limelight. The “me too” movement was started by a black woman and did not gain national attention until white women were talking about it on the news.
You must be aware that if you look white, even if you aren’t fully white, you still experience white privileges.
The list goes on and on. I think you get the point.
Look, I’m aware that there are tons of racist white people who love the way things are and do not want a shift in power. They love the benefits of white privilege, and they want to keep receiving. And this article isn’t for them.
I’ll close out by stating why I am writing this. It’s because being aware isn’t enough. That still doesn’t make you an ally to the oppressed If you want to be apart of the necessary change, you can’t be afraid talk about it, especially with other white people. Necessary change was never brought to fruition without a great deal of friction. If this piece speaks to you, then you need to find a way to speak like I am now.