What is White Privilege?

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I’d like to share something with all of you. I’m not on Facebook, nor do I like Facebook. I think the platform is intrusive and, quite frankly, a danger to America in many ways, especially now, with the complicit Mark Zuckerberg refusing to fact check any political ads, regardless of whether they are outright lies. That’s a story for another day.

But while I’m not a participant on the platform, my wife is, and she shared a post with me that’s been getting a lot of attention. It’s very subtle and understated, but it shows the sheer volume of young black men and women who’ve lost their lives in recent years. For, quite simply, being a person of color in America and engaging in activities that many of us could never imagine might jeopardize our lives.

I do not have that problem. I’m white and have never once been stopped by the police in my lifetime of nearly 59 years for anything other than an occasional moving violation in my car. I never felt threatened, didn’t think I had to put both hands on the wheel, and I certainly didn’t feel the need to be overly polite or deferential. Respectful, yes. But I never felt my life was in danger.

Thus, to be white in America, I’m afforded privileges that other people of color are not. Many on the right side of the political spectrum refuse to accept this narrative. To them, we’re all Americans and have equal opportunity to achieve success and achievement. What zipcode you were born in matters not, they say. Sorry, but they’re wrong.

And it’s that failure to come to grips with what ails the nation that prevents us from ever reaching societal peace and equality. Much of this poisoned thinking exists within our law enforcement departments throughout the country. We know there are good cops out there, but there are too many bad ones as well. It’s a tough job by any measure, but until we find a comprehensive way to weed out the bad ones, what you see happening now on the streets of America will continue far into the future.

The names below are human beings, taken from us in one form or another by cops for the most part, but in some cases from vigilantes masquerading as cops (note: the list includes Christian Cooper, the gentleman that Amy Cooper called the police on in Central Park because she feared her life was in danger although his only sin, apparently, was asking her to leash her dog).

Many of these names you will not recognize, nor do I. The more high profile cases we probably would have never heard about but for modern-day technology: the camera phone. How many suffered the same fate before the advent of this technology? Look at the list and multiply it many times over.

Many of them were simply doing things most of us take for granted–at least those of us coming from the perspective of being white. Our friends on the other side of the aisle will fight me on this, and I’m ok with that. My Trump-loving friends will undoubtedly disagree. So be it.

That they were taken from us in such a violent way reflects the dangerous and aggressive society in which we live. Weapons of war in the hands of the police and our fellow citizens set us apart from most other Western democracies. For that, we should be ashamed.

Please share the list with as many folks as you can, especially those who may not agree with the concept of white privilege. If we can sway even a few, is it not worth it?

 

White privilege is real.
I have privilege as a White person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice about it…
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).
I can sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
I can go to church (#Charleston9).
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott).
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
I can run (#WalterScott).
I can breathe (#EricGarner).
I can live (#FreddieGray).
I can ask someone to put a leash on their dog when it is required in the public park we are in (#ChristianCooper).
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED. #GeorgeFloyd

44 comments

  1. Christian Cooper is a friend of one of my friends, who wrote about him in her response to my Saturday post about this latest horror. Her words are powerful, and I plan to publish them on my blog in the next few days.

    Those of us who have some sense of the role we white folks must play in redressing at long last the grievous wrongs our country has permitted to fester must realize we can’t let up once the demonstrations are over. This is a long journey, and we’ve just got to be a part of it for as long as needed.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You know Annie…change won’t happen without white people making it happen. It’s that simple. Majorities must demand it. Otherwise it’s just the African-American community on their own. We have to be in this with them, and demand our politicians act. Or, will be right back here again and again. This better be THE inflection point. I sure as hell hope it is.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am very fearful of what trump and his troops will do next. He thinks he’s looking weak (which he is, of course) and that makes him especially dangerous. Response? Send the cavalry to gas nonviolent protestors.

        Gotta get my hope levels back up.
        Biden just made a good speech talking about our country’s original sins, and he spoke not just of slavery, but also of our treatment of indigenous people. So hooray for that!

        I share your hope, of course, but just when we think things have hit a new low, he goes further into the muck, dragging the country with him.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I saw some clips of Biden as well. He seemed energized and on point. We need more of this from him. Even at 78, and a little past his prime, he’s still head and shoulders above you know who. The contrast is striking. I think and hope the American people are finally figuring this out.

        Like

    2. In reply to you, Annie, annd also to the reply Jeff sent to your comment, please understand, whites have no leadership roles in helping persons of colour overcome white privilege, or as I call it, systemic racism. Please take a good look at how Blacks and people of colour in South Africa defeated white apartheid. They did it without listening to whites, though they did accept well wishes from non-racist whites.
      If, in the end, the goal is to respect all people equally, WHITES CANNOT TELL OR TEACH OTHERS HOW TO DO THAT. That continues systemic racism. WHITES ARE STILL TRYING TO KEEP CONTROL! STILL TRYING TO TELL NON-WHITES HOW TO LIVE THEIR LIVES. That is so wrong! Whites do not have a monopoly on how to govern. In fact, feeling like that is what drives White Privilege. It has failed humankind for centuries!
      I ask you, Annie, how do you feel when men try to tell you how to do what you already know how to do it. It might not be the same way a man might do it, but you didn’t ask for help, and you don’t need it. Men cannot tell women how to be a woman. Why can whites tell others how to be themselves. That is not how it works.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Word Press surprised me wvhere they placed this comment. I was expecting it to exist between Annie’s Christian Cooper comment and Jeff’s
        “You know… Annie” reply.

        Like

      2. I think you misunderstood me. I don’t want to TELL anyone —and certainly not people of color whose pain I realize I could never experience—how or what they should do. But I know that we need solidarity to get meaningful change. If you read my posts from last Saturday and tomorrow, I think you’ll get a better sense of my thinking. I would welcome your comments.

        Like

      3. Hi Annie, I think it is more you not carefully thinking about what you are saying than it is me misunderstanding you. Some of your words were “we can’t let up after the demonstrations are over” and “we’ve just got to be a part of it…” I have nothing against anyone giving support, but this is not your problem. The problem, CAUSED BY WHITE PEOPLE, belongs to people of colour. Of course you “can” let up after the demonstrations are over. No, you don’t got to be a part of it. It is all in the language, in your choice of words. They might not be racist words, on their own, but you are insisting on being part of the solution. Insisting is a racist word.
        As I said to Jill, a day or two again, I am not saying you are a racist, I am positive you are not. But neither are you sensitive to the language you use. I used to use this same language, and probably sometimes still do, after almost 70 years of using Englush, it is still easy to not think about what I am saying, and I am a creamy red man who was brought up white. And it is the creamy red part who hears the words from the direction of not being white.
        Language is a huge part of racism, but few ever notice. It can be very subtle, but it still hurts. And it still tries to make me inferior. So this is what I want you, and all other white people, to think about. You don’t mean to be part of the problem, you certainly don’t want to be part of the problem, but if you don’t pay attention, you can be.
        If you really want to help, stand with me back-to-back, so that neither of us can be approached with surprise, and set upon by what we fear. Let us sit down and talk about those fears, but don’t tell me what it is I fear, and I won’t tell you what it is you fear. Speak only for yourself, not for me, unless I ask you to. I can speak very fluently for myself. I won’t speak for you, unless you ask me to. That is equality. That is acceptance. That is what will end racism, and it is within our grasp. Peace be with you.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Quick observation rawgod. The Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act were ultimately passed by a white president and a white congress, after years of civil unrest and pressure from MLK Jr. and other leaders. You’re solution, it seems is that we simply just need to stop acknowledging our differences and treat each other as equals? That’s a great concept and I’m all for it. But I think it’s a bit naive to think we don’t need to advance legislation and other measures to ensure that what happened to Mr. Floyd and so many others cannot happen again. I think your way is THE ultimate goal, but will take years to ever come to fruition. The history of American democracy tells us that it’s only when the leaders of government are moved to act that we can right many of the wrongs inflicted on segments of our society that have been left been behind and racially discriminated against for generations. I want exactly what you want. I just don’t think it’s possible without concrete action from our government leaders. That’s my take.

        Like

      5. I HOPE this falls under Jeff’s response to rawgod …

        Jeff, you wrote that you think we need to “advance legislation and other measures …” to prevent a repeat of what happened to George Floyd and others. I have to ask … do you really think legislation is going to change the individuals who are so bigoted and prejudiced against POC that they see pure justification in killing them? Do you really think a law would have stopped the cops that shot Ahmaud Arbery?

        We can come up with tons of “legal” justifications on why attacking POC is wrong. Yes, rawgod’s approach may seem … and even might be … naive, but people simply MUST learn to RESPECT each other or nothing is going to change. And it’s not going to happen with laws and legal jargon. It has to be with respected individuals (with influence) speaking out against prejudice again and again and again.

        Most likely it’s not going to happen in our lifetimes, but it IS this generation that can get initiate the change.

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      6. I will only say legislation does not change people, it only tells people what to do. In 350 years no one has been able to stop the hate of racism. It is time to trysomething new.
        Read a book called Black Consciousness in South Africa if you can get hold of a copy. It might open your eyes.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. @rawgod
        i understand your frustration and intent. And i mostly agree with your rationale, but respectfully have to add that tackling an issue as deep and pervasive as racism requires ALL of us working together. Not dominating the narrative or telling non-whites what to do, but lend non judgmental support in solidarity.
        Abdicating responsibility and taking a hands off nonchalant stance will not advance equality or resolve systemic racism. It’s will take all of us to raise consciousness and take responsible action.
        How do you feel about whites marching and protesting injustice alongside non-whites with the best of intentions? Would that be considered over reaching and dominating the narrative? Can you offer suggestions? TY.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It is Kim. It was to me as well when I read it. Like I said in my piece, though, the right-wing Trump lovers will simply scoff at that list. They’re a strange breed, that crew. I’ve tried driving it home to some of them, to no avail. I will not stop though. I don’t care if they get tired of it or not.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I saw that comment and replied to it. Amazing isn’t it? He sends something with Tucker Carlson? That’s his news source? No thanks. That tells you everything you need to know about that person.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. 😥 It just never ends, does it? I’ve given up hope that this nation will ever change … too many are bigoted and passing it on to their children; too many just don’t care enough to speak out. This post brought a tear, as it should. Thank you, my friend, for this excellent reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jill. Nope, never ends. And I don’t know that it ever will. Too systematic, too generational. I think you and I will be long gone from this planet before it does change, if ever.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. And many of those bigoted–let’s be more forthright, racist–people really believe they are not racist or bigoted. They seem to assume that because they don’t want the nation to return to 19th-century plantation slavery they are not racists. Always assuming that cops are right and the minorities some of those cops abuse are always wrong … no, that’s not racist; it’s just being pro law and order. Easy to assume when the law and order always favors people who look like you.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’ve always hoped Jerry that once the old racists keel over we could start to make some real progress. Unfortunately it just keeps getting passed down through the family and generations. I do feel that the young kids right now, the ones protesting peacefully, might be the ones to change this whole dynamic. I’ve been impressed with what I’m seeing.

        Like

      2. Yes, racist, but I sometimes prefer to use bigoted, for this nation is also filled with homophobes, Islamaphobes, misogynists, anti-Semites, and more. You are so right in what you say. I hate it when I hear someone say, “Well, I’m certainly not a racist, but …” If you have to follow it with the word “but”, then you are a racist. Just like apologies … when someone says, “I’m sorry, but …”, you know they are not sorry at all. What a mess this nation is in, and I’m seeing now that it always has been … it just got covered up a lot. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your post puts the race issue in perspective. Most non-coloured ppl are oblivious to the plight of the disenfranchised, mainly b/c they never experienced personal injustice and double standard from law enforcement, the court system, and prison.
    There is definite hope, and possible solution to police brutality! Watch this for inspiration and clarity:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this. I do get a sense that maybe its really different this time. Maybe people are finally saying, “Enough of this crap!” I sure hope so. Watching those cops beat the hell out of those people makes me sick to my stomach. My God. How awful. This has to change.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. i’m saddened that after so many years we’ve still not become civilised. I know it affects Freedom of Speech but anything by the KKK should be banned as hate speech. Idiot Hear, Idiot Copy. We need to stop being the silent Majority and become the vocal majority trying to help in any situation we see.. The police need to clear it’s ranks of bigots and keep it clear.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Totally agree David. There has to be a mechanism to do it. I’ve heard several suggestions such as Citizens Review Boards and the like. There’s probably no panacea, but let’s root out the bad and keep the good. That has to be the goal.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks Jeff. This is much needed, as folks who say it does not exist, do not realize its impact, yet I will mention a caveat at the bottom. I am a 61 year old white man born and raised in the south. I can pretty much go anywhere I want, even if I am not dressed all that well. I do not fear when stopped by patrol car for my life. I am not questioned about some things, that frankly, I should be questioned about out of fairness – fewer ID questions, fewer questions on my ability to cover a check, etc. I notice I am given credit for knowledge I may not have. And, so on. I live a white privileged life and I see it.

    A black man dressed in his Sunday best does not have the same reaction. If stopped by a patrol car, he must act very unsuspiciously. A black man cannot jog without suspicion. A dark-skinned father from India was killed while walking in a white neighborhood when visiting his daughter. And, a white woman calls the cops on a black man in Central Park saying he is threatening her life when he only asked her to leash her dog. Even a black woman is not spared as Sandra Bland realized when she was interviewing for a job in Texas and the conversation needlessly spiraled out of control. Malcolm Gladwell noted it was so egregious, he covered it in his book “Talking with Strangers” as a bad example of behavior by the police officer.

    White privilege is a real thing, that many whites do not know they have. The exceptions (to a certain extent) can be found in whites in poverty, who are treated economically as poorly as other races. There is an interesting history lesson to illustrate this point. The reason the white southern landowners portrayed the Civil War as about states rights is to convince the poor whites to fight for this more just cause. If they told the poor whites that they were fighting for the landowners to keep slaves, they would not have been so inclined. My point is poor whites have also been taken advantage of as well throughout history and continues to this day. I mention this as it is not an uncommon pushback by those in need and, economically speaking, they have some rationale. So, it is good to keep that awareness in the back of one’s mind when pushed back on. As Tavis Smiley and Cornel West said in their book “The Rich and the Rest of Us,” the definition of poverty is the absence of money. Period. It is not defined by race or piety.

    Setting that economic caveat aside, the racial injustice is more pronounced and real for black people. These poor whites may see some of the economic inequality, but the physical and mental degradation is greater for people of color. I am reminded of former President Jimmy Carter, who saw how black sharecroppers were maltreated more so than white ones growing up in south Georgia. The latter were also maltreated, but it was painfully obvious to Carter who was treated worse.

    White privilege is real. Until we recognize it as such, then we are missing the context for why blacks feel their voice does not matter. It does and we should make sure more people are hearing it.

    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very nuanced take Keith, and I agree with you. Systematic racism, and systematic poverty are both issues our country continues to fall short in dealing with. We make a little progress here and there, then, back to square one it seems. Just look at the lines for foodbanks only a few days after states started to shut down. Until we address poverty and to a certain extent, educational deficiencies in our cities and rural areas especially, none of this will be fixed. It’s deep and complex. I just don’t know how we do it all. It’s easy for despair to set in. I think that’s what’s fueling a lot of rage we’re seeing in the streets. We’ve got so much work to do and making sure we have an enormous turnout on November 3 is a wonderful place to start! If you don’t vote….don’t complain. That’s my motto.

      Like

  6. A couple days ago my 30-year-old son told me, “I never really believed in the notion of white privilege until I saw that video of the cop killing George Floyd. I knew then that such a thing would never happen to me–and the only difference is the color of my skin.” I wish Mr. Floyd were still alive, but I’m grateful his death has resulted in some eyes being opened.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your son takes his wisdom from his father Jerry! The fact he’s able to see it makes me hopeful. I think many people across the country are seeing the same thing.

      Like

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