It seems false and hypocritical for a white person to write about racism, white privilege, human rights, equality, and equanimity. It feels as if I just want a pat on the back for how racially sensitive and amazing I am. As if I want a nod because “my best friends are black,” “my students are black,” and “my niece and nephews are black.” As if that somehow means I understand. As if that somehow means I’m cool, and I don’t benefit from that privilege. As if I’m off the hook and don’t have to stand up. Well, I don’t understand, I’m not cool, I am so on the hook, and I do benefit. Every day I benefit.
At the end of the day, I am white, and I, along with all people who look like me, rule the world. Not because we work harder or are smarter, it’s because we are white.
So, here is my small attempt at standing up.
Jodi Piccoult explains privilege in her book, “Small, Great Things.” (background, a white defense attorney is addressing a jury in a capitol murder case in which the defendant is a black female nurse accused of murdering an infant in her care.)
“What if, ladies and gentlemen, today I told you that anyone here who was born on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday was free to leave right now? Also, they’d be given the most central parking spots in the city, and the biggest houses. They would get job interviews before others who were born later in the week, and they’d be taken first at the doctor’s office, no matter how many patients were waiting in line. If you were born from Thursday to Sunday, you might try to catch up – but because you were straggling behind, the press would always point to how inefficient you are. And if you complained, you’d be dismissed for playing the birth-day card.” I shrug. “Seems silly, right? But what if on top of these arbitrary systems that inhibited your chances for success, everyone kept telling you that things were actually pretty equal?”
― Jodi Picoult,
I have repeatedly heard white people deny the existence of their privilege. They claim that they have worked hard and earned everything they’ve gotten in life.
1. I do not doubt the work ethic of people making such claims, but we also have the privilege of being born white. Or being born on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. How do you ever catch up when you’re simply born a day that is not favored? You don’t.
2. Statements such as this indicate that people of color in this country do NOT work hard, and are offensive. So stop.
I write this today because last night, one of my favorite families in the entire world was locked out of a Subway sandwich shop at 8 pm. They knocked on the door, and were turned away. As they were returning to their car, a white woman knocked, and was granted entrance. The doors were then locked again, and another black person was denied entrance. Their young son asked why they weren’t allowed in. What would you say? How would you answer?
White privilege means never having to answer this question,
and denying it doesn’t make it any less insidious, pervasive, and real.
Again, please call
1-800-888-4848 or email (store #18547-0)
and complain if you find this disgraceful, offensive, and unacceptable.
JFK is often quoted as saying
“one person can make a difference, and every person should try.”
Light and Love,