Day 8 White Privilege: Due to my posts, I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who I respect and care about. I am in humble gratitude. That is not the reason for the posts, though it’s a nice by-product. A few people have asked me to start a blog or publish this or even use it in a class teaching for other white educators. I think this is all great and the more white people it can impact the better, as I have the belief it can cause positive change. Then I started thinking about the type of impact a similar 100 days of oppression would be received if written by a person of color. Would there be offers to use it, publish it? Would people (especially white people) believe it? It has been shown over and over again that when a white person talks about privilege or their thoughts on racism, they are held to a higher standard or more believable than if the same things were stated by a person of color. This reality is deeply disturbing and yet further shows the ways white supremacy exists in this society. Me, a white woman, is more believable to white people about my perceptions of racism (which is in co-existence with white privilege) than a person of color who experiences it directly. This is white privilege.
Day 7 White Privilege: I went to the nail shop yesterday and didn’t have an appointment. This is not unusual but the spot I go to can get super busy so lately I have been making appointments in order to get in faster. I walked in and asked how long it would be. They said an hour, which I definitely didn’t have since I was meeting my kid in an hour and 15. I smiled sweetly and did a nice, it’s ok if you don’t have time, I can probably come back tomorrow…And then I lingered. They said some words amongst each other and I knew they were talking to discuss if there was a way to fit me in. They ended up finding way to fit me in and they were great (as usual) and I was out in perfect time. I walked away wondering how much of my whiteness had to do with their decision. I know white women get stereotyped as nice and pleasant, while black women get stereotyped as aggressive and rude. Neither stereotypes are true and both of them are flat and restrictive. There were only black women in the nail shop so I’m not including other races in this, as the privilege and stereotyped comparison was really between white and black. I felt like my whiteness and the stereotype of my “niceness” helped me get in faster than someone else, though there wasn’t a “someone else” that didn’t get served after me, it was more of an accommodating situation. I also recognize that I played into the stereotype to get what I wanted, and that this type of privilege gets me things so many times when I am not even realizing it.
Day 6 White Privilege: Today I was in Best Buy with my daughter (7 1/2 years old) and her friend (6 years old). While I was looking for what I was there to get, I let the two girls mess around with the headphones that were on display. They were trying them on and listening to the music and singing along. It was pretty cute, when I saw it. But it took me a while to see it. I was doing my thing, and not really paying much attention to them. I knew where they were, but I wasn’t worried too much about them. As I said, I was doing my thing. It occurred to me as we were leaving the store, how often I am not concerned with keeping my kid right next to me. I never let her go too far, where her safety is an issue, but i also feel pretty comfortable and confident that all is well. I know that many of my friends of color with with kids don’t have this same sense of freedom and comfort when it concerns their children. There is often a fear about what could happen to their children if they get too far away, or if they do something that the store owners or other people don’t like, how is their child going to be treated. After all, we have a clear example of this fear playing out in the worst way when 12 year old Tamir Rice was gunned down in Cleveland Ohio by an on-duty police officer at 3:30 in the afternoon for playing with a fake gun. How many kids own fake guns? Tons, and tons and tons, both white and black and latin and asian and arab and south asian, etc…. We are a culture of guns and yet not all kids get killed for playing with them.
So, I was sitting with this obvious display of my own white privilege as I allowed my daughter and her friend to freely enjoy themselves in the store with little doubt in my mind that they were safe and that I wasn’t going to be looked at crazy by other customers or employees. I don’t think anybody looked at me and made assumptions that I neglected my child or that i didn’t care about her and her friend. These assuptions about parents of color doing the exact same thing I was doing, are rampant in our society.
Day #5 White Privilege: today I was at the park with my daughter, who is mixed race (black and white) and her friend who is a light skinned black girl. I am pretty certain not a single person who crossed my path questioned what I was doing with the girls. Nobody thought I was the nanny, nobody wondered if there was some funny business going on because this white woman was with these two little brown children. Yes, we are in the Bay and there are more white women here with brown children than probably any other part of the country, but still… There is privilege in this experience. I will probably never get questioned about my relationship to my child, even though we are different skin tones. I will probably never get assumed to be a nanny or someone who is taking care of my child but not related. And I will never get confronted and accused of kidnapping or being in an inappropriate situation with my child because we don’t exactly look alike. And there are many parents of color who have lighter skin complexion children who other people make assumptions all day about what is going in. They assume the parent is the nanny, the babysitter, or even worse they make assumptions that they are somehow doing something inappropriate just based on the color of their skin. For the people who don’t believe me, you betta ask somebody… I have heard many stories and have observed hands on experiences of this happening. No joke, white privilege is real.
Day 4: White Privilege
Today, I was on the phone with someone who is very close to me and who is white. This person is someone who is going through some personal big changes in their life. We started talking and the conversation was moving around personal stories of change and transformation, not having anything to do with race or racial injustice or with the state of this nation’s disregard for black and brown life. I felt myself being very uncomfortable and irritated andalsoI felt myself in a place of privilege. I was able to decide if I was going to bring it up or not bring it up. for those who are impacted directly by the continuing murders of people who look like them, choosing not to acknowledge what is going on, is not as easy. in fact, it is THE topic on the table and if it’s not being had, there is a clear denial of the importance of black and brown life.
thankfully, I was aware enough to notice, and I brought it up. “So, how have you been feeling about all this murder of black men by the police?” boom, there i opened the conversation. and then she shared how terrible it was and that she, because of the large life transition that is occurring in her life, she had to disengage from all the conversation and commentary about the issue because it was so emotionally devastating. that, to watch the videos, would make her cry so much and feel so deeply distressed, because she knew they must be terrible. so she has disconnected and just focused on her own things and her situation….white privilege was staring me in the face. the ability to just turn off the trauma and fear because it’s too much. the inability to sit in the discomfort of the reality that is happening right now…. I talked to her about it and we were able to go deeper into this, but one thing i said and i want to reiterate here is, my critique is not personal. it is a critique to all of us white people to recognize how we are able to do that. to just decide that it’s too hard, so we would rather just not pay attention. and of course it’s easy to not pay attention when what is happening doesn’t have direct, personal impact on us or our families. I have done it and i would argue that every white person has done it at some point (if not at most points) in their lives. to not want to hear about situations because it’s “too hard” or makes us too uncomfortable to talk about or to face into is white privilege. to “disconnect” from the horrors of racism is not a luxury people of color are afforded. Their lives are affected by racism day in and day out, even if it isn’t blatant every day.
I just want to end by saying, the person to whom this story is about, I love with all my heart. if you read this, know i love and respect you and talking about daily examples of white privilege is one of my personal commitments. i hope i was able to keep it anonymous
Day #3 White Privilege: today I was at the Oakland Jazz Festival, which was a large event that was probably 90-95% black. Me, being one of the few white people at the festival, and I knew I was safe. I never had the thought that maybe I would be attacked, looked at crazy, made to feel like I was not supposed to be there, or that there would be hateful people there that could hurt me or do something even worse. In fact I felt welcomed and accepted. This is not the same for people of color who have been one or one of a few amongst a large group of all white people. Story after story I have heard from my friends of color who have felt fearful and/or very uncomfortable in these environments and when in them, made to feel they are not wanted, looked at like they don’t belong, or had to deal with people acting super ignorant because they aren’t used to being in spaces with people of color. People of color, especially black folks have to navigate their environments with much more caution and heightened awareness, knowing that certain spaces are dangerous or so disrespectful that they are emotionally unsafe. On the flip side, I, with my white privilege have an internal sense of safety and comfort in navigating spaces where there are few white people.
Day 2 White Privilege: this morning I went to the gym, Planet Fitness, where there is 7 different TV’s set up for people to watch while doing cardio. Out of 7 different TV’s the only station that had non-white people was ESPN, portraying black men in sports and further reinforcing this concept that this is the only way to “make- it”. One other station was portraying black people, it was the news showing two black men who had been arrested, and the story was being portrayed, told and critiqued by white people. This portrayal of blackness as criminal, as violent, as breaking the law, in need of punishment. Meanwhile the other stations there were white people trying to monitor sharks, on a talk show talking about “current issues”, people selling homes or remodeling their homes, people selling foundation promising to cover up every imperfection, someone on a good show trying to sell the newest blender/ juicer and I forgot the last station but it was more white people doing something.
Basically every image of white people was positive, diverse and showing whiteness as “wholesome”, as learning and trying to do new things to better themselves. Black images were guided by the voices of white people, not including their own voices. As a white person, I am able to see examples of people who look like me to be “good” and “wholesome” and who are able to speak about our own experiences and I can feel positive about myself based on these images. This is white privilege. And racism gets fueled by the negative images of blackness.
And just to be clear, none of the tv’s had ANY images of Latinos, Asians, Arabs, south Asians, Native Americans, or any other non white or black people.