Dear White People…(an Open Letter to all Deniers of White Privilege).
Dear White People,
With the current events happening in our country, there are thousands of articles, videos and Facebook posts that explain the Black Lives Matter Movement, white privilege and racism. There are people who think (wrongfully) that BLM is a movement against white people and police. In response to the recent outing of police brutality via the internet and the injustice that prevails in the black community when one of its members is killed, it’s no surprise that the term “White Privilege” ignites defensiveness. Everytime another police brutality case surfaces, there are those who inevitably rush to defend their actions via social media. Most recently, Steven Hildreth, Jr. who shortly after the death of Alton Sterling, tweeted his positive experience when pulled over by police, attributing it to him being cooperative. I noticed that all my white friends were quick to repost and share as if this negated, justified or flipped the blame for police. While no one in the black community believes that all cops are bad apples, posting such articles in the wake of yet another black person’s untimely death by law enforcement, is even more misguided than saying “all lives matter” in response to BLM. So in light of that, I’d like to explain some things about white privilege and what it really means.
1. Just because you had hardships in your life, doesn’t mean you aren’t privileged. Nobody is denying or discrediting the hard work and obstacles you might’ve faced. Nevertheless, If you are white, you are the beneficiary of white privilege. That’s right. Just because you don’t notice it or see it or feel it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. What does this mean? Well, say that you’re a white person who committed various crimes. Maybe you were in and out of rehab and had your children in foster care. Here is a list of things that will not happen to you:
- You will not be questioned for carrying a weapon so long as you don’t point it at anyone.
- People will not think twice before sitting next to you in the subway.
- You will not be followed by security at a bank.
- People will not assume and therefore treat your children as if they are also going to become criminals.
- You will not be treated like a charity case at a restaurant.
- You will not be targeted for driving a luxury car.
- People will not assume you are uneducated.
- You will not fear for your life when being pulled over for an infraction.
You get the point. Or I hope you do, because the list goes on. Despite any hardship you might’ve endured or crimes you might’ve committed, the repercussions will never be as severe purely because you’re white, and while not all black people feel disenfranchised, the truth is that, as a whole, they still are. The inability to see the spectrum, doesn’t cancel its existence. Look at Ethan Couch and Brock Turner as just two recent examples. Turner got away with 6 months in jail for raping a woman, while Couch only faced 10 years of probation and no jail time for the killing of 4 people. There is no way that if a person of color had committed those crimes, they would’ve gotten away with such little ramifications. Those of you who don’t understand that being white is the root cause of this disparity, are the most privileged because that means you’re so protected in your little bubble, that you aren’t even aware of the reality that black people live in, as well as your own. You’ve never walked into a room over and over throughout your life noticing the subtle, and often times, obvious ways that people are already dehumanizing you.
2. You know who’s at the top of the totem pole in this world? White males. More specifically straight, educated, american white males. Non-educated, american white males are a close second. Nobody in this entire world has more opportunities than your group of people. I’ve heard many who complain that they lost a scholarship to a person of color and so they were the ones being discriminated in this scenario… Two things:
1) You, as a white person, are still more likely to get a job, no matter what education you have. If your name is John Smith, your resume is already more likely to make it to the “interview pile” than if your name is Jamal Smith. If you, as a white person, male or female, have made choices in your life that led you down the wrong path, you have every opportunity in the world to change the course of your life. No questions asked. Not to mention the fact that you will get paid accordingly for whichever job you pick, one privilege more that Jamal would less likely get to enjoy despite his Harvard education.
2) Those scholarships and “preferential” admittance to schools given to people of color are to correct an imbalance that at the end of the day, does not mean that the majority of people who get into college aren’t white. Affirmative Action is simply a way to appease minorities by making them think we are giving them opportunities out of the kindness of our hearts, rather than because the school system is designed to make getting a proper education almost impossible. The way the government decides which schools get more funding each year, is by the use of standardized tests. Depending on how high the students score, the school gets more money for supplies and educational programs, giving those schools the advantage when it comes to applying for higher education. But how are the less privileged districts that are predominantly located in the black and latino communities supposed to live up to those standards? The reality is that they’re already underfunded and lacking in after school programs, sports, supplies and specialized classes for students with learning disabilities. The teacher to student ratio is significantly higher, not to mention the teacher salaries are borderline sacrilegious. The government, as well as society, has set them up to fail in this vortex of shit conditions we keep them in. So next time you are angry that a person of color “took your spot,” consider the fact that you probably were taking theirs for most of your educational life, and just how much harder they had to work to be at the same level as you because of it.
3. Having white privilege does not make you a bad person. A large part of why people want to deny or exempt themselves from this paradigm, is because they think that somehow black people hold them accountable for every bad thing that is currently happening. This isn’t necessarily true. Consider it from this perspective: Our founding fathers were all white. The slaves were barely free in 1863 and were still considered lesser people when the constitution was created in 1787. The country wasn’t evolved enough to understand that a lot of this stuff was not inclusive of all races, and some of it was actually designed that way on purpose. It is not white people’s fault that this hierarchy
system was created and has caused for them to enjoy privileges that minorities don’t. However, it is your responsibility to break the cycle, and that can only be achieved by recognizing that it exists and then taking action. There is no change without understanding, so the longer you deny it and try to excuse yourself from it, the longer it’s going to take to make it disappear. We need white people on board because you have the majority of the power in this country. Yet, you refuse to listen to people of color. You refuse to recognize the degree to which you turn a blind eye to their experience. What I wish my white friends would do, is acknowledge not only that they’re privileged, but also the power and responsibility they have to change things because of it. Being privileged doesn’t make you a shitty person, denying it, excusing it, refusing to act against it and turning the blame on people of color, does.
“People won’t listen to you or take you seriously unless you’re an old white man, and since I’m an old white man I’m going to use that to help the people who need it.”
This is only the tip of the iceberg to a greater and more complicated issue. But it’s something that needs to be understood before we can start a more in depth conversation. If after reading this, you don’t see why you are privileged and why the BLM movement is not only important, but necessary; if you keep saying “all lives matter” and making excuses for the systemic racism of this country, then you have to ask yourself what the fuck is at the core of your being that makes you want to exempt, justify and victimize yourself in order to discredit people of color and their experience as such. Finally, I’d like you to check out Jane Elliot’s brown eye-blue eye experiment. It is the most profound example of white people’s refusal to understand their own privilege. And below I leave you with the following videos by John Stewart, who more eloquently addresses and explains this issue.