Your White Privilege Plays a Critical Role in the Fight for Justice
White privilege can be used for good. But first, you need to acknowledge it’s existence.
When white (and white-passing) people hear the term “white privilege”, many are quick to defend themselves, as if privilege, itself, is something to be ashamed of. Privilege is out of your control. Those outside your perceived group know that. What’s shameful is opting out of your position to speak up for others.
“But I’m white and not privileged. My life has been hard — you don’t know my story.”
“Actually it has… I experience reverse racism: I’m seen as a bigot.”
First of all, the term “reverse racism” is an oxymoron in the sense that it admits you are the perpetrator while simultaneously claiming to be the victim. Second of all, racial discrimination is a product of power structures, and the discomfort of your white guilt is not comparable to unarmed people of color literally being murdered in the street by law enforcement and vigilantes. Finally, you won’t be demonized for the color of your skin if you use the benefits of it to create a positive impact for all.
“But I don’t see color. Isn’t it more divisive to acknowledge our differences?”
Statements like that are actually a blatant display of privilege. It is admittance that you do not, in fact, experience racial discrimination (contrary to the prior argument), and therefore, choose to plead ignorance to the concept. In most cases, the only option for minorities is to “see color”, as they’re faced with disadvantages, due to their own, on a regular basis.
“Are they really though? I think they take unique cases and blow them out of proportion.”
Again, you’re fortunate to be in a position to believe that, and it’s easier to stay inside that bubble than to branch out, educate yourself, and become a real ally. You don’t have the authority to tell others their feelings and experiences are invalid because you can’t relate.
That said, I’m sure you can admit… you wouldn’t want to be treated the way people of color are treated in this country, and therefore, you actually do know exactly what’s going on. You’re choosing to pretend you don’t, in order to omit the weight of civic responsibility from your shoulders.
And “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu
“Who exactly is the oppressor in the United States?!”
Oppression is defined by cruel and unjust exercise of power or control. There are many types of perpetrators within the complex web of supremacy within this country, but in the particular instances of injustice on the forefront of this conversation, this description is exemplified by the police.
“Okay, I am aware of the recent brutality cases… but not all cops are bad!”
Obvious blanket statements, like that, (and “all lives matter”, as another example), are said specifically in attempt to invalidate the point they counter.
This is the same fallacy many feminists face when speaking on sexual harassment. For example, the need to proclaim that “not all men are like that” doesn’t change the fact that many men are, indeed, “like that”. And that needs to change. But it won’t, if we’re more focused on congratulating decent guys for doing the bare minimum than we are on persecuting rapists.
It’s clear that Law Enforcement is not being universally vetted and trained to a standard that serves it’s intended purpose. In addition to the lack of education, there’s a wealth of evidence proving the rampant reality of xenophobes, chauvinists, and even literal Nazis in uniform. Despite the existence of arguably competent officers, clearly there aren’t enough holding their problematic associates accountable. It’s a corrupt organization, which we, the people, seek to fix.
“But violence and looting certainly won’t solve anything! ‘Black Lives Matter’ is basically a terrorist group!”
It’s ironic that regarding cops, you automatically feel sympathetic (apologetic, even), but when it comes to civil rights activists, you apply this bias. It’s telling that you find the rioting more disturbing than the modern lynching. That’s racism, and classism, in action.
The same reaction is common towards white mass murderers (actual domestic terrorists), who end up being treated with fragility as “mental health cases”. Meanwhile, many black demonstrators don’t advocate for violence and chaos, yet they’re written off as thugs and anarchists.
Marginalized groups are plagued by the phenomenon of the most severe facets (shocking actions and aggressive behavior), becoming the face of their movement, when mindless cruelty is rarely, if ever, the intention. That said, it should come as no surprise that protests have escalated to an overwhelming extent. Many peaceful initiatives, such as NFL football players kneeling during the national anthem, have been met with resistance, scorn, and contempt, and therefore, have proven to be insufficient methods of achieving progress.
Not to mention, white people are notorious for riots, void of any meaningful reason at all, yet society fails to characterize them by that behavior. There’s even proof that much destruction reining over major cities in the George Floyd backlash is actually the work of white infiltrators, seeking to discredit benevolent efforts and instigate further havoc.
Regardless of who’s to blame in individual instances of wreckage, however, the recent exertions of public revolt are conceivably righteous in wake of directorate neglect.
Many disruptive measures are also deeply metaphorical. For example, blocking traffic can impose the sense of helplessness participants feel, trapped beneath broken institutions. Looting corporate chains can be seen as an act of “taking back” power. In times of absolute emotional exhaustion and desperation, people often resort to illicit actions as an exhibit of deliberate defiance. By forcing governments, impartial bystanders, and mass media to pay attention, the outraged simply refuse to be silenced.
Black Lives Matter embodies passion for the restoration of black communities, the equality of black people, and the eradication of societal, political, and systematic anti-blackness. Varying attempts to do so, falling among a wide spectrum of extremity, have induced inadequate change. Therefore, it is unethical for those, unaffected by these hindrances, to dictate their conduct.
“You must admit there’s probable cause for roughness in cases of disorder, no?”
You continue seeking justification for the killing of black people. Perhaps, ask yourself, ‘why?’
Not only are you avoidant of the moral duty that would come with embracing the truth, you feel entitled to the benefits of your ignorance. You’re unwilling to share the privilege you’ve grown accustomed to. You worry that if humanity achieves true equality, you’ll have to work even harder for everything… and “that’s not fair.”
Meanwhile, in actuality, it is. And a society of equal opportunity would produce overall happier, healthier people, more functioning systems, better education, richer culture, and ultimately… benefit everyone, including you.
“I worked for everything I have in my life though. Nothing was handed to me. So why can’t black people pull themselves up by their bootstraps and change their own lives?”
If the solution to an intricate, generations-long, unscrupulous construct was a mere attitude change, it would have been solved a long time ago. It’s clear that those disadvantaged by the state are passionate about making a difference, but demands without jurisdiction are disdained.
Solitary instances of people of color achieving individual success, unfortunately, can’t “break the cycle” of suffering, nearly as drastically as those already in power renovating their institutions, could.
Black people are disproportionately held responsible for the outcome of parameters set by others; from trickle-down effect since segregation, to lack of community funding, to crooked prison systems, and more. Crime rates within black communities, which are a direct result of this treatment, are commonly used to rationalize this treatment. It’s a vicious circular pattern, which simply cannot be broken from within.
On top of all that, The United States is guilty of whitewashing history. Sanitized curriculum that glorifies colonialism and white saviors, in addition to media that prioritizes white representation, consequently, skews the fundamental beliefs of the population. When people don’t encounter overt discrimination first-hand, they can be convinced that it just doesn’t happen. People of color, however, refuse to be gas-lit about their own realities, and could use the ratification of inherently “reputable” sources.
In other words, white people are standardized to be racist, but if you can learn something, you can unlearn it. Recognizing your white privilege, then using it to speak up for the rights of non-white people, is the least you can do in the humanitarian fight for justice.
“Well... what exactly can I do to help?”
Educate yourself and others.
Do thorough research.
Stand up for, listen to, believe, and protect, black people.
Practice radical empathy.
Support black businesses and organizations.
Stop avoiding discomfort, as people of color are unable to do so.
And finally… keep this conversation going.
Acknowledging your white privilege is just the first step. Now get out there, and use it for good.