Reaction Paper #3
From a Fellow White Person, An Open Letter to the White People of America
About a year ago, my mom and her friend were driving down the freeway when a police officer pulled them over. They had not been speeding or driving erratically—they were literally just driving down the freeway. After peering into the car and exchanging a few words with them, the officer allowed them to continue on their way. “Can you believe that?” My mom fumed as they resumed driving. “What?” Her friend asked, dumbfounded by her sudden anger. “He was just checking in on us.”
This story might seem insignificant, and maybe even downright boring, but it represents the state of modern America’s race relations. See, my mom is a white woman and her friend is a black man. And so for my mom, being pulled over without a discernible reason was infuriating, while for her friend, it was nothing out of the ordinary. (Let’s all wave hello to my mom’s white privilege.)
Oftentimes, white people don’t really like to acknowledge white privilege. I think we worry that if we acknowledge it, it will seem like we’re condone it. Like saying, “White people have an advantage in America,” is the same as saying, “Let’s raise a glass to the KKK, and institution that’s doing God’s work.” But those two statements have nothing in common, and it’s time to get over this whole acknowledging-white-privledge-phobia. Emma Gray said it best when she argued, “Confronting privileges and structures far larger than yourself—ones which you may feel you have little-to-no control over or no idea how to change—will always be uncomfortable. But…tough shit.”
White privilege is all around us, every single day. It’s around us when the salesgirls as Victoria’s Secret don’t follow us around, concerned about possible theft. It’s around us when we aren’t stopped for (supposedly) random selections at the airport. It’s around us when authority figures turn a blind eye to our underage drinking, our drug use, and our breaking of curfew. So prevalent is white privilege that prominent news stations showed the white victims of Katrina stealing groceries, while the black victims were shown stealing televisions and jewelry (Jones). (And if you’re thinking to yourself that maybe black and white people were just stealing different things, they weren’t. And I hope you either change your attitude or step on a lego.)
White privilege has the power to color our thinking. After the riots in Baltimore, so many of us asked the wrong questions. We asked, “how could they destroy their own community?” Instead of, “What led them to take such drastic actions?” (Corley, comments below article.) Instead of looking at the rioters as our equals, our fellow human beings, we labeled them as criminals as hoodlums. We downgraded them, and in doing so we intensified to the problem.
As white people, we have the privilege of being able to ignore our privilege. But we shouldn’t. White privilege comes at a cost, and our fellow America’s are footing the bill for no reason other than that they’re a dew shades darker than we are. Let’s confront our white privilege right now, because until we acknowledge it and start to do something about it, we are the reason why our fellow american’s are rioting.
Corley, Cheryl. “Ferguson Businesses Struggle To Rebuild Post-Riots.” <i>NPR</i>. NPR, 07 Aug. 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Gray, Emma. “11 Things White People Need to Realize About Race.” <i>Huffington Post</i>. N.p., 23 July 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Jones, Van. “Black People “Loot” Food … White People “Find” Food.” <i>The Huffington Post</i>. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 01 Sept. 2005. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.