What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege

Saturday, July 23, 2016 - 5:30 am

What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege

Yesterday, I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend, asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled to publish not only his query but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a handful of folks on Facebook.
Here’s his post:

“To all of my black or mixed-race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “white privilege” which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. Not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing.

Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m color blind, but whatever racism/sexism/other-ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).

So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive; I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.”

Here’s my response:

Hi Jason,
First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding.
Coincidentally, over the last few days, I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime (in fact, I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday) because I realized many of my friends, especially the white ones, have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened.
There are two reasons for this:

1.) Because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, but I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ‘70s and ‘80s — it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which, sadly, it often does).

2.) Fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning but hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.

So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I really want to answer. But as I do, please know a few things first:

1.) This is not even close to the whole list. I’m cherry picking because none of us has all day.

2.) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured.
3.) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today, regardless of wealth or opportunity.

4.) Some of what I share covers sexism, too. Intersectionality is another term I’m sure you’ve heard and want to put quotes around, but it’s a real thing, too, just like white privilege. But you’ve requested a focus on personal experiences with racism, so here it goes:

When I was three, my family moved into an upper-middle-class, all-white neighborhood. We had a big back yard, so my parents built a pool. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood boys started throwing rocks into. White boys. One day my mom ID’d one as the boy from across the street, went to his house, told his mother, and, fortunately, his mother believed mine. My mom not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pool and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that.

Then Mom even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked for permission. Everyone became friends. This one has a happy ending because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that the white privilege in this situation is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.

When my older sister was five, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant, but in her gut, she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d seen my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some boy verbally assaulted his daughter and had gotten away with it; it had way too early introduced her (and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant — that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s feelings just because of our skin color. Or our achievement.

If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is if you’ve NEVER had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.

Sophomore year of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Sometime within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So I doubt it will surprise you I was relieved when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester.

The point here is if you’ve never been “the only one” of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation — you have white privilege.

When we started getting our college acceptances senior year, I remember some white male classmates were pissed that another black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t fair. An actual friend of theirs. Who’d worked his ass off.

The point here is if you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it” — that is white privilege.

When I got accepted to Harvard (as a fellow A.P. student you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day. The first was the white doctor giving me a physical at Kaiser:

Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.”
Doctor: “Where are you going?”
Me: “Harvard.”
Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested “what to bring with you” list.

Store employee: “Where are you going?”
Me: “Harvard.”
Store employee: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton, and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever.

Woman, to the boy: “What college are you going to?”
Boy: “Princeton.”
Woman: “Congratulations!” [to me] “Where are you sending your boxes?”
Me: “Harvard.”
Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

I think: “No, b——, the one downtown next to the liquor store.” But I say, gesturing to my LABELED boxes, “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.” Then she says congratulations, but it’s too f—ing late.
The point here is if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, that is white privilege.

In my freshman college tutorial, our small group of 4-5 was assigned to read Thoreau, Emerson, Malcolm X, Joseph Conrad, Dreiser, etc. When it was the week to discuss The Autobiography of Malcolm X, one white boy boldly claimed he couldn’t even get through it because he couldn’t relate and didn’t think he should be forced to read it. I don’t remember the words I said, but I still remember the feeling — I think it’s what doctors refer to as chandelier pain: as soon as a sensitive area on a patient is touched, they shoot through the roof. That’s what I felt.

I know I said something like my whole life I’ve had to read “things that don’t have anything to do with me or that I relate to” but I find a way anyway because that’s what learning is about — trying to understand other people’s perspectives.
The point here is — the canon of literature studied in the United States, as well as the majority of television and movies, have focused primarily on the works or achievements of white men. So if you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/was/could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media — that is white privilege.

All seniors at Harvard are invited to a fancy, seated group lunch with our respective dorm Masters. (Yes, they were called “Masters” up until this February when they changed it to “Faculty Deans,” but that’s just a tasty little side dish to the main course of this remembrance.) While we were being served by the Dunster House cafeteria staff — the black ladies from Haiti and Boston that ran the line daily; I still remember Jackie’s kindness and warmth to this day — Master Sally mused out loud how proud they must be to be serving the nation’s best and brightest.

I don’t know if they heard her, but I did and it made me uncomfortable and sick. The point here is, if you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a meal by a well-paid faculty member’s patronizing and racist assumptions about how grateful black people must feel to be in their presence — you have white privilege.

While writing on a television show in my 30s, my new white male boss — who had only known me for a few days — had unbeknownst to me told another writer on staff he thought I was conceited, didn’t know as much I thought I did, and didn’t have the talent I thought I had. And what exactly had happened in those few days? I disagreed with a pitch where he suggested our lead female character carelessly leave a pot holder on the stove and burn down her apartment. This character being a professional caterer.

When what he said about me was revealed months later (by then he’d come to respect and rely on me), he apologized for prejudging me because I was a black woman. I told him he was ignorant and clearly had a lot to learn. It was a good talk because he was remorseful and open. But the point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’s prejudiced, uninformed, “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based on solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege.

On my very first date with my now husband, I climbed into his car and saw baby wipes on the passenger side floor. He said he didn’t have kids, and that they were just there to clean up messes in the car. I twisted to secure my seat belt and saw a stuffed animal in the rear window. I gave him a look. He said, “I promise, I don’t have kids. That’s only there so I don’t get stopped by the police.” He then told me that when he drove home from work late at night, he was getting stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car and they assumed it was either stolen or he was a drug dealer. When he told a cop friend about this, he told Warren to put a stuffed animal in the rear window because it would change “his profile” to that of a family man, and he was much less likely to be stopped.

The point here is, if you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), you have white privilege.

Six years ago, I started a Facebook page that has grown into a website called Good Black News because I was shocked to find there were no sites dedicated solely to publishing the positive things black people do. Let me explain here how biased the coverage of mainstream media is, in case you don’t already have a clue — as I curate, I can’t tell you how often I have to swap out a story’s photo to make it as positive as the content. Photos published of black folks in mainstream media are very often sullen or angry-looking. Even when it’s a positive story!

I also have to constantly alter headlines to include a person’s name and not have it just be “Black Man Wins Settlement” or “Carnegie Hall Gets First Black Board Member,” or rephrase it from a subtle subjugator like “ABC Taps Viola Davis as Series Lead” to “Viola Davis Lands Lead on ABC Show” as is done for, say, Jennifer Aniston or Steven Spielberg. I also receive a fair amount of highly offensive racist trolling. I don’t even respond. I block and delete ASAP.
The point here is — not having to rewrite stories and headlines or swap photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share stories of hope and achievement and justice — that is white privilege.
Okay, Jason, there’s more, but I’m exhausted. And my kids need dinner. Remembering and reliving many of these moments has been a strain and a drain (and, again, this ain’t even half or the worst of it). But I hope my experiences shed some light for you on how institutional and personal racism have affected the entire life of a friend of yours to whom you’ve only been respectful and kind. I hope what I’ve shared makes you realize it’s not just strangers but people you know and care for who have suffered and are suffering because we are excluded from the privilege you have to not be judged, questioned, or assaulted in any way because of your race.
As to you “being part of the problem,” trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. Just like nobody should be mad at me for being black. Or female. Or whatever.
But what is being asked of you is to acknowledge that white privilege does exist, and to not only to treat people of races that differ from yours “with respect and humor,” but also to stand up for fair treatment and justice, to not let “jokes” or “off-color” comments by friends, co-workers, or family slide by without challenge, and to continually make an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so we may all cherish and respect our unique and special contributions to society as much as we do our common ground.
With much love and respect,

This essay originally appeared on Good Black News and is reprinted with permission of the author.

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is a Los Angeles native, Harvard graduate, former film studio executive, film and television writer/producer, and founder/editor-in-chief of the award-winning website Good Black News. She is also a wife, mother, vegetarian, crossword puzzle enthusiast, nerd, and avid music lover.

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  • Carolyn Overcash

    There’s privileged whites and then there’s white privileged. I guess I’m ‘white privileged’;however I’d like to point out a few uncomfortable moments that I had growing up, not in any particular order: being grateful there was bread, milk, home canned tomatoes in the house to eat [nothing else, just that], getting frostbite in the bed because there was no heat in the bedroom as an infant),home being burned out 2-3 times before starting school, being made fun of because I had plain cotton underwear (school), working in school cafeteria stacking milk during recess [age 9] (milk man paid for both my sister’s and my lunch), working in school cafeteria to earn lunch (from age 9 through high school), working driving school bus and in cafeteria to pay for mine and siblings lunches, book fees, school clothes, [Note no government aide, dad owned house and land worth $3000, yes three thousand dollars,– house so old couldn’t get insurance, no running water and it had an outhouse], principal telling mom I couldn’t come to school in one of my 3 dresses since it was 1/2 inch from touching the floor when I knelt on my knees], working any job for any pay to have an income after I turned 18, getting married with one suitcase of clothing, working 23 years for an employer and then training my replacement, taking many classes but no degree, being able to pass a college entrance exam after graduating 40 years prior. Dad was disabled from the time I was 9 (he was 26) but the government didn’t make it official until he was 33. I was loved by both my parents and my siblings. We lived the golden rule, were taught to give an honest day’s work and if you weren’t doing your job–you’re stealing from your employer, you’ll answer to your parents and God for your sins and you’re just as guilty of sinning by not doing something that you know to be right (sin of omission) as you are if you do something wrong. I’ve never marched in a protest, I vote, I pay all my taxes and bills, reduced my wants to match my income. If half these protesters and whiners would ever “get up off that thing” and do something constructive to help others instead of doing destructive actions and protesting just to garner attention, the world would be a better place. Yes, I’m privileged, because I was raised as a child of the King in a Christian household. You are my brothers and sisters, I was taught to help others and that you don’t hurt your family or others by word or deed.

    • Gabby

      You raise a good point that there is a great difference in life situations among white people, some raised in great comfort and affluence, while others were raised in poverty and in situations of abuse or neglect. It was a blessing indeed for you to be loved by two parents, not a guarantee regardless of the color of your skin, and to be proud of the values with which you were raised.
      What I do not think follows is your assumption that half the protesters never “get up off that thing” and do something constructive to help others.”
      I think, rather, that many of those who protest do so precisely because they, like you, were taught to help others in the myriad ways that life presents us. Even a person born and raised in very difficult circumstances, even one who through his own efforts and resilience managed to build a life for himself, may find it important to stand up to defend people who do not have the strength or voice to stand for themselves alone.
      This position and the actions that follow are particularly consistent with the belief that we are all brothers and sisters, as you write. Speaking up for others is one legitimate way to act from an open and loving heart.

      • Carolyn Overcash

        Sorry I said ” If half these protesters and whiners would ever “get up off that thing” and do something constructive to help others” because you left off the rest of the quote, ” instead of doing destructive actions and protesting just to garner attention, the world would be a better place.” When a protest has vulgar signs and language, when a protest turns violent and angry, when people [within the protest group or bystanders] are hurt, when property is destroyed or looted, when traffic is blocked and drivers threatened; then yes I stand by my statement that said protesters should do [be doing] something [that is] constructive to help others. When protesters come to the protest with their faces covered, armed with sticks, bricks, rocks, bats, pipes, etc. they are Not projecting a positive, helpful aura and could possibly be considered up to no good. They certainly don’t leave the protest group with a good public image and could garner negative condemnation. The protests I’ve seen on the news is not of an affirmative, uplifting group of protesters, thus my comment.

    • AshleyQuinn

      I find this response to this blog a distraction. It’s one thing to find commonality in similarity of struggle, but another thing to try to one-up another’s struggles. Nowhere in the post does she say that white people don’t have struggles – but none of the struggles in your life were because you were black, and it’s entirely possible that whatever obstacles you met in life would have been that much harder to overcome if your skin color had been black. Two men with HS degrees – one a black man with no criminal history, the other a white man with a conviction – the white man has an easier time finding a job – that’s the kind of researched and statistical analysis that the original white person posting the question doesn’t want to hear. Two identical resumes, one with a “black sounding name” the other with a “white sounding name” and the white names get called in for interviews far more often. And we white folks question whether or not race was a motivating factor in discrimination all the time. Last night Adele beat Beyonce for Best Album of the Year at the Grammy’s and people on my facebook feed want to pretend like race wasn’t a factor in that absurdity. Adele herself said Bey deserves the award.

      • Carolyn Overcash

        Sorry, I was a distraction. Not trying to “one up”. In fact, point I tried to make is that regardless of skin tone or dna background, we all have struggles, trials and tribulation. We were put here to help each other regardless of background or skin tone, not to put one another down. Sorry that my not being “black” seems to negate my input in your opinion. However, I am a melting pot American [Heinz 57] with my current extended family being a rainbow of hues. Oddly enough, I’m color blind, thus I see all peoples as God’s unique creations.

        • AshleyQuinn

          I think colorblindness is dangerous. I mean it sounds nice. But it doesn’t make sense to me with the rest of the sentence. If you see people as G-d’s unique creations then wouldn’t you actually see them, all of them, skin color and all? I don’t think many black people wish that white people didn’t see their black skin when we look at them, I think they just wish we didn’t’ equate black with bad or criminal or lazy etc. As a queer person, I don’t want my queer identity erased by those who look at me.
          The reason I say “colorblindness” is dangerous is largely from reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Krista Tippet has an interview with Ms. Alexander. For instance our country’s prison system pretends to be color blind, criminalizing actions not race, but then imposes more severe sentencing for drugs more commonly used by POC than by white folks, the policy is racist without ever having to name black people.
          If you’re being sarcastic it’s hard for me to read that in text on the internet from a stranger, but it feels like your “sorry”s aren’t really – and probably don’t need to be. And you don’t answer to me. I’m just participating in the conversation.

          • Carolyn Overcash

            As a participant in this conversation, I was not being sarcastic. Since it was misunderstood, let me explain, my being color blind I mean, I see all people as God’s unique creations. I stand by that statement.

            When I meet you I don’t see your race, your background, your past, you’re sexual life, your job, occupation etc as a barrier or reason not to love you as a fellow human being, a fellow creation of God. I know that the differences exist, but they don’t dictate my personal interaction with you.

            My first instinct when meeting someone is to give them a hug of friendship. I want to be a friend and help that person in any way I can. I firmly believe in the Golden Rule and the Sins of Omission as they pertain to my daily life. (PS: I believe in “Paying it Forward” also, and have ever since I saw the the movie of the same name.)

            My smiles, hugs, genuine caring about how someone’s day, week etc is for that person as an individual. If you are that individual, I’ll pray for you, cry with you, lend a helping hand, gift you with something you need if I have it to give, rejoice with you. I’ll listen to you, hunt for solutions for problems and eventually even offer you unsolicited advice–just the same way that I treat my younger blood related brothers and sisters and my circle of friends. That’s how I was taught to live, how I grew up and how I believe in living.

  • MysticCowboy

    I fully appreciate the experience of white privilege, not because I’m black but because I’ve been the recipient of this kind of discrimination myself. When I was 13, my parents moved from Las Vegas to a small Utah community. They thought that country life would be good for us. We were the only non-Morman family in town, which taught me the experience of discrimination first hand. Parents wouldn’t let their daughters date me. People came up to me on the street and told me I wasn’t wanted. I was pulled over several times by the the local cops, for no other reason than they knew me as an outsider, we only had two. Neither of my younger sister, both bright and attractive young women had a single date through their entire time in that community. I could go on.

    I experienced much the same thing when I moved into a mixed hispanic/black neighborhood. The apartment was the only one I could afford at the time. I was beaten up twice by young African American men. I was called a honky pig buy a young woman. My offense was walking by her and saying hi. To this day, I do that to most people I pass on the sidewalk I am not now, nor was then aggressive or demeaning in my behavior. However, I was different… I was constantly insulted in Spanish by hispanics, not all of them young. I had enough of the language to know what they were saying.

    While white privilege is a real thing, I think that the bigger truth is that people are tribal and afraid of the other. That’s the problem that we all need to address, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation.

    • Capt. FluffyBunny

      Amen! Seriously, I’ve had. very similar experiences and have witnessed gross racist, sexist behavior by people of all walks, religion, cultures, and races. People are tribal and xenophobic.

  • Brazilian Happiness Coach

    WOW!! So inspiring! Thanks Lori!

  • Privileged white guy

    As a 1 of about 10 white kids in a school of about 1000 black kids, I know all about racism.

    In today’s world in which African Americans minority subset of the population enjoy the benefits of a system designed and enacted by the larger white population to insure that the minority black population would be treated equitably, isn’t it appropriate to refrain from formulating a strategy for prejudging white people as privileged(and thus wronging you in some way) simply because they are white. I think we call this racism and forms the basis for injustice.

    I grew up in the Mississippi delta and I have known many black folks that were better people than most white folks. And I’ve known many white folks that were sorrier that buzzard s**t. People, white or black, brown, yellow or green can be however they choose and enjoy the benefits or suffer the CO sequences thereof.

    I was installing a tile floor for a black family once, when discussions of white privileges began. I’ve had black folks (more than once) accuse me of being racist and when i asked I was told “cause your one of those white motherf***s. Isn’t that ironic.

    Anyways I was just sharing. But I got to get to bed now cause my white butt has to get up early and running a jackhammer all day. Such a privilege.

    • Laura Steele

      Yeah, but despite your experiences, you still don’t get it. You are not likely to be pulled over while driving to work to operate your jackhammer because of racial profiling. You’re probably not asked for two forms of identification when paying for your groceries with a check. If you make a mistake on the job, your white boss and co-workers are less likely to file a formal complaint. Your white neighbors are less likely to call the cops on you if you host a party. So just imagine living your own life, which I’m sure is not easy (as it is not easy for many of us white folks) but with the additional burden of black skin. That’s all this is about.

      • Capt. FluffyBunny

        I think you’re right about the first two items and very wrong about the rest of the things you list. Corporations are incredibly careful when handling complaints against people of color and women–very litigious atmosphere. As far as neighbors and parties, same goes.

    • Jacqueline Comola

      Your comment makes me realize that in a textbook type of situation, it should technically be called “majority privilege.” Whatever race, religion, sex etc. that the majority is, in any given situation, is usually the group with the power and privilege. In the US, though, I think it’s a little different. So leaving skin tone out of it, let’s take the example that there’s pretty much as many men as there are women in the US. Even though men aren’t the majority, they clearly feel they are the ones in charge. This is something that separates USA “white privilege” from the idea of “majority privilege.” Many men definitely treat me differently than they treat other men. And that’s actually men of all ethnicities. But even among both men and women, there’s assumptions made about me as a white person, too. My skin tone absolutely dictates how people treat me in this country. First, people assume I have money because I am white, educated, and wear dresses a lot; second, people assume I’m sweet and maternal; third, people assume I can cook; fourth, people assume I am Christian; fifth, other white people assume I won’t be offended by a racist joke; sixth, other women assume I love wine to a slightly obsessive degree (??); seventh, people assume I am straight and will forgive them for making a slur about the LGBT community or agree with them altogether. I think it’s obvious I am treated differently because of my skin color. It’s definitely a thing in our country. On the privilege side, people assume I won’t steal from them, I won’t harm them, I won’t be too outspoken, and I will defend another white person if they say something ignorant or at least hear them out. I know definitively that’s not always assumed about people of color.

      For a long time, anglo saxonish Caucasians were the power holders in the US, and even if droves of people of color or fair skin immigrants came into the US, those Caucasian “originals,” so to speak, were the group to which all immigrants/new comers had to assimilate. From an historical perspective, I think white privilege is something white people enforced, not because they were the majority, but because they were there “first,” and they wanted to be the ones who made the rules and prevent any changes to the lifestyle they made for themselves. Because of this history, and because of slavery, I think white privilege is extremely relevant and is more accurate a description for our country than “majority privilege.” In the past, many white Americans wanted to make sure they were at the top of the proverbial food chain, even if they were not the majority in a given situation. They laid that foundation a long time ago, and amazingly, it still hasn’t really changed that much due to them being the majority in the government for years. Colonial white Americans also had a sense of false ownership over the USA which was their justification for their immoral treatment of groups that were “different” than them, including the Native Americans. This was in the Enlightenment Era where the concept of Manifest Destiny afforded white males their god-given right to do as they pleased and feel no guilt in so doing. If that’s not white privilege I don’t know what is!

      People are always going to profile, whether it’s positive or negative. I think it’s a survival instinct, and our brains have a strong, fundamental need to categorize. It’s just the nature of the brain. So I do believe people of color and white people both profile and organize other people into categories. It’s going to happen, always. What’s important is how we control our impulse to categorize and realize we are stronger than our fundamental instinct to categorize everything in our heads – or at least start with making better categories! I definitely think we can, with time, overcome the history of our country with its biased Caucasian-power-manifest-destiny-craziness that’s created white privilege, male privilege, and, to be honest, in the area I live in, Christian privilege, too. Looking ahead, though, we have to be mindful that different isn’t scary, and we have to assume the best rather than assume the worst. The cycle will continue as long as we continue to be afraid of those who don’t look and act like us. At the end of the day we’re all human. There’s really no difference between one person and the next. As the “melting pot” we should be the leading example of people from all different cultures and appearances coexisting.

  • Ave Rojas

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Capt. FluffyBunny

    These aren’t examples of white privilege, these are examples of asshole individuals, racism, and sexism.

    I’m a white woman and have encountered enumerable similar situations. Far more than I can count. Very similar.

    Sometimes people were jerks because I was a woman doing something they didn’t expect, sometimes the person was just an idiotic jerk, sometimes they thought I was poor white trash and didn’t deserve the same treatment they were getting, and sometimes the person was a racist jerk with a chip on their shoulders.

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  • Jose Phonebone

    OK, now I get it, white privilege is being less likely to be prejudged, based on the color of my skin.

    You appear to be saying to the white bystander; “jump in any time now, I’d appreciate some support in dealing with this person who is being sexist and/or racist to me.” That is appropriate, but let’s boil it down just a smidgen, we all should feel obligated to intervene when something wrong, unjust or harmful if being done to another person.

    But that is not how the term white privilege is often being used, it is very often used as a derogatory slur to shame whites for simply being, as though being white were an incurable existential evil. Hogwash.

    If I am present when another is being mistreated and I do nothing, then you would have all the right in the world to chastise me, so that hopefully I might show more courage in the future. But you would be totally in the wrong if you left the room and started to shame and chastise another individual who had not participated in your mistreatment and/or was not witness to it.

    If you want help in shutting down racist and sexist behaviors, and all other forms of denigrating prejudice, then I all on-board with that, but we don’t need new terms that are being used to divide us more and amplify hatred between us. We don’t need Maoist shaming Struggle Session techniques here in America.

  • Lexi Letch

    So glad my Ethics class suggested I read this! This article is fantastic and extremely eye opening.

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  • Carolyn Overcash

    I so wish taking statements out of context weren’t the norm for persons looking for ways to find fault. “When I meet you I don’t see your race, your background, your past, you’re sexual life, your job, occupation etc as a barrier or reason not to love you as a fellow human being, a fellow creation of God. ” I treat each person as a unique individual, a unique creation of God, and I try to follow God’s example and teachings in how I treat them. This is no way takes away from who they are, what their culture, upbringing, or accomplishments are or could be. Christ taught that even as we do unto others we do unto him; therefore, I don’t look for differences, I look for how we are alike as God’s children.

    • livin1965

      My sense is that you want to see yourself one way and it’s very difficult to learn that other people don’t experience you the same way. The comments people are offering as feedback could be used to find ways to think more deeply and inwardly about how you are approaching the issue of race and color. Instead, you seem to need to defend every response. It’s understandable. I often reflexively feel defensive when offered criticism, even when it’s spot on. Being a husband and father is incredibly humbling when I allow the feedback of my wife and daughter to cause me to look deeply at my choices and motivations. I want to see myself a certain way (often that means being “right”), but many times I’m not, plain and simple. I think the author of the article is asking people to think more deeply about their choices and motivations, to look inward.

      We can ill-afford to be color-blind, regardless of how benign you intend that notion to be received. I’d recommend stripping it from your lexicon. I have yet to see anything good come from pretending an aspect of a person does not exist. Jesus saw everyone, deeply, and exactly as they were. I’m not aware of any existence in the bible in which God tells us to pretend certain aspects of people do not exist even if we think it allows us to love them more. Loving someone isn’t about pretending we are all the same, it’s about seeing all that is different, deeply and truly, and finding ways to connect in spite of how those difference might make us feel and (perhaps most difficult of all) doing so in a loving way. A huge order, if you ask me, and one I struggle with constantly.

      Blessings on your journey.

  • Carolyn Overcash

    In context, “When I meet you I don’t see your race, your background, your past, you’re sexual life, your job, occupation etc as a barrier or reason not to love you as a fellow human being, a fellow creation of God. I know that the differences exist, but they don’t dictate my personal interaction with you.” We have all had negative interactions with other people. How we deal with that negative interaction is up to us as individuals. Hopefully, it will make us have more empathy with another’s struggles, trials, and tribulations. You are not invisible, I am not erasing any accomplishments you may or may not have achieved. I don’t know you; however, I will treat you equally well as to those persons I already know. My mom and dad taught their children, myself included, not to expect praise for doing the right thing, the right thing is what one is expected to do. So in this instance I’m saying this, have a wonderful life, I hope it fills your expectations and you get the recognition you expect. As for myself, God’s not done with me yet: I’m still a work in progress.