I’ve been thinking a lot about racism and white privilege since the George Zimmerman verdict. (I’m not going to call it the “Trayvon Martin” verdict, because Trayvon Martin wasn’t on trial.) I’ve been having lots of conversations about race issues on facebook, some of these conversations haven’t gone very well. But these have been some of my thoughts…
Some people have tried to make the point that because Zimmerman is Latino and not white, race wasn’t a factor in the trial.
Let me be brutally honest here. People don’t like to think of themselves as racists, so let me clear the air a bit.
I am racist. When I see a black man or teenager, for a split second, I’m suspicious. Then I become aware of that irrational suspicion and I let it go. In today’s America, where most of our arrested criminals are black (because most of the people arrested are black), it’s very hard not to be a racist. It takes a lot of effort and work.
We’re culturally trained to associate criminal behavior with black men.
If I saw George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, instinctively I would be suspicious of Trayvon first.
Look deeply and honestly within yourselves. Can you honestly say your first impression would be different?
And if not, then how can you claim this trial had nothing to do with race?
The term “privilege” has always bothered me, even though the ideas behind the terms like white privilege, ableist privilege, etc., make sense. And I just figured out why.
Privileges are something extra you get, like when you’re a kid and your parents tell you you can earn a privilege by doing a chore. And when we talk about white privilege, we’re talking about unearned privilege. We make our “privileges” a source of guilt. In other words, the fact that I can walk down a street alone at night without being shot for having my skin color making me appear “suspicious” is something I should feel bad about, that other people don’t have the same safe experiences.
But being able to walk down a street at night without being shot because your skin color makes you appear “suspicious” shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be the norm.
Being able to walk into a store and not having the manager tail you should be the norm. Being able to get a job based on your qualifications and not your skin color or sex or etc. should be the norm. Being able to live in any neighborhood you can afford without being given sham excuses about why you can’t live there should be the norm.
Everyone should be able to live the life a male, straight, white, able-bodied, etc. American can live.
The guilt involved in the discussions on white privilege I’ve read implies that the privilege itself–our experiences as white Americans–is the problem. We need to give up some of our privileges so those without them can live like we do.
No. I don’t want to walk down the street and be judged as if I were black. I want everyone to be able to walk down the street and not be judged because of their skin tone.
The goal is to improve people’s lives, not lessen some to improve others.
My “privileges” aren’t the problem. The problem is that they have somehow become extra benefits and not the normal experience of just being HUMAN.
So, white Americans, don’t feel guilty that you can walk home and not get shot like Trayvon. Don’t feel guilty for getting into that college or getting that job.
Feel empowered to work so that people who are being denied their human rights can have the same opportunities at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that you do.
Because ultimately, what we’re talking about are rights, not privileges.