White privilege is alive and well and, to be honest, it’s kicking like a child throwing a tantrum. I never really paid attention to these things, not until I had reached my 30’s, and even now I’m struggling with how I deal with the phenomenon and I’m nearly 40. I’ve “enjoyed” the benefits without understanding the reality of the concept for years.
Where I grew up was a predominantly white area. I don’t know if it was because of our location – if it was purposeful, or what. It was a small area in between two smaller-midsize towns with a large lake and many, many vacation and permanent homes owned by people from pharmaceutical, car, and cereal companies.
In my graduating class, the minority consisted of two people. Same for my older brother’s and I believe for my younger sister’s classes. We also had immigrants who came around for a while because they were part of the migrant farming circuit at local orchards.
When we received our driver’s licenses we all received the same lecture. “Don’t go to the north side of the nearby town. if you do lock your doors or they’ll pull you out of your car and steal it, or rape you, or kill you, or steal and rape your car”. There was no basis for this fear. The people on that side of town were in different economic circumstances than we were and yes, because their skin happened to be a different color, well, they must be dangerous.
The way people talked about the north side of town would have made others think white teenagers were disappearing at an alarming rate but somehow this never made the newspaper. At 16 we’re young and impressionable. When we’re told over and over something is dangerous by people that we trust, we tend to believe them.
The only time I drove through that side of town as a teenager was on accident and I was darn near peeing myself the entire time. I had to stop and ask for directions and nothing happened to me. Did that change my perspective? As a teenager? Hell no. I assumed I was one of the lucky ones.
When I go grocery shopping and hit the deli at the same time as someone who is black, the clerks look to me first for my order. If the other person was there before me, being the polite child that I am, I always indicate they should go first but often that person would indicate I should. Same thing at auto repair stores, department stores, everywhere I went.
At the time I assumed everyone was being polite. It took years for that perception to change.
I once witnessed a car accident when I was out west in the late 1990’s. I didn’t see the whole thing, my angle was off. I was the only white witness and, apparently, the only witness who’s statement was worth writing down, never mind if I had the whole story or not.
There was the time I was pulled over for doing 90 in a 55 in Missouri. I had two hitchhiking hippies I didn’t know with me and it was obvious I probably had drugs or something illegal in the car. I smiled, I charmed, and I was let off with a warning and nothing of mine was searched.
A black gentleman I know made a turn without using a turn signal. He was by himself in a brand new, very clean car a person could tell had nothing illicit inside (unless lawn mowers are illegal). He wasn’t speeding, his music wasn’t loud, his lights all worked properly, and it was his mother’s car. They share a last name. The officers searched his car for over an hour. They wrote a ticket for the turn and then gave him a very stern warning about transporting drugs. A reminder here, he wasn’t transporting drugs, never had and never would.
I used to joke that I could get the Car Part Replacement store guys to switch out batteries and windshield wipers against their policies because, “I’m a cute white girl and it just works out that way,” never realizing that statement is just AWFUL!!!! Speeding tickets, seat belt tickets, the time my white boyfriend did hide drugs in the car and the cops believed me when I lied and, instead of hauling him away for DUI they let me drive him home instead even though I looked 12 and didn’t have my license on my person at the time. It’s not legal to drive without your license on your person but the officers sent us on our way regardless.
There are so many stories hitting the news, proof that White Privilege exists. It’s not going to go down without a fight. These pundit type people are screaming that they’ve never seen it, never experienced it, so obviously it can’t exist and everyone should just quit their bitching.
Maybe they’ve never experienced it because their eyes weren’t open.
White privilege is subtle and sneaky. It can be mistaken for manners, “Oo, he’s so polite!” or considered not to be a big deal. It only slowed the other person down five minutes, what’s the big deal? Those five minutes every time someone goes to a store add up. Those five minutes tell someone they aren’t important and their problems or requests are secondary to some other stranger that the clerk doesn’t know, won’t get tipped from or anything along those lines.
When I’m having a bad day, I figuratively crap myself if someone gets a benefit I don’t get. Imagine if that happened every single day: someone in front of you in line gets a kinder smile, more attention, more assistance and it’s only because of what color their skin happens to be. Does it matter how your day is going if you are being constantly ground under like that?
Once again, this is a post where I have mostly questions and no solutions. I’m not 100% sure why I felt like I had to write this out except my psyche demanded it. I’ve been thinking about all of this since before the Trayvon Martin shooting and the thought pattern came to a head after the McKinney pool party video was released.
I was raised with White Privilege. It’s everywhere. The older I get the more I see it in action and it scares the Hell out of me. Bubbles burst, people, and this is one bubble that could take our country with it.
All I can ask is this: as you walk through your day, try not to be a dick, White People. You may not see it but trust me, that privilege is there. If you watch for it, you’ll see it and then, like me, you’ll feel like crap. That part sucks, the feeling like crap thing, but it is the first step in pushing us to make changes.