The Art of White Privilege by Andja Ljuboja Crawford
When I hear white people say “All Lives Matter,” my response is always the same. When have white lives NOT mattered? When has white NOT been the preferred race? When has white not been right? If the slogan was “Black Lives Matter, Too” or “Black Lives Matter, Also” would that be easier to digest?-Many whites are very offended by the idea of “white privilege”. This is because we are so isolated from the hurdles that black people deal with on a daily basis. Our communities are so immune from the reality of systemic racism that it’s just a way of life for us.
Life in general is easier for me because I am white, my husband is white and our children are white. My husband drove around for a year with expired plates. He never got pulled over and the fear of him getting pulled over, in all honesty, wasn’t very worrisome to either of us. We both knew and acknowledged how white privilege allowed us to not be concerned about it. Can a black man feel safe driving around with expired plates? We all know the answer to that. Do I have to worry about my white sons being murdered or harassed by the police? Of course I don’t. Does my heart ache for all those mothers who have to worry every single time their children, regardless of age, leave the house? It does. Yet, my white privilege still allows me to forget about the worries of black parents and the amount of anxiety and stress they live with on a day-to-day basis.. The luxury of knowing the police will help my sons and not hurt them is exclusive to me.
A black co-worker once told me he taught his sons to never get into an elevator alone with a white woman. This shocked me, as someone who took many African American studies classes in college and had honest and uncomfortable conversations about race with my black friends. I could not believe that he had to caution his 12-year-old son against being alone with white women...women who were potentially just like me. I didn’t realize that black parents had to have those talks with their children; that they had to explain to them that white people will fear you and not trust you based on your skin color alone. Obviously, it's not necessary for me to explain those things to my 12-year-old, but so much for being “woke” huh?
The thing I want white people to do, starting right now, is to speak up. Protesting isn’t enough. Call out those relatives, friends and co-workers who make racist comments. It’s easy to be anti-racist when you are around black people that you know and love., But, what really counts is what you say and do when your black friends are not around. Call out the “quiet racism” when you hear statements made about blacks, such as “She’s very articulate” or when you witness a white friend clutch her purse when a black person walks past her. If you stay silent, you are continuing the cycle and your protesting and BLM posts on Facebook are hypocritical to say the least.
Racism has been passed down from generation to generation. Throughout history, blacks were demonized as criminals, rapists, savages and lazy. These are the same stereotypes which exists today. White people are taught through words and actions that the majority of blacks today are criminals, drug dealers, uneducated, and lazy. We are also told that “there are some good black people.” These stereotypes and ways of thinking are all passed down to us, just like grandma’s chicken noodle soup recipe. It’s sad that it took the murder of George Floyd in the year 2020 for white people to not be ok with police brutality. It took a recording of such injustices for whites to acknowledge and believe that police brutality is real even though it's been going on for centuries.
It’s my job to break that cycle, to explain to my kids why their life is valued more than their black classmates. Lead by example. Let them hear you say that systemic racism is real, while giving them real life examples Let them hear you call out that jerk in the store who made a racist comment. Explain to them how white America has allowed this system to continue and that it's up to their generation to change it because mom and dad’s generation failed to do so. We rode the wave of white privilege in order to fulfill the white American dream.
Although we didn’t create the system, we definitely benefit from it daily. And no, our family didn’t own slaves, but we have benefited from both the historical and modern day forms of slavery and racial injustice everyday of our lives.As a first-generation American with an unusual name, I wasn’t allowed to play with certain kids because their parents said that my dad took their dad’s job and that we should go back to our country. When I told my parents, they were not surprised and told me to shake it off. My neighbor told me “well, at least you aren’t black. You have that going for you.” Need I say more?
A white Angela starts life out on 2nd base, a white Andja starts out on 1st base, but if you are black, you are starting in the dugout. It is that idea of “rank”, of how race instantly defines one’s starting line in life, that continues to fuel systemic and institutionalized racism in America. White America needs to admit the playing field is not an equal one. We MUST be willing to give up our privilege and inflated value. Systemic racism doesn’t allow for privilege to be taken away from us. It is OUR responsibility to give up that privilege, to give up that inflated value and most importantly, to be ok with it.