I want to talk, poorly at best, about white privilege. I am white. I experience this privilege. And I generally experience it in such a way that I don’t see it.
But, don’t you see? That’s the thing. THAT is what white privilege is.
Kullervo and I were talking the other day about a recent case where a 13 year old black boy was shot in Baltimore by the police. He was running around with a toy gun. Kullervo remembered being a teenager at a science fiction convention, and all the teens playing some intricate indoor/outdoor game that involved chasing each other and shooting toy guns. Kullervo’s brother was drawn down on by the police. He wasn’t shot. He wasn’t hurt. They told him to quit playing, and everyone went on their way.
If my brother-in-law were black, he might be dead. Or gravely injured.
THAT is white privilege.
Do police lives matter? Yes! Of course! We need our police officers. Some of my dearest friends are police. Some of the most formative people in my life growing up were police officers who took me in and treated me like a daughter.
Don’t all lives matter though? Yes! Of course!
But, don’t you see? That’s the point of #blacklivesmatter. Right now, we treat minorities as if their lives don’t matter. Or at least not as much as other people’s lives.
I went to the grocery store with all four of my (white) kids the other day. It has rained for days on end here; they all have all this pent up energy. Plus, some of the kids, when mixed together with public places, rile each other up in such a way as to be absolutely nuts-driving. So, they were acting a bit like wild children in the grocery store. And I was tired and didn’t have the energy to tell them AGAIN to behave. So I tolerated much more misbehavior than I would have otherwise.
And I left the store wondering if even that is white privilege. If a relatively young mom of four African-American children took them to the grocery store and the eight year old was playing reckless hide and seek with the four- and two- year olds and the ten year old was asking (nagging) about buying scrapple and the mom was frazzled with the busyness of the store and the lateness of the hour and all the other things that had to get done with the day… what would have been different? The judgmental looks (which were relatively low for me)—would they have had an added layer to them?
When my kids want to go outside and play unsupervised, I don’t have to worry that anybody will see them and assume they are up to no good
When someone posts about a free bag of Legos on our neighborhood forum at 1pm on a Tuesday, I can send my oldest son out to go run over and scoop them up before someone else does (and I can’t leave because the little one is sleeping), and I don’t have to worry that walking home during a school day with a bag of stuff will make someone suspect him of a crime and call the police. Because he’s white.
The thing about white privilege is that I don’t even really know what it looks like. If you’re black, you know that the standards are different, even though they shouldn’t be. If you’re white, you don’t have to see any standards at all, because they aren’t applied against you.
And if I’m entirely off base here, please call me on it!