Privilege

I’ve been talking a lot about white privilege this holiday season. I tried to have a conversation with my mother about it, but she just didn’t get it. She’s never felt less than because of the color of her skin. For her gender and her class, sure, but never her skin. So I didn’t know how to explain it to her. Not that she doesn’t believe in white privilege. She does. But it was like she didn’t understand the depth of it. The strength of it. The caliber. I didn’t know how to make it real for her. Salient. A friend posted this article on Facebook this morning, acknowledging their racial, educational, social class privileges:

Leonard Pitts, Jr: The meaning of white privilege

What I liked most was his central point, obviously: Because privilege is about the instant assumptions people make about you — your worth, your honesty, your intelligence — based on color of skin.

I know the article is on white privilege, and I know this is an important conversation we need to have which focuses solely on racial privilege, because after the conversation with my mother I am fully aware that there are plenty of intelligent, articulate white folks who just don’t get it and maybe never will and despite whatever the news media and our President likes to pretend, unless we can be frank about it, no one is ever going to attempt to grasp the concept of Blackness in America, the experience.

There are just so many other things that this conversation spurs in my mind. That it’s not just black and white: there are so many other shades, obviously, of people in the world who are stunted by white privilege. And then immediately after that thought I think of class privilege and all the people who are dismissed for their job, lack of education, accents, style of dress, etc. And I feel like I’m belittling the conversation by bringing in these additional topics, but I just can’t help it. My mind jumps around from point to point effortlessly. Because I think if you miss one then it’s easy to miss the other. You know? If you can’t acknowledge those simple assumptions you’re making about the world, or if you’re missing the way you make decisions/formulate opinions because of your privilege and your lack of understanding of others’ lack of privilege, then how can you possibly be ready to do anything about the way white privilege is ruining our American society?

My point is I don’t think we can expect to have conversations with non-shaded folks about privilege and expect to make it salient for all of them. That’s not going to happen. [Stop trying to make fetch happen.] We have to move forward without them. And honestly, I think we should. Because if something has to be lived for those who don’t get it to care–to grasp the full extent– then they never will, and our systems can do without such narrow-minded people. Don’t you think? And no offense to my mother, whom I love dearly, but I can’t keep turning in circles trying to teach you this when people are dying, you know? That just seems silly.

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