I met Joe last semester, and the first time we ever really talked we dove right into topics like diversity on campus and hazing. Later on I found out that he liked to journal and reflect on himself and society; so I was very excited when he offered to write for my blog. Joe wrote the following piece about white privilege and the racism that is still very real in our world today. I only ask that you please read on with an open mind to the realities and mistakes that we are all capable of making. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to share your opinion on the matter!
If you want to share an idea or story here, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook. Thanks Femmegades 🙂
White People, Wake Up.
2 months ago:
Me: White male. 22. 5’11”.
My cousin: White female. 16. 5’6”.
We were coming out of a restaurant after grabbing some lunch as a middle-aged African American man walked by us with his son. He had an upstanding vibe, was well dressed with khaki shorts and a collared shirt, and spoke eloquently with, by white society standard, a very clear accent. A standard guy, I had thought at the time. But it was then that my cousin made a passing comment that, in one fell swoop, made me realize many things about our society: “I just love it when I see a well educated African American man.”
A wave of emotions welled up in me at the comment, and I launched into an (educational) tirade about white privilege, minority struggles, and racism in the U.S. today. But I realized that she wasn’t coming from a place of ill intent. Rather she just had not been exposed to the idea of modern white privilege.
This got me thinking. White people nowadays don’t see our own white privilege. They don’t see the racism they inadvertently support. If I had $1 for every time I’ve heard a white person comment, “I absolutely hate racism,” then go on to say something extremely racist, I would have enough money to pay Donald Trump to never say another racially insensitive comment again.
The fact of the matter is this: Racism still exists. And it is widespread.
Today, racism still exists, but it has a different face. It exists mainly through what’s known as microaggressions. Microaggressions are small comments, actions, or patterns of thought surrounding minorities that communicate a negative or derogatory message. Microaggressions are things like:
- Clutching your purse a little tighter when a Latino person walks by
- Saying “This place is SO ghetto. There are a lot of black people here.”
- Judging the Asian girl working at McDonald’s because “you thought Asians were smarter than that.”
So I’ve thrown around a couple of terms, some of which are pretty intuitive. But one I want to zero in on is white privilege. White privilege refers to the benefits that white people are afforded, ones that are institutionalized in our society. For a good idea on what white privilege really is, check out these (pretty informative) comic strips from Everyday Feminism and Deadstate.org.
Now you might be reading this and thinking, “But surely I’m not racist. I love black people, and I have friends who are minorities.”
If you’re saying this, you might be making racist comments.
A lot of white people can’t see this because of the stigma against racism. Most white people today think that Racism = BAD. Racists = Bad People. I am not a Bad Person, so I cannot be Racist. Our idea that you have to be a bad person to make racist comments is what gives a home for rampant racism. People with the best intentions can make really hurtful comments, intentionally or unintentionally. And our white privilege gives us the ability to say these things without real consequence to us.
The truth is no one is trying to question your character because of your microaggressions or crucify you for having white privilege. People just want you to learn from it and not repeat the same mistake again. Making racist comments doesn’t make you a bad person. Making racist comments and refusing to acknowledge it or learn from it makes you a bad person. The only thing we can do is actively work to eliminate this mentality within ourselves and others around us.
So from one white person to another: wake up. Wake up and smell the racism.