If there are two words that unsettle unknowledgable white people as much as the words Black Lives Matter, they have to be white privilege. Given the racial climate over the last eight years, exacerbated by the election and reelection of President Barack Obama, we’ve been hearing a lot about it lately. To the willfully ignorant or simply misinformed white person, they’re fighting words uttered by anti-white black people to stir up resentment and to emphasize black victimhood. Well actually no and no. For those whites who really want to know what I’m getting back, sit back, have a cup of patience sweetened with open mindedness and just listen.
When we talk about white privilege, are we saying that the life of a white person is a bowl of cherries? Of course not. No one with any sense believes that being white means that life is trouble free and that white people don’t have to work for anything they have. It also doesn’t mean that being white is to be insulated from injustice. The fact that the majority of welfare recipients and recipients of other forms of public assistance are white (there goes a convenient racist stereotype) and that, in strictly numbers, more whites are killed by police than people of color shows that struggle and pain doesn’t bounce off of white skin. Those who choose to interpret otherwise are doing themselves a disservice as well as those of us who recognize it. What is white privilege then?
White privilege is being able to take for granted the rights, dignity and freedoms that are denied to others on too far a regular basis. Don’t black people have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else? On the law books, yes, but that isn’t always how it is in practice. If we look at the numerous attempts by some states, mostly in the South, to suppress voting rights, we have an example. Many of these laws require voters to present picture ID and others are doing away with early voting, same day registration and weekend voting. What’s wrong with that you ask? Just having to ask the question is a form of white privilege. Black people, especially the elderly, are far less likely to posess picture ID due to being more likely to use public transportation, therefore not needing a drivers license as much. Many elderly black Americans, who were born during a time when they didn’t always receive or keep birth certificates, would find obtaining a picture ID much more difficult. The state of Alabama, where ID is required, is actually closing down many license offices in predominantly black areas which really makes you go hmmmm. Republican legislators will swear to the max that these laws are not discriminatory and that they are meant to prevent voter fraud but the number of proven cases of fraud has been so miniscule that even talking about passing laws to combat it seems a waste of time. Well I guess it isn’t if you’re trying to disenfranchise people.
Let’s talk about white privelege in law enforcement. You say obey the law, respect the police and use common sense, right? Well I’m very certain that Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher and John Crawford III would give you a sideye if they could. Crawford was simply looking at a BB rifle on the shelf at Wal Mart and talking on his cell phone when officers gunned him down after reports of a man with a gun in the store. It’s likely that they simply saw a black man with a gun and all preconceived stereotypes led to the worst. In spite of the many school, theatre and shopping center and church shootings committed by whites, it’s still a safe bet that a white man looking at a BB gun in the store would be assumed to be browsing. Terence Crutcher, who first committed the heinous act of having his car break down, was walking with his hands up when shot. An officer in a helicopter, without knowing what was going on, concluded that he was a “bad dude” from high in the sky. Lavar Jones, who was stopped by a South Carolina state trooper for a seatbelt infraction two years ago got shot in his hip after he reached in his vehicle to get his drivers license, as he was asked to do. Let me add that his hands were up and he was backing away. Thankfully Mr. Jones survived and the trooper, Sean Groubert, pleaded guilty to assault and although, at the time of this writing, there is no word on his sentence, will never be a law enforcement officer again but the fact that the shooting victim survived and that the officer received at least some repercussions is an anomaly. I seriously doubt that there are many whites who are wary about reaching for their licenses when stopped by police for fear of being a statistic. Last year an Indian man named Sureshbhai Patel, while visiting his son in Madison Alabama, was tackled by a white cop and partially paralyzed while taking a walk through his son’s subdivision. Mr. Patel was already handcuffed mind you. The officer was responding to a call from a neighbor reporting a “skinny black guy” in the neighborhood. White privilege is not having to worry about being confronted by the police while simply taking a walk. It also means not having to worry about a neighbor calling the police in the first place after taking one look at your color and assuming that you’re up to no good. Oh and did I mention what happened to Dylann Roof after he shot and killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston SC last year. Not only was he taken alive without a scratch, he was treated to a meal at Burger King. Get the privilege idea a little bit now? How about being able to drive an expensive car without being pulled over because the officer, who can’t afford it himself, suspects that you sold drugs for it or stole it, or is simply sore at seeing someone who doesn’t look like him with something that only he should be driving? Or not being suspected of burglarizing the house in the affluent white neighborhood that you recently moved into. That’s a privelege that many of us would welcome.
Now let’s talk about white privilege and personal achievement. Let’s start with sports. Most of us know about Michael Phelps, not only the winningest swimmer in Olympic history but the winningest Olympian period. Most of us would attribute his success to hard work, dedication and sacrifice, as we should. We also know about Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, winner of nine Olympic Gold medals and world record holder it the 100 and 200 meters. I attribute that to hard work, dedication and discipline also but there are many asking the question “Why are Jamaicans such good sprinters?” Those of us who follow track know that Kenya has some of the best middle-distance runners in the world but that wasn’t always the case. Until Kenya began to stand out, the best middle-distance runners were Great Britain’s Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram and New Zealander John Walker. No one asked, however, why British Commonwealth runners were so good. No one asks why Canadians are such good hockey players, why white Americans are such good speed skaters and why southern good ole boys are such good stock car drivers. Ever since Jesse Owens shattered Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan physical supremacy, scientists and casual observers have credited black athletic success with black people having inbred physical and genetic features which give us an advantage. Larry Bird, undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball players ever was a 6’9 tall example of white privilege in the 1980s when his accomplishments were heavily touted as being due to his intelligence, court sense and work ethic while Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were merely faster and more athletic. Jon Entine authored a junk science book called “Taboo” which was published in 2000 which suggests that black athletes have genetic advantages over whites. Venus and Serena Williams have often been commented on for the supposed physical advantages that they have over their white counterparts. When the Arkansas Razorbacks, who were predominantly black, defeated the Duke Blue Devils, who had more whites on the roster, to win the 1994 NCAA basketball title, a white female reporter asked Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski if the Arkansas players were bigger and quicker. Uh lady, maybe Arkansas simply played better basketball! If you ever achieved anything in sports without anyone thinking that you achieved it due to any special advantages, consider yourself privileged.
Oh and lets get to academics. As everyone knows, it is generally believed that whites are more intelligent than blacks and that makes white the superior race. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed many examples of black teenagers making the news by being accepted into multiple Ivy Leagues schools, some being accepted to all eight. While they have all received many accolades, they have had detractors suggesting that their acceptances were due to affirmative action, in spite of their high grade point averages, their SAT scores, extracurricular activities and other positive accomplishments. White privilege is being accepted into a prestigious university and it is assumed that it’s because of your qualifications and nothing more. As flattering as some may think it is to credit Asians with being an intellectually superior people, many would quickly tell you how insulting it is to credit anything other than rigorous study habits for that.
Need further explanation? Feel free to ask someone instead of being defensive and/or in denial. The racism that still exists in our society has gotten more exposed over the last several years and with that includes a greater awareness of what I just explained. Don’t worry, no one is asking you to give up anything or suggesting that the better your life is the worse ours are. What we see and know, however, is what we see and know and progress isn’t made with a buried head.