I’m kind of tired of the current conversation surrounding white privilege, which is basically, “What is white privilege?” and then an explanation. Nothing more, nothing less.
I think we’re stuck.
I’m happy that so many people are becoming more interested in talking about white privilege. It’s great, it really is. But we’re becoming a broken record.
I know that there are many people out there who still don’t get it and for those people, good, let’s keep the whole, “What is white privilege?” conversation going. But there are a whole lot of white people out there who are past that.
I’m not saying we’re fully enlightened and completely race conscious and there’s no more need for discussion. What I’m saying is that we need more.
It’s time to get the conversation flowing past the basic idea of white privilege. I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I do know is that white people are part of this conversation and we need to stay in this conversation.
I’m worried that too many white people are afraid to join because they think they don’t belong.
Last week, I read, yet another, piece from a person of color saying they were tired of hearing white people speak for people of color on this topic. And you know, she’s right. It’s not our conversation, to tell everyone how they feel or how racism affects them. We do need to listen.
But I do not agree that we, as white people, should be shut out of the conversation. I think the fact that white people want to talk about racism is a good sign. It’s a sign that we want to see positive change.
It’s time for white folks to start having our own conversation about our own race.
Here are a few things to think about.
1. What can we do with our new found knowledge of our own privilege?
2. How can we all work together to boost up those without privilege in our current society? (Clearly affirmative action is only addressing some of the concerns.)
3. What are the biggest problems for those without privilege and how can we work together to change them?
4. How do we talk about our own skin color and what it means for us?
I’m going to leave you all to do some thinking for yourselves about the first three, but I am interested in finishing out this post with some thoughts on number 4 and then I’ll write some more on all of it later.
I Have Skin Color
I was never really aware of my own skin color until I was an adult. Not saying I didn’t know I was white.
But when it came to discussing race or culture or ethnicity, I was only aware of discussing others.
That’s one of the first things people need to understand about privilege. We are acutely unaware of our skin color.
We don’t have to think about how it affects us or wonder if the negative thing that happened to us was because of it.
It’s still difficult for me to understand how my whiteness has affected my life. I have some hazy memories/thoughts that float around of when or where or how my white skin may have shed positively on an outcome for me. But overall, it has never stood out to me.
When I left a bank with a loan, I never walked out thinking, “Damn, I am so glad I’m white! I never would’ve gotten that loan if I wasn’t!”
I have never rented a home and thought, “Wow, that property manager sure must have been happy to see a white person show up!”
I’ve never wondered if I was being watched in a store while shopping.
The only thing I have to equate racism in my personal experiences is sexism. In the professional world, I do have many memories of being acutely aware of my gender (but not my skin color).
A few examples: sitting in an interview, being offered way less money than I wanted and knowing that I would not likely to be able to bargain for more; being one of a few females in a conference room and watching all the other women suck up to the men to get what they wanted, knowing that my ideas would never be listened to unless I flirted or giggled, and refusing to do it. Just damn refusing.
(I want to mention here that I have, many times, asked for more money and most of the time, been refused. I am sick of that argument that women don’t ask for raises or higher salaries. Maybe statistically women don’t, but as someone who has and does, I can tell you that the answer is almost always uh, no, ain’t gonna happen lady.)
Suffice it to say, I’ve never given my skin color much thought until I was confronted with it in the new days of becoming a mother and being told that I now had a responsibility I hadn’t realized would come with becoming a mother. It was a task I was wholly unprepared for, even given my years of education on racial topics. I knew how to write about race for a newspaper audience. I knew how to roll my eyes when a white person said something completely ignorant about the racial divide.
But I did not know how to talk to my daughter about the issues she would face as a woman of color. And it’s something I’m still learning about. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I manage to keep one step ahead of her, so far, I think it’s been good.
Think About Your Own Skin Color
For the past few years, I’ve thought about being white, what it means for me and for my relationship with my daughter. I’ve had many eye-opening revelations. I’ve learned a lot. I have also stuck my foot in my mouth a lot. The one thing I’ve figured out is that I will never know it all. I cannot stop at just knowing that I have white privilege. I cannot ever stop. We, as a society, cannot ever stop. Let’s stop being stuck. So for now, think about your own skin color. Spend some time, thinking about it and internalizing it. It’s what people of color do. Maybe we can join them. I think that might be a good step in the right direction.