White Privilege in America

I am white. I will never be oppressed because of the color of my skin.

I do things every day without fear because my skin is a shield and privilege. Being white and choosing to ‘stay out of politics’ is white privilege. I have the ability to ignore oppression because I do not face it and I am not forced to address it like other races are. But I will address it. As a white person, it is imperative to not be indifferent and to not be a bystander.

I have this amazing platform to express issues that are important to me, and racism in American is something I am passionate about addressing.  However, this is an issue that should be important to everyone. My goals are to educate and to be an ally. I cannot and will not be the loudest voice in this movement because I have not endured the Black experience.  But I will use my platform to spread awareness and influence my White friends, colleagues, family and to anyone who will listen. I will listen and learn and raise my fist with the Black Lives Matter movement.

No justice until we’re equal. No justice, no peace.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu

As a white person:

I can go jogging, Ahmaud Arbery couldn’t.

I can be detained by police, George Floyd couldn’t.

I can relax in my home, Atatiana Jefferson, Breanna Taylor and Kathryn Johnson couldn’t.

I can have a mental health crisis, Anthony Hill couldn’t.

I can defend my loved ones from armed intruders, Kevin Davis couldn’t.

I can play loud music, Jordan Davis couldn’t.

I can ask for help from a stranger, Renisha McBride couldn’t.

I can take out my wallet, Amadou Diallo couldn’t.

I can shop at Walmart, John Crawford couldn’t.

I can sell CD’s, Atton Sterling couldn’t.

I can walk home with Skittles, Trayvon Martin couldn’t.

I can play with a toy gun, Tamir Rice couldn’t.

I can BREATHE, Eric Garner and George Floyd couldn’t.

And these are only to name a few instances where Black Americans could not do things a white person could do without fear of persecution, harm or being murdered.

Protests & Riots Across America

Black Lives Matter Protest in Minneapolis Photo by Josh Hild from Unsplash Protests and riots have spread across the United States. Chaos has intensified since the past weekend as large, peaceful protests descend to pandemonium amid state-mandated curfews and the deployment of the National Guard. As the mayhem spreads and police forces escalate their use of force ⁠with firing gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protestors, protests continue.

People are against looting and riots but, as a white person, I have never watched a loved one die on video because they were white. So, I don’t have any authority to have an opinion or thought here. Throughout my life, I have seen white sports fans destroy property because their team lost. I have watched grown, armed white people storm state capitol’s because they refuse to wear masks during a pandemic.

Those same protestors scream in the face of police officers and leave without a scratch.

But almost every day, I see Black people murdered on video. This is a double standard so I can’t tell them they don’t have the right to burn it all down. They cannot be told how to grieve after decades of racism, hate and violence. I don’t have that right, not a single white person has that right.  

Debunking ‘All Lives Matter’

Black Lives Matter sign holders, protesters Photo by Johnny Silvercloud from Flickr Let’s be clear and upfront: stating that Black lives matter doesn’t suggest that others don’t.

The loud proclamations of ‘all lives matter’ and the angry conversations that follow are discussions that must be had. Black Lives Matter is not a term of confrontation or an exclusionary demand.

Columbia Law Professor Kimberle Crenshaw explains, saying black lives matter “is simply aspirational”– it's a rallying cry for a shift in statistical numbers that show that Black people are twice as likely to be murdered by a police officer than White people are. Black Americans die at the hands of police at a rate of 7.2 per million, while White people are killed at a rate of 2.9 per million, according to a 2015 study.

For anyone that has kept tabs on the on the civil rights movement and the Black American experience since the transatlantic slave trade should understand the need to protect black bodies. But as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, Americans were made aware of the intersection of race and surviving police encounters. Instead of exploring the reasons why a movement like this would even be necessary, many ask questions like “What about me?” “All lives matter.”

The point these people fail to consider is that the majority of experiences in America already tend center and emphasize whiteness and preserve its power. This country was built to function this way- to cater to the White American experience. America’s roots of white supremacy and the disregarded concern for Black Americans was never addressed and continues to be a major systemic problem.

To those saying “all lives matter” during a time of justice-driven work by the Black Lives Matter movement: prove it. Show us that our society and our institutions are protecting and serving Black people. Illuminate the instances in which the instituions put in place to protect Americans are protecting Black Americans as well.

Do all lives matter? Yes, but saying that doesn’t change the fact that Black lives haven’t mattered in years.

Don’t be mad that you don’t have a movement, be grateful you don’t need one.

How to Be an Ally

BLM Peaceful Protesters, holding signs Photo by Fibonacci Blue from Flickr Do not practice performative allyship– be an activist. Listen, learn, educate yourself, sign petitions and donate. Do not only talk about injustice when it is convenient or popularized.

Acknowledge Your Unconscious Biases

We all have implicit biases. It’s okay to admit that, but we won’t be able to change our prejudices until we address having them. Start with Harvard’s Project Implicit. It allows you to take a series of tests to see where your unconscious biases lie—looking at race, gender, age, weight, disability and sexuality. Learn about what it means to have racial privilege.

Educate Yourself

There are some incredible resources out there, from the history of racial injustice in the United States, to guides on what you can do right now. Start with Corrine Shutack’s “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.”

Also, it’s not up to your Black friends and colleagues to educate you. But when those who have been affected are speaking, it is important listen. More resources for learning:

Ava DuVernay launched ARRAY101, a companion to her Netflix series, “When They See Us” about New York’s Exonerated Five. The project provides learning materials to help viewers understand the prison system and systemic injustice.

Learn the difference between being “not racist” and being “anti-racist.” Ibram X. Kendi’s “A House Still Divided” is a great place to start. Many podcasts are having important conversations about racial justice in the United States. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • 1619: In 1619, a ship carrying enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia. This was the beginning of 250 years of slavery. The New York Times and journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tell the story of slavery in America.
  • Code Switch: NPR’s “Code Switch” discusses how race affects every aspect of our society—from politics to pop culture to sports and history.

Donate and Sign Petitions

There are so many organizations that are working to amplify the experience of Black people and uplift Black Lives:

  • #BlackLivesMatter works to uplift and end violence in Black communities through organization, education and voter registration.
  • Let Us Breathe Fund was created in the wake of the murder of Eric Garner. They provide funds to Black and multiracial organizations fighting structural violence and racism in New York City.
  • Black Youth Project 100 is a national organization of Black 18-35-year old’s working towards racial justice and equality through direct-action organizing, advocacy and political education.
  • Dream Defenders is a group of young people working for a future of safety and reform away from the prison system.

After these protests end, it is imperative that we continue to care and fight for the Black Lives Matter Movement. And if you are a white person reading this, it is your job too.

No justice, no peace.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Photos: Her Campus Media