PSA to White Women: How We Can Become Better Allies

I am a 22-year-old white woman and I've lived the majority of my life in a rural, predominantly white, conservative area of the California central coast. I attended a kindergarten-8th grade school, and about 90% of the students were white. I'm definitely guilty of having touted "all lives matter" any time racism or discrimination came up, and it wasn’t until I got to college and took some sociology courses and started seeking to better educate myself. In the past, I would have said things like,  "Why do you need to protest? We're all people. Stop making everything about race." But now,  I am trying to do better.

The problems with these statements run deep. By refusing to acknowledge that the color of my skin privileges me, I was refusing to even recognize the problems of others. Not understanding how being white advantages people in society allows the mindset in which racist stereotypes are able to persist and flourish. The bootstrap myth America loves is centered in white privilege. Failing to realize we as white people have a head start, historically, in collecting family wealth and affluence to be passed down for the past 400 years privileges us above people of color. White people were given a head start in this nation and we need to account for that when wondering why people of color are upset about systemic racism. Being "color blind" to race is not the answer. Contrary to what you may believe, it is this mindset that invalidates the struggles Black people grapple with on a daily basis. I don't know what experiencing racism first-hand feels like. I will never experience the pain of personal, systematic, and systemic prejudice in this country which has long targeted  people of color, and Black people in particular, because I am white.

And because I am white, it is not my place to decide how and when Black people should be allowed to protest and fight for change. It is not my place to be a gatekeeper, to say things like, "yeah the loss of life is bad, but…" There should be no argument against the fact that systemic racism is causing Black Americans to die at alarming rates due to a system that was built on discrimination. On Twitter this week, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice (@BerniceKing), shared a post that read, "The system isn't broken, it was built this way." A white woman I went to elementary school with called me "racist against white people'' recently when I disagreed with her Facebook post about Black Lives Matter and the protests. Racism against white people does not exist; a huge factor in the perpetuation of racism is the oppression and unconscious prejudice that persists in our society. White people set up the system to benefit themselves, not to benefit people of color.

A couple of years ago, I was stopped because my car's tail light was out. I was 19, am normally an anxious person, and had never been pulled over. Not wanting to get in trouble for continuing to drive, instead of pulling to the side, I stopped in the middle of the street. It's around midnight, I was on my way home from work, and I stopped in the middle of a street. The cop came up to my window and asked why I didn't pull off to the right. He was maybe a couple years older than me, and he laughed when I said I got scared and forgot what to do because I'd never been pulled over before. He asked for my license and registration; I gave him my license but my car was a mess so I was taking a while to find my registration. He just laughed and said, "Never mind, I saw your registration sticker's current.”  He handed me my license, told me to fix my tail light, and let me go without even issuing a fix-it ticket.

A year after that, I was on my way home from work during a holiday weekend and had to stop at a DUI checkpoint. Again, because my car is a mess, my wallet was buried at the bottom of my backpack. The cop at the checkpoint shined a flashlight while I dug through my backpack for what seemed like forever, pulling out snacks, books, papers and everything else before finding my wallet.

This is white privilege. When white people are pulled over, we're thinking "oh great, I'm about to get a ticket, how inconvenient." When Black people are pulled over, their lives are at stake. How many Black people have been killed by police in situations where they get pulled over? As I was digging for my wallet, I was reminded of Philando Castile and Sandra Bland, two people of color who were stopped and treated very differently from how  I was treated. When Philando Castile, a Black man, reached for his wallet, the officer fatally shot him. Sandra Bland was stopped and arrested by a cop who fed the court a false story and sent her to jail where she died less than 3 days layer, in what is allegedly a suicide, but signs point to it being homicide. The cop who arrested Bland was later indicted for perjury after a video taken of the stop and arrest from Bland's phone was released in 2019.

When I, a white woman, dug through a big backpack in a dark car, the cop helpfully shined a flashlight, waited patiently, and made no move to reach for his gun. Racial biases and stereotypes can and do lead to deaths. The ways that people of color are treated differently than white people, especially in similar circumstances, is due to the uncomfortable fact that the systems in this country favor white people, because our white ancestors built the system that way.

We can't move toward change if we refuse to recognize the underlying problems in our country. By collectively remaining in denial of white privilege and casting aside decades of proof, white people are actively enforcing, or at least complacently allowing, it to continue taking Black lives. As college-aged white women, we need to listen to others, try to understand what Black people deal with, truly listen and empathize, and then turn that into action. I'm fairly certain you know at least 1 person who's explicitly racist, and plenty more that say "all lives matter" or want the world to "go back to normal and stop making everything about race." It is your job to call these people out, discuss, educate, and compel them to act alongside you to be anti-racist and not complicit in white supremacy.

Here's how you can help:

Educate Yourself!

Educate others!

Speak about these issues with your family and friends. POC face racism every day, don't make it their job to explain how it works to you. Explain the issues with statements like "all lives matter".

Support Black Owned Businesses!

Sign Petitions! Donate! Call Government Officials!