I Am White and I Recognize My Privilege

*The views of this article are opinions of the author and does not reflect Her Campus or Her Campus KU as a whole.*

*TRIGGER WARNING: Racism*

            My foundation color is classic ivory. My concealer is light cool. For all intents and purposes, I am white. I check the caucasion box on surveys. I’ve never felt threatened for my skin color or discriminated against. I don’t refer to myself as a Mexican-American despite the fact that biologically, my grandfather was an illegal immigrant. During the process of my adoption, my biological mother met with a couple who clearly stated they didn’t want her “half-breed” baby. I feel as if I have no claim to that because I was neither close to that culture nor have I undergone the same experiences of my darker-skinned counterparts.

            In fact, I grew up in an upper-middle class home with loving parents in a conservative town. I laughed when long lines of traffic prompted a friend to make a joke about being late for their Klan meeting, I made racist jokes growing up, and I fully believed Obama was a good candidate for the anti-Christ in 2008. In fact, my hometown of Worden, I was told, stood for “White Only Residents, Don’t Enter N*****s”. At the ripe age of ten, I was privy to the fact that those around me weren’t talking about bandit-faced, trash digging rodents, but rather referencing a person of color. As little as three years ago, I was using the n-word, thinking the lack of hard ‘r’ made it hip and okay.

            I can admit that I am racist. I benefit from an institution that resents people for the color of their skin, and I subconsciously still subscribe to it. I can tell you that I have little to no black friends, not only because of institutionalized ideals but also because the University of Kansas can hardly be classified as “racially diverse”.

            I can admit to these things because I am growing. Part of that is owning up to who you are and what mistakes you make. I will always be racist, because that is how our society raises us to be. Racism is the creation of a law that ensures diversity in the workforce, then resents the people of color who wouldn’t otherwise be there because they’ve “taken away jobs from more qualified white candidates”. Racism is “not seeing color”, because the entire point is that there is a difference between skin tones and how they are treated and we can only start a discussion by acknowledging that. Racism is the need to comment on a Facebook post featuring video proof of white on black violence and saying ‘Why does it matter, the white person was convicted’. Racism is calling black people in the streets “radicals” because they protest and insisting we’d hear them out if they were more peaceful and respectful when this has never been proven in the past. In fact, we wouldn’t even be talking about race at all if it weren’t for protests. It would be swept under the rug, as it has been for years.

            I’d like to re-iterate that I have never felt threatened before in my life. I’m 5 foot tall, blonde hair, green eyed, average looking. I subscribe to feminist ideals because institutionally, there has been proven to be inequality between males and females backed by statistics. Women are written off daily for “crying rape”, Brock Turner gets 3 months of prison for “20 minutes of action”, I cannot comfortably leave my apartment alone at night for fear of violence because according to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, 2 out of 3 sexual assaults aren’t even reported and out of 1,000 cases, 993 perpetrators will walk free. (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system)

            I’ve never been personally subjected to this, but it still affects me daily. And when it comes to women of color, feminism usually loses out because the number one threat they fear is violence because of their race. They have firsthand experiences to prove it. They tell stories of their discrimination the same way I recall instances of my own racist behaviors. The difference is between the oppressor and the oppressed.

            Why is it justifiable for a police officer to draw a gun and shoot unarmed people of color out of “fear in the moment” but not for black citizens to do the same out of self-defense? Why is it that Dylan Roof and James Holmes are taken into custody safely after literally perpetrating mass murders, but Eric Garner is choked to death by five police officers for selling cigarettes without tax stamps? Do they not grow up with the knowledge that their people have been historically characterized as inferior? Do they not learn only the history of European men in classrooms? Are their own histories not erased and dismissed by a society who wants to deem them thugs and radicals?

            The fact of the matter is that we make our judgments on people without hearing out their viewpoints. We make scapegoats that we personally did not commit these racially driven crimes, we individually did not partake in slavery, so this doesn’t apply to us. It’s exactly that mentality that allowed German people to explain away why they didn’t stop Nazis in World War II. Did we know it was happening? Maybe. Did we stop it? I had nothing to do with it.

            A wonderful teacher of mine brought up the idea of confirmation bias, which is to say people with a certain mentality only read or subscribe to materials that reinforce their pre-established beliefs. We crowd to news sources that say, “Absolutely, you’re right. Black people are violent, look at all the rioting and looting!” We don’t pick up a book about racism in our democratic system because white people have the privilege of ignorance. White people are not the oppressed, so educating ourselves on the ideals of others doesn’t matter to us. We’re benefitting from this system.

            It’s at this point that I highly encourage you to pick up a damn book. Educate yourself. If you want world peace, if you want the rioting and violence to stop, then get over your confirmation bias and read up on ideas that differ from your own. That is the only way to truly achieve a safe future, and as long as we hide from it, the streets will continue to go up in flames. 

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