What Does Wielding My White Privilege for Good Look Like?
I know that I have white privilege. (This is a very interesting survey to explore how privileged you may be. I got a 64 out of 100.) You have white privilege if you have pale skin. To use the old analogy of judging books by their covers, when you move about your world in pale skin, others make assumptions about you that may or may not be justified. They do the same to those with dark skin.
In spite of my concerted efforts to listen, learn, and look, I still have massive blind spots, unidentified biases, and gaps in my education and understanding.
I also know that many people in my circle need to make their own concerted efforts to find, acknowledge, and confront their biases. I hear from (and agree with) my minority friends and thought leaders that as such, I have a responsibility to speak to/teach the people in my circle.
I also know from years of relationship with them that many of these people are firmly entrenched in their mindset. Some are family members, some are church family members. I often overhear conversations in which individuals state some variant of “If he/she cooperated, they’d still be alive” or “Affirmative action is racism against whites” or “Women can’t lead because they let their emotions get the best of them.”
I have family and friends who are in the military, the police force, and other related organizations. They are quick to defend these organizations and the individuals within. Of course. It is their career, or their husband’s/father’s/sister’s/wife’s that we’re talking about.
This makes sense. It’s scary to acknowledge the crack in the armor. What if the crack keeps cracking open wider and wider? What if it all falls apart? Getting anywhere close to asking yourself “If I’m wrong about this, what else am I wrong about?” is too much for most of us. So, when those conversations take place in my hearing, often I stay quiet. I don’t contradict or question or challenge. Often, I leave altogether.
I stay quiet because I don’t believe they will change.
I stay quiet because it’s taken me 20-25 years to break down the bigoted ideas I had to the point where I am now. I know it takes time and courage to acknowledge our white privilege, and then more time to fully absorb what it means to not have that privlege. I’ve been there. Until you find another life line to anchor everything to (mine is “love wins”), this is the most terrifying experience in life. And I’m afraid that any move I make could add to the terror, not help stabilize.
I stay quiet because I know that pushing too hard can cause people to dig in deeper, harder, more stubborn. When people push me, I immediately resist.
I stay quiet because I believe that my energies are best focused on younger, more malleable people.
I stay quiet because this is someone I care about. This is my family/friend/neighbor/etc and I don’t want to create drama or “borrow trouble” (which is something I constantly tell my kids to avoid).
I stay quiet because I think it might work better for us to outlive the bigoted baby boomers and baby busters. Because I think it’s far more likely that we can make change with my generation and younger. Because I have no hope. Maybe these are excuses. Maybe I stay quiet because I’m a coward.
I don’t LIVE quiet.
I am not secretive about what I believe.
I do what I can with my privilege to elevate other voices and open doors for them. I’m trying to live this, walk this out in my everyday life. I’m trying to show, not tell (one of the cardinal rules of writing).
Is that enough?
How do we DO this? How do I actually and effectively engage bigoted and willfully closed-minded thinking within the context of the relationships I have? How do I push just enough to be heard but not so hard that they slam the door in my face and move deeper into bigotry?
P.S. Hi. I’m back, at least for now. I have no idea how often I will write, or where this blog may go. But what’s happening in the United States right now is too important not to engage. I have this, so I’m using it.