Over the past couple of years, the term “white privilege” has become a popular and widely used term to describe white Americans and when I first heard the term, it got my attention. What is this “white privilege” crap? I couldn’t get my head around it because I came from a very poor, dysfunctional family and my reaction was there sure in hell wasn’t any white privilege in my life. I was hung up on the idea that “white privilege” was all about having “stuff” that Black Americans didn’t or having traveled an easier road simply because I was white. There are a whole lot of Black Americans who are smarter, richer, more successful, more talented, and more powerful than I could ever hope to be so I couldn’t make the connection.
I recently wrote an article talking about equal justice under the law and the systemic problems in our justice system. After writing the article and as the events in Minneapolis were going out of control, I started looking at the idea of white privilege and what it really meant. What I figured out, at least for myself, was that white privilege has little to do about having walked an easier road or have more “stuff” than Black Americans, It’s about all Black Americans not having the same fundamental privileges White Americans take for granted. It’s about:
- Being able to walk into a store and being treated just like a White American
- Being able to drive down the street free from the fear that you will be stopped by the police just because you’re driving a nice car and are Black.
- Being able to walk down a street and not be targeted as a hood and be subjected to some form of vigilante attack
- Being able to trust the Police will not target you because of your color
- Being able to trust the justice system will treat you fairly
- NOT being treated and labeled as a “minority” but simply as an “American”
It’s about all those things that White Americans take for granted in their everyday lives that Black Americans don’t have the privilege to enjoy.
White privilege is an inflammatory term that gets folks’ attention and it’s used specifically for that purpose. We need to get through that and really look at what white privilege means in the context of race relations in America today. It’s not having more “stuff” or how tough a life you had, it’s about treating people equally, regardless of what they look like…treating everyone as an equal American…it’s called an “American Privilege”.