What is normal? For years, I never thought about the fact that I'm white, and have a lot of privilege conferred on me. My white privilege seemed as comfortable as my skin. These days, my privilege makes me itch and want to do something to change my world. #privilege #socialjustice #runwithmaud #justice #whiteprivilege

What is normal? For years, I never thought about the fact that I’m white, and have a lot of privilege conferred on me. My white privilege seemed as comfortable as my skin. These days, my privilege makes me itch and want to do something to change my world.

Why My Normal Life is Full of White Privilege

No Fear or Know Fear

“That’s reverse racism,” a classmate at a summer class for teacher declared.

“How so?” the professor asked.

“Well, if a black person starts getting up in a white person’s face and telling them they don’t understand, it seems pretty racist to me.”

Those words have lingered with me for years. I didn’t understand white privilege, and I had no idea I suffered from it. But now, now I know differently.

I can best explain white privilege with a question: Do you have no fear, or do you know fear?

For example, do you worry that your child will get shot by a police officer because of the color of his skin? If you don’t, you have no fear. But if you do, you know fear.

Do you expect that you’ll have a normal life continuing in your parent’s footsteps in pursuit of the American Dream? If you do, you have no fear. But if you don’t, you know fear.

Have you ever wondered when you’d get to eat your next meal? Or considered shoplifting in order to fill your belly? If not, you have no fear. But if you do, you know fear.

Has anyone ever told you the careful steps you need to take if a police officer pulls you over or stops you in order to avoid arrest or death? If not, you have no fear. But if you’re like Ahmaud Arbery, you know fear.

No fear? Or Know Fear? It's time to assess America, our attitudes, and our misconceptions. #runwithmaud #justice #socialjustice Click To Tweet

What’s Normal for Me Isn’t Normal for My Students or Non-White Friends

My journey to understand white privilege began when I started working at a school for Native American kids. Their normal looks nothing like my normal. They don’t understand the opportunities available to them, because opportunity has never knocked on their hogan.

I used to think America held equal opportunities for everyone. Now, I know it doesn’t. If you have no address because your parent lives somewhere different every month or two, you can’t get state-issued ID. Without ID, you can’t get a social security card if you parent loses yours.

And without a social security card, you can’t apply for college scholarships, get a job, or do much of anything.

Patting ourselves on our backs because our great-grandparents immigrated from somewhere and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps smacks of arrogance. The social security system didn’t exist back then.

We can’t just tell the poor, the disenfranchised, the people without lily-white skin to do what we (or our ancestors did) and make a success out of themselves. The world has changed. We’ve lost touch with normal.

We need to lose our touchy sense of outrage and face up to the fact that we’ll never have to worry about police raiding our homes and shooting us 22 times because they received a report that a robber might live there.

It’s not normal that 40% of the population knows some degree of fear because of the color of their skin. What can we do?

What is normal? For years, I never thought about the fact that I'm white, and have a lot of privilege conferred on me. My white privilege seemed as comfortable as my skin. These days, my privilege makes me itch and want to do something to change my world. #privilege #socialjustice #runwithmaud #justice #whiteprivilege

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting that. Not to minimize racial inequality between colors of people. I only want to state that there is also racial inequality between members of the white community. Maybe not as drastic as people of different races, but when my husband and I lived in Canada (PEI) for almost 9 years (we’re from MA and now living in SC), we found out that white islanders can “outcast” other white people – Canadian or from the US). We were “from away” – not born on the island, neither born in Canada. But in certain areas of the island, islanders would shun fellow Canadians who were from a different province. And you can find that in the US, like the north versus the south. Yes, I have no fear of what you spoke about because I’m white. And I’m so sorry there’s been so much racial hatred for eons.

  2. I’ve fought with blacks, I’ve fought with whites,
    and fast learned not to blink
    when they had me dead to rights,
    “You no-good lousy Chink!”
    I really am Mongolian,
    but that’s just splitting hairs;
    to them it’s all the same again,
    and no-one really cares.
    But I’d say that to be cursed
    is not an awful fate;
    what is really far, far worse
    are those who would relate
    and say they’ve always been a fan
    of the films of Jackie Chan.

    Barb says that when Hollywood finally makes a film about me, I’ll be portrayed by Jackie Chan, while she is played by Sandra Bullock (for whom she’s been mistaken several times)

  3. fear because of skin colour is deplorable.
    Fear because of any kind of hate is equally deplorable.
    Doesn’t always have to do with white privilege (or without it).
    Hate is just hate, and should be shunned by all.

  4. Thought-provoking. This conversation has been going on for years, actually. What happened to that young man is outrageous and was probably racially motivated, which angers me. I’ll stick with what MLK said and judge people for the content of their character and not the color of their skin. He was a very wise man.
    Summer recently posted…The Weight & The Reward of IntegrityMy Profile

  5. Thank you for saying this. Such a needed, powerful message.

    Have you seen the 2020 Caldecott winner? The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander?

  6. You’re right – it’s not okay. I don’t have the answers, but I know as we keep asking questions and work to love everyone around us, we move toward an answer together. One small piece at a time.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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