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.
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?