On Black Lives, Privilege, and Systemic Racism

First of all, lets just get this out of the way, I am white. Actually, to be even more specific, I am a white, non-disabled, straight, upper-middle class female. So, on practically all accounts, I fit perfectly into the cookie-cutter categories that society has deemed “normal.”

Let me clarify one thing — I am not ashamed of being “normal.” I like who I am, but it would be ridiculous for me to try to deny the privilege that my “normal”  status grants me in society.

I don’t want to feel guilty for being white, just like I don’t want anyone else to feel guilty for being black, red, yellow, green, purple, etc. However, what I do feel guilty about is spending over half of my life silently perpetuating the systemic racism that pervades our society by accepting my privilege without any consideration for those who couldn’t share in it.

That’s something else we should probably touch on: privilege.
And, more specifically, white privilege.

**No, white privilege is not a myth or a scheme or a guilt trip; It is an actual real-life thing, and it is EVERYWHERE.

White privilege is being able to go to the store and buy “skin-color” Band Aids that actually match your skin tone. White privilege is being able to turn on the TV and see a wide array of people who look like you.
White privilege is getting pulled over by a police officer and not having to worry about being attacked.
White privilege is going to an interview and knowing that your name won’t be the deciding factor of whether or not you get the job.

White privilege is my being able to write this article and know that even though some people will disagree, they won’t base their opinion of everything I say on the color of my skin.

I could seriously keep writing about white privilege for the next week, but for the sake of my sanity (and yours) I’ll move on.

***(If you want a full description of what white privilege is, check out White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.)***

This brings me to Black Lives Matter.

Let me go ahead and answer the question that many of you are probably thinking right now: yes, all lives matter. no black lives do not matter more than any other lives.

However, in our society, black lives are undervalued and black people are under represented. The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t about proving that black lives are worth more than any other lives; Black Lives Matter is about saying that black lives matter as much as all other lives.

Yeah, that probably sounds obvious to you. After all, you’re not a member of the KKK, right? You have a black friend, right? you’re not a racist, right? Martin Luther King Jr. is on of your role models, right?

Good, all of this is a great start to ending racial inequality, but it is just the beginning. Just because you aren’t actively racist, doesn’t mean that you aren’t still a part of the problem.

The only way to truly end racial inequality is to be actively anti-racist.

However, it’s really difficult to fight racism when you don’t realize what forms it takes in our modern society. So, lets take a quick sec to talk about systemic racism.

No, racism is no longer about having to sit at the back of the bus like Rosa Parks. No, it isn’t enforced by Jim Crow laws. It is deeply and systematically imbedded in our society in ways that often go unnoticed by those of us who have the privilege of remain unaffected by it.

Systemic Racism is the fact that the black unemployment rate is almost always twice the white unemployment rate. And, before you explain this away by assuming that people of color are just less motivated or less qualified for employment, this same ratio goes for black people with college degrees vs. white people with college degrees.

Systemic Racism is the fact that black people are charged an average $700 dollars more that white people when buying cars, and the fact that when they drive their cars they are twice as likely to get pulled over as white people.

Systemic Racism is the fact that black people are four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, despite the fact that marijuana is used equally by blacks and whites.

Google the phrase “systemic racism” and you can see for yourself just how prominent this issue is in our society.

It isn’t enough to be “colorblind.” For one, if you claim that you are truly blind to the color of peoples’ skin you either have an actual medical condition or you are lying.

It’s natural to judge people based on their appearances, and in moderation it can even be a good thing. Seriously, it is basic self-preservation to be aware of your surroundings.

Of course there are some crappy black people; there are crappy white people too. There are crappy cops and crappy lawyers and crappy construction workers. What we need to recognize is that people aren’t crappy because their skin is a certain color, or because they have a certain job. People are just crappy because we are people and the world isn’t a perfect place.

Systemic racism will stop when (and only when) white people start taking responsibility for our privilege. When we all stop assuming that the amount of melanin in someone’s skin somehow dictates their behavior. When we stop trying to explain away the injustice in our society and actually start trying to correct it.

Systemic racism will stop when we stop picking sides between All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter, start recognizing that they are the same exact thing, and unite as human beings to combat inequality.

Leave a Reply