a few of you know me well enough to have heard me identify as a black mexican jew trapped in a white woman’s body. i don’t bother to include that i’m bisexual, because being bi is obvious in my perception, presentation, and participation in the world. i’m upfront about my cluelessness of hetero thinking—it doesn’t make sense to me. i know if you were born hetero then you think hetero, but because i was born bi, the hetero perspective of the world is only an imagined stretch of “maybe it’s like this…?” to me.
cue: here’s where we begin to discuss white privilege and white supremacy.
i grew up hungry poor in a black neighborhood. i was one of three white kids in a classroom that included twenty-seven black kids and one brown kid. i learned about white privilege early. white privilege meant that when my friends (all were black) and i went to the corner store after school, i stole candy for us because the workers at the store followed my black friends down every aisle, expecting them to steal while assuming a pretty little blue-eyed towheaded white girl wouldn’t steal. shame on me for stealing. shame on them for their racial prejudice that allowed me to get away with it.
fast forward to present day. public restrooms are difficult to find in big cities like new york, paris, and london, but lavish hotels are easy to find in those cities. when i need to use the restroom in nyc, paris, or london, i walk into a four or five star hotel and head toward the restroom that can be found in the lobby, bar, or near their meeting rooms. that strategy works because i’m a white woman. nobody notices a white woman walking into an expensive hotel, acting like she belongs, surreptitiously searching for a bathroom. if i were black, my first step into the same hotel would draw attention.
if you have white skin, you’re benefiting from white privilege in this country (and other western countries), whether you realize it or not. because i grew up in a black neighborhood, i’ve always been aware of the privilege extended to me because of my melanin-challenged skin. you may not have had the asset of growing up in the vibrant company of black people and might be unaware of your privileges. we need to raise consciousness here, we need to talk about privilege, we need to acknowledge that privilege exists and that all white people benefit, knowingly or not.
make it a game if it helps to ease past your defensiveness and shame. to better understand hetero culture, i play the “maybe it feels like this?” game. all white people can play the “if i were black, how might this situation be, feel, transpire differently?” game. presently and historically, white privilege exists because white people hold the most power, wealth, and access to resources in this country (and across the western world). white supremacists are afraid of losing that power. fear is at the root of hate. please do not let your fear impede your exploration of white privilege. please do not let your fear (or guilt or shame) of benefiting from racism prevent you from uncovering the inherent structural racism perpetuating in our communities. study your environment. question your assumptions. please notice the daily advantages that coincide with having pale skin. in order to achieve actual (rather than presumed) equality in this country, white people must lean into the discomfort of acknowledging our privilege in order to address issues of equal access to opportunities that our country hasn’t yet achieved.
change happens here and now, with you and with me and with everybody whose pale skin brings the privileges that the legacy of white supremacy has granted us. please actively seek to raise your consciousness about the privileges automatically extended to white skin. search your heart, mind, and immediate surroundings to notice where and how white privilege manifests today in your world. we must acknowledge white privilege in order to change what is and has persisted since our country’s origins. the time is now. the task is ours.