Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in the States, and most people I know (particularly white people and the mass media) like to post his inspirational quotes (there are many) about peace and unity (good things I quite obviously believe in) and pretend like we now live in a post-racial society; that racism is a thing of the past.
They gloss over his complicated legacy and the impact he had on white leaders and establishment during the Civil Rights movement, and they edit his message down to what is most palatable to current white leaders and white establishment.
So today, for me, even though I’m just a small time self-published author and faceless blogger, every year on MLK Day, I try to really notice and think about the huge amount of white privilege I benefit from, and how I can use it to get rid of it.
I’m not going to detail all the ways being white benefits me over people of color, particularly black people, here. It would take too long, and that’s coming from a person who regularly writes novel length fiction and whose average blog post is over 1000 words long. White privilege benefits me in policy, in law enforcement, in housing, in finance, in education, in every day commerce, in countless other arenas in life. Because ‘white’ is still considered the race/color a person in America is supposed to be. White isn’t a qualifier, it means you’re already assumed to be qualified. So I’m just going to talk about this one thing today…
White privilege allows me to only think about my white privilege when I choose to sit down and think about it. I don’t have to think about how my race disadvantages me every day, because my race doesn’t disadvantage me…it advantages me. I don’t have to think about how people are judging me upon first sight because of the color of my skin or my style of dress, because how I look is considered ‘default.’ While I still face difficulties in my life because of my anxiety and because I’m a woman, I’m taken seriously when I talk about them because I’m white. My race doesn’t color all of the other difficulties I have in my life. None of the difficulties I have in my life are because of my race. I don’t have to work harder to be taken seriously because of my race. I don’t have to work harder to stay safe because of my race.
I don’t have to think about race.
And that’s white privilege in a nutshell. I don’t ever HAVE to think about race. I get to CHOOSE to think about race.
I humbly ask my white readers today to choose to think about race, and how you benefit from white privilege every day. Because all white people do.