Friday, July 8, 2016

My White Privilege

"All lives matter," a post from a Facebook "friend" starts. I read the post, really trying to listen to what the writer is saying. My fingers hover over the keyboard before typing furiously trying to clarify and explain this "friend's" erroneous statements. I read my comment, I reread my comment. My heart beats fast as I scan for anything that could be argued against. I must only present facts, things that can be proven. I must not make a typo or misspeak in any way lest they misunderstand. I hit send and my heart pounds. I stare at the open Facebook tab in the background waiting for those notification numbers to start popping up. Will I lose a "friend" today?
And to the #alllivesmatter people - it's not either or.

I am a white woman and I am scared to stand up for what I believe in - equal rights for every human. I'm scared for the threats I may receive, for the hate I may get. I stop myself and think - if I'm scared in my white body, how terrifying must it be to have darker skin? How absolutely exhausting is it to carry around that weight with you for simply existing?

I am no expert. I am not in a position to tell anyone how to fix the systemic racism in our country. I am not in a position to discuss gun laws or murder prevention. I am not in a position to speak from the perspective of any other situation than my own. I am not knowledgeable enough or conceited enough to think I have all the answers.

What I do know is that it's not up to any POC to educate white people on how to help, but it is on us to help. As a person with a white privileged voice, I have to speak out. There is a lot of scary and confusing things happening in America right now, but it's so important that you're paying attention. This does affect you, no matter your skin tone.

A cry I've heard from so many is "How can I help?" So, here's what I'm doing. I don't know if it's right and it doesn't feel like it's enough. I'm open to any suggestions. Like I said, I'm not an expert, but I know I need to be doing something.

  • Back Up
    • Acknowledge that you, a white person, don't know what it's like to be a POC. Believe experiences people share with you. Believe their feelings of uncertainity and unsafety.
  • Educate yourself. 
    • Diversify your news sources. Find outlets other than CNN, MSNBC, or FOX. Read opinion pieces and social media from people who are there live on the ground. Do you research. Arm yourself with knowledge. Read everything. Don't believe just one person, don't believe just me.
  • Use your voice. 
    • As a white person, you are in a position where other white people are more likely to listen to you. Use this privilege as a power. Correct people when you hear them telling the story wrong. Comment on Facebook statuses. Speak out when you hear someone misspeak even when it's uncomfortable. Don't stand for racist jokes, don't allow casual racism to be part of your conversations. Show up for POC. We are all in this together at the end of the day and until ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬, ALL lives do not.
  • Raise your voice. 
    • Don't let yourselves become desensitized to murder. Every day there's a new horror, this does not make it okay. Do not become indifferent. 
Some good resources: How White Silence HarmsWhite People Who Love Black CultureWhite AlliesMisconceptions. Any others welcome, including book/movie suggestions. Please leave in the comments below.

UPDATE 7/15/16

I asked for literary recommendations on my Facebook in order to help education myself. I wanted to pass along the information to you.

So far: How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz, Progress and Poverty by Henry George, Frederick Douglass' slave narratives, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The People's History by Howard Zinn, and  Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates.

Short readings: "Black Men in Public Spaces" by Brent Staples. "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy Macintosh.

To my friends - I'm sorry this took me so long. I didn't know how to help. I didn't know if my voice mattered and I didn't want to step over yours. I am here for you. I will be standing with you until equal is truly equal. If you have any criticisms on my own actions, please tell me. I want to be on the right side of history. It is not your responsibility to put me there, but I am open to any advice you do wish to share. I will share your truths whenever you want. My blog is a safe and open space for anyone that wants to share their story. I love you. I'm sorry we're failing you.

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