Privilege…and race

There’s been yet another shooting…and again there is hand wringing over what could possibly have caused it. There is discussion about the role guns play in our society…how the shooter should not have been able to get a gun…whether the individuals who had gathered for a Bible study in what should have been a safe place should have been armed–and whether or not that would have stopped the shooting…

But there is little discussion about the role racism played…and whether privilege exists.

It does.

I’ve seen it…experienced it.

I’m a straight white female. How have I experienced privilege? (All of these have been experienced by friends or acquaintances.)

  • I have never been pulled over for driving in a neighborhood where someone thinks I don’t belong.
  • I’ve never been followed in a store where I was just browsing because someone thought I might be shoplifting.
  • I have never worried about my teenage son being harassed by a policeman because of the color of his skin.
  • I have never been refused service in a store or other place of business.
  • I have not been followed/harassed by a policeman.
  • When I have said something stupid, it has not been taken as something everyone of my race would say.
  • I’ve always been able to live in a location I wanted to.
  • Materials that talk about “civilization” reflect my color…even though they don’t always reflect my gender.

These are just off the top of my head. If I took more time, I know I could come up with more ways in which I am privileged.

I’m also aware that racism lurks just under the surface of this privilege…even when I don’t want it to. If you asked me, I would say that I am not racist…yet there are times when I am uneasy meeting someone of another race when I am by myself. There are cultural differences that I am not necessarily comfortable with when I meet someone who is different from me.

I wish it weren’t so. But it is…and we need to be willing to acknowledge that this unease lies beneath the “civilized” veneer we put on. We need to have a serious discussion about race…and how we are still impacted by the past history of racial relationships.

Until we do so, we will continue to pretend that privilege doesn’t exist…that anyone can do anything they want, if they just have enough willpower…that there is no reason to see things differently (especially our history) from each other…that “cultural icons” should mean the same thing to everyone…and the racial divide will continue to exist.

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