Monday, July 15, 2013

White Privilege

The evening of the George Zimmerman not guilty (*cough*bullspit*cough*) verdict was passed down, I saw this status on Facebook.
I'm crying, crying, crying. My God, I thought that at some point... you know what? Last fall I bought my 3 boys cheapie hoodies from Walmart for the fall. I have to remind my 8 and 6 year old to not wear the hats on their hoodies, I bought them separate hats to cover their heads. I tell them at home you can wear the hoods, but never in public. My baby boy said "But mom, that's what it's there for, to cover our head" but I have to train them up. I have to TRAIN them that it can be dangerous for them. Honestly, I think most of y'all are good people, but please realize that this is REAL SHIT to Black people. I don't want to teach my boys this, but I have to. God, my heart is broken and I can't stop crying.
I haven't been able to not think about this since I read it.  This is something Mini-Moo won't ever have to worry about, and that depresses me.  Not because my son won't ever have to worry about wearing a hoody out in public, or worry about his name sounding too "ethnic" (*cough*bullspit*cough*) to get a job and therefore adopting an "employable" nickname (read: "White" name), or worry about being pulled over for speeding and making sure he behaves in such a way the police won't misinterpret his actions as aggressive.  It depresses me because other parents have to train their kids to worry about this stuff.

This is the reality of 2013 - still.  And the thing is, this isn't something we can claim is an American problem.  This is as much an issue in Canada, and the people who get the crap end of the stick in the want of racial equality are First Nations.  One really solid indicator of this is the prison population.

In Canada, aboriginals make up about four per cent of the general Canadian population, yet make up 23 per cent of the prison population.  Racial over-representation in the prison system is equally as horrid in the United States.  According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009.  According to the 2010 census of the US Census Bureau blacks (including Hispanic blacks) comprised 13.6% of the US population.  In this infographic you can see how the system is really built to favour the white population in the US and while there isn't a well laid out (if poorly proof-read) infographic to show it, the same is true for the Canadian penal system. 

For years, I've been really guilty of thinking, "well, I'm not a racist.  I value all races equally so this racism thing everyone talks about is a problem, but it's not a problem in my life."  Sure, I'd get upset when I see evidence/footage of inequality but by and large, I was indifferent to it.   Not with any malice aforethought, I just was.  I think an overwhelming, well-meaning majority of us have been/are.  It seems like such a huge issue, while at the same time, such an old issue.  I mean, Martin Luther King Jr. gave that epic speech, and the States has a black president who's serving his second term, right?  What's left to be done? 

There's a lot to be done.  Exactly what, and how - I have no clue. I have to hope that not being blinded about being "colourblind" is at least a start.  There is no post-racial America.  If you still have to say "port-racism America" then it's not.  Nor is that the case in Canada.

If you're still reading this (thanks!) and you come from a European background and live in North America, think about the fact that you and I have never had to encounter the same levels of racism as others have.  We may have experienced moments here and there, but it's not a systemic occurrence.  We haven't had to be trained not to trust police, to not speak about cultural events, or wear certain clothing.

We shouldn't feel guilty about being white, but we should be aware of this, be aware of how utterly unfair this is, and be aware that if we want equality for everyone, we need to start saying that this isn't okay.  For decades, we've stood by and watched as Blacks, Natives, and Hispanics have fought for equal treatment and we've felt good about ourselves because we agreed with their point of view. 

It's not enough anymore.

1 comment:

  1. You say there is a lot left to be done, but you have no clue what it is. Nor do I. Neither do I think it is appreciated when the initial moves toward planning and strategizing come from whites. I find myself frozen into inertia by tbe fear that I will inadvertently say or do something that "proves" to someone that I am the racist they suspected me of being all along. In another blog on this subject, the comment was made that white sympathy was tantamount to disrespect. I just want someone to tell me what is needed, what would be appreciated or, at least, not wholely reviled.