You don't think there are any privileges to being part of the majority? Read this old but golden list from Peggy McIntosh and check to see what applies to you.
Now go back and re-read number fourteen and think of my sons while you do it.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might
not like them.
On July 3rd while my family and I were relaxing in the relative racial utopia that is the Harambee Summer Festival, Jay Phillips was attacked in a parking lot of a McDonald's on Vancouver Island. Stop. Go watch it here. He is someone's son. He is someone's father.
On that same day, in response to the presence of 60 families from my precious, amazing and much loved camp a coward under the cover of darkness wrote horrible, awful, disgusting and without question racist messages across the picnic tables of the beach where we spent each day.
"Run N----- Run"
"Ashamed to be Human With You"
Discovered (and destroyed) the next morning by parents before our children saw for themselves, we seethed.
And you, I am sure are shocked. Shocked at the attack on Jay and shocked at the attack on our precious children.
I am still at a loss for words as to how to express this and so I give you Kelly Diels' words. A blogger I recently discovered, she says it far better than I could. Please, go read the whole article. Here are some excerpts I find most important.
Continue Being Outraged. Please.
... I feel great tenderness for white people who are shocked by this
attack. They've got good hearts. They truly, madly, deeply believe
in equality - and the very fact of their whiteness insulates them from the
everyday knowledge that racism exists. That's why this assault is such
a shock. When you're white, you don't notice racism, because you feel
racially neutral and you think that this racially neutral experience is the norm.
It is not.
Some dearly loved people in my life are
uncomfortable with the fact that I identify my children as black. They're
biracial, after all. Calling them black erases their white mother, their
white family members, and the acceptability and the privilege that comes from
not being black. As one of my friends told me recently "It's okay to be
black as long as you don't act black" (he's black). That's usually the case -
except every once in a while, the very fact of your blackness, your otherness,
your not-whiteness, will make you a target of physical violence. And
nearly every single day, your blackness will be noted but it may be ignored so
long as your behaviour and demeanour doesn't coincide with stereotypes and
assumptions about black people. In other words, in the words of my friend, so
long as you act white.
This is why I identify my children as black. I'm
choosing to identify with reality. I am preparing to be an ally for my
black children as they make their way in this still very, very white world, our
true north strong and free, our grand multicultural mosaic. I don't want
to be shocked when they come home from school, work, baseball, dancing, life and
report the outrageous, covert or coded slings, arrows and slurs that have
been hurled their way. I want to prepare them. I want to be
prepared. I want to prepare the world. And yet I know that there is
no way to truly prepare. I'm scared. The attack on Jay Phillips
means that I am right to be scared. We all should be....
And I hope that all the good-hearted, mosaic-referencing, tolerant Canadian
white folk are willing to push beyond their own shock and outrage at this and
examine the ways that racism is present in our daily lives - to acknowledge
and challenge it.
Because when you're blind to the small stuff it takes the
big stuff to shock you. And in your well-meaning ignorance lies tacit
assent to all the small stuff and thus your permission for the big stuff.
These three young men did not just wake up racist one day: it took 19-25 years of their small acts of racism being tolerated by other oblivious white people for them to feel entitled to physically attack a black man.
Thank the gods and goddesses or the deity of your choice that Jay
Phillips is big and strong and physically powerful and no stranger to the
gym and could physically defend himself although he should not ever have had
to. Imagine if he had been a frail, elderly man. Or a less
physically-strong woman. Or my two beautiful little girls.
And now, white people, think back to every single time another white person said something 'off' that you didn't challenge or educate with humour or love or just SOMETHING. Or a resume came across your desk with an 'ethnic' name and you didn't call that person back. Or when you chose to rent your basement suite to a white family instead of a South Asian one because you thought the house would smell like curry. Or when you sigh over traffic in Richmond when you really mean Asian drivers. Start seeing those things; and see the connection, the continuum, the path from those things to three racist men in a McDonald's parking lot threatening to lynch a black man. Start seeing that if being black, or Chinese, or South Asian can be a disadvantage, that by the same token, being white translates into advantage.
Someone I know once said to me that he didn't want to live in X neighbourhood, because then his (white) daughter would go to X school; and the reason he worried about this was because he didn't want her to be a minority.There is truth in that unexaminedly racist statement. He didn't want his daughter to be a minority, because to be an ethnic minority is to be disadvantaged. He didn't want her to have to rescind her white privilege, her advantage.
Being privileged because you are white does not mean you are evil; it does not mean you are racist; it is just the fact of the matter and it means that you can choose whether or not you see racism. And if you choose to see it, and really, really want to confront and eradicate racism, start by examining - and acknowledging - the fact
that there is an advantage to being white.
Start seeing the privilege.
Start articulating it.
Stop being shocked.
Continue being outraged.