When I wrote this post and scheduled it, I’d forgotten that today was Juneteenth. So the fact that this post is going up on such and appropriate day is pure serendipity.
I am white. Almost all of my family is white.
(It would be all, but my brother is married to a wonderful woman who is first generation from Mexico, and they have two kids. I myself was married to a first-generation Dominicana for a time, but that time has passed.)
I grew up in a small town that is 98+% white, a conservative enclave in Central New York. Gun racks, chewing tobacco, and country music.
Most of these people have probably not heard the term “white privilege”, and if they did, it would probably make them angry. Nobody handed them anything because they were white! They had to work damn hard to get what they have! For you to play the race card like that…you must be the real racist!
They wouldn’t get it, in other words.
To be fair, it would be hard to explain. When you work your life away at the mill, it’s hard to feel “privileged” because some studies say that people with “white” sounding names on their resumes are more likely to get job interviews.
(They totally do, incidentally.)
To be even more fair, I didn’t get it myself until people started to show me examples that were a bit more immediate and concrete. Examples like this:
If this man was black or latino, he’d be dead. No talking him down. No question of whether to charge him or not. Just “We believed we were in danger” and riddled with bullets. Happens all. The. Time.
But this guy? Waving a gun around, threatening the police, and we’re not going to charge him. He didn’t do any real harm, after all.
When a white man isn’t even charged for behavior that would get a person of color killed – when white lives are worth more than any other kind of life – that is the very definition of privilege.
And in 21st Century America, that’s an important definition to know.