I Acknowledge My White Privilege- Now What?

Words on being open to criticism, correction, and conversation.

I don’t know where a good starting point is for this post. So I want to start with this:

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

  • Scott Woods

1. This post is nothing more than a way for me to untangle my thoughts around the ever present, albeit horrifying circumstances of our country. In addition, this is all my experience and perspective, which does not make it true to or for everyone.

2. If you want a list of resources that I have found helpful in my quest to break down my preconceived thoughts about racial oppression- scroll to the bottom.

To be honest, I am a bit lost in my place and purpose of how to be a BLM ally, supporter, friend. I am having trouble understanding how I can show up for my friends, students, neighbors, family, strangers. In addition to all of that, I don’t have all the answers- in fact I am only just now breaking the long overdue silence that I have had on this topic. I hope that what I write in this post gets all of us (white people) to think more critically about our words, actions, and behaviors in regards to becoming a united front against anti-black racism. I hope what I write sparks criticism, correction, and conversation. So just because I feel lost, does not mean I get to remain lost. It is our time, as white people, to unlearn the racist ideas and policies that feed and sustain this country.

Before I rant, there are a few items I want to address. This post is dedicated to combat the systematic anti-black racism that unfortunately, but undoubtedly, has built this country. I am still figuring out the appropriate terminology. Black, African American, POC, BIPOC, POED. I am sure there are many more acronyms I am unaware of- and that I hope to become aware of- as I dive into this next chapter of my life of fully immersing myself in becoming an ally. 

The second item to address is that I am also aware of the  incredible oppression and racism that exists against non-black people of color. However, this particular post is dedicated to begin the conversation about the anti-black racism that lingers throughout this country- racism against non-black POC is important, but at this moment, separate.

I know that I cannot and will not be able to satisfy the beliefs and perspectives of all people. I will do my utter best with what I know right now. But I know over the next weeks, months, and years- as I actively work to undo the work that systematic racism has injected into our country- I will be as sensitive and open minded as I can be to criticism, correction, and conversation.

So with all that, I have been feeling heavy and overwhelmed. I am tired.    

And for that I feel guilty.

I am not feeling a fraction of the heaviness that black people are feeling.

I am white. I am privileged. In so many ways. I know I don’t need to feel guilty for having privilege, but I do need to feel guilty if I decide to not use this privilege.

I will also start by saying I have always considered myself anti-racist. I feel physically ill every time I hear of racist attacks and murders. But I have also been naive enough to call myself “woke” to the topic of racism. This in itself isn’t right. Let me explain. 

 As a teacher, a white teacher, who often discusses and teaches social justice and black history, I figured I was on the right side of said history. I was “one of the good” ones.

 I am now beginning to realize that thought within itself is nowhere near enough, or even correct.

I figured, “I am doing more than the average white person! I am well educated. I love every single one of my students, friends, strangers, beyond measure and surely beyond their skin color. I love to teach and discuss these important topics! My bookshelves are filled with white and non-white authors #diverse.”

 But I, like many, leave my work day and continue on with my normal regular everyday life activities.

 And guess what- I sink back into white privilege land where my mind wanders to social justice and equality randomly throughout the day. On my watch, on my terms.

As someone with white privilege, I get to choose when to think about how the color of my skin affects my life.

That is not the reality for many.

In my opinion, it is important to recognize that white privilege is such that allows us to live our lives without fear in ways that people of darker melanin do not currently experience. 

The human experience itself lies on a spectrum of love and hate. The world can work against us in so many ways. We have all experienced love, peace, grief, hardship, sadness, judgement, destruction. That is human. But it is a privilege when none of that human experience happens because of the color of your skin.

Ponder this: If you, as a white person, would be happy to be treated the same as our black citizens are, please stand up. Jane Elliot shows us the power of that question/ statement here.

It wasn’t until recently, that I have begun feeling the gut punch of, “You’re not doing enough.”

I am so, so sorry it took me 27 years to begin this deep, heavy, and necessary work. I didn’t know how to start- and that is no excuse. So now, I started with self reflection, which led me to the first hard question I presented to myself: Was I actually being an active ally- or passive?

I examined where in my life I might have allowed the foundation of systematic racism to infiltrate my thoughts. It’s uncomfortable. It’s hard. But it’s absolutely necessary.

So, I acknowledge my privilege. I acknowledge I need to do better. Be better. Use my voice more. So what’s next for me?

I have been doing my best to read lately. Read a lot.

I have also worked to start having the conversations with people that never felt necessary before- which I am humiliated to admit.

I, incorrectly, never felt the need to speak about white privilege with my white friends. It definitely would come up in passing. I felt lucky to have surrounded myself with people who do in fact acknowledge it. I am surrounded by people who “care”, who know racism is an issue, who know better than to say, “I don’t see color”. Who want to help, who are all well intentioned. But who maybe feel as stuck as I do. Who are passive allies- not active.

I preach “policy and change”. But I wasn’t living it to my full potential- and if none of us are living that to its full potential, we are doing a huge disservice not only to the privilege we were born with, but more importantly, to our black community.

So it’s my time to learn how to be actively against racism. To be an active ally, not just “not racist” but completely and utterly anti-racist.

In addition, I don’t want to use the black people in my life as a lifeline- as a resource. I know many of my friends, students, family, and neighbors are more than happy to correct me, to challenge me, to educate me, to discuss my questions. But that isn’t their job. And that definitely should not be expected.

So I think I am tired? Of what I am seeing- they are tired. Exhausted. 

Another person of color dies, another hashtag is born. I say their name. I put it on my story. I speak with a few friends. I cry for the family. I cry for the country.

Two days later, I am out for a jog. I do not fear for my life.

Two days later, I go to bed. I do not fear for my life.

Two days later, I go about my daily activities. I do not fear for my life. 

Two days later, I go to work. I do not fear for my life.

I have the privilege to move on. I have the privilege to become distant from the tragedy that took place a few days prior. 

Until the next one hits. The next hashtag is born. The same cycle continues.

I am so absolutely sick of that cycle. For myself, for white people.

But I am even more sick of that cycle for black people- because for black people that isn’t a cycle. For some that might be their constant. That might be their routine. That might be their life.

And for everything I discuss here and talk about, I don’t want to put words into other peoples mouths. I don’t want it to sound like I have it figured out.

I am learning, and unlearning, and relearning.

I am a teacher who is constantly, and forever, a student first.

So here is how I am starting. Self reflection. Checking myself…for real. 

Next read, listen, research, write, discuss, question, analyze. Become a student in the BLM movement. Vow to gain insight and perspective of people who are not like you.

Realize that you need to have some hard and uncomfortable conversations (seriously you do). Then have those hard and uncomfortable conversations. 

Lastly, I truly believe that the urge to want to be better for the sake of unity and humanity relies on our open mindedness and willingness. Especially to be wrong. It takes strength to be vulnerable and that is exactly what is being asked of this country.

I am calling on the action for white people to no longer sit by and sympathize with another hashtag. We cannot be passive allies- that does not exist.

You are either actively against racism- or you are on the wrong side of history.

Resources and references to further the start of your journey into being a white person with privilege, now with the jumpstart to know and do better:

75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Injustice

What Well Intentioned White People Can Do About Racism

Anti-Racism Resources For White People

Anti-Racism Resources

Social and Racial Injustice Education

Teachers Must Hold Themselves Accountable To Dismantle Racial Oppression

Books I Have Recently Bought:

1. Stamped From the Beginning- Ibram X. Kendri

2. White Fragility- Robin DiAngelo

3. The Color of Law- Richard Rothstein

4. The New Jim Crow- Michelle Alexander

Please feel free to comment below the action steps/suggestions that you are going to take to undo the racist ideas of this country.

2 thoughts on “I Acknowledge My White Privilege- Now What?

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