Posted by: mvhuff | June 22, 2017

Snow Blind

Sometimes I feel like my brain is a pinball machine, with thoughts randomly ricocheting throughout play area and me trying to block them long enough to keep them from getting away. When there are a lot of thoughts bouncing around it’s hard to express any of them coherently. The difficulty increases exponentially when there are weighty and important matters to consider, and so what follows may not make as much sense as I would like it to, but I feel compelled to say it.

I have many friends and acquaintances who are sick of hearing the complaint about white privilege. Even I sometimes bristle about it, particularly with memes going around about white people ruining everything. Sometimes it seems like we are fish that are unaware that we are surrounded by water – it’s there and it’s always been there, so we don’t really see it and know that it is there. We are blinded by the lack of experience.

I can see that in many areas, where there are few (if any) non-white people and all the people you know are suffering from economic or health or other woes, that there is nothing privileged about that. There is no prize benefit, it would seem, to being white if you cannot find a job. And then you see many non-white people who are very well off and you think that maybe they are not suffering for not being white. They have jobs or money or health or fame and the lack of whiteness has not seemed to have hurt them.

These days, also, there are laws meant to protect people from overt racism and discrimination. The signs saying ‘Whites Only’ separate entrances have largely disappeared. We say we believe our country’s founding documents apply to everyone when they talk about all men being created equal. We think we judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin (as the Rev. King dreamed would happen).

We look around and it seems okay to us. Nothing to see here – racism is dead and gone and there is no such thing as white privilege.

And yet. When I was much younger, someone accused a friend of mine of stealing something because she had been looking through it and then it disappeared. The thing was, I was with her when she was doing it – the only difference was she was not white.

I had forgotten about this for a while because I would really like to believe that racism is dead, but the evidence shows otherwise.

Videos have shown that a white woman trying to break a lock on a bike is likely to be helped, while a non-white person is more likely to be accused of theft. Police cameras show that cops often treat black people with less respect than white people. Riots are defined as exuberant when they involve white people celebrating a team win but thuggish when black people are anguishing over unfair treatment – even though the damage is the same or worse by the ‘celebrants’. People of color shoot or attack multiple people and the first question is whether it is terrorism – white people commit mass murders and the initial assumption is mental imbalance rather than terrorism.

Why? How did this happen? Why is it that there are so many who seem to view non-white people as somehow non-people? As some other thing that is not worth as much as white people? This attitude is wrong, but it seems to have permeated our society to such an extent that even people who do not hold racist beliefs sometimes act in ways that show dehumanizing assumptions about our fellow human beings.

Some view the Black Lives Matter movement as too radical and anti-cop and even racial (because, you know, All Lives Matter). But we don’t have to live with getting stopped in areas we are not ‘supposed to be’ because we are not white. We don’t have to live with centuries of ingrained dehumanization that counts us as less than a whole person. We haven’t been told in many thousands of little ways that we do not matter, at least not as much as white people.

I am sickened and saddened that some people consciously choose to believe that white people are the supreme race – it’s just not true at all. But I am convicted in realizing that even though I don’t want to I sometimes make assumptions or act in ways that betrays some kind of unconscious version of that. Even though I didn’t invent it and don’t support it, I can’t help but notice that some people have problems not because of their circumstances or their character but because of the color of their skin.

I don’t know what the solution is, but it is important to recognize that it exists. And as much as it is in my power, to let the people around me know that they are every bit as human and valued as I am no matter what their color.


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