White Privilege

Aside

Dear readers, I am sorry that I haven’t written anything new in a few months. This does not mean that I have given up the good fight within my life or within my children’s lives or within the lives of anyone who is willing to listen to me. This only means that I haven’t been writing about here in my blog. As a single mother and college student I have little time to myself let alone keep up with a blog. I am not disappearing, and I am going to continue fighting privilege, racism, and oppression within myself and within my community.

I reread this article on White privilege this morning while drinking my morning coffee, and I felt the need to share it with you all. I am going to give you a link to read the entire article if you desire, but I am only going to share the many excepts that resonated with me.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

By Peggy McIntosh

You can read the full article here.

“This article is now considered a ‘classic’ by anti-racist educators. It has been used in workshops and classes throughout the United States and Canada for many years. While people of color have described for years how whites benefit from unearned privileges, this is one of the first articles written by a white person on the topics…”

White Privilege and Male Privilege 

Through work to bring materials from Women’s Studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to improve women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials, which amount to taboos, surround the subject of advantages, which men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened or ended.

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege, which was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege which puts me at an advantage.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege.

. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence. My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person or as a participant in a damaged culture.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability.

11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

12. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

20. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

23. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the place I have chosen.

24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.

25. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.

In unpacking this invisible backpack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience which I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant and destructive.

My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways, and of making social systems work for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms.

Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely. In proportion as my racial group was being confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made inconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated. whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit in turn upon people of color. For this reason, the word ”privilege” now seems to be misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically over empower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.

 

I have met very few men who are truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question for me and others like me is whether we will be like them or whether we will get truly distressed, even outraged about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance and if so, what will we do to lessen them.

In any case, we need to do more work in identifying how they actually affect our daily lives.

Many, perhaps most of our white students in the U.S. think that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not people of color, they do not see “whiteness” as a racial identity.

In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in the invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.

Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. (But) a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems. To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist. It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.

Though systemic change takes many decades there are pressing questions for me and I imagine for some others like me if we raise our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned. What will we do with such knowledge?

As we know from watching men, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden systems of advantage and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily-awarded power to reconstruct power systems on a broader base.

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White Fear

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White fear is another consequence of racism and is related to White guilt. This is a post of my unpacking my past and my privilege, so hold on tight it might get a little bumpy.

They are claiming that we live in a post-race society, and racism doesn’t exist anymore, so therefore we do not need the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They have already struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, so now the nine most racist states can effectively make changes to their voting laws without permission, and you can read an article about it here.

We have a Black president, and he was elected twice, so we can’t possibly be racist still,  right? The ignorance of this statement is mind blowing, and I have heard it too many times. If racism did’t exist then we wouldn’t have had chairs lynched from trees through out the entire election process. Also they wouldn’t have made Obama show proof of his birth certificate. I feel that many hidden aspects of racism were exposed, because of the election of Obama and yet people are exhaling and cheering yay! We aren’t racist anymore! Hurrah!

What I want to know is how can White America be so blind? I understand that some of it has to due with the fact that if you are raised a certain way and these ways are passed down generation after generation then you just believe by default. This is how White America can move through life blind to the fact that other races are invisible in their day to day lives. We aren’t affected by it, so we don’t see it, we don’t feel it, and we don’t feel out of place or neglected in the media or in our work or school systems. We aren’t held back through the education system, or in the work place, and unless you are a woman, we aren’t paid less money for the same job. We know our history, because it is taught to us in schools, and some of us have very *long documented family trees.

(*Side note: Although I have recently found that I only have my lineage documented on my paternal grandmother’s side to go back seven to eight generations, the other three grandparents are only documented for four to five generations. Which might have something to do with my DNA results that just came in this week. I should have this update in my White Guilt post, but I am updating it here instead. My results say that I am Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, German, Polish…all of which I knew about, but the new information is that I am also Mediterranean of unknown country, Lebanese, North African, and Sub-Saharan African. This is probably why we thought we had Native American ancestry).

Is it White blindness, White guilt, or White fear that makes American’s feel or believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore? We know racism is wrong, so we do everything in our control to be “colorblind,” and we pretend that there is no racism, we don’t talk about it, and we hush our children when ever they notice it, so if we just pretend long enough that it doesn’t exist, and believe it will just disappear or that it will eventually become reality. I believe that this is just more lies that we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better. I believe that keeping quiet is part of the problem. People of color talk about race and racism inside their homes, but White people do not, as they believe if we don’t talk about it, it will just go away. Not talking about it is creating mystery or prolonging the lies, so not talking about it is creating racism. I believe the best way to raise a racist child is to not talk about race or racism inside your homes.

If you are White you aren’t racially profiled, and you aren’t randomly stopped and frisked by the police. You are free to wander around retail stores without being followed by security. If you are a White man women don’t grab their purses close to their body when you walk by.  These are common occurrences for my African-American boyfriend, and many other people of color. One day I was in a public bathroom in a downtown establishment while on a date with him, and a very young White girl walked in while I was washing my hands. She asked an Older White woman who walked in ahead of her if she could wait for her, and walk out with her, then she said that there was a gentleman waiting outside the bathroom and she didn’t feel safe. The older woman said yes of course. I finished drying my hands, and as I was exiting the bathroom it finally dawned on me that she could be referring to my boyfriend. Fear washed over me as I walked down the long corridor to the benches outside the restrooms. When I reached the end of the hall my boyfriend was the only one there, and pain then washed over me and I actually started shaking. He then noticed that something was wrong, so I told him what just occurred. By the time I reached my senses I went back to confront this child, but she was already gone.

If you are White **Cops don’t pull you over while driving, and they don’t drive through your neighborhoods looking to fill their quotas. **This link is an informative post by a fellow blogger, and her experiences with the police, and it is a must read.

One of the legacies of racism and a story of my past: I remember driving with my parents as a child, we traveled a lot, and if we happened to get lost and drive through a Black neighborhood my mother would automatically lock the doors. This is so incredibly damaging to all involved. One, that the African American men standing on the street could hear the doors locking, and I can’t imagine what this pain feels like. Two, that as a young child it was ingrained in me that African American men were dangerous. I have struggled with this fear all of my life. I knew it was wrong from a very young age, but every time I am confronted with it it rears it’s ugly head. I have to consciously remind myself that these fears are irrational. I basically just hand my purse over now every time I cross the path of a Black man. Not literally of course, but it’s sort of a knee jerk reaction that I loosen up and sort of hold out my arm towards them. Is this over compensating? Yes probably, but my brain has to start somewhere. This is the result of the racism I grew up with, but am I racist? No, I am not, because I am aware of the discrimination and the racism in my family, and I am actively educating myself, and reprogramming my brain to believe the truth, and not the lies that I grew up with and the lies that our society pushes on us on a daily basis through the media and our education system.

We are all affected by racism, and no one is excluded from the damage that racism causes.

Racism still exists, and we need the Voting Rights act of 1965 just as much now as we did in 1965. Racism hasn’t diminished; it just has a different face than it did 50 years ago or even 150 years ago.

Love and Interracial Relationships

Erykah Badu and Stephen Marley – I am so In Love with You.

This post is for my baby, because I know that he is with me even when he is far away.

I have decided to talk about my personal journey through my relationship, because what is a blog about race and racism if i don’t look at the experiences and learning opportunities that an interracial relationship has brought me and will continuously bring me.

I have known this man for eighteen years. We dated and fell in love when I was only nineteen, and he was twenty nine. We were very much in love then, and we had plans to get married. I was living in his home town at the time, and his family loved me, and welcomed me with open arms. Unfortunately I was too young, and to make a long story short we broke up. Then life happened, I got married, I gave birth to two little punk rock kids, and then I got divorced. One beautiful day we happened to wander into each other on the internet, and sparks flew immediately. It was like no time had passed at all for us, time stood still, and we were still in love.  The internet is a magical place.

I grew up in a racist home, much like many European-American children then and still today. My family did not approve, but I can’t say that this had anything to do with why we broke up.  I will say that I do see a future of blogs with me exploring and sharing this rocky aspect of our relationship. He is fully aware of the fact that my parents are racist, because I took him home to meet them when I was nineteen, and he is still willing to be with me having this knowledge. My family knows we that are dating again, but they live 3000 miles away from me, and so the realty of this relationship hasn’t quite become real for them yet.

My children are the only two people whose opinions I care about on the details of this relationship. They know that he is African-American. They have talked to him on the phone, and they have seen his pictures around the house. I have even been blessed with another opportunity to teach them about negative stereotypes. My boyfriend has Locks, much like Stephen Marley’s, and he does not grow pot, he does not smoke pot, and he does not sell pot. While I am on the subject of stereotypes I will also add that he is not Jamaican or a Rastafarian. He is not a thug, and he has never been in prison. He doesn’t have any children, and he grew up with both parents in the home. He is working towards his goals of becoming an architect.  He loves the outdoors, and he loves to hike, camp, and kayak.  If any one is wondering, yes he washes his hair and no you cannot touch it.

I made it abundantly clear to everyone that I wouldn’t introduce my children to any boyfriends before dating them for at least six months, and we have been dating for about thirteen months now. We have decided to take this relationship to the next level, and introduce the boys to him. This Monday will be our first outing out  together, and we have decided to go to the zoo.

Wish us luck, and we will embrace the stares.

Dreaming of A Colorful Future Was Nominated for a Liebster Award!

liebster

Dreaming of A Colorful Future has received it’s first Liebster award from fellow blogger Sweden and The Middle East! Thank you so much for nominating me, and I am honored and pleasantly surprised that my blog is receiving such positive feedback so early in the game. I could not have asked for a warmer welcome. Blogger awards are a great way to learn more about your fellow bloggers, and find new blogs that you might not otherwise, so I knew I had to participate.  I’m happy to pass on the nomination to other “up and coming” bloggers. There is much love to be found in this crazy world.

Here is what the award is about:

Liebster Awards go to “up and coming” bloggers with less than 200 followers.  The origins of this award are unclear and are simply given by fellow award nominees to blogs that inspire them and that they enjoy reading.  “Liebster” means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome in German.

When you get a Liebster Award nomination, you can choose to accept it by doing these things:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  • List 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  • Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate, or you can also re-post your questions.
  • Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate, and include links to their blogs.
  • Go to each bloggers page and let them know you have nominated them.

11 Facts About Myself:

1. I have been blogging for less than a week when nominated for this award.

2. I am a college student for the third time, because I can’t seem to stay in one place long enough to finish my degree.

3. I have lived in five different states, from city neighborhoods to the country.

4. I am working towards a Major in Psychology and a Minor in African-American Studies

5. I am a mother of two children, and I am in an interracial relationship.

6. I am a nature lover, and feel most at home in the woods or by the sea.

7. I have a cat allergy, but I have two cats of my own, and two strays that have adopted my yard. I must have a large mouse population to feed their bellies, because I have not encouraged them to stay.

8. I love art, literature, and music, and I feel that we need music and the arts to fill our souls.

9. I love cooking, and I have a recipe addiction.

10. I am awaiting DNA test results to find out the percentages of my racial background.

11. I have the Django Unchained movie sitting by my television set, and I am afraid to watch it.

11 Questions:

1. What musical artist are you listening to these days?

Erykah Badu

2. If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?

A mama bear, because nobody messes with a mama bear!

3. What do you say when your (or someone else’s) kid asks you why the sky is blue?

Lets go Google that information, and find out.

4. Favorite Food?

I love fresh whole foods and home cooking.

5. If $$ were no object, where would you travel on your next vacation?

If money were no object I wouldn’t be able to just pick one place: Indonesia, Greece, India, Ghana, Jamaica, any where in the Caribbean, Hawaii, any Spanish speaking country. I could go on and on, because we live in a big beautiful world, and I would love to explore it.

6. How do you like your eggs?

Over medium eggs wrapped in corn tortillas with homemade salsa.

7. Favorite Reality TV Show?

I don’t watch television, but I do love movies and documentaries. My life is a reality show, I am in an interracial relationship, and I have a child with severe ADHD; I just got a phone call five minutes ago that he just threw a chair in school, so it doesn’t get more real than that.

8. What was your very first job?

I was a maid for a three star hotel.

9. What book is on your nightstand right now?

Black Boy by Richard Wright.

10. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Searching the internet for new information, and recipes.

11. At what age is your earliest memory?

I was in the crib, but I am not sure how old I was.  I was crying, and my grandfather threatened to give me something to cry about.

Blogs I am nominating: I was only able to nominate 5 blogs, because I have only been blogging for a week. one week is not enough time to find 11 blogs that inspire me and fit the criteria of having less than 200 followers. There are so many great blogs out there, and I can’t even renominate the blog that nominated me. The following five blogs have moved me in one way or another, and I look forward to seeing what they bring to our futures.

1. This Great Horrible Journey Called…

2. Musings of a Wannabe Intellectual 

3. Failure to Listen 

4. Bozeman Developing Group

5. Discourse Disruption