I am white.
And to be honest, in hearing those words – White Privileged – I have bristled.
I have struggled with the label. And I know I’m not alone.
That term, in so many ways, sounds like an accusation and misrepresentation of who I am and what I’ve endured throughout my life. At best, it does not suit me. At worst, it has offended me.
You see, I’m first-generation Sicilian. My parents were ESL. I was raised by a mom diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and became caregiver not only to her but to my younger sister, also diagnosed with the same mental illness. To say that I and my family struggled just to get by is an understatement.
I’ve gone through A LOT, no question. Maybe you have, too. So believe me. I get it. The label of White Privileged is one that insinuates and angers some of us white people. It did me, UNTIL I took the time to step away from myself and my misunderstanding of what I assumed it to mean and realized the truth of what White Privileged had to offer.
Despite my own challenging journey, I am, indeed, White Privileged.
Because here’s the thing: Sure, “all” lives do matter. And, YES, I and others of all races and backgrounds have been dismissed and taken advantage of and bullied and persecuted and treated unfairly…BUT…for all that I and others of my skin color have endured and overcome, not one of us has had the – ADDED, CAN’T HIDE IT – reality of our non-white skin tone leading the way with every experience and encounter.
Think about it — it’s been just a bit over 50 years since black people were refused service at diners, were made to drink from different water fountains, had to sit in the back of the bus, weren’t allowed to attend same schools, and were denied basic human rights — for the sole reason of the amount of melanin in their skin. This oppression was openly condoned by authorities and accepted when I was being born. That is not that long ago. And between then and now, black people still have had to tip-toe and ask permission because of that underlying racism that has never been fully addressed.
I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself: I don’t know if the shoe was on the other foot, if I would be able to keep smiling and going about my day having to pretend that the rest of the world still didn’t see me (and devalued me) only or primarily for the color of my skin.
For goodness sakes, how many people are fighting their “freedom being taken away” just because they are required to wear a face mask for a while? And, yet, those same people can’t seem to understand feelings and reactions due to decades of inequality and “less than” freedoms?
This “black lives matter” has nothing to do with the rest of our lives not mattering. “White privilege” has nothing to do with whether or not you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or grew up impoverished. This has to do with the fact that before a person of color even has a chance to say “hello” they are immediately at risk of being denied, judged, feared, or harmed simply because of something in their DNA that they can’t change and shouldn’t because skin tone has nothing to do with anybody’s worth.
“Black lives matter” is a movement to finally make the issue of skin color and discrimination and racism a priority. Stop thinking that it in any way diminishes you. If anything, you championing it has the power to elevate you and every one of us.
Embrace it. Grow from it. Change this world for the better.
Look at the pictures – the actual photo negatives hanging on the iconic Woolworth on 5th diner – documenting the site of civil rights sit-ins during the 60s. That restaurant in Nashville has since been renovated and all are welcome now. But as far as we may have come from that place and time, we haven’t come far enough. And it starts with you and me.