The other day I posted a Twitter thread briefly touching on my thoughts about #BlackLivesMatter but wanted to use this platform to elaborate a bit further. This is certainly a departure from my usual types of content so may come across as a bit of a surprise to subscribers but the more I dwell on what's happening in the world today the more I realize that I cannot be silent. There's a lot to consider around this issue, but today i want to talk about White Privilege and the #AllLivesMatter counter-movement.
So let's talk about White Privilege. When this word is thrown out it tends to put people on the defensive. Maybe it should - after all, white people stand to lose the most from racial equality, but more on that later. The other day I saw a tweet, I won't share it here, but it was from a man talking about growing up with an abusive father and a crackhead mother; he wondered, where was my White Privilege? This is a very misleading train of thought. White Privilege doesn't mean your life will be perfect and it certainly doesn't spare you from being the outcome of two people who clearly aren't capable of caring for a child having one regardless. White Privilege doesn't spare you from the bad things in life, from grief or from hardships. But what White Privilege is, is the benefit of the doubt and access to opportunities we take for granted. It's the ability to not physically and mentally brace yourself when pulled over by a police officer. The ability to have a teacher view you as a student that's going somewhere in life. It's the ability to be able to land a job, or even consider applying for a job, without having qualifications far exceeding the requirements of the job. The ability to not be perceived as a threat for simply walking down the street.
To whoever wrote that tweet, I'm truly sorry for the upbringing you had to endure. Your pain is real as is your right to express it. But can you imagine the course a black kid's life in your situation might have taken? Or even grasp the concept that simply due to the systemic racism embedded in the fabric of our everyday lives that a black kid is more likely to be born into a situation like you endured? The evidence is all around us. You don't need to be friends with a Black person in order to feel like this suffering is real. Open your eyes and look critically at the world around you, you may not even have to look that hard. Open a history book and if you look beyond the winner's version of events there's countless tales of injustices, the rights and dignities of minorities being trampled on over and over again. We all have our problems. But those problems become exacerbated if the tone of my is a few shades darker and I doubt there's many out there who can't honestly say the same. To make it worse, pain and suffering as a result of racism has become just another part of the status quo - we've become so accustomed to the way minorities are treated that if someone actually raises an issue it's ignored because it's not outside the norm.
White Privilege is real. It's critical that we understand that, because without doing so we can't even begin to acknowledge that there's an imbalance, and without that how can we hope to come to some basic understanding of how Black people feel right now, how they've felt over the past several centuries? It's important to realize that centuries of systemic racism have given white people advantages that minorities do not have. We just don't see them as privileges because we take it for granted, the same way we don't consider the simple fact we weren't born in a third world country as an advantage. We assume that despite all the things we hear to the contrary that others are exaggerating what really happened or that it was just an isolated incident. But these aren't isolated incidents, are they? Can you really call something isolated when it happens across the globe, to millions of people in the minority every day, and has happened that way for centuries?
White people have problems and they experience pain and they are more than entitled to it. But that doesn't give the right to assume that our pain is equal to another's and that's why #AllLivesMatter is such a slap in the face to minorities. Imagine a friend coming to you seeking support after his brother died; this friend had never come to you in this manner before despite having other family members pass away in recent years so it strikes you as a bit odd that he chose to look for support now. You listen for a bit, then go on to tell him about how your brother died as well when you were younger and that he would get over it. But who are you to say your pain over losing your brother is the same as his pain over losing his brother? Sure, you know what it's like to lose a sibling but you don't have a clue what it's like for him to lose his brother; you don't know what they've been through, what their relationship was like, the circumstances of how he died, whether he was his only brother or one of many. This is the time for you to be there for him in whatever way he needs support, not to reframe his suffering to mirror your own experiences, experiences that may not in anyway reflect his reality.
Of course All Lives Matter, but maybe it's time we look beyond on our lives and step into the shoes of those that are suffering and look at things through their eyes. Not just what's in front of them right now, but what's been pervading their entire lives, their parents lives, and generations beforehand. If you do, and you look critically, you'll realize that in this world there's no such thing as all lives being treated equally. It's undeniable - millions mourn when a celebrity dies while thousands are murdered in Syria and no one bats an eye. There's factors in our society that define the value of a life and one's superiority above others but we don't live in a world where those factors are the contributions we make to society, the kindness we show to strangers, the differences we make in the world. Instead, we judge people on wealth or their status in society and unfortunately a lot of people's status is determined on the day they are born, based on skin color and gender. That's not to say this can't be overcome, but the fact that it needs to be overcome at all paints a picture of glaring inequality. In a world where the value of a life is determined more by the color of your skin than the kindness in your heart we are so far from being able to say All Lives Matter Equally.