In full disclosure, I am fearful to post this piece. I’m afraid of the potential backlash, the possible angry comments and having the intent of my message misconstrued. But buried within that fear lies the exact reason why I’m compelled to write this.
This morning I felt the need to defend myself and let me tell you, I felt my blood pressure rise and felt the raw emotion of anger stirring inside. It would have been so easy to attack back, to feed into the person whose comment provoked such a visceral reaction. And believe me, the non-combative way in which I responded did not alleviate my anger or upset. If anything, it put a sour taste in my mouth and fueled some rather poisonous thoughts and hurtful desires.
“Your white privilege is showing.” What?! My white privilege?! White privilege because I shared my view on the world I live in – not anyone else – that is filled with diversity, inclusion and acceptance?
This is exactly the problem – generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes. People not giving others a chance and generalizing, such as I’m white so I must be privileged or the assumption I have been somewhat successful in my career so I must be privileged and I believe diversity, inclusion and acceptance do exist in the world so I must be privileged.
Well let me tell you, I’m not privileged. Privilege, as defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary*, is a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor. It is not defined as white. And I do not appreciate being stereotyped in such a way or feeling like I have to defend myself or, even worse, apologize for being white.
My grandmother ironed shirts for pennies each and rented rooms to strangers in our home to make ends meet. My grandfather had an eighth grade education – and was one of the most intelligent men I know – then signed on to serve this country to ensure we would have the freedoms that we do have today. Their work ethic was tireless, going without to give us a better life – not one of privilege, but one of intention and appreciation, respect and civility.
Yes, there are those who are privileged and feel entitled – but that’s not limited to the white man. Privilege is a mindset, not a race or religion or ethnicity. There are decent people and evil people in this world and they all walk amongst us. But to criticize an entire group – whether it be whites, police, priests, blacks, gays, politicians – because of the wrong-doings of some will not aid in resolving our current state of societal upheaval.
Most of us want peace. Most of us want to get along. Yes, there are those who seem hell bent on fueling the tensions and dividing us further, but when will these generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes stop? Why can’t people look deeper, listen more closely and come together? Maybe if we stop generalizing that the entire white population are racists and maybe if we stop assuming that others are privileged and maybe if we stop catering to the extremist mindset, then we would be closer to that utopia of love, peace and understanding.