One of the ways to be and act as an ally is to not only acknowledge but push back against your own privileges and positions within society. And it’s important to recognize that everyone has multiple identities that all intersect – meaning that while one of your identities might be marginalized, another may not. Pushing back and really reflecting will always be uncomfortable and challenging – those with privilege often benefit from the status quo in many ways. Removing that status quo would remove a lot of comfort and would mean that the world we experience with privilege is turned upside down.
I am white, living in a primarily white town in a predominately white state. I grew up with mostly white friends and never thought about race in any other context of “the other”, meaning I never saw myself having a racial identity and saw it as a people of color issue. And so, when I say we in this context, I mean we as white people because I’m just as much as a part of this as any other white person.
Whiteness is seen as the default, the “normal”, the top of the racial hierarchy. I mean, in history, we were the ones that created race as a social construct. We pulled all the stops throughout history to demonize people of color and numerous facets of society, like the media, help to uphold white supremacy.
White privilege protects us as white people in an unbelievable amount of ways. If we watch a show or a movie, odds are many of the people there will look like us. Many political figures also share our skin color and many other positions of power are also very likely to be white. We are never seen as the other based on our skin, never experience race related stress, never made to feel ugly or unwelcome because of it.
If we call the police, odds are they won’t kill us within seconds or act in lethal ways, like many officers have continuously done when interacting with people of color (particularly black people!). In fact, it’s very probable that we’d have a generally positive relationship with the police, especially in comparison to the relationship that people of color have with the police.
And that’s not even touching the issue of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex. I mean, just look at the drug usages versus sentencing – while white people and people of color are using at the same rates, people of color are significantly more likely to be arrested for it. Plus, people of color are more likely to be sentenced to private prisons than white people.
As white people, we have a hell of a lot of privilege to acknowledge and reflect on. We need to realize how the world is built for us and how people demanding accountability and acknowledging white supremacy are not reverse racism or hatred against us.