Checking My White Privilege In The Mirror

Remember the Pandemic – That Virus?

Well it hasn’t gone away. But the nice weather had people out protesting “Stay at Home” orders. Men, fully wrapped in their weaponry; marching, pushing their way into State Capital buildings in protest. The president said “These are good people. They’re just angry. Let them speak.” The police stood back…gave them space. Some states then lifted the stay at home orders and opened beaches, parks, some businesses, even bars in some places. And people rushed to them. FREE AT LAST to get the virus or not. “My body. My choice!” They had been heard!

New cases of the virus continue. Latest report says that there are at least 100,000 a day. The death toll is now almost 110,000 in the US.

But Then Something Else Happened

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old black man, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while he was handcuffed and face down on the street. His offense apparently was that he had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. The entire incident was recorded by a bystander on her cell phone. According to what we see on the video, Mr. Floyd never seemed combative but he was still taken to the ground. Derek Chauvin held him down with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck even as Mr. Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” The officer held his position while three other officers stood by until Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. The video was then shared on social media as yet another example of police brutality. Yet another! This was extremely hard to watch!

A New Protest – A Real Protest

This time, this video turned into a flashpoint for communities across the country to go to the streets in protest. In the early nights, those protests turned into riots and looting. Stories circulated that this destruction was being instigated by either White Supremist groups (far right) or Antifa (far left). The thought is that the intent was to make the Black protesters look bad. But cell phones were at work highlighting the faces of the instigators. White people. White people were starting the destruction, throwing the first brick.

Some states called for help from their National Guard and the president activated the military riot units to guard the White House. Tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and brute force were used. At one point a large military contingency was used to move peaceful protestors back so the president could cross the street to have his picture taken standing in front of a church and holding up a bible. He has yet to speak to the country with any sort of understanding and reassurance that the protestors voices are being heard. Instead, he has erected an 8 foot tall fence around the perimeter of the White House and has instructed the state’s governors to “Get tough” with the protestors otherwise they will “look foolish”.

Waking Up To A New Reality

People are outraged and more and more officers are being suspended from duty for using excessive force. While police brutality and the death of George Floyd are the focus of the protests, there are other spotlights shining down on…white privilege and systemic racism as a whole. It’s in the spotlight that I find myself being totally uncomfortable. And I’m writing this as my own reflection. I have never seen myself as racist and condemn the acts of White Supremacy but still right now I need to question my white privilege.

Here Are My Thoughts

We are a country who has turned it’s collective back on inequality, let whole populations of minority races live in poverty, brought undocumented immigrants into the country to toil in our fields and clean our resorts. We have let our education system be funded by property taxes knowing full well that wealthy districts can develop great schools while poor districts just get what they can afford. Health care is also based on ability to pay. Poorer paying jobs have little or no health insurance while better paying jobs provide Cadillac coverage. So is it any wonder why more Black people have died from Corona Virus?

At one point, the president signed an executive order to demand that meat packers coming from facilities with high incidents of the virus must return to work. No orders to make sure the facility was following any kind of protective guidelines, just “return to work”. Guess who works primarily in meat packing plants? They are primarily minority people.

A spotlight has been turned on us! White people are standing in this light naked, still holding on to pandemic protest signs that read “I Need A Haircut”.

We, who hoarded toilet paper and filled our freezers with meat while still demanding that the shelves be stocked daily so that they were ready for our next frantic buying spree.

We, who for years, have blamed Black people for not “lifting themselves up by their bootstraps” to get themselves out of poverty, while ignoring the pleas for a living wage. Grocery store workers, meat packers – deemed “Essential Workers” during the quarantine, probably don’t make $15.00 an hour.

We, who watched as a black football player took a knee in a respectful quiet way to protest police brutality. We didn’t support him when his protest caused him to lose his job. We didn’t support him when his protest was turned into “disrespecting the flag”. We didn’t support other football players who were told to stand or else during the National Anthem. This protest was not allowed because it was causing people to turn away from football. It was deemed too offensive.

We, who have watched multiple videos and heard multiple accounts of black people being gunned down for looking suspicious, maybe reaching for a weapon, or running away. Some have been even killed in their own homes! We have let the outrage be carried by black communities while we stayed quiet. And when charges were dropped, which they almost always are, we believed that justice must have been served because we simply did not have all the facts.

We, who allowed cries that “Black Lives Matter” be replaced with “All Lives Matter” and stayed quiet as yard signs and bumper stickers popped up everywhere that said “Blue Lives Matter”, systematically diminishing the whole original message.

Our privileged silence gave permission to white supremacy. We have looked the other way because we, too, did not want to lose our place in society. This place we feel we’ve worked so hard to attain. But did we really? Or were doors opened for us because… we’re white?

I’ve guided my own daughters through adulthood to believe that life is about choices and doors are presented. It’s up to us to choose to walk through them or not.

But now, I see that as the purest example of White Privilege that exists. We Have Choices! We Have Doors That Open! No one is blocking our path. Even our fear is mostly self imposed.

So, now that we are standing here naked, totally exposed for our privileged selves, what are we to do? Well, we have choices, now, don’t we.

  1. We could scream and shout, blaming others for exposing our nakedness or,
  2. We could run from this light and hope that it will be turned off so we can go back to “our normal”,
  3. Or we can admit that we’re ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with the way we look in this light. And we’d like a chance to get dressed again. Now we may not dress right initially because we’ve been in the dark for a long time, but we’d like to try. We want to learn. We want to listen. We want to help. We want to say that our supremacy was wrong. We want to share the abundance of this country to raise everyone up. We want to unlock doors so everyone has choices. Hopefully, we can find peaceful ways to communicate. Maybe we can even put our guns away! We need to listen more. Listen more, fight less. Listen more, talk less. Listen more. Listen more. Listen more.

We might even be able to make this the new definition of “Make America Great Again.”

I am standing here, now, looking at this person, honestly, in the mirror. I have let myself go. I stopped paying attention for some reason. I let myself rationalize that there was nothing I could do anymore. Now, I am being honest with this person. All the white privilege that exists in my closet right now needs to be replaced.

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