Hopefully this is the article. It’s in PDF form.
Read this first, if you have the time.
On White Privilege.
This is a very personal topic to me because of the circumstances that I grew up in. Just a little about me. I was born in Charlotte, NC. When I was six my mother got married and I moved to Western Pennsylvania. In a small town called Beaver Falls I had my first couple of bouts with racism. I remember the incident, the school was either Blackhawk elementary or Northwestern Elementary (two different schools, but they’ve changed the names of a few since I left.) Some kid had called me a nigger in front of a lot of other students and so I punched him in his face. The teacher said that I was too sensitive at that age and needed to toughen up. So I did. That was the start.
My parents then moved me to the middle of the sticks in Southwestern PA. When seeking to move into the house (which was picked because it was the absolutely cheapest place my parents could buy and keep me in the best school district in the region) a petition was signed by some members of the town to keep up from buying it. Yes. That seriously happened (at least everyone believes it happened. It’s on some sort of local record of events.) The Hempfield Area School District is a wonderful system of schools. Most of the teachers are really good and the school has enough money coming in to afford to offer some great courses and nice extracurricular activities. Our marching band was amazing (and the band director just so happened to be the ONLY black teacher I had in my ten years at that district.)
I went through the curriculum learning about all the awesome white people in the world that had done awesome things except for the four weeks out of the year where they were forced to talk about people that looked like me. The only thing they teach about slavery up there is that “Those bad bad southerners were fond of it until us Yankees came down and righted their wrongs and set them darkies free.”
So on to the actual article. I loved it. I loved reading it because I had only looked at white privilege in more narrow terms, specifically in how it effected MY life. As long as I’ve been a live I’ve been a young black male. The fact that I’ve made it this far alive and not having ever been incarcerated is no small miracle. Less and less of us are making it to this point. I don’t often think about white privilege as it relates to other groups in this country. The thing she writes about finding music was something I just never thought of. This weekend I went into both FYE and CD Warehouse and I decided to look around for different types of music. There are lots of CDs from people that look like me, lots of CDs from all manner of white people, and some from various Hispanic types. But beyond that was slim pickings. I scrounged around a bit for Asian language music and the selection that was there was really small. I didn’t see anything at the CD Warehouse. Finding music straight out of Africa wasn’t happening. There are other kinds of music that I’m sure I didn’t even think to look for, and I’m sure that any of the people looking for it aren’t going to mainstream music stores to find it.
Focusing back on me and my life for a second here, I called my mom to confirm the thing about me only having one black teacher in high school, and it turns out I only had that one black teacher in all of my grade school education. I didn’t have a person of any color in an instructional role for me since middle school. I’m sure I’m not the only person with that experience. Looking at it that way there are bound to be repercussions that we haven’t thought of. The way certain subjects are taught are inherently flawed because of the perspective of the teacher. Not that these teachers are in themselves trying to press some “White Agenda,” they only teach what they know for themselves.
I talk about it in sports all the time, but one of the big problems with sports reporting is that the opinions all come from one central place. People may argue specifics, but on the whole they all agree on major subjects. The reason is that the people who teach the journalist all have these rules and codes based on the beliefs they had in their life. Most of these guys instructing are older white gentlemen. They learned their craft from older white gentlemen. The guys writing now tend to be mostly older white gentlemen. The ones that are either younger white gentlemen or black or hispanic gentlemen, most likely learned their craft from a group of older white gentlemen. So while they have a perspective that is a little different, their writings will inevitably go through the lens of middle-age to older white male of middle class economic standings or higher. That explains why certain issues are only written about in certain ways. For instance, why all these players make too much money and don’t deserve it, but the rich white owners who have enough money to pay these players [a lot of whom got their money through fishy or outright despicable means (Donald Sterling doesn’t rent apartments to black people and Dan Gilbert gets off on issuing out iffy mortgage loans. Just to name a few.)]
One of my favorites on the list is the thing about bringing up racial issues and not just being disregarded offhand. Whenever I try to bring up things like this in my life I’m shot down by saying I’m just stirring up trouble. They say that by bringing up racial discussions that I’m just making things worse, or that I’m focusing on them at all is bad. By me focusing on them I’m finding things that aren’t actually there, and from their perspective they are right. They don’t ever see the results of their white privilege. Me bringing it up either makes them uncomfortable, or something, because it is near impossible to get a good discussion going about race anywhere.
Here’s a fun story of my life. Just about two years ago I was over at some friend’s house. We’re watching a football game just idly and some commercial comes on for a UFC match. One of the contestants was a black male and was being portrayed as black athletes usually are. He was taunting and showboating, parading around looking all menacing and rabid like a stray dog. Then one of my friends said “I hate that nigger.” That’s really when my world changed. This was a friend. This is someone that I spent an untold number of hours with, and that just came out of his mouth. Not only that, but everyone else in the house just took it in stride like nothing was said. Then they all remember who is there. Yup, the nice little nigger boy that comes by and says “sir and ma’am” and is generally pleasant. I honestly, didn’t know how to react at that period of time. I was aware that white people said that kind of stuff, just most had the decency not to say it around me. Then he went into false apology mode. He said things to the equivalency of “You’re not like him”, or “That guy really is a nigger. You’re not.” I should have said something profound. I should have walked out and not came back. Instead I just kind of sat there and shrugged it off. What was I suppose to say?
I had removed myself from the notion that white people sucked. I spent most of my life that I could remember around a bunch of white people I didn’t like. I let high school with pretty much four friends out of the two thousand or so students that went there. I graduated as one of one black kids in my class of 250 or so. I dealt with the fact that I was playing on an uneven playing field, no biggy. I knew certain things happened for certain reasons, but I hadn’t really thought about them. Not in great detail at least. I knew that I couldn’t bring any grievances against my other classmates because it really didn’t matter. I just didn’t connect all of it together. It wasn’t until that incident at my friend’s house where it all really came into focus. Further more, it wasn’t until I started reading and trying to study myself that I could put the thoughts together.
My two favorite points she made were back to back.
- I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
- I am never asked to speak for all the people in my racial group.
I’m 23 years old. I have a condo that I pay for myself. I have a car. I speak well enough conversationally. I’m decently educated. Because of these attributes people hold me up like some shining pillar. Then they put down other black people because of me and act like I’m suppose to be in agreement with them that those other black people just aren’t trying, or somehow aren’t as good as me.
I find it personally offensive when people talk about me as not being black, or how much different I am from “regular black people.” It’s one of the most frustrating things I deal with on a daily basis. People where I work are always like “You’re black, what do you think of this?”
Every day of my life I’m reminded just how black I am, and at the same time when I’m doing anything positive it’s pointed out to me the difference between me and the scary black mob. I’m faced with stupid statements like “You’re not really black.” and “Hey! The token black guy is here.” Whenever I’m in a scenario where I’m surrounded by white people I’m always on edge of the stupid comments that are bound to come, and then being forced to deal with them in a passive manner because any other reaction would make these people right. If I get angry at one of these foolish quotes I’m being too sensitive or I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Any reaction I make is in danger of allowing people to go “See, we’re right, those niggers just can’t control themselves.”
I’ve been hearing a lot in both churches and in politics about bringing America back to what the founding fathers wanted. I never had any love from them. Even from youth I knew all those people wanted for me was to clean their shoes and be spat on. Everything about the constitution was founded on a lie. Whenever I hear someone talk about taking America back to the way it was years ago I have to remind myself that they are just stupid and ignorant. They really couldn’t want to go back to a time where I couldn’t vote, go outside when and where I wanted, marry who I wanted, participate in activities, get jobs, go to school, read, write, have an opinion. They don’t want that. But then I’m not so sure. I’ll never really be sure. Maybe that is just what they want. They want that “We the White People” stuff from the preamble or “All White Men are created equal stuff.”
On a quick note. Abraham Lincoln wanted to send all the Negroes back to Africa, so let’s just stop bringing up this great emancipator bull. If anything has been twisted by white privilege more than Civil War history I have yet to see it.
Now after reading this little piece on white privilege all of it makes even more sense. I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over all the scars inflicted on me by growing up isolated in white America for most of my life, and I’ll probably never fully erase the “bugger white people” attitude that’s firmly implanted in my brain, but at least I can fully come to grips with the fact that it’s not out of total hatred, just ignorance on their parts. They don’t even realize how their actions effect everyone around him, how the notion of equality is total bullshit and always has been. Boot straps my ass.
Here’s the demographic breakdown of the school district I spent first and second grade in.