Thursday, August 28, 2014

Debunking "White Privilege"

This should actually be titled, "How rejecting the concept of 'white privilege' helped me to embrace my heritage and respect others without constantly needing to feel guilty about the color of my skin."

If you are a big believer in "white privilege," this may make you mad, in which I say, "Now it's your turn!" Here's the thing: I have been mad since the first time I heard this theory, and I have become increasingly irritated while more and more articles come out saying regardless of a white person's background, life story, or economic status, they are automatically more privileged than any other race, simply because they are white. Not only is this presumptuous, but it is also racist. This notion is absolutely ridiculous to me and I am no longer willing to sit back and take it. So, here goes my five-point debunking of the "white privilege" myth.

1. Everyone has a story.
Notice how I did not say every minority has a story, but rather that everyone has a story. I don't believe that a person's tragedy is more or less tragic dependent on what the color of their skin is. I do know that every person I have ever gotten to know has dealt with things that I would not wish on anyone. Life is hard, and we all struggle with different things. This famous quote summarizes my thoughts on this: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." I love this quote because it is a reminder to be understanding and have compassion for ALL people. It does not say that every minority is fighting a battle or that every white person is not fighting a battle--in fact, there is no mention or condition on who struggles most; all the quote says is that everyone is fighting a battle. I believe that if we all thought more like this, our world would look a lot better!

2. I am not just white.
I am proud of my heritage. I am made up of many different ethnic groups that cannot simply be categorized as white. Minority groups are often referred to by their origin, not their skin color...so why is it different for "whites?" Because no one wants to take the time to know what they actually are? But, to go along with the "white privilege" argument, I will explain why where my white comes from is not privileged.

I am at least 30% Irish, and that is the biggest chunk of any of my background, so I will start here. Irish slavery began in the 1600s. From 1640 to 1650, the Irish population went from 1.5 million to 600,000, due to England's killing and selling of the Irish. Yes, that's right--Irish were used as slaves. This began in England, and continued on for two centuries in America (and other places colonized by England) once England started selling the Irish. You might be asking yourself, "Wait, why don't I know about this?" It's because our history books conveniently leave out this information so there are no "white" slaves. Also, the given term is "indentured servants," however, the Irish were treated just as poorly, if not worse, than African slaves. An African slave cost 50 sterling...guess how much an Irish slave cost? 5. That is 1/10 of an African slave. This meant that the beatings that often lead to death for the Irish "servants" were common because they were very cheap and easy to replace. England stopped selling the Irish in the 1830s, but the Irish that came to America during/after the potato famine from 1845-1852, did not receive excellent treatment because they were white. Actually, they were targeted completely because of where they were from and what they represented (obviously the skin color made no difference). Employer's posting "Help Wanted" signs would add "Irish need not apply." I would like to dig deeper into these roots and see what connections my ancestors have to all of this horrible history. But the Irish part of me would absolutely not consider this history to be privileged.

I am also a large chunk of Russian Jewish (sorry I cannot provide you with an exact percentage haha). I do not feel the need to go into the history of the persecution of Jewish people because 1. You already know how millions of Jewish people were targeted and killed for no reason and 2. I probably went way too in depth with the Irish history and I have more points to make still!

I would also like to add that I am Hispanic, Native American, and German. These are all things you can't know about me by just looking at me, which I think is the fascinating part about humans. This is why I do not like to simply be called "white," when I know I represent SO much more than what is seen at surface level.

3. "I Have A Dream..."
When Martin Luther King Jr. said, "I have a dream that my children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," I wholeheartedly believe he meant that to apply to ALL colors! He meant ALL people should be judged by the content of their character and NOT by the color on the outside. This leads into my next point...

4. Society's Obsession with Race.
First of all, so we're clear, race is a human-made way to group people based on their skin color. The way in which our society acts about race is so discouraging to me. I believe the obsession with diversity and "white privilege" leads to more tension and more racism. This can be seen especially in the news right now in Ferguson, Missouri. A police officer (who happens to be white) shot and killed an 18-year-old (who was black). Right away, I felt so sad that this young life was ended so abruptly (and I still feel this way)! However, the media and community immediately made assumptions that the police officer is some horrible racist, not even taking a second to pause and think that maybe he was protecting himself. He was automatically in the wrong because he is white. Interestingly enough, this police officer has served in the area for seven years and has never had even ONE complaint about being racist or treating black community members any differently than white community member. Had he been some horrible racist, I most certainly think the behavior would have been noted by community members and co-workers. However, this information does not seem to matter. To compare, the same week that this happened in Missouri, a young man (who was white), was shot and killed by an officer in Utah (who happens to be black). No public outcry, no riots, no looting, no public defenders screaming "injustice!", no assumptions that the officer was acting incorrectly or out of racism. Likewise, after George Zimmerman was acquitted after his trial last year, two black teens in Oklahoma were infuriated and went out to intentionally kill a white person. Sadly, they shot and killed an Australian student who was studying abroad. This was not covered by the media at all, even though it was a despicable and clearly a racially-motivated crime. The hypocrisy in our society today regarding race (and so much more) is so evident and it is wrong. We should all be held to the same standards and give the same respect to others, regardless of race.

5. Why I'm Actually Privileged...
I don't even know when the word "privilege" obtained a negative connotation, so I'm going to use this word in a positive way. I am privileged. I'm an optimist--I believe we are ALL privileged, meaning, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for (whether you live in a tribal hut, government housing, a tiny studio apartment in New York City/Los Angeles/Insert Large City Name Here with four roommates, or a beautiful two-story home)! I am privileged, but not because I am white.

I am privileged number one because I have a personal relationship with Jesus. My life will continue to be privileged, no matter what I encounter, because I have a God who designed me so specifically and intentionally and thinks I'm worth dying for! If that isn't enough to make someone feel privileged, blessed, etc, then I guess I understand why people might resort to bitterly blaming a whole group of people for being "privileged." Secondly, I am privileged because I have the most amazing support system in my husband, family, and friends. Everyone needs love and support, and this is essential to my belief that I am truly privileged. Beyond that, it's the little things that make me smile and appreciate my life--I see beautiful things like a sunset over the ocean or my husband's smile when he comes through the door, I hear the best sounds like my nephew giggling when being tickled by his daddy and mommy or rain hitting the roof, I taste amazing things like a whole pizza by myself in Rome or my newest baking adventure. I am privileged and blessed and I could cry with thankfulness (I often do!) at this beautiful life I have been given the opportunity to live.

I refuse to sit by and bitterly wish for things I do not have, make superficial judgments about others, and think people are bad for achieving success. Our lives are so short and temporary--live a privileged life by knowing Jesus, giving others the benefit of the doubt, working your butt off, and smiling! So "white privilege," I am not buying what you're selling--I choose joy and thankfulness instead! :)


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