White Privilege: Now You Know What It Looks Like

In recent years, I have heard some people question the existence of white privilege. They have been quick to deny that their white skin gives them any privilege in our country. Rarely have they been willing to acknowledge in any way that white skin grants anyone privilege.

I suspect a portion of the people I know who deny the existence of white privilege have their minds so made up that they will never be prodded to think beyond their wrongful conclusions. However, I believe most of the people I know retain a capacity for learning and growth.

Yesterday, we saw white privilege on full display in our nation’s capitol for all the world to see. When you can attack the Capitol of the United States of America and then spend the night sleeping in a local hotel or Airbnb, you are experiencing the privilege of being white.

There is little doubt in my mind that if the mob that assaulted the Capitol yesterday had been made up of people of color, today, many of them would dead and the rest of them would be in jail.

I say this because I have seen what we have all seen. If the shooting of a child of color holding a toy gun can be justified because the shooter felt threatened, or a child of color wearing a hoodie and eating skittles can be shot because the shooter felt threatened, or the killing of a woman of color asleep in her own bed can be justified because the shooter felt threatened, but a mob of white folks overwhelming the sanctuary of our democracy can walk away after documenting their treason with selfies, only the most obstinate among us can deny the existence of our privilege.

For those who are inclined to think that praying prayers of repentance is the way forward for our country, the white supremacist foundation of our country is the necessary starting point for such prayers. The fact that we as white folks are able to ignore or be unaware of so many of the ways that white supremacy remains embedded in our society and culture is itself an indication of our privilege.

A man of color has his life taken from him for selling cigarettes on a street corner. A white man unlawfully enters a congressional office and takes a picture of himself smiling at what he has done. Perhaps he will show it to his grandchildren and regale them with stories of how he was a part of assaulting the seat of our government. White privilege, at least in part, is the difference in the way these two men were treated when they broke the law.

The events of yesterday should put the question as to the existence of white privilege to rest once and for all. We all saw what we saw. What remains uncertain now is whether we have heart and head enough to address what we saw.

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