White Privilege is Real (and we need to talk about it)

Disclosure :: Denver Metro Moms Blog seeks to honor the voices of all moms living in Colorado. We understand and respect that this may be a controversial topic, but we ask that you read the author’s feelings and – should you desire to weigh in – that you engage respectfully. Neither DMMB nor the author believe retaliation in the form of violence is ever an acceptable response or form of justice. We grieve with the families of all lives lost in the tragedies of the last several weeks.

The first response I had to hearing of the most recent slew of racially-charged shootings by police officers against seemingly innocent citizens was embarrassing. I was silent.

No screaming, yelling, crying, lecturing, venting. Just numbness. Stillness. Nothing. Denial may be the most appropriate way to describe how I felt.

Luckily, after a few days passed, I felt like I had the strength to start asking questions–researching, digging, really trying to understand what was going on, and finding my place in it all. I read a ton of great think-pieces about race relations, unnecessary violence, white privilege, and police brutality. I read about the voracious over-abundance of masculine aggression and, as a society, our encouragement of it. I read about why these horrendous crimes continue to happen. But still, I felt lost.

We–the majority of readers of this blog–live in a state with a population that is overwhelmingly white, roughly 85%. The black or African-American population comes in somewhere around 3-4%. Even more specific–Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas, and Boulder counties all rank at around 90% white. I’ve lived in Salida, CO now for a little over a year, where our black or African-American community members come in at a whopping .2%. That’s right folks, that’s a decimal in front there.

So I thought, how can I teach my child the value of diversity in a town and state that is relatively devoid of all color? How can I make a difference when I have no black neighbors to work next to, listen to, learn from? Where can we go from here?

The reality is that I am the face of white privilege. I am the personification of our economic, educational, societal, cultural downfalls lifting up the white populace and crushing the minorities. I live every day without any real concern of random brutality. I teach my daughter not to worry what others think of her, that she should stand proudly as herself and not be silent. I don’t think twice if someone cuts in front of me in a line or locks their car doors when I walk by on the sidewalk. All that stuff has nothing to do with me. It’s all coincidental. I have the luxury to take my precious time to start thinking about (or not thinking about) black lives in turmoil. I can hit “publish” on this blog post with nothing more to fear than a mean Facebook comment. And the reason is simple: I am white. 

This is not an easy pill to swallow. But it is a truth that is completely necessary to accept. Until we realize that we white people are all cogs in the great machine of continued inequality, we can never flip the switch. More importantly, we have to realize that it is our responsibility, and ours alone, to make that change. We are indebted to no one else to teach us how to be better, how to work harder for peace, change, and equality.

It is no one else’s responsibility to show us how to be the best versions of our white selves.

So I want to talk about it. How can we white people move forward to affect change for the better? How do we become good and effective allies to our black brothers and sisters? How do we teach our children, in this Colorado-sized sea of whiteness, that #blacklivesmatter? This is a dialogue that needs to happen now and always, and it needs to be LOUD. We cannot cower in the face of injustice as we watch these atrocities continue to happen to our black neighbors. We have a responsibility to feel uneasy, nervous, afraid and yet, still get up and act. Especially as parents, we have to seize this opportunity to be a force for good now, and more importantly, pass it on to future generations.

This is big. This is scary. This is uncomfortable. This is necessary.

So, let’s talk.

 

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4 Responses to White Privilege is Real (and we need to talk about it)

  1. Glamourgirl123 July 24, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you for addressing this topic. I am Colorado native and a proud mom of an amazing 12 year old African American son. I try to be very open with him as we discuss current events and things I think he should be aware of growing up as a black male. What I’m currently struggling with is explaining to him the reason behind all the Police Brutality of black citizens and what should be done to avoid it. Of course I have a few years yet and believe me! I’m in no rush before he starts High School, driving, wanting to hang out with friends and socializing like any normal teenager would. However, now I’m constantly thinking about I can allow him to experience being a normal teenager without giving him the hour long “do’s and dont’s” lecture everytime he walks out the door to go to school, the store, mall, movies, or how he needs to check in every hour on the hour just so I will know he’s okay. I find it difficult to explain to him that there is a possibility that you may be stopped by a police officer because you are black and if you do you should respond in this way… And this is where I am at a loss of words because when you teach your child, don’t talk back, comply and do exactly what your told and you won’t be harmed yet you still loose your life is where I have a problem. I don’t want to make my comment a lengthy read however, this is a topic that needs to be a addressed and discussed until we as parents, citizens of our community and human beings realize that All Lives Matter!!!

  2. Blake July 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

    Thanks for writing this without making me feel attacked for being white OR male. This is a prime example of what is needed in the presentation and conversation about of all forms of privilege awareness – tact and equanimity, as well as a “we” and “our” mentality. So often I feel beaten over the head, directly and personally attacked and condemned for benefiting from societies structure although I was not the architect and had with no choice in the matter. I can accept the injustice of our society and have a desire to right wrongs – but not when I feel attacked myself unjustly. I refuse to accept blame, guilt, or ire simply for being born white, but I will acknowledge the struggle of others and do my part not to participate and continue those injustices within my personal effect on the world.

  3. Gina July 21, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    Thank you. Every time I read a mom speak truth over this topic and the desire to raise kids who know and act on that truth it gives me hope. Hope that I need to cling to so desperately as my black son gets taller, stronger, bigger. As he spends more time with out me and my white privilege to protect him. Thank you for writing this, for posting it and for raising your kids in a way that has a great possibility of making this world a safer and kinder place for my children. Thank you. Thank you for saying loudly that my kids lives matter, that Black Lives Matter.

  4. Abby July 21, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    THANK YOU for posting about this important topic that we, as white people, are way too silent on. I grew up in CO, moved away, and have always wanted to move back eventually, but now am feeling conflicted about moving to a place, now with my daughter, that is so homogeneous.

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