The Myth of My White Privilege. Semantics That Allowed More Bullshit.
On November 7, 2014 two years to the day prior to the Election of 2016, I published one of my most popular prose. It is the first I ever published on this platform. “My White Privilege” was shared on multiple pages and venues almost immediately, then picked up by UpWorthy, where it quickly went viral. To this day, it is used in curriculum across the country by professors and educators who want to help their students understand systemic racism and what being white in America means.
And it’s bullshit.
Not because it isn’t accurate or sourced correctly. It is. In fact, since its publication, additional studies have continued to evidence the data list contained within it (I should probably update it).
But it’s bullshit. Because it was yet another form of soft spoken tolerance that offered white tears solace without the outrage and anger and full on accountability we needed long before the term was coined and then disregarded as semantics.
Thing is, I hold more than a privilege. I hold more than benefit. I hold a five year old child in my arms that I know must become the antithesis of everything the world will tell him is his. White Privilege was our method of flavoring cough syrup. It became a taste we could tolerate to appease our accountability as simply being a product of prior generations. It was an offering of medicine when what we needed was discipline. It didn’t force any real action to make a difference. And that is the exact type of fuckery that I now know was just stupid.
I was not angry soon enough. I was not righteous. I was not urgent in the battle and I placated side line soldiers with a picturesque view that acknowledgement of war was all that was needed. While too many were long since done with white saviors finally unpacking some equipment.
We are way late. We are culpable.
Now, as our nation tries to recover from the horror that is a new regime residing in the Oval Office, I watch so many marching and demanding we resist. And make no mistake, we must resist. But I also am horrified that we, that I, did not join these protests until our own notions of the Constitution were at risk.
And here’s the rub, it is my white privilege that I want to put the death of Trayvon Martin as the marker for our failed activism. I want to look at Tamir Rice and scream that we, white people, failed him. I want to point to the horrifying truth that humans became a hashtag and video footage still didn’t bring justice. But that’s more bullshit.
Because it was long before these last two years. And I’m tired of pretending there shouldn’t be guilt. Because I am guilty as fuck. And if you really want to be honest with that reflection, you are guilty as fuck too. Because white privilege got to become a white fragility excuse.
There is time to unpack — until it happened to you, someone you knew, suddenly we’re tossing the suitcases out the window and burning baggage to start anew. This luggage we white people inherit should have never been used.
So what do we do?
I’m sure some asshole will respond with some asshole excuse and some bitch will show up to say she’s exempt because she always knew. As for you? I guess that’s your call, I can’t force anyone to action, I can only offer a few tools.
As for me and my house? We’re donating to help repair decades of a privilege white got to use. Here are two:
Kinfolk Kollective — LaSha is a brilliant writer and amazing advocate for humanity. And it is not acceptable to ask someone to stand upon your stage and offer their voice without compensating them for that work. Any white man or woman benefiting from the wisdom of her work should donate.
Stacey Patton’s Ida B. Wells Textbook Fund: This is a brilliant fundraiser that puts textbooks into the hands of aspiring students. Every penny makes a difference. I should probably note here, I have a massive crush on Stacey for her resilience in advocacy for our children. Do all you can.
There are more. Find a way to get out of this white privilege bubble that gives you a safety pin and a cookie and maybe a few social media rants if you’re in the mood. Try a real safety pin because we are way beyond pleasantries, way beyond excuse. Own this shit. Own every delay, own every someday. Own every time you figured supremacy was just some historic muse.
We didn’t get here because suddenly some fascist decided he’d plant some new roots. He was born and bred on the soil that told him it would be easy to do.
Just own this shit. It’s quite literally the least we can do.
This piece archived on elizabethgrattan.com.
Elizabeth Grattan is a broadcast talent and writer who has covered current events, human interest and social justice for over twenty-five years. Her loves are laughter through tears, old ball caps, reasonably priced blended reds and her dream come true little man. Find & friend Elizabeth on FB or follow along on Twitter.