Folks, please read to the end, this is a heavy topic and something that is weighing on me. If I outrage you, please read on and then tell me all about your rage, or maybe you’ll see I’m trying my best. I want to be part of the solution, but not in the hippy, holding your pinky up while sipping your overpriced organic leaves. If I’ve made a grievous error, tell me, help me.
I’ve seen this term a lot lately, “white privilege”. Granted I’m not that new to this idea, but lately it’s been a lot more prevalent. As a result it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t want to discuss this on Facebook, because it’s too serious, too heavy for my Facebook persona*. But rest assured, it’s there, percolating, just under the surface, the ideas, the comments, the fear, hope, the questions.
I have so many questions. I know what white privilege is, I know I benefit from it. I benefited from it. Honestly though, I’ve only in the past few years have learned about it. I’ve always been in the camp that “I don’t see colour”. I know this to be naive now. But back to white privilege, I don’t know how I feel about it, or how I *should* feel about it. I say *should* with some trepidation. I don’t want to be a mindless monkey, spouting some party line. “It’s bad!” “It’s unfair!” Yes, those are true, but what about guilt? Should I feel guilty? What if I do? Or worse, what if I don’t? I didn’t make myself white. I was born this way. Which sounds so snotty and widening the chasm and frankly, the problem. I truly believe it’s bad and unfair, but I feel like it’s deeper than that, but wrapping my own mind around it and what it means to me, is hard.
If you know me, you know my history. A big part of who I am comes from my past. A short lesson: I had a crummy childhood, quintessential crummy, rife with all of the abuses (physical, emotional etc.). I don’t want to vilify my mom, she was young, she did what she could, with what she had. I grew up in an area with a lot of white people, a lot of First Nations and a sprinkling of other POC, but not a lot. I grew up poor, I grew up on welfare. I graduated from high school, early with honours. I went to university. I graduated from university. I didn’t have sex until I was 22. I was determined to not fall into the same sink pit I grew up in, in a cultural sense, not location. I. WAS. DETERMINED. I see my family now, particularly my younger brother, who didn’t get out, and it smacks me hard that I am not that removed from that pit. I have dreams where I’ve made a small change in a choice and things turn out differently for me. I’d like to think my determination would have pulled me through, but it’s a real fear for me. I believe in the Butterfly Effect. Now history lesson aside, I worked hard, after university too, I kicked ass and worked harder. I met a boy, he also is full of determination. He’s also white. But this isn’t about him.
So my issue: part of my identity is wrapped up in my struggle to get from that determined, angry, sad little girl to me, now. White privilege tells me that it wasn’t just determination. I was also lucky, based on my skin colour. This makes me sad, confused and anxious. It’s like a substantial part of who I am, is a little changed. The thing is that I’m not angry that I’ve lost this because it diminishes my struggle, I’m disappointed because my struggle is now less of a struggle. It’s like that notion of having an even playing field. I like to think I pulled myself out by my bootstraps, so to speak, but as it turns out, I got a boost.
And here we are. I’m in Silicon Valley, the wife to a softwear engineer on a steep upward trajectory, mother to 3 amazing children, and pretty removed to a lot of the race issues I see people talking about in the world. Silicon Valley is it’s own little bubble, where everyone is happily geeking out together, kinda, sorta.
So now… I want my children to kick ass in life. I see great things for them, Ivy Leauge, if they so desire, CEOs, Olympics, whatever makes them happy. But I want them to achieve those things based on their own merits, so they can bask in the accolades justifiably. In my eyes my children are exceptional, and I was their successes in life to be based on their excellence alone. They don’t need white privilege.
I promise this: My children will know what white privilege is. I will keep learning about it and how it impacts us and how it impacts others. I will be an ally in the best way I know how. I’m going to put my faith in humanity.
Okay, I know the current issue in the world is that a lot of black people are getting killed just because of the colour of their skin. I know this is awful. I don’t want to diminish this at all. I do think that white people need to really understand what white privilege means to them, to know in their soul, their heart. And not in a flippant way, not just knowing the ratios and how they’re awful. I mean learning how it rocks your core because of how wrong it is. I feel that only then can we help to make the changes needed in this world.
*If you really think I am just who I put forth on Facebook, then I’ve done a good job on marketing myself well.