It is easy to say that I have "white privilege" because I understand what is meant by the phrase, although I did nothing to earn my skin color, which is actually buff beige according to CoverGirl. I take for granted the freedoms that come with being a middle-class, middle-aged "white" woman. I can walk through my neighborhood without being suspected of anything nefarious. I can shop at local stores (or could if I could afford them!) without being constantly followed. I can drive my own car without anyone thinking I stole it. For the most part, I can walk up anyone's porch and ring the doorbell without fear, or making them feel afraid to answer the door.
Let's pretend now that I am black, or "burnt sienna" if you prefer. While I might be able to walk, shop or drive around in my own neighborhood, would I be equally able to in yours? Why, or why not? What is it about skin color - something that each and every individual has a right to - that earns or loses one privilege?
Being "buff beige" is my right because that is how I was made, through no action or choice of my own. It is my privilege to tan myself golden brown if I want to despite the damaging effects of UVA. Gray hair is my right because I'm in my late 50's; it is my privilege to dye, cut or style it however I choose. Chasing my dream to become an author was my right, but actually becoming one was a privilege. In other words, I have the right to be a middle-aged, white woman with dreams, but I can only become a toned and tanned, stylish author through my actions.
One of the hard lessons we have to teach our children is the difference between "rights" and "privileges". Rights you don't earn, privileges you do. Privileges may be taken away, rights may not. My rights are no greater than yours, yours are no greater than mine.
It is your right to: It is a privilege to:
exist have your needs met
be free live where freedom is recognized as a right
pursue happiness be happy
We often hear people validate a behavior with "I/you earned the right to blank", but what was actually earned was a privilege. One may be deprived access to their inalienable rights, but they are still their rights, ie. all babies have the right to be born, those in bondage still have the right to be free, the downtrodden still have the right to pursue happiness. No one should ever be able to suppress another's rights yet, sadly, it happens all the time.
Case in point: George Floyd. What happened was untenable, horrific. His most basic right - the right to his own life - was stolen from him, and there is no earthly justice for that.
Here is what I am thinking, and I hope you will read the rest of this and sit with it a moment before dismissing it outright: Until we recognize and strive to protect ALL of the most basic rights, for ALL PEOPLE, all of us and our most basic rights will be in jeopardy. If we want to eradicate systemic racism, let's not put a bandage on it, let's cure it at its source! Let's teach - and live! - the belief of EACH one's inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!
A rash isn't a disease, it's a symptom. Scratching an itch most often leads to increased itchiness, which I know from experience, and is how I view the current protests raging across this country. Racism is the visible irritation, a symptom, scratched with marches and speeches it itches all the more. Riots, looting, other civil disobedience and violence are the clawing that draws blood. If we continue on this course of action we will eventually kill the patient, our civilization - perhaps the whole human race!
What if, instead, we sought the cure? If we not only espoused, but lived like we value all human life equally, from those awaiting their shot at life to those breathing their last? What if we taught our children that they matter from the moment they begin to exist to their final moment, and used our various platforms to promote real healing? What happens to racism then? Does "All Lives Matter" really devalue "Black Lives Matter", or does it get to the root of the problem? I've seen the posts and heard the argument that ALM clouds the issue at hand, but consider this: If racism is one symptom of a larger problem, and everything is interrelated, scratching one itch when the whole body is rashy may focus all the attention, but won't heal it from within.
Wouldn't you rather have a cure than keep treating symptoms?
How can we be outraged at the murder of a black man with a long rap sheet when MILLIONS of innocent black babies have been aborted? White, red and yellow babies, too. Continuing to devalue the most vulnerable lives doesn't help the cause of race relations. Criminals get killed by bad cops, yet more good cops and innocent victims are murdered by criminals than the other way around. School children of all colors have become targets for mass murder. Drive by shootings are on the rise. Suicide rates have skyrocketed. Doctors are pulling the plug on ventilators regardless of patient wishes. People are molested or worse just for being who they are. Human rights are being violated all over the place because we have undervalued the most basic one!
A common phrase in our home is "with privilege comes responsibility". Remaining willfully ignorant as a child is a right, becoming well-informed a privilege, using that knowledge to educate a responsibility. My buff beige, autodidactic self accepts that "white privilege" is something I must use to create awareness and, hopefully, leave the world better for my having been here. Millions have never gotten that chance while others are robbed of it. I support them all. Won't you?
The underlying message of my books has always been that every life matters. Race relations features prominently without being preachy like the above. As a writer of fiction, I prefer the actions of my characters to speak louder than their words. In real life, I try to do the same.