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We Need to Talk About How We Talk About White Privilege

What do you think of when you get pulled over?
What do you think of when you get pulled over?

White privilege. With the exception of "Kim Kardashian," there is no other two word phrase that gets people frothing at the mouth in irrationality quicker than those two. The phrase "white privilege" hits a switch in certain individuals and turns them from normal, friendly people you don't mind knowing on Facebook to... well... listen, this blog isn't about name-calling, so let's just say that become less-friendly.

This isn't about shaming one side of the debate, either. Both sides, those who believe in white privilege and those who don't, can be just as mean-spirited, snarky and dismissive as the other.

Which is a bummer, because it's absolutely a discussion worth having.

Because white privilege does exist, and it's never going to go away if we don't talk about it.

White privilege, in an extremely dumb-downed nutshell, is the idea that being born white grants a person certain advantages. They may not be aware of these advantages, there won't be a blinking sign pointing them out, but they're there. They exist. That is reality.

Examples include: you're more likely to see people of your race represented in popular media; you'll rarely be called a "credit-to-your-race"; if a cop pulls you over it will rarely if ever be because of your race; it's probably easier to find an emoji that looks like you.

Now, if you're thinking to yourself, "that's what other races are upset about?" you're missing the point. It's not about the individual privileges, it's about how they add up as a whole.

Now, it's easy to see why both sides of the debate would be upset with this idea:

1. If you don't believe in white privilege: it can be really annoying to have someone tell you you're benefitting from something you may not have even been aware of, especially when you've had major difficulties in your life.

2. If you do believe in white privilege: it can be really annoying to have someone tell you your life experiences are irrelevant because they don't live in a mansion/aren't rich/weren't aware that white privilege is a thing.

Now, it's highly unlikely a blog on the subject is going to switch someone over from being a non-believer in to a believer, and that's not why this blog exists. This is simply about trying to change the public discourse, and get both sides away from foaming-at-the-mouth rage.

 

Because talking about these things, really, genuinely talking about these things may be the only way things ever change. And they must change, because the reality is that we're all in this together.

Change won't be quick, and it won't be easy, and it won't be pleasant. While it's idealistic to believe that new knowledge is something that we all seek, rarely do any of us want to deal with ideas that shake what we believe to be true about the world. It's like finding out that all those times you thought you were being sweet by telling a stranger they have a nice ass you were actually being a creeper; because this new knowledge isn't pleasant, it must be wrong.

So how do we change the discourse?

Some Things to Keep in Mind if You Don't Believe in White Privilege:

1. Understand that just because white privilege exists, you also exist, and you're a unique individual with your own set of life experiences. Right now your life may suck. Just because your life sucks doesn't mean that white privilege isn't a thing and that you haven't benefitted from it. 2. White privilege doesn't automatically mean your life is awesome. Privilege doesn't mean that your life is easy, it means that your life is less-hard. 3. If anyone belittles you and your life experiences because of your race, they're not worth your time. If they say, "you're white, your opinion doesn't matter," they're probably not interested in having a real discussion with you. 4. No one is ever going to try viewing things from your position if you don't try viewing it from their position. Put yourself in their shoes and think about life. It can be quite illuminating.

Some Things to Keep in Mind if You Do Believe in White Privilege:

1. Being on the right side of the debate doesn't give you permission to be an asshole. The truth is that most people who disagree with the idea of white privilege aren't doing it to piss you off, they're coming from a sincere position of not understanding. To treat them like a common troll is to salt the earth so that the knowledge tree can't grow. 2. Don't try and shame the individual for the sins of the group. Just because they're privileged doesn't mean that their life is awesome. 3. If anyone belittles you because of your opinion or beliefs, they're not worth your time. Not everyone is going to be accepting of the truth, and some of them will lash out. If they're more interesting in name-calling and "winning" the argument, they're probably not interested in having a real discussion with you. 4. No one is ever going to try viewing things from your position if you don't try viewing it from their position. Put yourself in their shoes and think about life. It can be quite illuminating.

This can't be stressed enough, so always remember: never feed the trolls. If there's someone out there who is just trying to get your heated for the sake of making you upset, just block them. We could all use fewer assholes in our lives, ya know?


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