White Privilege is a term for societal advantages that benefit people identified as White in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-whites under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
A few weeks ago I listened to Macklemore’s new song White Privilege II. The song is powerful in the message it sends to masses of youth that listen to his music. Furthermore, coming from a white rapper makes it even more compelling. I honestly believe a white person in a position to affect millions of people is really whom needs to bring the idea of white privilege to the majority power structure in America. Many White Americans see White Privilege as a ghost that’s as dead as Jim Crow and chattel slavery, but in fact the legacy of those historical atrocities are the very seeds that grow what so many are quick to deny. If the Idea of White Privilege is even whispered to certain white people, an immediate scowl of disgust quickly clouds their face and immediately you are a racist whom is making excuses. Furthermore, the counter argument is I am not Privilege because there are plenty poor white people in America.
However it’s more deeply layered than economics. It’s based in unfair treatment and disadvantage. It’s based in the idea that a black person with equal education should receive the same wage, but often does not. It is based in the idea that a young African American man is twenty one times more likely than Whites to be shot by a police officer. It’s based in the idea that a person with a black sounding name is 50 percent less likely to get a call back for a job than a person with a white sounding name. It’s based in the idea that in Florida a black motorist is 3 times more likely to be pulled over for a seat belt violation than their white counterparts. These are just a few of the injustices that perversely keep our struggle as African Americans as relevant as it was during slavery and legalized segregation. These are the very chains which hold White Privilege firmly in place. This is mental and social pollution that only Whites can effectively eradicate. Can we be part of the repair and continue to draw attention to it? Yes we can, but the ones whom benefit from this privilege must first acknowledge it.
This is what Macklemore is trying to accomplish. He is calling out the majority power structure, which remains immensely white, to understand the very benefits they enjoy due to the kidnapping and subjugation of an entire race. All one has to do is to read the history of our nation when it comes to race and fairness. Even the Forty Acres and a Mule that was orchestrated primarily by black ministers in the South was immediately reversed by the Confederate sympathizer and Lincoln successor President Johnson. This decision led to the oppressive sharecropping system that plunged Blacks into a harsh cycle of debt and poverty. There are so many other injustices that could be discussed, such as the FHA’s racist red lining polices that locked Blacks out of homeownership for over three decades. (1934-1968) How is it even fathomable that our federal government, whom is bound by a constitution that promises justice to all, could allow millions of African American families to be denied homeownership by a federal agency they oversee?
The Civil Rights movement, which was led by magnificent black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr, John Lewis, A. Phillip Randolph and others knew their success hinged on the inclusion of Whites in the movement. When White Americans in 1963 saw African American children being hit with water cannons and being attacked by dogs, only then did public opinion shift in favor of the Civil Rights Movement. Furthermore, during the planning stages of The March on Washington, four white men were invited to sit at the table. The move was strategic because the masses in America had to see that African American issues were important to Whites. The movement may have been successful without White support , but I wonder how more difficult it would have been without them.
We are in a better position as African American than fifty plus years ago. There is no doubt more opportunities are available for minorities to succeed. Segregation is an ideology of the past and we are no longer sipping from separate water fountains and attending separate schools. Success can be achieved with hard work and determination, but I would be remiss if I didn’t state it will not be easy. Due to white privilege, obstacles will be thrown in the way but these can be surmounted with resolve and character. The idea of defeat cannot be an option. If Obama had given up when he first encountered racism or the idea of privilege he would not be in the White House. If Oprah had backed down at the first sign of racist or sexist views she would not be one of the few African American billionaires in the United States. We have many achievements that prove we can do whatever we put our minds too, but all of these victories don’t erase the fact that White Privilege has discouraged many brothers and sisters.
I must offer before I close an example of how White Privilege has effected my life. Recently my wife and I were in a local grocery store. My daughter was tagging along and talking a mile a minute. We decided, since it was the weekend, we would select some libations for the evening. My daughter being who she is decided to dance in front of the security camera. She was being a typical silly twelve year old child. Now mind you my twelve year old looks like she is fifteen but that is beside the point. As soon as she began doing that a security guard came to observe my family and I and then a store manager. We were being followed by not one but two people. What is incredulous to me is that you are going to waste manpower on a middle aged black man and his companions while somewhere in the store someone could be robbing your establishment blind. I was made to feel uncomfortable and unwanted in that store. I was angry and agitated that I an American citizen could be subjected to this. This is just one of many similar experiences I have been part of. It’s a privilege not to have to worry about being followed around a store or being harassed by a gas station attendant as you peruse the chips and chocolate. I just want you to think about this and then come to me with your argument against this awful phenomenon.
It was risky for Macklemore to release a song as stinging as White Privilege II. It’s a hard listen that smacks you in the face. The verbiage is fierce and refreshing but it stirs a pot that is already sitting on a huge flame. I avoid speaking about this issue. I speak only to people I trust will have an open mind and not revert to the argument that he/she is not privilege due to the color of their skin. I just want open honest conversation. I believe that is what Macklemore is trying to accomplish, open conversation. He wants to start a dialogue about how to expunge the specter of White Privilege from our nation. The ideology behind this racist phenomenon must be dissected and destroyed by Whites. We as African American’s didn’t create this system. It was built by the white power structure piece by piece while we toiled in the systems of chattel slavery and Jim Crow. Furthermore, please let us not forget these systems were built at the hand of Whites and in the end had to be dismantled by them. I am not angry with anyone. However, I am disappointed in the fact that most whites are not ready to speak openly about this issue. However, it will be up to them to be courageous enough to say that we must finally live up to our constitution that all men are created equal and eradicate from our shores the idea of white Privilege.