Understanding Privilege

The first time I heard the term “white privilege” I didn’t think it applied to me (a middle class white woman). You may feel the same. I get it. I was there too.

My reasoning at the time was that I had struggled financially and emotionally during my single mom years. Some months I barely had enough to pay my rent. That certainly didn’t feel like privilege to me.

The best way I can explain it is by using a “have you ever” test. Give it a try and see if it makes sense to you too.

  1. Have you ever had a defining moment in your life when someone hated you just because of the colour of your skin or the traditional clothes you wear?
  2. Have you ever completed a history class about your own country and your race was not covered or barely mentioned, even though you have lived there just as long or longer?
  3. Have you ever moved into a nice neighborhood and immediately felt unwelcome, overhearing remarks that the property value just went down?
  4. Have you ever received a promotion or high position job only to have people say you took it from the white candidate because the company had to hire a minority or person of colour? (Have you ever wondered why these policies are in place in the first place?)
  5. Have you ever had your intellectual capabilities questioned based solely on the colour of your skin?
  6. Have you ever driven your SUV to a store only to be stopped by police and asked, “Who’s vehicle is this?”, or entered a department store and immediately had a security guard summoned to follow you just in case you steal something?
  7. Have you ever gone to the emergency room and waited while others with less medical issues go before you? And when your name is finally called a nurse asks you, “Are you sober yet?” when you haven’t had a drop of alcohol?
  8. Have you ever had to have a conversation with your child about racism so they understand why others hate them, or instruct them on how to protect themselves from people in authority who may do them harm?
  9. Have you ever had an ancestor who was either taken from their home land and sold into slavery or had their land stolen and told to live in a restricted area?
  10. Have you ever had a family member or friend go missing and the police ignored it?
  11. Have you ever had a family member or friend beaten or killed and the courts rule in favor of the accused when they were clearly at fault?
  12. Have you ever been terrified for your life or your family’s lives when you left the house in the middle of the day? Or while you were in your own backyard or sleeping in your bed?

If you answered “no” to most of these questions… you have privilege. It hasn’t been earned and there is nothing you did to receive it. You just happened to be born into it. People of different colour or races experience these things and so much more on a daily basis. They did nothing to deserve this. They just happened to be born into it.

Those of us born with privilege have a choice. We can ignore it and carry on living our lives. We can say we didn’t cause the problem, and it has nothing to do with us.

But we share our country, province, cities and towns with people of colour and different races. They are our in community. And they desperately need our help. They can’t fix this problem by themselves – many don’t have the privilege in society in order to accomplish that. They need our support.

There are a few things we can do to make a difference.

We can consciously find ways to treat people of all races with respect and dignity in our thoughts, words and actions. We can challenge others who make racist jokes or comments. We can challenge businesses to change policies to make it fair for everyone. We can stand up for justice by advocating on their behalf with all levels of government. Sending a letter to your Mayor, MLA, MP and the Prime Minister is quick and easy to do online:

The world needs us to acknowledge our differences and come together to find common ground, so all people can live safely, in peace and with equal opportunities. It will take time, but change will come if we all do our part.

Many voices create change. You can make a difference.

Source in part by: My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest

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