Monday, October 20, 2014

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS (Or "Let's Talk White Privilege")

Trigger w-- Ah, fuck it.
I've just been told my posts on Facebook in regards to racism and white privilege in America have a lack of compassion for my white friends as individuals. Even to the point where I have been accused of being bigoted against white people. My first response was “HUH?”, my second response was to write this. It’s not an attack, it’s me asking you for help:
I have noticed over the years that I grow more and more weary of writing about white privilege and the consequences thereof – consequences that directly affect me and my fellow people of color – because I am afraid of being called a reverse racist by my white friends. Now, all my friends on this site – you know who you are, because you're seeing this – are very dear to me. And I know none of you are racists. But I can't keep this in any longer.
Reverse racism and calling out instances of white privilege are NOT the same thing. Fact is, reverse racism is nonexistent. See, if I held a position of power and systematically discriminated against white people – made it harder for them to get a job, let a guy get off for shooting a white kid who was getting a pack of Skittles, creating a system that makes it necessary for the riots in Ferguson to be happening – because of the color of their skin… THAT is reverse racism.
Now, I am also constantly being told that by talking about white privilege and the systematic racism of the United States I am "generalizing" about white people, and am constantly being reminded that "not all white people are like this." I'd like to kindly remind everybody that my parents are indeed white people – both of whom acknowledge as allies to their POC son that their lives are automatically better for them in this country because they were born white. So thanks for the reminder – I know.
I'd like to point to a similar idea that is being proposed by men whose feelings are hurt by feminism: the "Not All Men" argument. Now this argument is often said by men who feel victimized by feminists – as I consider myself – as they feel insulted by women who are sick of the systematic bias against them because they have a vagina. And you know what? It doesn't fucking help. What feminists KNOW is that not all men are sexists and rapists – hell, look at ‪#‎HeForShe‬ reaching across the table for male allies – but enough do. The "Not All Men" argument is a statement made by somebody who holds a place of privilege and refuses to acknowledge it. And it HURTS the feminist movement, it prevents people from becoming allies because they mistakenly believe that feminism is anti-men, rather than pro-equality.
So this is the "Not All White People" argument. You're sick of hearing about racism? Is my calling out of white privilege making you feel victimized? Well how do you think it feels to have your whole LIFE be based on feeling victimized? I mean after being looked at ONCE. I mean being a black pre-med student and not being able to wear a hoodie without a cop frisking you. I mean walking down the street and having a little kid yelling "CHING CHONG CHINAMAN" in your face (that one happened to me). I mean not being able to walk through certain neighborhoods. I mean – when time travel is invented – not being able to travel back in time because you'll probably get killed (which sucks because my dream is to be able to travel through time).
OF COURSE I KNOW NOT ALL WHITES ARE RACISTS, LET ALONE YOU. But the people in power who are slowly choking the life out of our basic rights as human beings are most certainly white. So no, not all white people are racists and I know you all aren’t racists either. But fuck if I’m going to say the people who hold the power and are still letting people of color suffer injustice and intolerance aren’t white. And by mistaking my cry for equality as a cry against white people as a group, you are HURTING the battle for equality more than you are helping it (which is not at all).
If you wish to be an ally of POC, you can't make this discussion about your feelings. You have to accept that you hold a place of privilege, that you – being a white person born in the United States – cannot be discriminated against because of the color of your skin (your gender and sexuality for sure, but that's another discussion entirely). If "you can't see race" that's wonderful for you, but unfortunately I – and my fellow people of color – have no choice but to see race. And that isn't our fault. It is the fault of a system that FORCES us to take our race into account, so that we can be more acceptable to a culture that was undeniably created by and for white people. If you want to elevate all races equally, HELP ME DO THAT by ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THERE EXISTS AN IMBALANCE, and we all know which way the scale favors.
Subsequently, I have been asked "but what IS white? What is a person of color?" Glad you asked. White is a skin color by which you will never be judged simply by its color. Irish, French, Russian, whatever. Person of color? I'm talking African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American… Groups that – PLEASE acknowledge this – have all been discriminated against by white people in America.
Am I asking you to say you were responsible for slavery or the Japanese internment camps? NO. Because you weren't. What I ask of you, my white friends, is to acknowledge that you will never be judged immediately by the color of your skin. That you are more likely to get a job than a black man. That a person will never cross to the other side of the street because they see you coming. Are there extenuating circumstances? Of course. But not enough that it lets you go by without acknowledging it. If you want to be an ally of any person of color, you're going to HAVE to acknowledge it. It's okay to feel uncomfortable saying it, but you have to. I wish it were different, but you have to.
So I wish I could say I was sorry for bringing this stuff to your Newsfeed every day – but I'm not. Because racism is not a discussion from which I can walk away, it is my life. As long as racism is still alive in this country, I will be talking about white privilege. And if it doesn't end in my lifetime I will NOT silence myself because I'm afraid of sounding prejudiced against white people. I will not feel ashamed about saying that white people hold a place of privilege in this nation. And I am not afraid of asking you as my friend and ally to acknowledge your privilege.
I hope from the bottom of my heart that you will join me in this fight, because I really do value you as a human being and an individual, and we as POC need all the help we can get. Thanks.
If you want to know more, feel free to message me. Jon Stewart also does a wonderful bit on this. Google it, it’s a great watch and says more or less what I needed to say.

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