What do people mean when they say white privilege?
White privilege can be a polarizing term, because people confuse the term “white privilege” with “immoral”—as if they are interchangeable. That is not true and not the point
White privilege is most clearly displayed in the ways white people and people of color navigate the world differently. For me, it’s been in close proximity and friendship that I’ve seen how differently I navigate the world from Black people — and most of those differences are to my advantage. Certain issues never touch my life. That’s my white privilege.
Fear and a Friend
I became friends with the man in this picture a little over four years ago through church and mutual friends. As we became closer, he said what stuck out the most about me was the fact that I wasn’t scared of him. That reality hit me. The reality that fear is so normal to the Black community that my lack of fear was noticed, appreciated, and unfamiliar. Many Black people must live through white fear, and that fear drives the hate and reckless acts of brutality in the news today.
The truth is this man is mad goofy and has a big heart for kids. In fact, he has begun his career devoted to ensuring the safety of children. He knows how to draw things out of people when they are bottling their emotions and he knows how to have fun. He’s far from scary.
One time I was talking to God, and He told me, “Rachel, you can’t love what you distrust in fear.” The conversation was not about race, but I think it applies here. When Black people—especially Black men—are painted as criminals in our culture, it becomes normal to fear them. When we fear a person, we act in defense and it’s impossible to love them. God wants us to see our Black brothers and sisters rightly. If you feel like you see Black folks through a lens of fear, I encourage you to consider why and to fight for a different perspective. Fear can be lethal.
As a white woman, people rarely see me as a threat. My whiteness does not scream criminal and so I am given the benefit of the doubt.
About White Light Bulbs
I will continue working on this series titled “White Light Bulbs” over the coming months—moments I recognized my white privilege. I didn’t plan on posting this so soon, but unfortunately, current events have made the topic more pressingly relevant. White privilege exists due to the history of racism in our country, but it doesn’t mean that every white person today is racist. It means we benefit off the systems that racists laid. I’m not entirely sure how to deconstruct these systems, but it must include our own minds.