I guess I can imagine that in some ways it’s easier to just live in uninterrogated White racial privilege; but that privilege is premised on dehumanizing fear, lack of self-awareness, and corrosive hatred. It, by default, undermines the potential for honest relationships and true connections with people …
Megan Dowd Lambert
Wow…this is such a powerful statement. I had to think about it for at least a day because I have never encountered a white person willing to admit to this. And, such brutal honesty, I don’t even quite know what to do with it, said except to say, I think you are right. I think to live in “uninterrogated white privilege” is to live in a state that is based on dehumanizing fear, a lack of self-awareness and/0r corrosive hatred. I think that’s an extraordinarily accurate way to describe uninterrogated white privilege — and, as such, it is easier to understand why whites find discussions around racism so threatening. Because really, who wants to address that? Who wants to say, “yeah I know I have certain benefits in society because, others are deeply oppressed and I’m pretty much okay with this.” But actually, whether they choose to say it or not, this is well known by most minorities, due to the treatment we receive in American society. When black and brown people are targeted and killed, by tremendous amounts and different varieties of state sanctioned violence, whites bend over backwards to justify why this should be so.
Because of this, I understand how desperately most whites feel about the white privilege they want to keep in tact, and intuitively understand how it is fear-based. But, what I don’t understand, is how there could be any sort of comfort in that sort of existence. In order for me to feel okay, others who don’t look like me have to die, or be horribly oppressed.
And yet, most whites seem to be perfectly fine with it. You are exceptionally rare, to say I wanted a different experience-and to further say — it was worth it. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Of course you love your children. We all love our children, but having a black son, well you may as well put a bullseye on his back in some parts of the country. (Probably not Vermont, lucky for him.) But other places, sure.
Side-note, I went to a writers retreat in Vermont and my son asked me, “Weren’t you afraid to go to a state that has no black people?” I answered him honestly and said, “A little, but I knew I’d be spending most of my time with writers, and writers tend not to be overtly racist.”
I had a blast. Vermont is really beautiful. But my point is, I wouldn’t send my son to Vermont and he wouldn’t want to go, because race matters. Because it is dangerous to be black and go to Vermont. I did not take that trip lightly, even though everything was cool. I encountered no overt racism.
But I digress. My point is, you could have chosen a much easier kind of life. Most people do, and certainly most white people do choose to reside in unquestioned white privilege. I realize that they do this, because questioning it is really uncomfortable. But, to be fair, questioning any kind of privilege is uncomfortable, and most refuse to do it.
I think that I, much like you, refuse to live in unquestioned privilege, because it feels dishonest and inauthentic. I am well aware of all the privileges I possess, that allow me to enjoy certain experiences that others cannot, but I don’t feel the need to justify these privileges by dehumanizing those who don’t have them. Immigrants for example, there are lots in the area. Some are legal, others are not. The problems that plague these communities are very complex. A lot of people, black, white and other, dehumanize these people. Blame them for problems that they haven’t necessarily caused, and seek to purposefully oppress them and make life difficult for them, even though their lives are already being extraordinarily difficult without the additional external pressures.
Why do people do this? What is to be gained? It’s not simply a white problem, it’s a human problem. A lot of humans feel far more at ease oppressing others, than working on resolving complex problems or examining the nature (and usually arbitrarily unfairness) of privilege. But that leads to a constant state of fear, (enjoying privileges that are based on the oppression of others)…and so, I have to ask myself, is privilege worth it? Especially if it is going to limit your life in the way that you described. I, much like you, don’t want privilege that is based on fear, inauthenticity or hatred. So, I guess I get why you say it was worth it.
But, you have to admit, you’re pretty rare. I’m pretty open and curious about cultures outside of my own, not that curious that I’d be willing to have children with a member from another culture outside of my own — and that is an assumption that race equals culture, which it does not necessarily. But you know what I mean. Certainly having biracial children, and black children is a challenging experience, for white parents. I think a lot of them have no clue how challenging this experience will be until they are in the thick of it. Kids are challenging anyway, teaching them to deal with racism (which African-American parents must do, and do it instinctively, if not consciously) is another challenge. Trying to teach them how to deal while being white, is yet another hurdle.
I saw a cartoon on story corps, about a white woman who was stunned by police officers had brutally beaten her son, for nothing really. He had done nothing particularly wrong except, be nonwhite in an affluent white area. What was so disturbing to the mother was how she said, she had dismissed his complaints about racism. She never believed it was much of a problem, until she had that experience. She said it really opened her eyes.
So it’s really not that difficult, to be ignorant about the oppression that others face. And I think it’s really rare, to be willing to look at that oppression and be honest about it, if the oppression benefits you in some way.
But, I think more and more people are making the effort, and its uncomfortable and it’s messy, but it is progress. Slowly, we are making progress!