“We should be digging deeper and facing our own acquired blind spots and inherited prejudices, and acknowledging the deeply embedded privilege that makes those things so very difficult to assess on our own.” John Pavlovitz
I was inspired by this quote written in a blog post by John Pavlovitz regarding the white reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s form of protest, taking a knee during our national anthem. Please read John’s blog post.
If you do not know, and are not aware of white privilege, I hope you will continue reading this post and enter this American conversation.
I’m a men’s Life Coach and I’m passionate about people living lives that are intentional, conscious, ever-expanding, and filled with opportunity and possibilities. What I see happening in the United States today is not that, and this makes me sad. I read and hear so many unconscious statements made by white people about people of color who bring attention to injustice and systemic racism, still occurring towards them in the United States today.
Them. I hate that word, as I listen to it describe people who are asking for change in our country. From slavery, to Jim Crow segregation laws, to lynchings, to capital punishment’s disproportionate number of black death row sentences, to 40 years of FHA redlining policies preventing housing loans and investment where blacks live, to the 80 percent of Americans who resist the Affordable Care Act (that would provide health insurance to a large black population) living in former slavery states, to the number of unarmed black boys and men being shot dead by police officers this year and last...to THEM.
What is happening to us? There is no THEM in a country of “One nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.” What are we doing to create a fair and equitable society for all its members? People of Color are trying to help us all become aware of systemic racism prevalent in our country. And in that effort to tell us, it includes taking a knee.
As a white person, do you believe our society is fair and equitable with regards to race? Are you aware of the white privilege you enjoy today, that your parents enjoyed, and your grandparents before them? If you are not aware of any such privilege, maybe, just maybe, you have a blind spot. And instead of dismissing the possibility immediately, are you willing to research and find out?
I am. I did. And I found out I had a blind spot. That blind spot is called White Privilege. Let me ask some questions.
Are you aware?
Have you ever had to worry you would be killed if you accidentally bumped into someone on the street?
Are you aware that “white men lynched Jeff Brown in 1916 in Cedarbluff, Mississippi, for accidentally bumping into a white girl as he ran to catch a train”.
Have you ever had to worry you would be killed if you did not refer to a police officer as sir or mister?
Are you aware that “in 1940, Jesse Thornton was lynched in Luverne, Alabama, for referring to a white police officer by his name without the title of “mister.”
“EJI has documented 4075 racial terror lynchings in twelve Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950”. Please read the full text here: Equal Justice Initiative.
A Black and White America
Hey white America...1950 is included in lynchings data! WTF? That is Happy Days...with the Fonz, and Joanie loves Chachi. Oh wait, that’s the white experience of 1950. Are you aware of the black experience during this same time?
Are you aware in September 1955 that Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy, was lynched from his home, mutilated, murdered, and thrown into the Tallahatchie river for whistling at a white woman. He lived in Chicago and was visiting family in Mississippi. He didn’t believe the stories of what little it would take to be killed by white folk.
You can read the account here: Emmett Till. Please choose to educate yourself.
Taking Everyday Happenings for Granted
Maybe you believe, as I did, that since the Civil Rights Act of 1968, there is no more racism in America. And those that are racist are the exception, and they are shunned by progressive thinking America. I discovered I wasn’t aware. Let me ask some more questions.
Have you ever had to worry about being arrested sitting in your car at a park, maybe eating your lunch?
Are you aware that in 2012 in Ferguson, MO, a black man, after playing a game of basketball at the park, sat in his car cooling off. A police officer pulled up behind him and asked the man for his social security number and identification. Without cause the police officer accused the man of being a pedophile. When the man refused to show ID, citing his constitutional rights, he was arrested and cited for 8 violations of city code which included Making a False Declaration...the man told the officer his name was Mike, and not Michael.
Have you ever worried about being arrested if you let your small child or grandchild urinate in a bush?
Are you aware that in June of 2014 in Ferguson, a black couple were at a park letting their two small kids play. As they were leaving the park the kids had to pee, so the parents let them relieve themselves in a bush next to their parked car. A police officer stopped them and accused the couple of letting their children “expose themselves”. The officer then proceeded to check the father for warrants. When the mother asked the officer to please not detain her husband in front of the children, the officer turned to the father and said, “you are going to jail because your wife keeps running her mouth”, and took him away to jail.
Have you ever been worried to talk to a friend who drives by in a car for fear of being frisked by the police?
Are you aware that in January 2013 a man was seen standing talking to another man in a truck, then the man standing walked away. The police officer stopped the walking man and, without stating any words of suspicion of criminal activity to him, began to question him. When the man refused to answer the officer’s questions or submit to being frisked, the officer tasered the man for 5 seconds. When the man hit the ground and was writhing in pain, the officer tasered him again for 20 seconds. This was documented on the taser cam.
Have you ever worried if your 14 year old kid was playing in an abandoned building, or maybe a new construction house, that he would be attacked and bit by a police dog?
Are you aware that in December of 2011, four policemen responded to a neighbor’s call who reported a boy going into an abandoned building. When the officers arrived they found a 14 year old, 5’5” boy hiding and they let loose their police dog on him. As the dog tried to bite the boy’s neck he covered his face and the dog punctured his left arm.
And are you aware that in Ferguson, MO, every police canine bite incident where race is identified, the subject was black?
These unfair and unjust treatments of blacks living today, right now, can be read in this article in The Atlantic. These are all findings from the Department of Justice report after the shooting of Michael Brown.
Have you ever worried if your 19 year old son in college would be stopped by a police officer for making an illegal left turn, then, because he asked the officer if he had a warrant to search the car, was beaten so badly in the face it required 45 stitches to stop the bleeding?
Are you aware that in Denver in 2009 Alex Landau, a black 19 year old college student, was not only beaten, but almost shot in the head during that police stop? You can see the short video account here...”Traffic Stop”
So, I am asking you white America, are you aware? If your answer is no, then I encourage you to become aware. Please read the four articles and watch the one video I linked in this blog post. It is a place to start.
If you choose not to, I suspect nothing will change in your life. You wont be jailed, or tasered, or bit by dogs. Your life will continue without fear or anxiety of a traffic stop, without suspicion or incrimination while sitting in a park or talking to a passing friend. You will enjoy all the unconscious privilege you have known since birth.
It’s not your fault or my fault that as white people we have privilege in our country. I didn’t sign up for it, nor did you. What is my responsibility, and what is every white person’s responsibility living in America, where all men are created equal, in a land of liberty and justice for all is to become aware.
And now that I am aware...I am taking a knee. Our brothers and sisters of color need us, and we need them. We are America.
My recent awareness and new understanding of systemic and structural racism in the United States is from participation in an online four week class, “Hard Conversations: Intro to Racism”. It is facilitated by Patti Digh and Victor Lee Lewis, both whom are authors, social justice educators, and activists. Click here for complete information on Hard Conversations: Intro to Racism
Todd is a Men’s Life Coach, an entrepreneur, a licensed healthcare professional, a husband, a father, and a world traveler. His mission is to co-create a strong and compassionate world by facilitating transformation through understanding, trust, and empowerment.He received his education from Newfield, a certified coach training school, and is a member of the International Coach Federation. Learn more at www.EmpoweredMenCoaching.com