Recently a country artist was removed from his label after a clip went viral where he is heard using the “n word” at home with friends. Many people were outraged and questioned this action, comparing it to cancel culture and saying he was in the privacy of his home. He shouldn’t be punished. He didn’t mean any harm of it.
But you’re wrong. Never, EVER is it okay for a white person to use this word. Period.
And I said this and suggested that as white people we need to understand our white privilege. We can’t make excuses and say, “it’s okay, they didn’t mean it.” Rather we must stand up and make a statement because it’s never okay for a white person to use this word in any context. Then we sit down and listen. And learn.
But one response was outrage that I would use the term “white privilege” because it’s divisive and, I quote, a “racist” term. I was shocked and more so infuriated at the misunderstanding and lack of knowledge as to what the term white privilege means. While I am not an expert, I have spent a lot of time reading educational resources, engaging in conversation with friends and family and listening to others so I can not only teach myself but raise my children to understand their privilege as well.
So let’s start with the basics. White privilege exists and it is real.
But when this term is used, one isn’t saying that some white people have never struggled. It doesn’t mean that a white person hasn’t worked hard to earn their success. White privilege is the fact that white people have a built in advantage in our society when compared to people of color.
I want to break it down even more with some examples. If I want to grab bandaids for my kids at the store I can grab a box that match our skin color with no problem at all. If I want to look for a children’s book with characters that resemble my family, I can easily find one at any area store. Or if I want to grab a bottle of shampoo that is best for my hair type, I can walk into the health and beauty aisle and have a large variety to choose from.
My children will also be able to learn about the existence and history of white culture in school without it being second guessed or considered a “political” issue. Our family can move into a new neighborhood and not be judged by our appearance. In school, my children are less likely to be suspended or reprimanded when compared to their friends of color.
These are privileges that we have as white people. And it is something we don’t even think about because it has been a part of our world for as long as we have lived.
But I also understand that because of my privilege, my white son can go running with a hoodie on and often not have people glance twice at him. When he is a teenager and is walking on the sidewalk alone, I know that people will unlikely cross the road to the otherwise because of unconscious bias against the color of his skin. And while my daughters will still have to work hard for a higher level position when they get older, they won’t have to work as hard as their friends of color to prove their success.
This is white privilege and this is the reality of the world we are currently living.
I’m not an expert but I am actively learning and educating myself, as you should be doing too. We can’t put up black squares on our social media and then just go on about our day. This is where you acknowledge your privilege and how you can move forward. Talk with your white friends about their privilege and listen to BIPOC about their experiences. Get uncomfortable and have conservations with friends, family and colleagues so you can grow and become a better ally.
Holding people accountable for their actions is not cancel culture. Until we take a stand and make a statement, change won’t happen.