Write Out of the Margins!

What Is "White Privilege?"

It does not prove that racism does not exist when an exceptionally strong, smart and talented person of color ocan succeed. When the weak, the meek and the average of all races and genders live equally, with equal rights and protection -- that will be the test of whether we have an egalitarian society.

If a white person loses a position to a black person of greater ability, or vice versa, that is not evidence of racism.

But when greater numbers of white males from a middle-class background who have moderate ability are successful than people of moderate ability in any other group,

When greater numbers of black males are sent to jail for the same behavior as white males, or women, who are not sent to jail, institutionalized discrimination exists.

When I talk about Black history, literature, folklore I am occasionally asked which of my ancestors was Black; the same with Jewish, Japanese, Native American, Greek, etc. (I've been asked this by Blacks, Jews, etc) But as far back as I can check, all of my ancestors were white northern European -- Scots, Danish, and a few English we don't really like to talk about.

I grew up in a "middle-class" family. We were low-income most of the time, but both my parents were college educated professionals, and it was taken for granted that all us children would go to college and develop professional careers -- although as it turned out, my sister and I were the only two to do so.

Currently I am very low-income, with bad teeth, living in a subsidized one-room apartment with a bed way too narrow for both Wes and I to sleep on (although we do it anyway.) Yet my life is far and away easier than that of almost any black man in this country, with the possible exception of Colin Powell. I run a fraction of the risk of being arrested and convicted for any crime I may or may not do. I run a fraction of the risk of being shot to death by a policeman. Because I am white, female, and speak in an educated voice, whatever I say is less likely to perceived as "picking a fight." I am not "profiled" as a suspected shoplifter wherever I shop. I am not "profiled" as a suspected criminal whenever I drive. If there is a robbery anywhere in the area, whatever the description of the robber, I'm not the one most likely to be stopped on the sidewalk and questioned.

I've experienced white privilege.

The first night I spent homeless, I slept in the transit lounge of Sea-Tac airport. There were four black men, two elderly white men, two other white women and myself. Some of us had boxes or plastic bags, some of us had luggage, but none of us were going anywhere and everyone had the "street look" on their faces. At four o'clock in the morning the Transit cops came 'round -- and they rousted the four black men. They demanded to see plane tickets. They offered to take them to a shelter if they didn't just "move along."

They didn't talk to any of the rest of us.

After I got housing, I was going home from Real Change one night, standing at the bus stop next to a young black man. Two patrolmen came by and asked *him" what he was doing there. I spoke up, pointing at the bus sign, "*We're* waiting for a bus." They moved on. He told me that he had been catching the same bus home from work at the same time at the same stop for eight months, and the police always stopped to question him.

We shall overcome -- but we haven't yet.

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