It’s not enough to say, “I voted for Obama,” or argue on Facebook.
Not going to lie. Addressing privilege is the hardest task ever. But, addressing white privilege…is even worse especially when you’re a brown person criticizing that privilege. Before I begin, addressing white privilege is NOT AN ATTACK on the white race. It’s simply criticizing the sociological frame that promotes this privilege in all races and cultures. My goal is to not alienate a group of people. Rather, I am extending an olive branch by sharing resources to help all of us make informed decisions. It’s not a “us v. them” situation because addressing white privilege helps all of us. Educating yourself on the Black Lives Matter movement benefits the collective need which will help everyone.
If you’re ready to feel uncomfortable and fight your defensive urges, then please continue to read on.
We All Have Prejudice.
Congratulations to those who have one person of color friend! But, don’t expect that friend to be your guide on understanding your prejudice. There are plenty of resources for you to read or watch to understand racism. From sketch comedy videos to well-researched books, you have the ability to become culturally competent. However, it’s important to understand that all of us have an implicit bias. No matter how “woke,” (or as Captain Raymond Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine would say, “awake,”) you act, you will have implicit bias. Also, this bias is reinforced every day. If you want to test your implicit bias, then check out Harvard’s implicit bias test. This test is the first step to educate yourself on Black Lives Matter.
Internalized racism is in all of us who grew up in the White Racial Frame (WRF). Sociologist Joe Feagin defined WRF as the dominant frame that shapes our framing in everyday situations which includes race. Simply put, all of us, regardless of our race, in this frame are taught to think white as the superior race. We aren’t born with prejudice, rather we all are taught it. From background actors to public figures, prejudice and bias are reinforced through popular culture and education.
Regardless of what you think, you are political. You have views, opinions, and mindsets that dictate your feelings and action. If you don’t get involved or stay neutral, you’ve taken a stance. By not voting, not researching, or not doing anything, you’ve made a political move. Simply stating that you don’t get involved means you don’t want to deal with uncomfortable truths.
Originally, I wanted to sum up research I found about Black Lives Matter and what you need to become culturally competent. But, as I sat with my mother discussing these issues, I found myself beaten. After seeing George Floyd take his last breath, I didn’t want to leave my bed. Since I entered college, I started to become culturally competent. From books I read to movies I watched, I immersed myself into “woke” culture. However, I naively believed that rationality would prevail. Simply put, if I explained discrimination analytically and logically then people would see the truth. They would see how they were lied to about issues of race, gender, and social justice; how their education system didn’t prepare them to fight for change, rather taught prejudice. But, that never worked. Instead, white privilege created defensive and nonsensical counter-arguments meant to get under my skin. I’ve been told, “you didn’t grow up with boys, so you don’t know how men are taught to behave.” And I’ve heard, “why should I be punished for the sins of my ancestors?” My favorite, however, “if we get rid of the word diversity then we can truly move into equality.” (Yikes.)
After defending my credentials and experiences to educate on justice, I still faced resistance. Even if the information I presented was correct, honest, and verified, they would find a way to doubt it. No matter what I said or how I said it, people chose to not listen to me solely because I am a minority woman advocating for human rights. So…what do I know? But, to be clear, I am not becoming cynical. It’s simply against my nature. (Maybe if Taylor Swift wrote a song about Black Lives Matter things would change since people got upset when Beyoncé did it.)
If you believe Black Lives Matter, then you’re not anti-law enforcement. You’re anti-police-killing-black-people. You understand that races are treated differently. Whether it’s getting healthcare, applying for college, going for a jog, or bird-watching in a park, people of color face different treatment. You understand that our current normal encourages tragic and painful treatment of minority races. Also, you understand that a “new normal” must be achieved. A normal where people, regardless of their background, have a zero tolerance for hate crimes because we taught them the highest values and ideals. And, these values are reinforced in our law enforcements’ training.
If you believe Black Lives Matter, then you understand that Black protesters are treated differently than white people protesting stay-at-home-orders. You understand that Black Lives Matter protestors aren’t allowed to protest peacefully. Instead, they’re treated differently so centuries of false stereotyping can be proven true. You understand that when Black protestors say it calmly, they get hated on. Even when they get angry, they get hated on. You understand that getting upset is a normal reaction to a Black life being taken, but the Black community doesn’t have the luxury of normal reactions. They’re expected not to be better, but to silently go along with this status quo.
If you believe Black Lives Matter, then you do more than sharing memes or getting into heated Facebook debates with your “friends.” You understand that people committing hate crimes or staying-neutral are victims of a horrible societal frame that allows them to be this way. And, they believe their behavior is justified due to reinforced lessons throughout history. You don’t say, “okay boomer,” or “you’re canceled.” Instead, you extend olive branches hoping that it will create a space for change. You don’t villainize oppressors by stooping down to their level of anger and violence. Rather, you choose to be better so harmony may one day be reached.
If you believe Black Lives Matter, then you understand that our entire policing system needs to be reformed. Change occurs when we educate properly. You understand that being “woke” simply isn’t enough anymore. Or, you understand that we can’t hear our leaders say, “we need more law and order,” and, “discrimination is systemic and institutionalized.” We need to hear our leaders give solutions to the problems, not simply tell us what they are anymore. You understand that racism isn’t solely overt, but covert in everyday life including how you treat your co-workers and classmates.
If you believe Black Lives Matter, then you understand that from a very early age we must teach our children to not fall for prejudice rhetoric. We teach them about race relations, gender equality, and LGBTQI+ rights because they’re not too young to understand. You understand that colorblindness allowed us to ignore every experience that comes with being a minority race. Colorblindness caused more problems than solutions. You also understand that horrible teaching can be disguised as good when said nicely, i.e. the concept of colorblindness.
If you believe Black Lives Matter, then you continue to educate yourself on cultural competency. You share information, stories, and experiences that reinforce inherent kindness rather than hatred.
That’s all I have for now…Stay tuned for more, you know, sharing.