White privilege is not what whites think it is

White privilege doesn’t mean what some Whites think it means. They get stuck on the word privilege believing it to equate with wealth and comfort. However, that’s not it.

Privilege, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, has two related definitions. The first is “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favour”. The second is “to accord a higher value or superior position to”.

The social and political system of this country grants people who are white with certain privileges that are not given to people of colour which are based simply on the lack of melanin in their skin. It has nothing to do with wealth, but everything to do with living each day.

Whites can and do go about our lives not really worrying about being pulled over by law enforcement or being shadowed in stores by security/loss prevention personnel.

Whites can and do get jobs over people of colour based not on qualifications, but on skin pigmentation.

Whites do not get stereotyped as being savages or lazy anywhere near the amount people of colour do.

A white man walking along the street while wearing a hoodie doesn’t have to pull the hoodie off when people pass him out of fear of being thought of as potentially violent.

When a white person does get pulled over or stopped by law enforcement, they don’t automatically get approached by the officer having his/her hand on the butt of his/her service revolver.

The list can go on ad nauseam, but I won’t belabour it. These are facts. People of colour, particularly Black and Brown skinned people face discrimination every day practically from the moment they are born.

Black and Brown mothers and fathers train their sons on how to try to avoid suspicion from ignorant whites so that they can come home from something as simple as a trip to get candy at the corner store.

Black women see images society throws at them saying their beauty lies in straightening their hair.

Black and Brown people are constantly told to behave like whites behave if they want to achieve success and stay safe in this country.

Again, the list can go on ad nauseam.

Enough is enough though!

Blacks and other people of colour cannot fix the system that’s rigged against them by themselves. It’s up to whites to join with them, listen, and act with them to change the system from one of systemic racism to one of real equality.

Not Enough

Not Enough

Shirts are not enough.
Signs are not enough.
Painted streets are not enough.
Sentiment is not enough.
Letters and emails are not enough.
Voting is not enough.
Protests are not enough.

All of these actions, while necessary and good, are not enough to bring about meaningful and lasting change in this country. We need tangible and earnest change in the system to rid ourselves of the systemic racism that pervades our country.

While the above-mentioned list is a start, we need to elect officials at all levels of government who will listen and act in a manner that changes the system. We must move forward with the agenda for which people are shouting, protesting, dying, and being arrested. We must make the agenda into law.

No human should worry about being mistreated based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should worry about being killed based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should live in poverty based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should worry about being able to get a job based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should worry about not having healthcare based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

We must force our government to truly make this country one where equality is truly equality.

Equality across the imaginary concept of race.

Equality across all cultural differences.

Equality across all genders and sexual orientations.

Equality across all religious beliefs or non-belief.

The idea of equality for ALL PEOPLE truly should be equality for ALL PEOPLE!

Stand Up Speak Out

I recently received a comment on social media on a comment I made regarding white privilege. The person responded to me asking me if I too was white and, if so, how could I defy my race and state that we need to fight against white privilege. These types of comments are not new to me as I have been called “a traitor to my race” and that I am “no longer white” because I am “betraying my race” as I speak out against white privilege and racism.

My answer is simple. As a white person born with a privilege I did not earn, I MUST speak out against it. That we live in a society in the 21st century in which the color of our skin somehow provides us immunity to many social ills and grants us further immunity against continual harassment, racial profiling, and with privileges denied to our fellow humankind who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian is appalling. It should be equally appalling to every white person as well, particularly as we live in a country where, at least on paper, it states that every person is equal.

That very equality written into our constitution is a lie if all humankind is not treated equally. It is up to us, meaning white people, to confront the reality of the inequality and address it head on, both personally and systematically. If we do not, then we are guilty of perpetuating the inequality that surrounds us. It is long past time to change how this society works, or doesn’t work, when it comes to the lives of our fellow citizens.

We must stand up against racism and be willing to do so for the long haul until we eradicate its ugly head from our society. This means that when all the protests and hashtags begin to fade, we need to still be vocal and active to create the change that is needed. This means that when we see someone acting, speaking, or behaving in a racist manner, we speak out against them and make them stop. We educate them how it is wrong to judge people based on the color of their skin. We stop believing stereotypes and start support breaking down the ideology that perpetuates them. We speak up when we see someone of color being treated unfairly or abusively by anyone.

Speaking up is imperative to change the system that treats people of color differently than whites. When laws or law enforcement is in the wrong, they are called out and changed. Law enforcement, when behaving unjustly, must be called out and the guilty charged with the crime. Elected officials must be held accountable as well. There are not one set of laws for whites and another for non-whites, there is the law and it should not see color when it comes to how justice is handled.

There is no reason why a Black person charged with a crime and a white person charged for the same crime should not be subject to the same punishment. None.

There is no reason why a Black mother should have to worry about her son as he goes to the store to buy candy. None.

There is no reason why a Black man should be worried to go for a run in a white neighborhood. None.

There is no reason why a Black person who is pulled over for violating the speed limit should worry that she or he may have a gun pointed at them or worse when a white person who does the same does not. None.

White people MUST stand up and speak out against racial injustice to make damned certain that change happens. Our Black brothers and sisters cannot do this alone, history has proven that much.

So yes, white privilege exists. It is wrong and it needs to end now.
Black Lives Matter.

It’s Time to Desegregate English Classrooms

“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it…. No, I do not weep at world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”—Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to be Colored Me,” World Tomorrow, 1928.

Can you feel the strength and soul of the author in this quote? I hope so, because Zora Neale Hurston, along with her contemporaries of the Harlem Renaissance and her modern contemporaries of today are exactly what is needed in the reading curriculum of our schools. Yet, Zora Neale Hurston is often overlooked at best. When, or rather if, the Harlem Renaissance is taught, it is but a blip on the radar in most English classes in this country. The same rings true for most authors who are not white. They may appear in brief cameos in our English classrooms, but that’s about it. Instead, our students read primarily dead white writers from the supposed “canon” of English literature. Talk about a travesty of an education. It is nothing more than academic white privilege when writers of color are ignored or minimized rather than taught.

Now, before anyone misunderstands me, I feel it is important to read the classics. There are lessons to be learned from the great writers of the “canon” of literature. I am not advocating the abolition of reading Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or the like. They need to be read and the historical context of when they write must be taught alongside of their works of literature for they are inter-related and a piece of our collective history as a human race.
However, the works of Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, Alice Walker, Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Sherman Alexie, N. Scott Momaday, James Weldon Johnson, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and countless others need to be taught as well. Not glanced over, but actually taught to our students. Yes, this list includes writers who are Black, Hispanic, Latino, Native American, and Asian. That’s the point.

Of these authors of color, I want to single out the authors who are Black, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the necessity of our schools helping to give our Black students, and indeed reminding the Black community as well of their vital heritage and culture, role models from the Black community instead of making them read only white authors all of the time.
I cannot count the number of times I have spoken with students who are Black and they have never heard of Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, or Zora Neale Hurston. It is appalling, but not surprising. I taught middle and high school English in Florida for about 12 years. I literally taught about 35 miles from Zora Neale Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville and there were students, and a few teachers, who had never heard of her. That is egregious!

It is imperative that students see and read authors who look like them in order for them to see the richness of their cultural heritage instead of only the cultural heritage of white authors of European descent. I propose that all school districts come up with a curriculum that requires the reading and study of authors of color alongside the traditional canon of literature. While it will not solve the racial issues we have as a country, it will help to desegregate the literature read and foster communication and understanding through literature by having students read authors from across cultural and ethnic lines.

Additionally, when students read authors who look like them and share similar cultural experiences as they do, it encourages reading, boosts self-esteem/self-image, and provides positive role models for them. All of those, in turn, help students achieve better in school and in life. In addition, when students who are not normally exposed to other cultures read authors from differing cultures, it enhances understanding and empathy, promotes tolerance, and helps society as a whole.

I know this because I witnessed it on a small scale when I taught middle and high school English in schools that varied from having a homogeneous student body to ones having a more diverse student body. While it did not eliminate racial or cultural issues, it did alleviate them. I also saw the faces of students who read, for the first time, a book by an author from their cultural/racial background. It was like a light appeared for them. They saw how an author who looked like them could write and tell a story that mattered. In many cases, I would deliberately take books from authors of varying cultures and present them to students based on common themes. The discussions my classes had were amazing as they made connections between the books, their lives, and the lives of their classmates. Students learned so much about one another as well as themselves, and the literature. That is real learning. That is what we need to be doing in our schools.