This post is dedicated to White people with the goal to increase awareness of White privilege, which may not be very pleasant to read. Please note that Whiteness is a race, not nationality or ethnicity. Someone recently said "I'm not White, I'm Italian." I asked, "Is your skin white?" Yes, if your skin is white, then you're White. For example, a Hispanic person may be considered White or non-White, depending on genetics. Even though there have been historical debates about the exact definition of race, let's detach ourselves from labeling and focus on the principle. Here I'm speaking about the skin color and how others perceive it.
Although there are various areas of privilege (e.g., ADDRESSING framework), the most influential and powerful advantage or disadvantage is one's skin color. That's what people see first and that's something one cannot change or hide. That brings me to the concept of White privilege. By definition, it "denotes both obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that White persons may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one's own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The concept of White privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one's own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal."
As of lately, it has been emotionally difficult to be surrounded by painful discussions about racial disparities, particularly after the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, and others. As a fiancée of a Black man, who is an educator, writer, leader, motivational speaker, booking manager, and activist, I am constantly surrounded by frank and raw discussions about societal oppression. I had privilege to see and hear what many other White people don't get opportunity to see and hear - internal and external experiences of people of color, pain inflicted on them by our system of Whiteness, and how I have unwillingly contributed to the maintenance of the system. So I'd like you to contemplate on some very important points:
• The system of Whiteness does not attack any specific White people, so if you have an automatic thought "But I don't discriminate, I have people of color in my life, etc." please note that it is irrelevant, because it doesn't change the fact that the system is still oppressive toward non-Whites.
• It may be very hard to contain defensiveness during the conversations about White privilege (and probably while you're reading this), because it makes us feel like we are personally under scrutiny; however, understanding that the issue is about the system and not about specific White people can help us keep an open mind and actually hear the experiences of people of color.
• Speaking to people of color about their experiences can open our eyes on the realities of White privilege. I know it's real, because I have witnessed my fiancée being followed in stores, I have experienced him being stopped by police without any reason, I am witnessing his (and my own) pain each time he leaves the house, because he may never return.
• Ask yourself these questions: Am I afraid that I will not be hired at a job because of my skin color? Am I afraid that I will be mistreated by police because of my skin color? Am I afraid to leave the house and not come back because of my skin color? Am I concerned that because of my skin color I will be mistreated some other way?
There are many other things I'd like to talk about, because this topic is way too extensive. I will continue in my next blog posts.
_____________________________________________________________________ Evelyn Pavlova
is a counselor and an Ally, whose preferred population is LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, invisible minority, asexual, and ally) individuals. Her areas of interest are eating disorders, mood disorders, mindfulness, and spirituality. Read more about her new counseling journey at www.curvyroad.weebly.com