I recognize that I am happy to know that my white privilege keeps me, even in poverty, better off than others. I am so very glad that the bad things that have happened to me in my world have never been as bad as living in the Congo or other places dealing with genocide, female genital mutilation, child soldiers, daily air bombings like Syria, night raids when your family is taken away and women and children raped, or even in the American South where a black person gets gunned down simply for the color of their skin or anywhere in the USA Native American women go missing at high rates and it seems no one gives a damn.
Across the world women are still stoned for having healing skills or when THEY are the victims of rape and it’s said THEY bring shame to their family because of it. No, wait. That still happens right here in the US. So, too, do child marriages, it’s lawful to rape your wife in most states, and the police state in the US is being granted more and more leeway and freedom every day – including the right to beat and rape prisoners. That’s right. In most states it is lawful to rape a prisoner. That is, we know rape is illegal; however there is no law against NOT raping a prisoner.
Why write about it all? Why me? Simply because I AM white. People of color experience atrocities at profoundly high rates. It’s sickeningly ridiculous. What do we do? We continuously keep telling them to “get over it.” “Rwanda is history, slavery is history, the Indian schools is history, it’s all history, blah blah blah…” but it’s not history to their living parents, grandparents, and for some of them – living it now. We are living in times where icky “isms” of the past are coming alive again at raging rates worldwide. When those “old times” are starting to happen all over again how do we tell them to “get over it?”
That purely is white privilege speaking when telling them to get over it. Do these things not happen to white people? Of course they do, but that’s not the point. We know they happen to people of color at proportionately much higher rates. That is the point. They bring up “people conquer other peoples, that’s what history is about. The conquered people assimilate and you get over it.” Tell that to Ireland and Scotland, who are still fighting to be free countries and people who are still learning their old ancient languages. The same goes for Native tribes all over North and South America, Africa, Asia, and well virtually everywhere you find Native Tribes. I don’t think any place ever completely assimilates. The old hangs on.
The thing is, the old, they don’t have a voice. They are our memories. What happens is, many don’t want to let those memories go; memories of place, culture, peoples, and time. Whether or not those memories are good ones or not don’t matter to those who are doing the remembering. Some are remembering bad times and want revenge or justice. Some are remembering their culture and language and want to share. It is the children who grow up hearing the memories who are caught. Caught between hearing what actually was, and what is embellished upon by the rememberers, the children can also grow up with scars from the past.
When any person is asked where they are from they usually say a place. How many people answer, “I came from my loving parents,” or “I came from adoptive parents who took me in because my birth parents were killed in horrible…” due to whatever holy war or government war or war for oil or against slavery, etc, happened. How many people answer that they come from, and then go on to describe their culture instead of either a person or a place?
In the United States we don’t really have one culture to define us, unlike most countries. We have regions of culture. Each town or city may even have different areas or spots of culture. Is that good or bad? I think it is very good, yet now there are many who think the opposite. As a child growing up in the 1970’s I remember learning that the US was a “melting pot” and we were supposed to think of that as a good thing. That was supposed to be the American “culture.” The “American Dream” was supposed to be that everyone was to look forward to each generation living a bit better than the last. Yet another aspect of American culture. However, what that symbolic idealistic culture was hiding was the fact that our dreams were hiding behind white faces on the TV telling us about all this melting pot. The actual melting pot wasn’t actually meant to be seen or heard.
Governments lie, people are treated like shit. We know this. Viet Nam happened, Kennedy was killed, Martin Luther King was Killed, The 60’s tried to rebel and help and we go some new laws and thought the isms would start to die. The 70’s got lax and we celebrated the love we thought the 60’s had won – OK I’ll give ’em credit for protests. We started to go back and forth between Republican and Democrat parties defining themselves in new and profoundly worse ways every presidential election. Everyone in the parties getting farther and farther apart, separating our country. Our political parties have pushed so far apart until they are unrecognizable today and our government doesn’t recognize our people or the rights fought for back in those days.
Atrocities have happened here in the US. Yes We do horrible things to each other every day in the name of our politics, religion, beliefs, etc. We have terrible murderers, mass shootings, rapists, hell we even have ass-hats who think it’s OK to run people over with their cars simply because they are protesting something. Our near-past is full of lynching people for being black or gay, going to your house or place of worship to shoot you because you aren’t the same faith, and priests and rich college boys going free for rape. Our daily newspapers are full of horrendous and unspeakably gory crimes, yet if they are done by white people they get a lesser sentence and if they are done by a person of color – or heaven forbid – a person fleeing through our southern border, they suddenly are taking over our electronic devices and our lives.
Put it all into perspective though, would you? White people, please. Do any of the daily horrible things that you read or hear about actually affect you personally most of the time? Is your brother, sister, son, daughter, etc being lynched or shot or followed through a store due to the color of their skin? Is your house or car fire-bombed or have a brick thrown through a window because you are gay, black, or called a witch? Yes? Ah, but how often? Now, if you were a person of color, these things would be happening to you multiple times over.
Now Americans as a whole should put it into modern perspective, too. Have we had the number of terrorist bombings here that France or other countries have had? Have we had to live through anything like a Rwandan genocide? I’m talking to white people here, because yes, our Native American brothers and sisters sure as hell have. Yes, the Indian Schools were still functioning in this last century. That’s not history. That’s modern. How about the barbarous actions in Syria? I am begging white Americans to stop whining about the trifles in their first world lives. Yes, even poor white Americans. Especially poor white Americans who keep voting for the Republicans who keep them poor. (Oops, my bad. That’s another post.)
There surely, honestly can’t be any white poor American who thinks they are worse off than a poor black person in Africa? A person living in the Syrian war? Anyone living in a cartel-ridden country in South America? If they do, then shame on them. Even if you live in a shack without running water in the South in America you can still find water to drink MOST of the time and you DO have that shack. Shit, I’m being one harsh bitch, right? I’m not stupid. I KNOW there is real abject poverty here in the USA that could be done away with if the richest 3 families in the US didn’t earn more than the bottom 50% of Americans. However, I also know that those poor families are not being bombed every day. They don’t have militia or cartels coming to their homes any time of day taking their food, or even worse, taking their family members away or raping them and then taking them or just killing them for fun.
I am part of poor America. I live below the poverty line. I am grateful that I am not being bombed, yet. With 45 in office, it’s an iffy subject. I have friends who don’t have running cars and sometimes go without running water or functioning heat. I also went to college and have a degree and a professional license. However, I became disabled and living on Social Security is not a living wage. Medicare is not a functioning health care insurance for my needs. I scrimp and save and go to food shelves.
I am so glad I don’t live in a war-torn country or anywhere else where crimes against humanity happen on a daily basis. Oh, I have to stop and laugh. I forgot who our current leader is for a moment. Sorry. No. Really. I AM happy to live here. We have SO many freedoms. I will fight tooth and nail to keep what so many in our country are trying to take away right now from so many in our beloved melting pot. I know it is my white privilege that allows me to live so freely in the US without fear. Having been a foster parent to several children of color I’ve seen the looks from the white folks. I’ve watched the managers of grocery stores follow my teen foster son for no reason. I’ve dealt with the school leaders giving harsher discipline to mine than others. There are different types and levels of fear.
I thought I knew fear. I know rape. I’ve seen the desire of a man to need to make his fist connect with my flesh, yet I held his eyes with mine in the moment of the dare and won. He may have had my body, but not the rest of my flesh. He had his moment. I wouldn’t give him more. I was able to fight back. That was but a moment in time. No, I don’t trivialize rape. There is so much pain happening to so many people at any given moment. There are too many of the people willing to “walk on” through their days and do nothing. My white privilege allows me to get therapy and keep walking. Can you all look into your soul and like what you see looking back? Have you looked at your isms and shaken them enough to know that you have them? Have you faced them? Do all the white people who are whining about their 1st world problems realize they are fearing what they fear in themselves?
Right now I fear I’ve rambled all over the place in this post.