Escondido, CA

The invisible white privileges

Americans, in particular white Americans, should be getting the message, the message that a large and significant number of people in this country cannot be certain about the day-to-day safety of their children, their friends, their family. That when going off to school, or on an errand around the corner, or out jogging, or just driving around, being a person of color is risky – not just risky, but  when interacting with those promising to serve and protect, incredibly scary.

This is now being witnessed nearly every week in the deaths of black men and women at the hands of the police. And it is an ever-present corrosive fear for black families. 

This fear is different than the oft-cited, overt, and blatant forms of white privilege:   school funding better for white students than those of color; front-of-the-line access to healthcare; preferential treatment in hiring; red-lining; on and on – all out there in the open. These privileges are frequent huge barriers for people of color, blocking the road to equality.

But just as corrosive are the everyday fears of black families concerning the inordinate amount of police attention that black skin attracts. All too often it requires no misbehavior at all for a person of color, of any age, to be confronted by the police for the circumstance of not being white. One can simply be driving a car, or being a news reporter plying his trade on camera, or out bird-watching or just, well, having a darker skin. Even minor misbehavior can be fatal. 

This is a concern by families of color that can’t really be experienced or understood by white families. 

My mom and dad, typical middle-class Caucasians, never had a great concern about my overall safety when I was outside playing or off on an errand or walking back and forth from school. If acting up at school, the worst possibility would be a call from the principal. They never had the slightest fear that whenever I left the house, I could be arrested, injured or shot and killed at the hands of police for being a kid or doing whatever goofy thing I was doing. 

And as I grew up safely, people of color were being brutalized by the police even more frequently than today, having no fear of any evidence being recorded by phones or body cameras.

For example, you may remember Adrian Peterson, the black football player who was prosecuted for using a branch to beat his little boy for misbehavior? Not just spanking, the beating caused serious cuts and slashes all over his body, and Peterson was banned from plying his trade for a season on an NFL gridiron.

The unnecessary violence of the beating was acknowledged by all, black and white. But while not approving the punishment’s severity, black families provided a reason for Peterson’s reaction to his son’s supposed misbehavior:  the centuries long history of sons and daughter’s interactions with cops, with horrible consequences.  

It is impossible to a white person to feel how incredibly tiring, how depressive, this constant fear must be, how destructive of life, liberty, happiness.  And because I am white, the lack of such fears is a pervasive, near invisible form of privilege. 

I don’t have to worry that my what skin will attract insults, racial taunts and slurs. I don’t have to constantly fear that my family and friends may not return to their homes safely if going out to eat or on some simple errand. I don’t fear that my son and daughter, if interacting with a cop, could end up choked or shot to death.   

No, my white privilege means essentially living in a bubble, the color of my skin insulating and protecting me from a whole range of debilitating anxieties. 

Meanwhile, outside that bubble, those with a darker skin must constantly navigate a minefield, a minefield of interactions with white people damaging to any sense of worth, of value. And worse, that at the hands of the police, the constant possibility of injury and death is always there.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

5 responses to “The invisible white privileges”

  1. Shannon says:

    I sure would like to know what side of town you were raised in, that was so safe. No matter what color you are, parents need to worry when kids are out playing in the streets. My kids are Caucasian and called Crackers, picked on by Gangsters, even my disabled child was jumped by hispanics, which were the majority at his elementary school. My husband is White and harrased by cops all the time because he rides a motorcycle…pull guns on him, have him take off his shoes & shirt on side of road while they take pics and profile him. He just doesnt Run, pull a Gun, Fight with them…so he hasnt been shot. We are definately not priviledged. All Lives Matter. This is pure ignorance what people are making this into.

  2. Alicia says:

    This Opinion seems to be based on CNN, MSDNC propaganda. Over the 4th of July weekend in Chicago, 80 ppl were injured by gun violence (17 ppl were killed – some were children). None of theses crimes were committed by the police. These mostly black communities are pleading for Law & Order, not de-funding the police. I do believe we need police reforms in training and de-escalation, but the situation that is being perpetrated by the leftist radicals is not accurate. Stop following & listening the mainstream media and do some research into what is really going on in our country right now. The mayhem will continue until the election. Next it will be the new swine flu pandemic and then serious (non) natural disasters. It’s time to wake up out of your slumber Humans.

  3. Clyde Benke says:

    White people have the same quality of life, ALL OVER THE PLANET… Even where there are no blacks to have “privilege” over! This lie is just a slander on the accomplishments of white people, that blacks have never been able to achieve any place on this entire earth. Is just being white a “privilege” then ? It reeks of a weird version unintentional white supremacy….

    “ When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” Robert Anthony

    • Michael Grant says:

      It sounds like you live in a bubble. Do you know what “redline” means? Do you understand the concept of “systemic racism”? Maybe do a bit of research and connect a few dots before making statements that are widely de-bunked and reek of defensiveness and denial.

      • Clyde Benke says:

        “Systemic racism”? You mean when blacks use cultural appropriation in the USA, to enjoy the best standard of life they have anyplace on this planet. But then blame white people because they don’t have what it takes to be a successful as white people are ALL over this planet ? Evolution is a REAL powerful thing…… 769 murders in Chicago last year….. BLM ignores that and the fact that 93% of murdered blacks are murdered by other blacks. And you are all up on “redlining” from 80 years ago ? Thats been over for decades, but the black on black murders are accelerating, right here and now !

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