It's Time For White People To Sit Down And Listen

It's Time For White People To Sit Down And Listen

White privilege is something we must understand, acknowledge, and confront to support our friends and neighbors.

35
views

Racial tensions have been growing and changing in a new way with an age of media, technology, and the spread of information upon us. It's not something that I thought about much until high school. I grew up in a house where love was the rule and religion and acceptance was never a question -- my parents always taught us to take good care of each other, our friends, and to be kind. But with that in mind, I didn't grow up anywhere diverse or have the exposure to understand race relations to the fullest extent that I could.

But when I moved to college, things changed in that regard. And with the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement at around the same time, the spotlight turning to the growing issue of police brutality, and how our country has changed in so many ways surrounding the issue of race the past few years, I began to learn to recognize the issues, understand their depth more than I had before, and to recognize my place in it all.

And that was a place of privilege. Of the utmost privilege.

White, without economic hardship, without exposure to poverty, with great schools growing up. I was privileged. I was an example of white privilege.

What stumps me is why people like me deny that. Why they don't accept what white privilege is and how it elevates their life -- what is so wrong about understanding and accepting that if you're white, you're simply better off in this country? It's just the truth.

The denial of this is poison to a broken society. People get angry because they think the term "white privilege" is demonizing, blames them, and that what happens to others isn't their fault. What it really is is a reality check. No, you didn't inflict the horrific wounds of the racist founding of our country or take part in everything that happens today, but in seeing that we were part of that story, we must bear the burden of them to uplift others. We have to take responsibility so that we can make things right generation after generation.

But on the flip side, the acknowledgment and the unity that can come from it might be precisely the antidote needed to take steps in understanding, working, bridging gaps, and saving lives.

I think privilege is one of the biggest things we can use, learn from, and grow from on our journey to progressing as a society and coming together. As a white woman who didn't grow up near poverty or with any hardship, I am privileged in a great way, and I need to use that to speak up for other people who don't have the same reality.

I think I always need to be analyzing my privilege. In this life, it's our job as white people -- to recognize where we stand in society, see how our place can prove harmful even if it wasn't our choice, and to work to understand and give a voice to those who don't have it so easy.

But as I write this I see so many of my sentences begin with the word, "I," and that is often where the problem erupts. People who are white sometimes assume they know, they get it, or they can put themselves in the place of those who aren't the majority and who are often voiceless.

What's really necessary is not talking over those with stories and experiences to share, not amplifying our own voices first, but seeing where other voices need to be heard. Where Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and other minority voices deserve a place in the conversation. And most importantly, how much more often we ought to be listening instead of speaking.

I think I have a lot of work to do, and always will, because I won't ever live a life where things are as hard for me as they are for others. And that means that I need to step up, serve others, and be a voice. I need to understand my privilege, always check it, and look for ways that I can help others be heard and understood. I think that by virtue of who we are, white people must work to be allies in all parts of life.

Popular Right Now

Trauma Porn: Hyper-Consumption Of Black Death And Pain

3448
views

I really don’t want to be writing this article, because it brings me so much pain, sadness, anger and frustration to think about everything that has happened this past week and the past two years. But I have to, because I feel if I don’t share what I feel, then y’all won’t know or be aware of a different perspective about how traumatic and significant seeing Black people killed on camera or in real life is.

My older brother came into my room on the evening of July 5, 2016, and asked me if I heard about the police killing of Alton Sterling, and I said “No…” He showed me the video without much warning of how graphic the footage was going to be. I winced, hearing this man, this husband, this father, screaming for his life…and then silent. My little brother was in my room and watched the video, too.

I sat there in silence, waiting for my emotions and thoughts to gather. I looked at my 14-year old brother, thinking, “I shouldn't’ve have let him watch that. He’s too impressionable.” He looked concerned. He continues to become more worried about his safety and the state of the country every day.

I’m on Twitter and see Sterling’s murder on auto-play on my timeline. I go on my Facebook and see Sterling’s murder on auto-play on my news feed. I was so frustrated with how nonchalantly, and without hesitation, people and friends were sharing this video. But I understand why people were doing this: Awareness. He is was a father, husband and a provider for his family. But I felt it was incredibly disrespectful and traumatizing for Sterling’s friends and family to have this video shared and on auto-play on 24-hour news stations.

Not even 24 hours later, I see images of Philando Castile’s blood-soaked shirt as he takes his last breaths in the passenger seat of a car. This time I didn’t watch, but I listened and read the details from people’s commentary. Now, Philando Castile’s last moments are on repeat on national television. Now, I’m boiling with rage and sadness.

I couldn’t stop picturing my father in Sterling’s position. I couldn’t stop picturing my older brother in the passenger seat. Hell, I couldn’t stop thinking of my little brother in 12-year old Tamir Rice’s place at the park bench. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop the rage.

The hyper-consumption of Black death seems like a fetish for our nation. Watching these videos at this point isn’t awareness, it’s psychologically damaging for all of us. It desensitizes us to seeing Black people killed, maimed or abused. We normalize Black pain. Why do we have to prove our pain or death to people in order for them to believe us or listen?

I didn’t start thinking about the hyper-consumption of dead Black bodies and biases of racial pain and death in the media until the massacre at Garissa University in Kenya on April 2, 2015. There were pictures of the dead Black bodies scattered across the ground and floors of the university. Bodies of parents, children, sons and daughters were circulating on my social media and the television for a few days.

I found it odd, yet unsurprising, that the dead White bodies of Sandy Hook and Aurora weren’t on the news to prove their death. Instead, what we were shown for them were their crying and grieving mothers, fathers, siblings and colleagues.That doesn’t happen for Black people. I’m quite positive had the news been circulating their White bodies, the nation would being exclaiming how disrespectful and traumatizing these images were to their families, and being told it is excessive to show their lifeless, bloody bodies.

This is not the case for Black people. Black people aren’t allowed to grieve. We aren’t allowed to be mad or show any extreme emotion when someone we love is taken from us so abruptly by law enforcement, the people who pledged to “serve and protect.” We’re not even humanized after death by the media, unlike our dead White counterparts. The media and consumers of the media are quick to gather all the negative things from our past to emphasize how un-human we are, how we “were no angels,” how our death is justified. Our friends and family can’t catch a break, either. Castile’s girlfriend was put in handcuffs, and along with her 4-year old daughter, was put in the backseat of the police vehicle like they were the suspects. The proliferation of our deaths is not helpful, it's anti-Black.

We have to remember that we all are the media. We play a role in the media now, because of social media; the news gets their content from whatever we make trend. We have more of a responsibility to be conscious of what we share. We have normalized Black death. We have normalized it so much, that when another unarmed Black person is killed unjustly by the police, we think to ourselves, “Another one?” This shouldn’t be happening. The reaction to Black people being killed by law enforcement shouldn’t be the same as when a fly enters our kitchen during the summer. We are complex human beings with a story. We deserve the same respect compared to our White counterparts from the media–YOU–when it comes to our death.

It’s important we pressure the larger and original media like the Huffington Posts, the Buzzfeeds and the CNNs to share unbiased news and title their news with equality. The fact that Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist and mass shooters are humanized and shown more respect than Black victims like Alton Sterling is telling of the racial bias and white supremacy that is prevalent in the media and in our society (i.e. us).

I understand sharing videos of the victims of police murder is considered raising awareness. However, I and many others see it as traumatizing. At this point, two years after Mike Brown, people know about the racial disparity and white supremacy of the judicial system and how police operate, but some still just don’t care. There’s a difference between knowing and caring and being proactive about the situation.

We must continue to contact our elected officials, police chiefs and Congresspersons’ about police reform and gun control. We must continue to have these difficult yet important conversations. Dialogue is one of the best ways to eradicate racism and other oppressive systems, institutions and practices within the United States. Everything that exists is merely a reflection of the people.

Cover Image Credit: Gloria la Riva for President

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Dear Beautiful Black Girl, Never Forget Your Worth

An ode to all the beautiful black girls.

203
views

We live in a society where societal standards greatly define the way we view ourselves. Although in 2019 these standards are not clear cut, some things are not easy to change. Not to play the race card, but this is true for women of color, especially black girls.

As much as I'd like to address this to all women, I want to hit on something that I'm more familiar with: being a black girl. Black females have a whole package to deal with when it comes to beauty standards. The past suppression and oppression our ancestors went through years ago can still be felt in our views of beauty. It is rare to see young black girls be taught that their afros and nappy hair are beautiful. Instead, we are put under flat irons and dangerous chemicals that change our hair texture as soon as our hair becomes too "complicated" to deal with. The girls with darker skin are not praised, but rather lowered in comparison to their peers with fairer skin. A lot of the conditioning happens at a young age — at the age of 8, already you can feel like you're in the wrong skin.

As we grow up, there are more expectations that come here and there, a lot of very stereotypical and diminishing. "You're a black girl, you should know how to dance," "black girls don't have flat butts," "black girls know how to cook," "you must have an attitude since you're black" — I'm sure you get the idea. Let me say this: "black girls," as they all like to say, are not manufactured with presets. Stop looking for the same things in all of us. Black girls come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and talents. I understand that a lot of these come from cultural backgrounds, but you cannot bash a black girl because she does not fit the "ideal" description.

And there is more.

The guys that say, "I don't do black girls, they too ratchet/they got an attitude" — excuse me? Have you been with/spoken to all the black girls on this planet? Is this a category that you throw all ill-mouthed girls? Why such prejudice, especially coming from black men? Or they will chant that they interact with girls that are light-skinned, that is their conditioned self-speaking. The fact that these men have dark-skinned sisters and mothers and yet don't want to associate with girls that look the same confuses me. And who even asked you? There are 100 other ethnicities and races in the world, and we are the one you decide to spit on? Did we do something to you?

Black girls already have society looking at them sideways. First, for being a woman, and second, for being black, and black males add to this by rejecting and disrespecting us.

But we still we rise above it all.

Black girls of our generation are starting to realize the power that we hold, especially as we work hand in hand. Women like Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Chinua Achebe, Michelle Obama — the list is too long — are changing the narrative of the "black girl" the world knows. The angry black woman has been replaced with the beautiful, educated, and successful melanin-filled woman.

Girls, embrace your hair, body, and skin tone, and don't let boys or society dictate what is acceptable or beautiful. The black girl magic is real, and it's coming at them strong.

Related Content

Facebook Comments