Privilege is a difficult topic to discuss, let alone write about. But I think we are at a pivotal point in our society (especially with the current political climate). I first became aware of the concept of white privilege when I was a sophomore in college. Before that, I truly did not think that privilege and racism still existed (naive and ignorant, I know). But ever since then I have been trying to discover what exactly white privilege entails. I know that me being able to sit here and write this article is an example of privilege. I'm not worried about if someone will come after me or key my car. That being said, I tend to date outside of my race. In the past year, 98% of the men I have been romantically and sexually involved with have been black.
I am the type of person that enjoys intellectually stimulating conversations and when I meet someone that is different than me I ask a lot of questions because I want to better understand other people. This past year I have asked a lot of my partners what their experience has been with white privilege and racism. Nearly all of them immediately responded with "You won't understand." And that is true, there is no way for a white person to truly understand what white privilege but I wanted to better understand so I pushed some more.
The more stories that I heard (and that I will not share for their protection) the more I realized that white privilege does in fact exist. I remember one incident in particular. I was driving in the car with my black male partner. It was late and I was speeding. He asked me to slow down. I was taken back, offended and confused. In my mind it was late, no one was on the road so there was nothing wrong with speeding. But he said something to me that I will never forget: "You have to remember that you have a black man in the car."
Everything in my brain stopped and the lingering puzzle pieces started to come together. When I am driving out late at night and I am speeding my only concern is that I will be pulled over. And I know that if I am pulled over one of two things can happen. One, the officer will give me a ticket. Two, I will cry and talk myself out of the ticket. Even the worst of these two options isn't that bad. For my partner though, his concern was more life or death. He knew that there was a very real possibility that if he got pulled over he could get arrested or assaulted or killed. The thought of me getting arrested, assaulted, or killed had not even crossed my mind. I have had many experiences since then that have reaffirmed by belief that white privilege does exist.
Me writing this article is not going to suddenly convince every white person that reads this that white privilege exists. It took me years of listening, understanding, empathizing, and looking outside of my own little world to learn that white privilege exists. When I am acknowledging white privilege I am not discrediting all of the hard-working white people. I know that white people and minorities struggle. But what I am saying is that white people will always have an upper hand (whether big or small) because of the color of their skin. I'm not going to lie it is hard to admit that you are part of the privileged group because having an unethical upper hand on someone is wrong and unfair.
But I truly believe that being aware is the first step. Being aware goes beyond saying that white privilege exists. It's listening to other people stories. It's understanding that your perception is not always right. It's acknowledging that we all have flaws. And most importantly, it is acknowledging that we are all human. Yes, we are of different races, religions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. As a society, we need to acknowledge these differences and learn from them.