White Privilege is an MF–And DAMN If It Isn’t Everywhere!

 YEA! A Carefree Weekend!

I’m tired. This was a long week. I woke up Saturday morning, excited that I had a weekend in which I planned to relax and not do anything too difficult. I started by putting some laundry away and then cleaned the cat’s litter box. Not my favorite tasks, but things that really needed doing and were easily brushed aside all week. When I went outside to throw away the scoopings from the litter box, I was surprised to see clear signs everywhere that it had rained overnight. Not just a little, but a lot. Puddles everywhere. Garbage containers had collected water on top. The back gate for my building was dripping. I had crashed pretty heavily the night before and had not heard a thing. So I posted the following on Facebook:

Facebook post by Heidi Ketroser Massey about being surprised it rained last night

Right after I posted this, I saw my friend Desire Adaway‘s post:

Desiree Lynn Adaway's Facebook Post About The Virtual Privilege Walk

I Have A Choice

Her post stopped me in my tracks. Here I was, all ready to do my thing this weekend and not think too much about too much of anything. Desiree’s post about the privilege walk reminded me that for some people, that isn’t a choice. I am able to choose to engage or not engage in racial justice and anti-racist work. For Black people in this country, that isn’t a choice. They are forced to deal with racism every single day. Even if they live in a community that is only Black people.

Reminders Of Being “Other”

The average Black person earns less money than White people for the same job so they have less money to spend. They are treated differently by health care providers, by business owners, and certainly by the police. But it is even more insidious than that. White is pretty much the “default” in the United States. Nude pantyhose, nude makeup pallets and more are calibrated based on white skin tone, unless specifically stating otherwise. Even cameras are set up to photograph White people. Turn on the television. The vast majority of people we are going to see are going to be White. Unless I make a conscious effort, the books I see in bookstores are frequently by White authors about White people. Even in our schools, the history we learn is overwhelmingly White. And that default makes anything that isn’t the default, “other.” When we categorize people as other, and set up laws that favor the default and punish those who are other, that creates systems of oppression. That is a whole other blog post for a different day. But it does remind me that these systems are everywhere in everything.

White Privilege and Living While Black

And that brings me back to White privilege. Not having to think about my race is White privilege. Being able to wake up and not even think about having to fight against racism today is White privilege. Being able to take out the garbage and be completely and totally carefree when I do it is White privilege. Because in this country, Black people are regularly stopped by the police for “Walking while Black” or “Breathing while Black” or “Driving while Black.” In other words, going about their daily lives and minding their own business, doing nothing wrong.

Stay Woke

Being completely and totally carefree is not a privilege that is afforded to Black people. Our country has built systems of racial oppression that are everywhere. And so, when I saw Desiree’s Facebook post this morning, it was a big reminder that I am steeped in White privilege. It’s ok for me to take a day for self care or catch up or whatever. We all need to “put on our own oxygen masks first” if we want to be of any use to anyone else. However, it is never ok for me to forget that this struggle is going on all day every day for those who are marginalized in this country. And so I need to stay mindful of that, whether I have decided to relax all day or if I am at a protest in the streets. Because people who I deeply love and care about don’t ever get a day to just forget about the the racist structures that built and currently support this country.

Racism As A Moving Walkway

I am reminded of one of my very favorite quotes by Beverly Daniel Tatum in her book, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race.

“I sometimes visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of White supremacy and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. Some of the bystanders may feel the motion of the conveyor belt, see the active racists ahead of them, and choose to turn around, unwilling to go in the same destination as the White supremacists. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt—unless they are actively antiracist—they will find themselves carried along with the others.”

2 Comments on “White Privilege is an MF–And DAMN If It Isn’t Everywhere!

  1. I LOVE Dr. Beverly Tatum’s quote, and loved her book. Like you, I am striving to be anti-racist to walk faster in the opposite direction than the conveyor belt…and hate the belt, that if I stop to catch my breath in the fight, I am complicit.

    I attended a 2.5 day Undoing Racism training recently by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond…and a white participant shared how many times in her life she had “ah-ha” moments, and thought she was “woke”…but then realized…”Nope” (over & over).

    This journey is humbling…flying in the face of the Internalized Racial Superiority most white people were raised with by society.

    • So much yes to everything you said! All. Of. It.

      Here’s Dr. Beverly Tatum’s quote for those unfamiliar with it:

      “I sometimes visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of our White supremacist system and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt – unless they are actively anti-racist – they will find themselves carried along with the others.”

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