Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hey, white folk! Getting picked on =/= current and historical institutionalized discrimination and oppression

Growing up, I was picked on for a number of things:  a mole near my nose, my hair color and length, my weight, my skin coloration and my last name being the most notable.  "Moleface!"  "Carrot Top!"  "Fatso!"  "Powder!"  "No jewels!"  I'm an emotional and empathetic person and hadn't yet developed any armor to this, so I was frequently brought to tears.  Even though I was often made miserable by this, I never once thought to compare what I was going through to the current and historical institutionalized discrimination and oppression that black people and other POC face.

I have enough empathy to know that I could never understand what it's like to grow up with that much disprivilege. I was never assumed to be a criminal, lazy, stupid, shiftless or even subhuman just because of the color of my skin. Police officers didn't harass me or my family.  I had no problems getting a loan for my first car.  I could go anywhere and participate in any activity in my town without people becoming suspicious of me or following me.  I never had other white people police my behavior, presentation, choice of music or anything else because it wasn't 'white enough.'  The 'flesh' colored crayon in the Crayola 48-pack was pretty close to my skin tone, too.

Go back to the first paragraph and reread those epithets.   Back now?  Good!  Don't they seem incredibly juvenile and almost amusing?  I mean, come on!  "Carrot Top?"  My hair was strawberry blonde, not red.  None of the words used to pick on me have the historical weight and sheer hatred tied up in the N-word.  

If I were to research my ancestry, I doubt I could ever find one person in my family tree who was ever owned by another.  No, that's too sugar-coated.  I could never find one person in my family tree who was ever a slave.  My race was never dehumanized and othered to the point where considering them property was nothing to write home about.  

"But that was a long time ago, just let it go," one might say.  Sure, so was Jesus.  Now shut up about him.  Speaking of Christ, religious people have never once used bible verses to 'prove' that I or others of my race are less-than-human.  Do you get it yet?

"But what about reverse-racism?" one might ask.  What, does it really hurt to be called a 'cracker' or a 'honkey?' Seriously?  Black people have no power over you institutionally.  They can't limit your opportunities.  You've got the white privilige power armor and these almost humorous epithets slide off like orange sauce off a duck's back.

You may get picked on because of your weight, height, hair color, or any other trait or feature, but it is not equivalent to the racism that black people and other POC face and have faced for centuries.  I certainly can't understand what it must be like so I have no idea how any other white person could.  

You really ought to check your privilege about now.  No, let's go even deeper.  Don't just check your privilege. Check what privilege itself means in this context.  Understand the concept.  Imagine what life might be like if many of the things you take for granted weren't true.  Imagine that you would have to work much harder in society to achieve the same results you get now.  It isn't all Escalades and booty-shaking.

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