I had an incident this weekend that really nailed the idea of “privilege” in my mind. I’m at the local bagel shop in the ‘hood. I’m standing just inside the entrance to maintain social distance to the person inside.1 A woman comes behind and parks herself less than a foot from me. I promptly turn and glare at her. Seeing that didn’t work, I moved forward. Luckily the person in front of me had moved to the side as he had finished placing his order.

At this point I’m kind of over it. I’m reading the news on my phone. I glance up ever so often to see if my food is ready and to ensure I do not need to move again to maintain my distance. The previously mentioned woman is now glaring at me and I can tell she is mumbling under her breath. I’m thinking to myself, “get over it lady, maintain your distance and no one will glare at you.” Her order came up first, even though she ordered after me, as she only ordered something quick. As she’s leaving, I look up to see her glaring at me again and mumbling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until she was out the door that I put her words to meaning. She had said to me, “black lives matter too MF’er!

Of course, I’m immediately upset. I mean the nerve! How dare she make it about race. I don’t give two-shits what color you are, maintain yo’ distance! Then it dawns on me. She mistook my glare and stepping away from her to mean I was avoiding her because of her skin color. I was floored! How could I have done this? But, as I go over the scenario in my mind, I honestly wouldn’t have done anything different. I’d glare at your dumb-ass for not maintaining distance regardless.

At this point, my anger dissipates and I feel only compassion and sadness. How terrible the world she walks in must be that this was her first assumption? I frequently say, “I walk in an extraordinarily different world than people of color.” This was a prime example of that. My heart sank knowing how much anger, hurt, and resentment she must be felling. And while I can take some comfort in knowing my own actions were honorable, it still left me profoundly sad.

I benefit and often take many things for granted simply because I am white. It really struck me how privileged I am. People often mistake being called “privileged” for being wealthy or having life easy. That is not the meaning here. Lawd knows, my life before the age of 25 was an utter shit-show. I wen thru more drama and tragedy in those years than most people go thru in a life time. In spite of all that, I can see and understand I still benefit daily from being white.

My only regret is not being able to clarify why I was glaring at her.2 If I could, I’d give her a hug as well. It was too late and I wasn’t about to try and chase her down after the fact. I can only take solace in the knowledge my actions were not racially motivated.

I strive to be better and to help others be better. I encourage you to do the same. A lot of people are hurting right now. Should you encounter a similar scenario as a white person, I implore you to see the bigger picture and recognize, it isn’t necessarily you the person is acting out against.

Hope springs eternal….

  1. It is a small space. []
  2. The humor in that is not lost on me. []

What Do You Say?

I was having a discussion with a coworker the other day and we got to talking politics. We were specifically discussing some of the underlying dynamics that often lead people to believe into crazy conspiracy theories. Mostly, we talked about how people often reason based on emotion not logic.

I used an example of my little brother. Not because my brother is a crazy extremist, just the opposite. The story perfectly illustrates how even well-meaning people end up on the wrong side of things at times. So the real question is how, in an age of sensationalized media, truly fake news, and bias, do we encourage every day folks to move beyond their base feelings and examine a solution with logic? How do we get people to realize what they “know” is often based on very limited exposure to the world at large?1

Let me get to my example. My little brother grew up not really “seeing” racism. To him, it is something he knows exists but in more pronounced examples. For lack of a better description, he sees it as a very black and white issue. I tried to explain white privilege to him and found it a frustrating struggle. As a white man he has never had to experience the frustrations a person of color endures daily. Because he grew up poor and busted his tail working hard to get to a point where he feels stable, he doesn’t understand how a black person doing the same thing faces many more obstacles. I explained many of the very real world examples to him and while he sort of ‘got it’, because he lives in a rural environment where these ideas are usually avoided, it doesn’t become ‘truth’ to him.

It is hard for people who spend everyday just worried about trying to put food on their table to rise above the squabble and focus on bigger issues like politics. And when they live in an environment where biases are constantly reinforced, it’s easy to see why so many fall prey to the machinations of political hacks who want them to stay poor and ignorant. People who are poorly educated as a whole are easily manipulated by their emotions. Quite simply, their emotions are used against them.

And this is one variable of many leading society towards a calamity. So how do we overcome that? What do you say to someone to get them to truly open their mind and listen? If we could figure that out I think the world would be a better place.

  1. How many “experts” do you encounter on Facebook or Twitter these days  LOL []