Stop Calling It White Privilege

Written by Michelle Elizabeth

It’s time to declare that racism exists and move on.

Privilege is an exclusive right, advantage, or immunity that is given to a particular person or group. At first, I had subscribed to this idea of white privilege. I’ve grown up black in America, and there’s no doubt that in most places, there’s still the idea that white is right. But it’s with people, not institutions. It’s not with the things that matter. White Privilege is just another way to say racism and heaven forbid we use the R-word.

I do not deny that racism exists. I grew up in one of the most segregated and racist cities on the East Coast. I understood that words like a drug dealer, thug, and crack hoe were all code words for black people. Racism is buried deep in the hearts of every man and woman on this planet.

The people who say they don’t see color are lying to you. They see it, everyone sees it, they decide to react in a non-racist way. The problem is when you start making racism politically correct by calling it White Privilege. You negate everything our ancestors, all those people who protested before us, died to achieve.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, race, religion, color, and national origin.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act grants all applicants the ability to obtain credit through anti-discrimination provisions.

Title 42, Chapter 21 of the U.S. Code prohibits discrimination in education, employment, public accommodations, and all Federal services.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the arena of obtaining financing, purchasing or renting a home.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits discrimination in voting practices.

Even the Disaster Relief and Emergency Act has provisions that prohibit discrimination in providing relief after a disaster.

It is literally against the law to discriminate.

If it’s against the law to discriminate, then why do we still have racism?

Because you can’t change people’s hearts, they have to do it if for themselves. That’s why I have a problem with the phrase White Privilege. What advantages do white people have over anyone? The laws prohibit it.

There is nothing stopping you but you in attaining whatever your dreams are.

I wish I could punch whoever coined the phrase White Privilege in the throat so they would never have uttered those words. Their very delivery negates all that black people have achieved in the sixty-plus years since the Civil Rights Movement began.

Have you ever been to Atlanta? The last U.S. census states that 2.5 million businesses are owned and operated by black people and continues to rise. I think Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of that.

We all hold power. If anything, the peaceful protests showed that when we all band together, how strong and beautiful it is. It also showed us that more people truly believe that black lives matter than we might have been raised to believe. There are more people for us than against us but the media won’t show you that. The problem is, is that black people are stuck in this slave mentality.

We’ve all gotten “the talk” from our parents. We may have even given it to our children. The talk of white people view you as inferior, but you’re not. How can anyone not internalize that? No matter how black and proud your family might have been. Just the idea, the seed being planting at such a young and impressionable age that there are people in the world that look down on you and treat you differently are going to tell that kid he or she is different.

I grew up hearing stories from the Civil Rights Movement. I listened to my grandparents and parents tell me of a time where they couldn’t eat where they wanted to and had prohibitions on travel and everyday life.

During that time in our history, there was such a thing as white privilege. The white community had advantages that weren’t given to the rest of the population. But Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, W.E.B DuBois, and hundreds more in cities all over America marched, led rallies, and refused to move to bring us where we are today.

And you want to negate all that by saying there’s still white privilege?

You want to teach your sons and daughters that they are still different. Of course, they’re different from everyone else. They’re black in the same way that the Japanese are different from the Chinese in traditions and culture.

Stop telling our black children that white people stripped away our culture when it is alive and well and appropriated all the time. You can’t yell racial appropriation and then say our culture was stolen from us in the same breath. You can’t tell your children that we’re not allowed to succeed unless it’s in sports or music when there are 2.5 million black-owned businesses in this country, and that count is a decade old.

As long as we live with the mentality that we are still oppressed, we will only see the instances of racism that occur. We won’t see all of our successes. We won’t see our greatness. And we’ll keep teaching our children that no matter what they do, they’ll never succeed because that’s the lie that the term white privilege says. It tells that world that no matter what we do as black people, we will never succeed, and that’s just not true. Not anymore.

If everything is so equal and white privilege doesn’t exist, then why are black men incarcerated for longer than their white counterparts?

The answer is racism. It’s that long-held belief that black men are dangerous. That’s the judge’s heart. That’s the problem, and you can’t change a person’s heart, they have to do that for themselves. No rally, march, protest, or sit in is going to change that until the person wants to change it.

It’s unfair and should be unconstitutional for a black man charged with a first offense to x number of years and a white man charged with the same first offense to get y number of years or nothing at all.

I hate when I read a judge’s argument in defense of their sentence, and it says, “I didn’t want to ruin the boy’s future.” This inherently suggests that a black man who did the same crime either doesn’t have a future or doesn’t deserve one. That is the only arena where you will hear me emphatically agree that there is white privilege.

There is a particular advantage to being white and committing a crime. Judges tend to view white people as people who just made a mistake. The judicial system for them is used as it was intended, as a place to be reformed. Sentences are handed down with that regard in mind, whereas the incarceration of black males can only be seen as a method of population control.

We all know the criminal justice system needs to be reformed.

Even when I was in school studying Criminology and reading the statistics, I knew that reform needed to happen, and that was twenty years ago. Maybe that’s what we should be marching for because, in every other facet of life, we have legal equity.

When we ask the question, where do we go from here? The answer is simple, judicial reform. The ACLU published a paper in 2014 called Racial Disparities in Sentencing. In it, they stated that the sentences of black males are twenty percent longer than white males convicted for the same crime.

Now judges will argue that there are guidelines in place that give judges a limit on what they can impose for a particular crime. But what we need is a Federal mandate that states if you commit this crime, you receive this sentence. Period. But what I don’t know is if such an order would be unconstitutional under the provisions of State’s rights. In that arena, we may be at a stalemate where we’re relying on changing people’s hearts, the judges who preside over these cases, to see black men as just men.

You can’t stop racism, but you can make it illegal for people to act in a discriminatory manner in ways that bar people from achievement. That’s what the Civil Rights Movement did. Their goal wasn’t to change people’s hearts. They understood that you couldn’t do that. But you can change the system. You can make it harder for people to be racist. You can clear the path for everyone of color to achieve and live a life that they can be proud of.

So again, the only thing stopping you is you. The only thing holding you back from the “American Dream” is your lack of hustle. It’s time to release that mentality that white privilege is holding us back. The Federal Government took all of their privileges away. Use the laws that are in place to protect you. Take your privilege, use it, and rise up.

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Michelle Elizabeth

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