White privilege is defined by ThoughtCo.com as "the collection of benefits that white people receive in a racially structured society in which they are at the top of the racial hierarchy." It's a reality of our current society but one that needs to be addressed in a better manner. Recognizing such privilege is the first step forwards.
People on Quora were asked: "What is your most memorable white privilege moment?" These are some of the best answers.
In December of 2015 my family decided to take in my basketball coach, who well call Mitch, to live with us for a few weeks. He was a 24 year old, 66 Black man, and had been experiencing a bit of financial/living arrangement trouble. Soon, those few weeks turned into a year and a half and he only recently left. During that time, he and I got pretty close, and the subject of race came up in conversation more than a few times.
There were multiple instances when we would be driving to basketball practice and would start talking about recent racial events around the country or in Chicago especially (where we live), and let me say, I had never realized how often Black people have to constantly think about their race. For example, Mitch would always drive very slowly, and I asked him why. After all, I was so used to driving at the normal pace. He then explained to me that he's had many of his Black friends get pulled over just for exceeding the speed limit by a mile/hr or two and cops would sometimes purposely try and go after him or his friends because they were Black. He kept saying he didn't want to get into any trouble. He said that despite his parents not being the best of parents, they made sure to teach him one thing: don't get into any trouble with the cops. He had feared them since childhood and still possessed an even more deep seeded fear as a 24 yr old.
Another time, he mentioned how his girlfriends family didn't approve of him and didn't trust him because he was Black (they are a mixed race couple). This seemed very discomfiting to him. To be honest, there were just too many stories of things like this, and I can't nearly remember them all, but for some odd reason, one in particular stuck out to me.
Neither eventful or a huge deal compared to the numerous other stories involving his family life, or daily awareness as a Black man, was the fact that he had never tried a blueberry. I remember during one weekend, it was a Saturday morning and we were making blueberry waffles. I was hoarding blueberries out of the basket as usual, and he came downstairs to the kitchen and was like, Oh is that what they look like?
I was so confused, but he explained he had never actually tried a blueberry, his mom just didn't buy fresh fruit growing up. I found this to be such an odd and foreign thing, but he didn't think it was that big a deal. Though this might not exactly fall under the category of white privilege, it certainly falls under the category of financial privilege, and in Chicago, where the majority of people living on extremely low income happen to be Black, this is sort of a white privilege thing. I am Hispanic, but I look mostly white, and besides a select few stories, the current generation of my family has, thankfully, not had to face much racism. I can't imagine what it's like for Mitch and others, having to constantly be aware of their race and the implications it comes along with, whenever they leave the house.
For the curious, Mitch has since left. He now has a steady income and is not only passionate about coaching, but also filmmaking. He lives with his girlfriend in an apartment, and is still my coach. During his stay, my parents did their best to teach him all about financial management and life skills in general. The first thing they noticed was that he had never paid his taxes…it took a while for him to get into the flow of things, but has since learned a lot and is a bit better off. My mom and her friends have also started a nicer school in one of the most dangerous places in Chicago, Englewood. They have sent kids from the projects to private high schools and charter schools, and eventually, to college. I think my moms interest in helping people from poorer socioeconomic background was a large part in my parents willingness to take Mitch in, and I am very glad they did.
My wife and I went to the local Walmart (South Jersey area, suburban) and after we had made our purchases, there is normally a guy at the exit who checks your receipt. I assume it is to make sure youre not walking off with something you havent paid for.
A Black lady had just shown her receipt to this young man (Latino) and when it was our turn he just waved us through. Then he took a look at the receipt of the two ladies (Latina) who were behind us by about 10 ft. I took a look at my wife and did the raised eyebrow thing… Did he wave us through because were white? She seemed to think so, too. Maybe…
Well, I just went back there again recently. And the same thing happened.
Currently boyfriend and I are preparing to make the move to Beijing. Boyfriend was offered an incredible opportunity, and I? Well, Im on the hunt for an incredible opportunity.
The job market in China seems to run a little bit differently than the job market here in the U.S. With this being said, I have found the job hunting and application process experience to be very interesting.
I have been applying for jobs for roughly two weeks now. Within the first day of applying, I was contacted by 20+ different recruiters and HR personnel. My mind was blown. How? Why me?
Well, as I got to talking to all of the employers, I found a commonality between all of their hiring processes and expected job qualifications—if the applicant is white and is a native English speaker, then the job is basically theirs. Incredible.
Another interesting perk that Ive found during my hunt is that the pay for the qualifying white person is amazing. So amazing in fact, that I have ability to make upwards of 34 times the average income of a Chinese man or woman with my starting pay….and the pay only increases from there.
To say the Beijing job hunting process has been eye opening for me would be an understatement. To say it has been my most memorable white privilege moment would not.
In 2007 or so, I was driving through a rural area of NY state late at night, with my wife in the passenger seat and our two little kids sleeping in their car seats in the back.
A police car pulled me over. My wife said, Talk to him outside so you dont wake the kids. Obedient husband that I am, I got out of the car clutching my license and registration, and stood there waiting to meet the officer.
(Dear reader — you do know to stay in the car and place your hands in plain view on the wheel, dont you?)
There was instant panicked shouting Get back in the car now! Get back in the car now! But I was given the benefit of the doubt: no one shot me.
Philando Castile, apparently a peach of a guy, in his 30s like me with his fiance and her little girl in the car, was a lot less ignorant than me and a lot less careless. He stayed in the car. He knew much more than me about traffic stop protocol (having been pulled over 49 times in the past 13 years), and was politely doing his best to be responsible. Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me. Okay, said the officer, who had just asked for ID a moment before. So Phil naturally resumed reaching for his wallet in his back pocket. I saw people blame him for that on social media. Certainly a much subtler mistake than mine … for which he was almost immediately shot multiple times by the panicked officer.
It stinks to heaven that Philando Castile didnt enjoy the same privilege that I always get — the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe there are other reasons that I got lucky that night. But you know what is really white? That my wife and I didnt even know any better. No one ever thought it necessary to give either of us The Talk about how to handle a traffic stop without getting shot.
Privilege might be the wrong word because it sounds like something extra, a golden cherry that some of us unfairly get on top. Thats not a helpful name for what everyone deserves: decent treatment by their fellow citizens and enough space to act normally without fear. More like a right. Or since theres no right to be treated better than the legal minimum, more like grace. Im not ashamed to accept the benefit of the doubt. Im ashamed that some people get it a lot less.
On a weekday night at about 10PM, I was standing outside a bar in Lower Manhattan completely drunk and smoking some weed. Suddenly someone yells cops. I see one of those 15-passenger NYPD vans rolling into the one-way street but with all the traffic I figured I can take a few more hits before they pull up to where I was standing. Well, lets just say the ganja was especially blessed on that day, and I simply forgot that they are coming when suddenly lights flash and they are right in front of me, windows rolled down in the summer heat. I exhaled a plume as if out of a smokestack and the driver sounded off the sirens and motioned me over. I flicked away the joint and walked over to him.
Hey, pick up that joint and bring it to me! says he.
Dude, there are three million cigarette butts here. I have no way of finding mine, I reply.
Well, if you dont bring me that joint I will not only arrest you for possession —which is a minor misdemeanor — but also for tampering with evidence which is a felony. To which I replied that I would take my chances.
Somehow he found himself pleading with me: I am just trying to make sure that someones pet doesnt walk past and eats that and gets sick. I assured him that whatever it was I was smoking — claiming that someone handed it to me and it might have been anyone — is probably not very lethal.
He pretends to be incredulous. You want to tell me youd smoke something some stranger hands you outside a bar? I assure him that, indeed, I am that dumb.
At some point he saw the futility of the exercise, asked for ID, ran it, saw nothing on my record and drove off.
A Black guy standing right next to me witnessed it all and was standing there mouth agape. How did you get away with this, man? Well, I am white, I replied.
When I was in college I lived in apartments across the street from the school dorms. They were one of two overflow buildings. It wasnt as cheap as the dorms, so turnover was high as people wanted into the dorms as they became available. The point being, it wasnt uncommon to see all new people every semester.
One day my dormmate and I were up on the sundeck on the roof. There was a shared Jacuzzi and little garden area with loungers were people could lay out. Somehow we lost the key to our apartment and were locked out. I thought I could jimmy the window open, so while I found some improvised tools he went back to see if he could find the key.
I managed to get the window open and as soon as I got inside the phone rang. It was the building manager. He wasnt at home but hed received a call from the police - something to do with me - and the police were waiting for me out front. Could I please go take care of it. I figured someone saw me trying to break into my apartment and called the cops. No problem - I grabbed my wallet so I could prove I lived there and headed downstairs.
When I get out front there are two cop cars and four cops. To my surprise, my roommate is in the back of one with his hands cuffed behind his back. Theres another student I dont recognize talking to one of the cops. Is everything OK? One of the officers says to me This guy says he lives here and hes your roommate. Is that true? James had this complete look of fear on his face, like he wasnt sure what I was going to say. Yeah - hes my roommate. The cop pauses for a minute - sort of like a why me pause - then tells the cop next to James that James lives here. The cop stands him up and takes the cuffs off him.
The other student looked shocked. Oh my God, Im so sorry. I saw that Black guy looking around and called the cops. She then asks me my name, and I say Pat, and she starts apologizing to me. Pat, Im really sorry. I didnt answer her, but she just kept apologizing to me. James and I went back inside and she stayed outside with the police.
The cops never questioned me if I lived there. They never asked for my ID.The girl that called the cops in the first place never apologized to James, but did a number of times to me.James said he was worried I wasnt going to say he lived there - like as a prank or joke. Because you know how you white dudes like to joke around with the police.James wasnt mad at the girl, surprisingly, because this kind of stuff happens all the time.
I am a middle class, over 40, white woman, and the world treats me a certain way. In general, because its how Im always treated, I dont give it a second thought.
I was at Disneyland with my three teenaged / early 20s kids a few years back. We were waiting in the line to get through security. The family before us was Hispanic and the Disney employees were very respectfully going through every inch of their bags, every compartment was opened and checked. It came our turn, and I was carrying a backpack. I unzipped the main compartment, they peeked inside, and then moved us along. There were another half dozen compartments that could have been checked.
My middle son made some off-hand remark about the white woman power being strong today. And for the rest of the day, we all noticed it.
In the store, I was helped first, and had to point out an Hispanic woman who was waiting. They let us duck under a rope for a shortcut, then they turned an Asian family aside. There were other little things that we noticed because we were looking for them. But, the kicker was when we walked up to the Cars ride our fast pass return towards the very end of the day. We watched the nice young Disney worker turn aside a black family because their fast passes had expired. We were getting out our passes and realized we had lost one. I told the Disney worker, and she gave me a card to get us through the 2nd check, and put us in the fast pass line. Maybe thats standard practice, but on top of the rest, it sure felt like white privilege to me.
For context, in high school I attended The Lawrenceville School, a prestigious boarding school in the Northeast US. I attended in the early 90s, it was expensive then, its ridiculous now. In 2013 and 2014 it was the most expensive high school in the country. Students tended to split into three rough brackets:
1. Students whose families could afford to send them there - just barely (I was in this group). Typically upper middle class professional families, many of whom sent their kids there as day students (non-boarding students who lived locally, like I did, and tuition was a good bit lower as as result.)
2. Students who were there on scholarship.
3. Students whose families were so fabulously wealthy that the extortionate tuition didnt matter to them. These students actually made up the majority, at least when I attended.
As one can imagine, the student population skewed very, very white (and not just white, but pure WASP). Many of the students who werent white were there on scholarship. The enormous (beautiful) campus provided plenty of places for students to go away from prying faculty eyes, perfect for drinking and smoking pot. Yes, the school even has its own 9-hole golf course.
The limiting factor to substance abuse was primarily availability. Remember, this was the early 90s, right around when 3 strikes drug laws were popular and decades away from the wave of marijuana legalization that were seeing today. Even pot was hard to get. So enter two young students who thought they found a good solution to their dilemma of too much time and money and not enough pot to smoke.
During their spring break they went home to Texas, and from there drove to Mexico to bring a large quantity of pot (two ounces) back across the border. Which was easier to do back then. From Texas, they bought a large, stuffed Easter Bunny. Following a well known (and busted!) urban myth, they broke open the stuffed Easter bunny, took out a bunch of the filling, replaced it with a plastic bag filled with coffee beans (which are supposed to be able to throw off drug sniffing dogs) and then packed in the pot they wanted to send. They sewed the Easter Bunny back up, put it in a cardboard box and sent it to themselves at school via UPS.
The perfect crime, right? It would arrive at school, just in time for Easter.
Unfortunately for them - their sewing skills were lacking (fancy pants boarding schools dont have Home Ec classes.) The rabbit broke open during shipping and some coffee beans spilled out. A postal inspector noticed the coffee beans and it triggered them to open the box and conduct a full search, when a drug dog found the pot hidden inside.
The inspector notified the DEA - remember this was a large amount of marijuana (much more than would automatically trigger intent to distribute), being transported through the mail across state lines, making it a federal crime.
The DEA set up a sting operation - they had an operative dress like a UPS delivery man and take the package to the dorm of the brother to whom it had been addressed. When the boy signed for the package, a swarm of DEA agents came out of the back of the truck and arrested him, and then found his brother and arrested him too.
We all awoke the next morning to the headline I started the answer with in the Trentonian, a local tabloid magazine, complete with pictures of the rabbit and DEA agents. So heres where the privilege kicks in:
OK youve got two boys, 15 and 17, caught red handed sending marijuana with intent to distribute across state lines, not to mention possession of drug paraphernalia (they found rolling papers and a bong in their dorm room), and all of this at a school, where the penalties are much higher than they would be normally. What was the fallout?
One of the boys claimed it was entirely his idea so the other got off scot free. He also claimed that it was for his own personal use and not for distribution (this was actually true, I knew the guy and he didnt need the money and really, really liked to smoke pot - but thats not a legal argument). So what happened to the guy who heroically took the fall and got all of the blame? He got expelled from school and put on probation for three months. No criminal record. No jail time. No fine. NOTHING.
Now stop for a moment and imagine what would have happened if this had been a poor Black kid sending himself this much pot through the mail in a housing project? He could have been subjected to federal charges under mail fraud, and state charges for possession of a DEA Schedule I substance with intent to distribute. I cant find the historical sentencing guidelines, but at least guidelines from this (admittedly sketchy) defense lawyer website indicate that right now, in NJ, he could have faced up to 10 years in prison and $150,000 in fines. Granted, first-time offender, etc., etc., but still, its unbelievable.
To me this is the most egregious example of white privilege Ive ever ever seen firsthand in my own life, though admittedly its layered on top of intense wealth and class privilege as well.
Ivory Coast summer of 2003, 2 days after the signing of the ceasefire that ended the civil war, I was in the territory of the Force Nouvelle (the rebels/freedom fighters) looking for a place where the future United Nations staff could get medical attention.
I found a facility run by Doctors Without Borders that looked promising. I talked to one of the doctors, around 10 AM, about his patients, diseases etc., to see if they could help. He had seen 17 children that morning, 10 of them with cerebral malaria, aka death. I asked him what he was afraid off, he said the end of the rainy season and airborne meningitis. He promised that they would help us as needed.
It dawned on me there that being white, coming from a good health system, having all your vaccinations and medicines available is a privilege that few others have. If need be, I would be medically evacuated and treated to save my life, and not be dependent on the goodwill of a humanitarian organization.
I was living in a small, mountainous town in India at the time and I lived about ten minutes walk from my workplace. This was the monsoon, and it happened to be particularly violent this one afternoon - muddy streams turned the road into little more than a waterslide and the rain was falling so hard it physically hurt the skin.
I had all my waterproof gear on - jacket, trousers and sturdy hiking boots - as I walked up from my house to my workplace. The school where I worked employed men to guard the gates, and as the guard on duty saw me trudging up through the rain he left the comfort of his booth and ran to the gate, completely ignoring my requests for him to stay in his booth. He was just wearing a thin shirt and normal cotton trousers, and he also mistimed his run so he arrived at the gate way before Id trudged my way up the hill.
Lets be clear - this isnt a heavy gate or difficult to open in any way. Just a normal bolt-lock gate big enough for a hatchback to fit through. I wasnt carrying anything and was reasonably dry.
By the time I reached the gate he was soaked through completely. He then wished me a good day, closed the gate behind me, and ran back to his booth.
He must have been freezing. He had a little heater in there, but he had to have been sitting in soaking wet clothes for the rest of his shift. I, on the other hand, got to my classroom and could just take off my waterproofs, make myself a cup of coffee, and get to work in the dry.
I can guarantee you that my Indian colleagues would not have been afforded the same treatment - the gate guard would have just remained in his booth in the warm and dry reading his newspaper.
I never got used to this to this sort of treatment and it felt awkward every time.
I took a class in high school where we often discussed current events (IB Theory of Knowledge). It was all white. It was a class of 30 students and 100% of them were white. Welcome to Wyoming.
I took this class when the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri was publicized. I didnt know anything about it, really- this was before I was in any way socially aware or cared about race issues. Race issues dont get discussed in Wyoming; theres no one to discuss them with. My teacher decided to discuss it. She wanted to discuss race with 30 white kids. It went about as well as could be expected.
It was mostly a bunch of white kids yelling about how racism doesnt exist because they never see it. Well, duh - youre white. Youre not exactly the victims of racism here.
One kid and I really got into it. He started pulling pictures of white guys from Twitter and tried to claim that all of them were the officer in question- always some guy whos been beaten horribly. Id tell him he was wrong and show him a real picture. Hed pull some fact from Fox News saying that Michael Brown was actually a Muslim terrorist sent by Obama to destroy the Earth. Id find real facts. Hed get frustrated.
After a heated and factually-barren discussion, my teacher told us we would do a real debate next class- take sides and actually argue it out. I was thrilled. I spent the entire night printing articles, highlighting the facts. I read everything and anything online. At this point, I hadnt taken a side. I didnt know if Michael Brown was guilty or at fault or what had happened. I didnt care. My job was to find the facts- whatever they may be. I didnt want to take a side, because then Id find facts to back that side. I had a lot of information.
I came to class the next day with a pile of papers, with a brain full of knowledge on the subject. It was overwhelming. My teacher said we had to pick a side- was the shooting justified, or was it not? I stared at my stack of papers. None of them told me where to go stand. Now I had to take my facts and take a side. I didnt want to.
I grabbed my stack of evidence and shuffled across the room, to a group of people watching me anxiously. The shooting wasnt justified, and I was about to tell everyone why. It got real. My friend who did debate flowed the arguments and helped me write the rebuttals. I spoke the whole time. No one else could counter my knowledge on the subject, so no one else on my team even tried.
The other side only had emotional appeals. One girls dad was a cop, so she would argue that cops should be protected at all costs and that the cop who shot Michael Brown mustve had a good reason, because cops dont just shoot people. I pulled an article up. I disagreed. Back and forth for the full hour and a half of class this went. My throat was raw from yelling. Class ended, and I breathed.
I won. No one told me I won, but I did. I threw my hard work in the trash- the debate was over, and I had won. I didnt need my facts anymore.
White privilege is 30 white kids in a classroom arguing over whether or not shooting Black people is okay. White privilege is the ability to throw race issues in the garbage can and go to your house and never think about it again. White privilege is not having to look in the mirror and hope youre not next. I debated race with a bunch of white kids, and we argued consequences wed never have to see. Until that day, I never really knew my white privilege. Now I know.
My go to-example of white privilege in action is this:
My partner Eve and I were in a Walmart in Florida. We were waiting in a very long line at the checkout counter and there were probably five or six people in line in front of us. The cashier pulled us out of line, brought us to the front of the line, and rang us up before ringing any of the other people in line up. We were like huh, that was weird and then realized all the other people in line were Black.
And it wasn't because we had fewer items, either—we had quite a bit of stuff.
Around year 2000, I was awaiting my green card to be approved after waiting for 4 years. I had applied thro the multinational tech company I was working for in Silicon Valley, California, using an L1 internal transfer visa. Eventually, a letter arrived informing me I needed to go to the government offices in San Jose to finalize the process.
I drove down with my wife and 2 small kids to be presented with a mile long queue outside the building. Begrudgingly, I parked the car and joined the long queue, expecting to be there for hours. Looking around me, I could see people from every imaginable nationality, from Hispanic to Chinese to Indian. Ironically, Silicon Valley has few British immigrants, and this made me and my family really stand out.
After around 10 minutes of queuing, a government official appeared. They were checking everyone had the correct paperwork before reaching the offices. On seeing me and quickly checking my paperwork, he summoned us to follow him. I initially panicked, thinking we were missing some critical document, but no! He proceeded to take us directly to the front of the giant queue and push us into the front of the line, all the while profusely apologizing for the delay and the inefficient system. I couldn't believe my luck, and then proceeded to feel very guilty when I realized we were given a significant privilege. Looking back, this has been one of many advantages being white and from the UK, has given us while living in California. If I was Mexican, my life would have turned out very different, even if I had taken exactly the same steps. Sad, but true.
It was late. About 2am. And I was fairly drunk. I had locked myself out of my house after taking my dog out for a walk. I had left my keys inside.
No problem, my IPA-soaked brain said. Well kick the door in, and worry about it in the morning. But after 15 or so Chuck Norris style roundhouse kicks to the wooden door, I wasn't much closer to my grand entry.
Flustered, I went back down my front steps to the sidewalk and voiced several 4-letter words of frustration to the sky. Almost in answer to my sky-cursing, a group of guys appeared from around the corner, probably also coming home from a night out at the bars.
Me: Guys, guys!! Do any of you know how to pick a lock? I left my keys inside and I'm unable to kick down the door!
Very helpful guy: Yeah I can probably do it with a credit card.
Without any hesitation he proceeded up my stairs and swiftly opened my front door with his Visa Gold Rewards Plus (or something like that).
Me: Thank you!! That was amazing! No questions asked.
With nearly zero effort I convinced a total stranger to help me break into a house, that he just assumed was mine, in the middle of the night. He didn't give it a second thought.
For what its worth, it was a Black colleague of mine who pointed out that this was white privilege. It hadnt occurred to me until that point. I was recounting the tale at work, and she overheard me. She has a son and two daughters. She peeked out into the hallway from her office and said now if MY kids had tried that, it would have been a vastly different story.
My most memorable white privilege moment happened at Heathrow Airport.
After spending a couple of months in England, we were headed to Taiwan. Because we had purchased a large number of gifts, we went to obtain our VAT refund. The line was very long and everyone ahead of me was Asian. The line was moving slowly because each person was required to physically show the items that they had purchased along with the corresponding receipts.
One inspector was walking down the line ensuring that everyones forms were in order and that everyone knew that the item inspection was required. Upon seeing me, he invited me to step out of the line and asked for my forms. As he began processing my paperwork, I asked him why he chose me to step out of line. His response, Which do you prefer, to get on your plane or discuss why I just saved you 30 minutes?
I had 3 felonies and 3 misdemeanours before I turned 18.
In college I did all manner of illegal stuff. Drinking, drugs, trespassing, various other "victimless" crimes related to college towns and fraternities. In the Marines I got stabbed in a fight with a local in Jacksonville, among other odd adventures. Cops arrived, and we ran from them. After graduating college I owned an illegal underground nightclub and dominatrix dungeon that the police raided. I went to raves and parties that got raided. I was around people getting arrested. I spent a night in a holding cell twice.
I'm a fairly mellow driver, but I've still been pulled over several times. Including with guns in my car. I got thrown in jail for a DUI. I was ground zero at a murder that momentarily, just because of proximity (I was rendering first aid on the victim) and the fact I own a lot of guns, I was a possible suspect in. I've lived in some very poor areas where cops are pulling guns on everyone. I've been in some fights, even full group brawls. I've slowed with age, but I still am involved in the occasional underground party, and I still do some urban art creation in some shady places.
And I've never, ever had a police officer pull a gun on me. In dozens of encounters, not one single time. I've had them pull guns on a Latino Marine buddy standing right next to me. During the murder incident, guns were drawn on Black people around me. But no, not the white guy. Even though this white guy was the only one on the scene with a gun. My white hide has magically shielded me in a lifetime of adventure from the blood chilling fear of a police officer's gun being drawn and pointed in my direction.
I have friends of darker complexion who do nothing illegal, and have had guns drawn on them multiple times. One of my darker complexioned bosses in the corporate world, who was making a ton of money, got a gun drawn on him right in front of me. For no discernible reason. This guy was as unthreatening as any person I've ever met.
I should note, I mean American police. I do know what it is like to have guns pulled on me by law enforcement. It took me going to Brazil to finally experience that unpleasantness. It really, really, really sucks.
I lived with a Black woman. She was not an educated, NY Times-reading Black woman. She was a Black woman who was plagued with beliefs about what it meant to be Black. She had three kids who didn't live with her and each of them had a different father. She had a terrible job working as a receptionist in some dusty office in DC where she was afraid to ever share her opinion. She was an adult and a parent, but she was reduced to saying Yes'm to the white people she worked for. I'm not making this up.
I realized that white privilege is some inherited belief system that is not only imprinted into the minds of white people, but also imprinted into the minds of Black people. Some Black mothers still teach their children to act differently around white people. My roommate told me that her mother taught her and she taught her children. The idea is that you can't speak your mind when a white person is around. You must devote your energy to making a good impression of Black people everywhere.
The psychology of representing your whole disenfranchised community is one of the most powerful ways to ensure that a community will never rise. Each individual is weighed down by all of their brethren and all of the injustice that their group has seen. When I saw this way of looking at the world through her eyes, I realized the problem is worse than education. It's worse than poverty. Each Black person must choose to leave their community (in a small way) to rise above the barrier of white privilege. That's a very tall order.
The white privilege I'm talking about here is that white people don't live with the baggage of generations of abuse, injustice, and hate in the same way that all other races do. White people are free to be themselves, successful or not, without having to first overcome the pain of historic oppression.
It was homecoming, my freshman year of high school. After the dance ended, after midnight, my friends and I (all white) decided to go to IHOP. Two freshman, two juniors, all of us minors. Curfew for minors in Ohio is midnight. We were loud and obnoxious, like most teenagers are. There were two other post-homecoming groups, but we didnt know any of them. They were also all Black. Around 1:30 AM, just when were paying our bill, chaos erupts.
Half a dozen officers in Gang Patrol uniforms burst through the door, screaming and brandishing batons. If theres anyone under the age of 18 in here, youre going to spend the night downtown!
We were petrified. None of us could possibly pass for 18, and the fact that we were in dresses and suits pretty much gave it away that we were high school kids. I started to panic, wondering how I would explain to my parents that I was arrested. The police advanced, blocking all exits. My heart was pounding. I was about to throw up.
They walked right past us, screaming at the other two groups of kids in the restaurant. One kid was immediately handcuffed, all while being threatened with arrest. They were crying and asking what they did wrong. We were told to go home and drive safe. As we drove off, we saw the other kids get loaded off into the back of police cars.
My friends date said as we got back to my house, Well, its a good thing were all white, isnt it? I think about that night a lot.
Some of this material has been edited for clarity.