Mama used to say for heaven’s sake, take small bites, this isn’t a race.
Okay, that might be hyperbole, my memories on scarfing down food are fuzzy. Given my slobbery track record with sweets I have no problem believing this actually happened. But lots of my “real” (read: dinner) food memories revolve around sitting at the table taking microscopic bites, stuck there until I cleaned my plate. Which might have a lot to do with why I’m the last damn fool eating at every single meal ever, but I digress.
I’m taking mama’s advice to heart.
I’ve been tackling huge issues on here. Important stuff. Things we need to talk about, think about, then talk about again. But I notice that sometimes – somewhere in the middle of a post – I feel all twisted up. Like I’ve got six different threads feeding out and they’re tangled.
Let’s get started.
what about me? Yeah, I’m white, but I’m poor.
One thing has come up every time I’m in a conversation about white privilege – seriously, y’all, every.single.time – and that’s poverty. No, not poverty among people of color. White poverty. So let’s talk about it.
Are there poor white people? Yes. Are there unbelievably impoverished white people, exhausted by a seemingly endless cycle of hand to mouth living? Yes. People of color do not have a monopoly on poverty, a very real and pressing problem in this country.
Now let’s take a moment to define what I mean by white privilege.¹
white privilege: The unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.
Privilege doesn’t mean white people don’t face hard things in life. Privilege means the color of your skin won’t make your life harder than it is already.
Let’s take that poor white person. Regardless of socioeconomic status, here are a few guaranteed perks thanks to white skin.²
- If I want I can choose to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
- I see people of my race widely represented on tv and in the newspaper.
- I can use checks, credit cards, or cash without my skin color working against the appearance of financial stability.
- I can excel in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
- I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
White privilege isn’t a magic wand. It doesn’t make life easy sailing. But saying I might be white but I didn’t have it easy in a discussion about how white privilege systemically creates an uneven playing field just shows how much work we need to do.