I’m watching Netflix’s Kevin Hart’s special about Black history.
I started thinking about a conversation I had with a woman recently, she’s African American. I was talking about my blog post about white privilege getting me out of a ticket. I told her I was nervous about posting it, unsure if I would receive backlash or not for starting the conversation about white privilege as a white woman. She laughed and said, “Well some one has to start the damn conversation!”
I’ve tried to compile thoughts in my head about white privilege specifically mine.
Let’s start back in my early twenties. I went to college in upstate New York. Not a very progressive area. Lots of racial tension and roughly one Black person in my nursing program out of about sixty people.
There were discussions among the white people at my college that I witnessed about Black people and the feeling that white people in that moment were not responsible for the enslavement of Africans back in the early days of the USA and up through the Civil War.
Their defense was they were not alive so why were Black people holding them responsible and bringing up these past offenses when in discussions about white privilege.
I didn’t feel any which way about it. I was trying to survive nursing school and not get into racially charged discussions between classes. So I basically shut my mouth, dug my head into my books, and ignored all of these discussions. Thinking back I have a lot of thoughts about that. One- they were wrong. Two- so was I.
If I had lifted my head up and said anything at all, such as, you guys are idiots. You guys don’t get privilege, you guys don’t get being a minority…or perhaps something like, “So here’s the thing, my ancestors came here at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. They never owned slaves. They and myself had no part of slavery. But…my ancestors tale of coming to the USA is one of freedom. They came here from Sweden and Ireland seeking a better life. And for the most part they succeeded. My ancestors escaped hunger and oppression in their own countries and came here of their own free will as passengers on ships.
The ancestors of African Americans who came here had no choice. Their narrative and history begins in America as slaves. They came here in chains treated worse than chattel. So there is already a fundamental difference in the legends of our ancestry and the fact that a bunch of white people failed to acknowledge that is fucked up.
That I can look back with pride and say my Great-grandmother travelled here alone to meet her sister and never saw her mom and dad again, but created a better life here for herself and her children that alone is privilege. Because there are many descendants of slaves who look back and see bondage and pain.
I started watching Kevin Hart’s special because I have been thinking back to my US history classes over time. High school and college. I love history. Those civil war documentaries have got me. I started to really think about all those civil war docs though, and all those hours of classes and reading. Freaking white privilege.
I learned about Frederick Douglass and I mean we were told Harriet Tubman saved a lot of slaves, but that was about it. Every other important figure in my history lessons growing up and in all those civil war documentaries I’ve watched feature white men and women.
New Jersey recently passed a resolution to teach LGBTQ history in school. I’m honestly not sure what the requirements are for Black history, but it seems like it only comes up during Black history month. The rest of the months apparently we still only learn about white people.
There’s also privilege of being white and not Jewish. I was watching a documentary about a murder, and a Jewish lawyer travelled to Germany for something related to the case. He looked disturbed as a parade filed by in the small village he was at. Later on camera he stated he was only thinking about the many parades they had in the 40’s and the purpose behind them.
He said he never needed to return to Germany, that he felt uneasy the entire time he was there. Something deep and horrible stirred inside him as he walked the land where his people were victims of genocide.
So think about that for a moment. African American’s who live in the USA walk the very land where their ancestors were enslaved, beaten, raped, and killed on the regular.
The fact that I never owned slaves and neither did my ancestors doesn’t matter. What matters is that my ancestors came here of their own free will and I have the experience of being descended from and living in a land of my free ancestors. That is white privilege. That is something any Person of Color descended from slaves does not have. They carry the experience and history of slavery with them.
To demean that history and experience in any way is wrong.
Twelve years later. That is the response I should have had for my classmates.