Acknowledging Privilege

Content Warnings: This post contains references to racism and death.

White privilege denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one's own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts.

Last week, George Floyd was arrested on the suspicion that he was using a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.  Twenty dollars.  The police officer knelt on his neck for over nine minutes, even as he told the officers he couldn't breathe.  And then he died, there on the street.  Over twenty dollars.

As a woman, I have to work harder to earn my worth (but I negotiated higher salaries than my male peers).  I've certainly been excluded from the boys' club, especially being in STEM (but I still had some fabulous female peers).  My parents are divorced, which led to years of therapy (that my family could afford).  I come from a background of college-educated parents with steady white-collar jobs.  I am college educated and living in a great city with great healthcare and benefits of working from home during this crazy pandemic.  I've as good as started the race at the finish line.  I am white.  And I can honestly say that this would never have happened to me.

If George Floyd had been white, he would have been politely escorted, had there even been a call to the cops.  He would have been taken to the station and questioned there.  It's unlikely a gun would have been pointed at his head for the entire episode.

If George Floyd had the same access to good banks and tools, he likely would have used a credit or debit card, so there wouldn't have even been cash to call counterfeit on.  The reality is Black people have a harder time securing credit, and many face discrimination at banks and when securing loans.  Look at the historic red line districts, where banks actively avoid providing purchase loans.

This is a devastating experience for the entire country, but it's only pointing out the deep racism that all Black people face.  Black children are taught not to get in trouble because it could cost them their lives.  Black people make up a much higher percentage of the prison population than they do the US population.  Black people, and especially women, are more likely to die from undiagnosed conditions because their doctors didn't listen to them or they were unable to secure the help they needed.

Black Lives Matter.  We need to do better.  Listen, practice empathy, and remember that we are all humans.