Examine Your White Privilege

The Jan. 6 insurrection calls attention to the need to examine unconscious participation in systematic racism

Dear White People:

We all witnessed the uncorked anger of white people feeling robbed of their privilege. 

White privilege, for white people, is hard to digest. For this small piece I will put in a temporary reprieve on privilege, and it does help my point. Yes, everyone has some sort of privilege —  whether it’s class privilege or gender privilege, part of the dominant religion privilege. 

Privilege itself isn’t really the issue. It is when we feel entitled to our privilege, and how we abuse our privilege. It’s when we believe we deserve our privilege and others don’t that it is the issue. 

White supremacy and white privilege go hand in hand, but they are not the same. It’s complicated, and it’s simple; either way, it is factual. We witnessed an attempt to invoke fear through ideals of white supremacy. That national display on Jan. 6 was able to happen so openly and freely due to white privilege. 

White people who say they are not racist, let me remind you:  

It is not enough to be mad at white supremacist, racist. You MUST LOVE and HOLD RESPECT for Black people, Indigenous people, Indian people, Muslim people, Jewish people, Latinx people, LGBTQ+ people, gender fluid people, nonbinary people, disabled people. You hopefully get where I’m going. Whether you know any or not, hold dear THEIR wellness on their terms

 Embracing, loving, respecting, and holding dear marginalized communities requires a truly honest reflection of your own relationship to white supremacy. 

 It is understandable if you’re not good at speaking the right words on difficult subject matters, or don’t know what to say to your racist uncle when he sideswipes you with a racist comment, or your boss has a confederate flag at his desk that makes you uncomfortable. It is understandable, but you are not off the hook. Not knowing any Black people people, or queer people or Muslim people is also not an excuse for bypassing “the work” to create a reality that matches a “we the people” rhetoric. 

It is also not enough to focus on love and light, and hope something miraculous occurs and everything goes “back to normal.” There needs to be a path to healing and closing the dissonance evident between the rhetoric of equity and the reality of society as a whole.

It is a time for self exploration to your anger, to your privilege, to your understanding of systematic racism and what it has to do with you, the very person who believes they are not racist. There is a direct connection.

It is important to talk to each other. Please know it is on you to do so: at work, at school, at church, at home with your racist uncle — while knowing that not everyone is equipped to teach or to bring compassion to the table when there’s nothing but defensiveness being served. If you can’t, it is essential you commit to uplift the voices of people who do know what to say, step aside and learn as well. No one is excused from the work. 

Please understand that if you have racism or a racist in your family, it is likely historic and foundational. There is built up anger that is screaming fear of something irrational. It is assisted by the lies of white supremacy throughout our education system, health care, sciences, etc. If you’ve tried and your approach isn’t working, with the advice of spiritualist Jessica Lanyadoo, “recalibrate your position and hold boundaries” around your investment to create an anti-racist society. 

This country is racist. Performative allyship is dangerous. The reckoning is within white people’s privilege, white supremacy and your personal, even if unintentional, relationship to it.

Ayisha Elliott’s podcast Black Girl From Eugene is raw and uncensored monologues and conversations about living while Black in the PNW. Listen locally at 11 am Sundays on FB Live; simulcast on KEPW 97.3 FM. Audio found on all major podcasting platforms.

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