Does White Privilege Exist? Asking for A Friend.

By CiKethia Pugh


Artwork by Sandra Nadine Khalifa, from Amplifier Artwork, open use license

Today, I found myself glued to the TV and radio every chance I could in between work commitments. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing was on TV and radio, including the questioning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. We often avoid talking directly about partisan politics on this blog; there are more than enough examples of institutional racism without having to spar with people about their political ideologies but today I am making an exception.

What did I witness? Does White Privilege Exist? I am asking for a friend. See I do this work a lot. Talking with people about how to lead for racial equity. My work is tough, but it is necessary. If you have heard me talk, you’ll hear me say my why is obvious.  Not engaging in this work allows institutional racism and white supremacy to go unchallenged. It means I am putting the responsibility on others to create the change I hope to see in my lifetime. As a black woman, I cannot leave this to chance, I can’t trust others to challenge racism – history and my experiences prove others won’t or can’t speak up for me.  I work actively every day to be a part of the change I believe can happen, this is my individual contribution to the collective.

Here we are examining the events of the day and I find myself totally enraged. Some of you will want to look at this through only a gender lens, and yes, we could have that conversation because what we witnessed was toxic masculinity in its truest form, but I see everything through a racial lens. I was so struck by the events of today. It was an unsettled feeling that I couldn’t shake and then it dawned on me why I was so uncomfortable. I literally spent my day watching white privilege in action.

White privilege is to be enraged at the mere notion that you could be accused of wrongdoing, yet for people of color we are presumed guilty and it is our job to prove our innocence.

White privilege is to use your tears to disrupt and distract. White tears flip the script and next thing you know the accused is now playing the role of the accuser. Black, brown and indigenous peoples have historically experienced trauma that has had long-lasting impacts on our lives. My pain is inconvenient, and I have been told to suppress those feelings. There is no place for my tears.

White privilege is being shocked at a system you thought was there to protect you when it doesn’t. The impacts of institutional racism confirm daily for people of color that the system was never designed with us in mind.

White privilege is being able to move on from this. The storm doesn’t last forever. For people of color, the storm may let up a bit, but it never ends.

So, I’ll ask again. Does white privilege exist? I am asking for a friend.

Who Do We Believe

By Erin Okuno


Artwork by Lauren Crew, from Amplifier Artwork, open use license

I’m writing a companion piece to CiKeithia’s piece. This isn’t to answer her question, but more so because I was thinking about this post earlier in the day. Who do we believe? Do we believe women? Do we believe women of color? Do we believe Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous people? Do we believe people who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us?

To believe is to value. To believe means we find a common bond and create a relationship with someone no matter how deep or brief. American culture creates biases in us that condition us to believe white men over others and to value whiteness over people of color.

Sometimes we need to suspend our disbelief and to believe. I am remembering a line from a speech made by Tarell Alvin McCraney, playwright of the movie Moonlight. He challenged us to “examine without defense.” In today’s political environment can we “examine without defense?” The toxic masculinity and white privilege on display in the Senate hearing around Judge Kavanaugh protect the status quo and doesn’t allow an examination without defense. It protects whiteness.

Unchecked whiteness hurts all of us. Unchecked whiteness allows privileges and entitlement to benefit some and not others. As CiKeithia wrote, the storm will continue for people of color but some of you have a lifeboat waiting.

I’m creating my own lifeboat and welcome others to join me. In the lyrics to the song Glory by John Legend and Common their words remind us:

“The movement is a rhythm to us
Freedom is like religion to us
Justice is juxtaposition in us
Justice for all just ain’t specific enough”

Justice for sexual assault victims, justice for women of color, freedom through justice. Justice can’t be a juxtaposition, it needs to counter white privilege and toxicity. The movement towards justice may ebb and tide, but it will always rise and crest again. I believe in this because I value justice.

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