White privilege should not be ignored

Mari Williams

As a junior in high school I had the privilege of reading “Their Eyes were Watching God,” by Zora Neale Hurston. My English teacher told us we would be listening to the audio in class instead of reading the book on our own. She explained the dialogue could often be hard to understand because of Hurston’s use of dialect. One might describe this as a Southern dialect with plenty of “African-American” twang. Just before she turned on the audio she looked me straight in my dark brown eyes and said, “Well you might understand this well.”

This is just a small example of so-called “white privilege” — or what black people like myself call “just another Tuesday.”

White privilege. That is one scary phrase. When people have lived through mountains upon mountains of struggles, they do not want to hear that they have been awarded some sort of “privilege” in a world that has treated them like crap. No one wants to hear that his or her skin color has given them a leg up on life when they can see the distinct lines of pain that show them they have in fact not been privileged at all.

What needs to be stressed is that white privilege is about a system of oppression of those who are not white. Many white people did not ask for things to be run this way, but this does not diminish the fact they are. The way I look at it is, if a white person can look in the mirror and say they do not judge, fault or place blame on a person, then in my opinion he or she is in good shape.

But for those who feel the need to deny my struggles or who think that somehow their skin color has never put them at an advantage, I urge them to walk in a black, Arabic or Hispanic person’s shoes for one week. Though these examples of white privilege may seem small, they stack up quickly.

Growing up, I distinctly remember learning about three black women in school. Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. That was it. I remember thinking, “What the heck were all the black people doing?” I knew they were there, but my history textbook begged to differ.

One can imagine the inferiority I felt thinking there were few important people who looked like me. White America left no room for a young black girl’s ambitions. Why would I want to be black when no black person ever did anything that helped us? That is a privilege of Caucasians. They are able to see themselves everywhere. I laugh at people who say there should be a White Entertainment Television to show contempt over BET (Black Entertainment Television). I would like to tell them to just flip it on any other channel.

No, I am not here to speak the opinions of an entire race. I am speaking as someone who lives through the effects of this system every day. I am putting my harsh but bearable past on display to show you this exists.

I have been told I should be happy white people brought my ancestors over on a slave ship. I have been told to go back to picking cotton for expressing my opinion. I have been called a “nigger” more times than I care to share. I am not sharing this for pity because, frankly, I have lived through this and much more, and I am a stronger person for it.

My only request is these naysayers go up to people of minority and ask them to talk about a time when they were singled out, rejected or picked on because of their race. Then grab some popcorn and relax because you might be sitting there all day.