A Privileged Conversation
listening to someone who comes from a different background
I remember the R&B of my adolescence. I remember Nazareth my best friend my freshman year. I wouldn’t have known about the Temptations if it wasn’t for her. I remember her friends that I didn’t fit in with because I was a nerd and seemed to dwell on a different planet.
I remember buying Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love and Alicia Key’s Love in A Minor, probably at Wal-Mart. I remember at high school dances they didn’t want us grinding, and they said to keep a distance the space of a book between us.
I remember at a leadership camp a guy from North Shore explained to me that all young middle-upper class white males wanted to be black, and that’s what marketing ads would cater to.
I remember loving J.Lo and Ja Rule duets. Those were my favorite songs.
Also the song “Free” by Mya. I’m pretty sure I heard that song when I was at Disney Land and 12 years of age, and I loved it.
I remember the guys who would bully me in the lunch line at middle school, I already had boobs in the sixth grade and Anthony Ramirez would accuse me of stuffing my bra.
Once they were being so oppressive and annoying that I actually awkwardly tried to slap one and accidentally said “Asshole.”
I felt so embarrassed by the whole thing that I didn’t want to go to school, but there was no way I could tell my mom about what happened so I had to suck it up and go to school.
I also remember my great uncle commented on a photograph of my group of friends, the vast majority of which were not white.
I never noticed or thought of it. They were my friends.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way, either.
My friend Khizar would close his eyes during scenes with female nudity in movies because his family was Muslim and for him love and marriage precluded looking at other women.
When we would get tacos, another friend whose father was Colombian taught me to get them with cilantro and onion, and I am so grateful, because I think that’s the best way.
My best friend took me to try Thai food for the first time on my 16th birthday. I have loved it ever since and also worked in two Thai restaurants and got to eat A LOT of Thai food for free and become something of an expert while being paid.
A pair of my twin friends who also did Speech Team once saved my butt by helping me record a song about Teddy Roosevelt to the music of “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks. I remember the chorus, it went “He’s a bear, he’s a reformer…” Their mom made us plantains fried in a light pastry wrapping, so lovely.
I don’t want to brag about how lucky I was to be privy to such amazing people and moments, but you know I am proud that I grew up with such a culturally rich, heterogenous mecca of tastes and backgrounds.
And so, in conversations about race, that treat me as if I’m the bad guy, and that are essentially a white guilt trip, where I am treated as the enemy just because I am white, I would stare straight in your eyes and say, “you’re prejudiced.”
Just because I am white doesn’t mean I have wronged black people in any way, shape, or form.
To assume otherwise is, in fact, bigoted.
Every single person on this planet is guilty of ignorance, whether or not they have overcome it or not: chances are they are still ignorant about some things.
So yes, I am as ignorant as anyone else about all the things I have not been exposed to, all the things that escape my conscious grasp, the things where my preconceived notions have not been tested and proven wrong.
I know that I have always strived to listen and learn as much as possible from people who come from backgrounds different from my own.
That’s what I call a privileged conversation. It is a privilege.
Another thing I know is that there are plenty of minority groups beyond the scope of the public perception and the dominant discourse. They are not on the news.
Some of them are disappearing from the face of the earth. Most of them probably suffer abuse.
Genocide is still a real threat to some populations. War has displaced 65 million innocent noncombatants.
Lots of those people have nowhere to go. Thousands drown, lots live in camps without essential resources, they are unwanted by the “civilized countries” that have displaced them in their proxy wars over oil pipelines.
Finally, I would argue that white privilege can actually be a handicap when you use it to shield marginalized groups.
Say your parents are racists and you join #BlackLivesMatter protests, they disown you and you lose your job.
Where are you going to go?
Lots of “social justice advocates” are hypocrites. It’s not like they are going to take you in because now your “white privilege” doesn’t work anymore.
Lots of those “activists” are out there calling for a “race war” and generalize about white people in bigoted and prejudiced ways, as if all white people were the same.
Like they don’t get that social justice means that bigotry, hatred, prejudice and making judgements about someone on the basis of the color of their skin is what we’re fighting against, not for.
What are you doing?
And like I know what this kind of hate looks like, I have felt it.
I have had lovers of another race and sometimes it is uncomfortable because other people don’t like it, sometimes people of the other race, like jealous women, for instance.
Just because I am white does not mean I am your negro.
It does not mean that I am gonna let you watch as you force feed me a shit sandwich as if that’s equality.
It is not, by the way.
White people continue to to march for social justice, and for centuries some have risked everything to defend black people.
The Civil War meant 360,000 casualties for the Union — soldiers who died fighting to liberate blacks, and some 2 million risked their lives in the very same effort.
Why did they win? Because for every Confederate soldier, there were two fighting for the North.
You cannot make generalizations. You cannot make generalizations. You cannot make generalizations.
If even one white person marched in Civil Rights and got hosed down with the blacks, and believe me, there was more than one, you cannot claim all white people are bigoted and racist, because that is just a lie.
It is a lie that all “white people” act or feel a certain way. It is not true.
Lives have been lost because that is just not true.
And even in spite of such hypocritical prejudice and hatred that defines itself in opposition to white people as a race, as absurd and ironic as that is, white people will continue to stand up for black people, I promise, because some are not bigoted or prejudiced, and they stand up for what’s right.