My Black Privilege

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Niemöller

I’m beyond frustrated, disheartened and disappointed. I know that this is a hair (and occasionally family) blog. However, I simply can’t write about those things at the moment. There are too many news headlines coming from the US that make me sick, saddened and discouraged about the present and future. All lives matter, all lives are created equal, but from the series of events recently, I just don’t feel the justice system protects and serves all lives equally.

Having a son, a nephew, and thinking of my brothers and cousins. I am terrified for them. I keep having these nightmares that a male family member, could be the next Michael Brown, Mr. Garner, Lennon Lacy, Tamir Rice, Victor White, Dante Parker, Ezell Ford, Tyree Woodson, John Crawfard — That list, scary huh? These are only a handful of the incidents that don’t always make the headline. It’s obvious  that black men have a target on their back.

Today on my Facebook news feed, I noticed that most of my acquaintances and friends, who commented on the Garner case, whether disagreement, agreement or outrage, about the ruling, with the exception of a 1 friend, were black. While my non-black friends were writing about Christmas trees, the birth of Jimmy Fallon’s baby, Starbuck’s lattes or who wore what well. I thought to myself, I guess that’s white privilege. I was going to write this post on white privilege today. However, privilege in general is an issue. We all need to take our privileges that we benefit from and fight for those who are not given a choice to have their voices heard and thus, I’m going to look within myself and think about the privileges that I benefit from and occasionally have used to my advantage as a Black Woman.

And this isn’t one of those b*llsh*t arguments like, I get to use the N word and others can’t. I don’t condone the use of the word, don’t use it, don’t give it power and don’t think anyone should. However, using an oppressive word, in a system that is unfair and unjust, in my opinion is not a privilege to any person.

So, my Black privilege, I’ll just illustrate it with just one incident. In Europe, most black people are seen as equal, equally inferior and foreign. Not the case, everywhere, but it has been my experience, in many places. On a number of occasions, I have walked into stores, asked a question about the price of an item and have had the response be, “oh that’s really expensive” or “that’s too expensive”. I’ve received dirty looks or stared and am sometimes followed when I shop in a “high-end” store. You know how I’ve knowingly turned these very uncomfortable incidents into a more pleasant experience for myself? I either pretend I can’t speak the language and speak in English, with the most obnoxious American accent or exaggerate my American accent in French or German. Works like a charm, every time. The response is usually, something like: “Oooh, you’re American. Where are you from? (insert friendly small talk here).” I feel ashamed to say, I’ve used my being American as a privilege. It’s wrong damn it. It shouldn’t matter what someone looks like or where they are from. No one deserves to be discriminated against like that. I should have addressed the oppressive comments in that situation and not from the voice of an offended American, but as a human being. However, when you’re in a position of being accepted, celebrated and not taken for granted… it can be difficult to step down from one’s ivory tower to stand with those on the ground and suffer the same treatment they have to go through.

That’s why it’s a goal of mine to really see what my decisions and actions mean and who they harm. By using my privilege or even by not acknowledging the fact that I receive advantages from being American, it hurts someone else. It lets them know  I don’t stand with them and against this injustice, but prefer to  protect myself from harm’s way. So I want to think of concrete things I can do to educate myself and if necessary those around me when these sort of things happen. Whether it be, taking my money and going elsewhere or spending my money and politely informing a clerk that I’ll decide what I can’t and cannot afford.

Do you feel there’s any hope for a better America? Are you bothered by the series of recent events related to police killings of black and brown men?