White Privilege In A Multicolored World
“White Privilege”, let’s talk about those words that makes so many get defensive. It does not mean you are a wealthy, stuck up, rich person. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the successes you have made in your life with hard work and perseverance. It simply means, as a white person, we have had the ‘privilege’ to not get shot by a cop, get pulled over for no reason, we don’t give off assumptions that we will rob you. Our race is looked at to be non threatening and successful. We have better access to healthcare and better neighborhoods and community infrastructure. Oh my Goddess I could go on forever. The truth is, we are treated differently and until the white race truly sees this, and stops getting defensive, we will never heal as a nation. We have to really see and feel what the black community feels. In the end, Oprah once said “people need to be heard and validated.” We need to get past all the anger and hear how it makes the black community feel. We have to get out of defensiveness and ego, and simply listen with an open heart.
I am not a fan of violence, but we must look at what is happening to a community that is not being heard. George Floyd did not deserve to die. His struggle to breathe is forever etched in my mind due to the constant social media posts. He died because nobody listened. My heart goes out to his family and friends. It goes out to all before Mr. Floyd, and unfortunately to all who will go through this after him. Listen, stop talking white people! Don’t you want harmony? I know I do.
Now I am not one of those white people that hates her race. This lifetime, I chose this embodiment for my growth and experience. I am good with that. But this blog is not about reincarnation. Maybe I will do a story on that someday. 😉 It’s about my story and my white privilege and how I saw the world in living color. Not all sides of the coin are of goodness. There is bad and good with all races, however, this constant racial divide will never heal until the white man makes it right. How? By validating. By speaking up. By shifting the energy of such an old belief system of some humans being less than. My white friend Rich once said “it will take straight white men to change the mistreating of gays and blacks.” He is so right. I personally feel Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t have kneeled. It did nothing for him or the black community. They gave him grief. Nobody cared or listened. Have Tom Brady kneel for his brown brothers! That is what it is going to take!
I know what it is like to feel ‘less than’. I experienced it in Tennessee by some very ignorant people. I saw that their hate and ignorance was bred into them. “We are from the south, that is just the way we were raised.” That my friends, is white privilege. It is a state of mind. This is why we must change. Here is my story. It truly made me the person I am today.
I grew up in a very wealthy, white community in Garden City, New York. It is located in Nassau County on Long Island. Sometimes you could see the World Trade Center on a clear day from Hempstead Turnpike. I loved New York City. It later became my great escape from a boring world of whiteness, snobbery and dullness for this creative, unstoppable dreamer!
I never looked at myself or my family as ‘upper middle class’ or ‘rich’ because my parents were children of Italian immigrants who worked hard and felt nothing should be given to you. You had to work hard for it. I remember turning 12 and my mom said I was now old enough to babysit and start making money. I worked for everything I had. My parents were practical and never showy. Both parents were fashion designers in New York City and my father worked his tail off. There was nothing glamorous it. He made great money, but worked hard for it. Mom later stayed home to raise children.
I was always the kid that wondered what was beyond the other side of the white fence. When my Uncle Frank took me to cowboy shows in Arizona, I always rooted for the Indian over the cowboy. And I could not get enough of black television shows. Good Times, Sanford & Son, What’s Happening, Soul Train and The Jeffersons were my favorite. I was so curious and enthralled by how they looked, danced, and spoke. I loved their togetherness, the close bonds of their families, their hair, their colorful style.( Hmmm, I am like that today! :))
As a little girl, maybe around eleven, I was going to Sunday school in New Hyde Park and became friends with a black girl there. I wish I could remember her name. One summer my aunt was watching me while my parents went fishing. I asked my aunt if I could have my friend over. She beat me with her shoe. I cannot tell you how painful it was getting hit in the face with a shoe. I never told my parents. It was a moment, as a child that I didn’t understand. I felt horrible I couldn’t have her over. I made up some stupid excuse, but she knew. I bet she got that all the time.
I began asking my mother “where are the black people? Do any live in Garden City?” My mom avoiding any serious talk about racial divide, so she simply said “oh yes, they live in the next town over.” I asked why? She replied “they just like it there.” I believe she avoided it because it made her feel bad and uncomfortable. My mom loved the black community and Latin community too. I think back in the 1970s, our world was so different and she didn’t speak up much. But in her older years, she was so outspoken and she felt more of herself. I love how she was able to evolve in her golden years. It was in such grace. I love that amazing woman and miss her everyday.
Here was the pivotal moment for me. That same little black girl took me for a ride on her bike after Sunday school to visit the Garden City Park playground. Garden City Park was the “next town over” where the black community hung out and lived. As soon as we got there, a group of black kids surrounded us while we were still on her bike and a tall older black kid said “what is she doing here?” (yup that’s right, he was referring to me) “this is our peoples’ park”. I will never ever forget those exact words. Our peoples’ park. It has stayed with me my whole life. My little brave black girl stood up to him. “She’s my friend! Let’s go! We don’t need your stupid park anyway!” Wow, she stood up for me. I took a beating for her. But she was the better person, the braver one, to me. After that moment, I wondered about this indifference I was seeing between races.
I made it a point to befriend every black person I worked with when I was older. I never wanted to feel like that again. I wonder today where that sweet girl is. She will never know how much she changed me. I am in tears just typing about it. Kindness matters. Speaking up matters. I should have spoken up for her.
Fast forward to an adult. I am in my late 40s and now I am experiencing ignorance and prejudice for being gay in a small town, Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I got a tiny taste of what my black brothers and sisters felt. They experienced far worse than me. (I mainly experienced this hurtful ignorance by my wife’s friends and family. They were not accepting and loving at all.) I saw a whole bunch of real ‘ugly’ by ‘God fearing people’ I thought only existed on Jerry Springer. They used the “N” word, taught their children to love only with conditions, and were very racist. I was both sad and angry. Here comes that confused little girl inside me again.
So I called my black friend Michelle with whom I dated years ago, we were good friends still and I was anxiously wanting her to hear me out. She would understand! She is black! I am gay! I will vent and she will ‘get me’! She will give me her perspective!
Oh she did alright. I did not expect it. She was wise beyond her 40 something self. She reminded me of a sage, an Iyanla Vanzant. She had a calming voice and always taught mindfulness in all you do. I jumped right into the conversation, “I am now a prejudice person too!” She asked, “are you now? Hmmm…how so?” I was angry over one of many events that happened and proceeded to tell the story and say “I hate southern religious white people!” I was waiting for her to get it, to agree with me. She paused and did a lot of ‘mmm hmmm’ing’. Well?
Michelle finally replied in a calming voice, “I see. Now you have become what you hate. You have become what you have always fought against. Is that what you want? Is that who you chose to be?” Aside from the echoing of “our peoples’ park”, this too was burned into my memory now, but from a place of love not fear. Two totally different points of view.
I had to think about that. Michelle stumped me there. I thought we were going to have this bonding experience of shared grief and anger. Instead, she showed me a mirror I had to look into. I definitely didn’t want to be like them. From that moment on, I had to do better. I had to go where the love was and leave those ignorant people in their own phony bliss. I had to learn that I don’t need permission nor acceptance from others to live my life. I do my best to surround myself with good people that love me and my wife for who we are. I don’t want to become what I hate.
So this constant weaving of race and powerful lessons have become the very fabric of my life and has taught this ‘white privilege’ born girl to see perspectives other than my own and to listen to those who need to be heard and validated. It hurts being excluded. It took an angry black kid to wake me up at a young age and do my best to hear what is going on in the black community. Then it took the black community (Michelle) to remind me to not become part of the hate.
So white people, please, we have been given the privilege to speak up and take action for those who are not being heard. We are white, in a beautiful world of color. Let’s help everybody feel validated. We all have the right to shine!
May 23, 2020
May 19, 2020