I'm a 26 year-old blonde hair, blue eyed white woman and I can get anything I want. I've used sex to get what I want. I've used wit to get what I want. But what I've found is that because of who I am, (more specifically what I look like) I don't particularly have to try so hard to get my way. It's often handed to me, no questions asked, nothing asked for in return. And if I get my way this time, that exceptional privilege will change.
I was a 10 year-old blonde hair, blue eyed white girl and I was a racist. A year prior, I had been walking home with my mother and brother and I was mugged by two black men with knives, in broad daylight, a block and a half away from my house. It's funny, when you are in danger, the things you remember and the things you forget. My mother can only remember that one guy grabbed me from her and put a knife to my throat. I can only remember the look on my mother's face: she wasn't in control anymore. I had this realization that I'd never know safety again, because if your parents aren't in control, who will ever be able to truly take care of you?
For an entire year, I was terrified to go outside and I stopped talking to all the black kids I had been friends with at school. I stopped playing with a black boy on my street who had been my bosom buddy since we were old enough to play wiffle ball or hide and seek in the alley. He would still come by for a while, knock on the door and ask my mom if I wanted to play. I wouldn't even look at him. I convinced myself that my home, my neighborhood, my whole city (with an African American population of 52%*) was not safe. I was angry, I was mad, I was deeply scared. In my mind, the only way to be safe was to refuse to talk to or aknowledge all black people. My fear manifested itself as some warped need to protect myself from enemies
. I couldn't comprehend and process my anger so I decide to demonize an entire race of people. But then, that changed too.
I got into therapy. I got into theatre, I took voice lessons. I loved performing and music so much there was no longer any space for that intense hate and anger and fear. I learned to articulate the root of my emotions instead of cowardly hiding behind racial profiling. My parents raised my brothers and I to love, to expose our demons and rise above, and to believe in the strength of change.
I am a 26 year-old blonde hair, blue eyed white woman and last night on the subway at Union Square I begged a cop to stop and frisk me like I watched him do to a 14 year-old black boy whom he had caught moving between subway cars, but this time, I didn't get my way. I insisted, and I told him if he was looking to meet his quota he could search me instead. I ride the subway multiple times a day and no one ever stops me. As a matter of fact, in 2013 the NYPD stopped only 20,877 people who looked like me (white) and 104,958 black men and women.** So, my question is, when does it start to change?
The positive that can come out of this friction hanging in the air is that change is coming. But it's not inevitable, it's a continuous struggle. Our grandparent's generation was racist. Our parent's generation was less racist, but silent about the obivous white privilege which entitled them to advantage and convenience. But they raised our generation, and this generation is filled with an uncomfortable awareness that this privlidge is wrong. We are aware of our unbalanced judicial system. We are aware that the only true "free" indivdual in this country--void of soicial, racial, or sexual predjudice, is a heterosexual white man. We are an over-educated, emotionally driven generation of dreamers. And if we (not just the ones who look like me but the collecetive whole of not entirely "free" individuals: all women, all black men, all homosexuals, all transgenders, all Asians, all Latinos, all Natives, and anyone else who's basic human rights are in jeopardy) ban together, change will happen. We refuse to allow another Ferguson. We refuse to allow another Michael Brown, or another Eric Garner, or another Trayvon Martin. We refuse to allow anymore hate crimes. We refuse to allow sexual assault. We ban together as a collective whole who peacefully believe in the power of our numbers and the strength in our commitment to enact change. We change, we evolve together or not at all.
"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." - MLKJr
*2012 United States Census Bureau
**American Civil Liberties Union, New York State Branch