OPINION: Your privilege
By Lily Pratt
Except that will never be you. You can never understand what racism feels like.
You were born coated in a protective layer of white; it has always been there. If you don’t see it yet, look closer. Ever since you were young, the color of your flesh has deterred a lifetime of unrecognized hardships.
The high school you attended twisted historical humanitarian monstrosities with the rhetoric of the white savior, rarely bringing racism and systemic oppression into a present context. You conformed to your surroundings, reciting the white-washed version of history that treasured economics over justice and profit over human life.
Maybe you ventured out of your hometown; a new reality replacing your inherited complacency with protest and acknowledgement.
Maybe you didn’t; passing on such myths to yet another generation. You may be shaking your head in disapproval, rejecting any acknowledgment of your privilege or the possibility of misinformation…
This is the time for people to listen, learn, and reflect.
What if it were you? Imagine getting home late. You slip into the backyard, reaching into your pocket in search of the house keys. The dim light of your phone guides the path and as you near the back door, you hear a metal click behind you. Turning to face down the barrel of the gun that the officer aims at you, you protest: But this is my house.
Except that will never be you. You can never understand what racism feels like. You are not oppressed or profiled as a criminal or hindered by the system stacked against you. You will never understand the pain outside of your privilege.
You must admit your privilege, but that alone is not enough. You must openly and publicly support those who have been persecuted and whose voices have been repeatedly silenced. You must shut up and listen.
This is not your story to tell, but for you to amplify and support unconditionally. You must safeguard others with the privilege that adheres to you — through protests; against police; in public and private faces; with families and strangers; your body is a shield, so use it.
In the spirit of growing and learning, I highly encourage all readers to watch “13th,” a documentary on Netflix directed by Ava DuVernay — in this moving and highly informative documentary, DuVernay interviews an array of individuals to identify a shift in systematic oppression over the past century from slavery, to convict leasing, to Jim Crow laws, up to the present use of mass incarceration.
The film details a ripple-effect of injustices leading to the present mess that is our justice system. This involves police brutality as merely one of many instances of a systematic oppression in black communities, brought to light through the use of social media and cameras. It provides an emotional, raw, and imperative exploration of the evolution of racism over the years, including where it stands today.
This is the time for people to listen, learn, and reflect. Activism starts at home and it starts with you.