Ok, so no one really, actually gets a free pass on white privilege but many of us lighter skinned individuals have the privilege of having a tremendous social media fueled debate on the reality and validity of white privilege or the lack thereof. Pick a side. Get all heated up over which ever side you pick and then go back to engaging in our actual life either more or less socially aware than before.
But Ferguson changed all that for me. I don’t know why that event in particular was different from all the other similar events in the US. Or why it was different to every other racist event or attitude so prevalent in my home city of Cape Town. But something about a young black man gunned down while walking home with his friends hit home for me.
That could be my son…
I would never want to have a free pass on fighting white privilege but until recently it has always been a choice for me. Yes one fuelled by core beliefs, by my faith and my friendships. A choice that I have willingly and intentionally made, but one, I could recant and stick my head in the sand of denialism again if I chose to do so.
But I no longer have a choice. Mike Brown could be my son.
I have two sons… and as most of us know two black men are just one short of a gang.
Two black men are going to mug you
Two black men are likely thugs or rapists
Two black men are casing the joint
No one cares what colour your parents are
No one cares if you are adopted or not
No one cares what your home language is
No one cares if you are educated or not
No one cares what your father does
Two black men plus one are a gang
White privilege means ladies will hold their handbags tighter when my sons walk down the street. They will probably smile and greet me.
White privilege means law enforcement vehicles will do the slow drive past them on their way to visit their grandparents. They may quite possibly be questioned as what they are doing in the area.
White privilege means my sons could be imprisoned because like every other 18-year-old they have a smart mouth and a big attitude.
My son could be shot because he is eighteen and arrogant
No matter how smart, talented or hard-working he is, he will always be thought to be a token or a quota just because he has more melanin than me.
For those who would wrongly claim the cultural high ground with ill-informed statements like “but black men are more likely to commit crimes” or “black men are more likely to carry guns.”
Lets be straight, no one will ask my sons about their upbringing or their cultural environment. No one will look the other way because my sons have white parents or speak good English. They will judged and convicted by the colour of their skin!
I don’t get a free pass on white privilege. I no longer get a choice whether to engage or not with the intellectual discussions of power and privilege.
My son could be Mike Brown!
Disclaimer: This is not all that can or should be said on white privilege, Ferguson or racial reconciliation, it is just one personal reflection among many. You may also want to read “What I would love my white friends to hear”