This article, originally published on June 18, 2015 on http://tanyadennisbooks.com is being reposted with permission.
Having been raised below the poverty line by a single mom, I often eschew the concept of “white privilege.” It’s not that I deny it exists; I just haven’t seen much of it in my life.
My childhood was not one of privilege. We had food stamps and free school lunches and received Christmas gifts from the charity basket. More than a few times we did homework by candlelight. There just wasn’t always enough money to pay the electric bill. Thankfully it was the 80s, so few noticed that most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from a sister 5″ shorter than me. Layered socks hid the high-waters. We knew first-hand about lice and scabies and were, likely, the kids most other mothers didn’t want hanging around their house.
But, you see, white privilege isn’t about economics.
I watched my son and two of his friends walk home from school, each openly brandishing large Nerf guns. The guns are bright yellow and orange, obviously plastic toys, and yet I couldn’t help thinking:
“This is white privilege.”
Everyone — everyone — pre-judges others based on appearance and first impressions. People have told me I’m too blonde, too white, too “hick,” too female for … whatever. But rarely have I ever been in fear because of it.
That lack of fear is a huge component of white privilege. I may have been poor, underprivileged, even abused or neglected in ways. I may have been wrongfully judged and prematurely criticized, but the mere fact that I am pale-skinned affords security, security that I didn’t earn, purchase, or bargain for. It’s not an immunity to danger, but an extension of trust and liberty. A confidence of relative safety and reason.
I don’t even think about people breaking into my church or neighborhood, fueled by hatred over my presence or physical attributes. I don’t flinch when my son walks through town carrying toy guns. I don’t worry about his safety or someone misinterpreting his intentions as he grows. I don’t think about these things because they’ve never been a threat to me.
Racism has touched my life, but only in ignorance, not violence. Racist-fueled fear has never been my reality.
But racial violence is real. And it’s heinous. We cannot pretend otherwise.
The security I take for granted should be available and enjoyed by everyone.
I stand for freedom. I stand for equality. I stand for justice.