Back when I worked at In-N-Out Burger, I was working on the register one day. So was a girl named Betty Rodriguez. She had dark brown skin, kind of like a light tobacco, sparkling brown eyes, and a gorgeous smile. She was truly beautiful. As you can see, I have a fairly beige tone. We were in our uniforms, at our registers, and both ready to take an order when a woman walked in. She had skin like mine, and brown hair. She walked in between us, paused as she looked to one person, then another, then came to me. I was somewhat offended for Betty. She probably would not remember this, but I have this incident etched in my mind. I wanted to ask the woman what was so frightening about sweet Betty, but I knew the answer: she had dark skin. Oh, how scary. I am not particularly scared of dark skin or a different language, but I am not perfectly racism-free. Why am I blathering on about a minor incident involving skin color? I am talking about white privilege. Now, before you go and put this away, I want you to know that white privilege is real, and I can prove it, because I am white, and privileged because of it. Why, do you ask, am I complaining about something that works to my advantage? Simply put, it should not. People should not be scared of others because they have traits different from themselves. I have seen fear and rage on both sides of a trait war – English and Spanish speaking hate on both sides, for example – but I have seen it most benefit people of a white, rich, male, able type. I am going to focus on racial privileges, which I admittedly benefit from, but I can this from many sides, since there are privileges I do not have. I am just relating my experiences; do not call me an “expert” on the subject.
Another time, my mother, her husband and I were driving through the “black” section of a Florida town. (Yes, it was what I call a leftover from segregation.) What I noticed about the area was that it was clean, the buildings were painted, with no chipping, and good-natured, well-dressed people. I noticed all of this, and even then I asked myself “Why am I noticing this?” The answer lies in racial stereotyping I was as yet unaware of. I was expecting a dirty, unkempt, trash-strewn section of town so ugly I would be glad to get out of there. But I did not get that. I got a lovely set of streets and buildings, and regular people with darker skin. I can’t wait for my prejudices to be knocked for a loop again, especially since they are so negative about darker skin colors. It’s quite a mind-blowing experience.
Another incident? I will oblige. Every time I went through the “Asian” section of a town with my sister, my sister had to make fun of the signs that contained the local nationality’s writing on the signs. She would say “Boing jaww wahh dong” if there were more than two signs. Fortunately, we were in the safety of our car when she would say this stupid mock Asian language. Boy, would they be mad if they knew how we were talking!
So, I hope you can see that white privilege is a real thing. Every time you see blond dolls in a Hispanic market, white privilege is real. (Everyone likes to look like the ones in power and privilege.) Every time Asians mention eyelid surgery, white privilege is real. (Yes, Asians have eyelid surgery to make their eyelids more European.) Every time a person of one skin color is four times more likely to go to jail than a person of another color, the second person’s skin color privilege is real. (Conservative estimates put white people’s jail time chances at 9%, compared to the 46% of minority chances.) If you think people in Ferguson, MO are overreacting, open your eyes. A federal investigation revealed a pattern of abuse and discrimination against minorities. If white privilege were not real, maybe the most recent Oscar contenders’ skin color would not have been an issue – but it is. And white privilege, my friend, is real.