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Continuing to examine Jona Olsson's "Detour-Spotting", an essay that looks at a vast number of reasons why we have not been able to have a proper discussion about race in America. I know this can be exhausting, believe me. But living with racism can be fatal, so there's no excuse and certainly no reason to complain about a little discomfort. We're all human beings here. We all deserve to have some respect. We need to finally repair these problems and get beyond the issues of skin color if we actually want a country and eventually a world that is kind, that is just, that is fair.

Today's topic relates to yesterday's one.


“But What About Me. Look how I’ve been hurt, oppressed, exploited...?”

Reality Check and Consequence

This diminishes the experience of people of color by telling our [[white people's]] own story of hardship. We lose an opportunity to learn more about the experience of racism from a person of color, while we minimize their experience by trying to make it comparable or less painful than ours.

Again, the issue of "privilege" comes into play here, and it's one that is, to say the least, challenging for white people to understand, much less apply to their own lives.

We have to be very clear when we talk about this. Nobody is saying that all white people have easy, pleasant, happy and successful lives, when we discuss the topic of "White Privilege." Really, the term "White Privilege" actually has less to do with any one white person and more to do with all of the minorities in the country who do not have the benefit of being white to help them, even a little bit.

Just as a reminder, "White Privilege" provides comfort and protection, which cannot be underestimated as a help when dealing with the day to day issues of life. It may not make you rich, but it still offers a kind of peace of mind. As previously noted, interactions with police are a very good example of White Privilege, as mentioned in the previous topic.

But we want to give white people a bit of a break here as well. This is a system that has been in place for a much longer time than any of us have been living. The basis for this kind of thinking and treatment is rooted back before the United States was a separate country. So, let's be clear: talking about "White Privilege" is not attempting to "blame" white people (and certainly not those who are currently alive) for it, or to be overtly critical of it. But we have to discuss this because it is a part of the racist circumstances that exist in our country. This issue isn't any one person's responsibility - not to have created it, not to be responsible for dismantling it. But we have to start examining it and seeing the role it plays, both in supporting white people and in harming minority people.

Let's bring it back to the specifics of today's topic: Ms. Olsson just misses the mark on this, but that's understandable. Keep in mind, everyone sees their personal problems as the biggest issues in their lives. Obviously, if you are experiencing something bad, YOU are experiencing something BAD. It doesn't get more personal than that. You are dealing with a problem that impacts you in a direct way. You have an issue with a late mortgage payment. You can't make the repairs on the motorbike. Plans for that weekend trip to the mountains, ruined.

While these are legitimate concerns for a person in that position, it ignores a host of issues - the fact that you have property that can be mortgaged, the ability to own a recreational vehicle, being able to go to a weekend getaway... these are all things that could fall under the concept of privilege.

What we're not fully examining is how both privilege and oppression work together to make racism that much more difficult. Again, people are focused on their own problems so they don't see these elements at work, and as most everybody is very focused on their own problems, those seem magnified compared to what is happening to someone else.

Additionally, as racism helps define who we think is valuable in society and who deserves to be ignored, another part of this problem is that black people are simply not considered worthy of the same attention and care, making any problem they might complain about that much less important in the scheme of how society functions, overall.

As I previously stated, this is not an easy concept to understand, which only makes it that much more difficult to discuss, which means it's that much more challenging to resolve.

What matters is that this discussion of "white privilege" isn't meant to make white people feel badly about themselves. It's here to open up a dialogue, to make everyone aware of it, to start doing things that make life fairer for all of us, not just some. This also isn't a criticism of the hard work that white people are doing to accomplish what they want; it's merely stating that there are a lot of other people who are also hard-working, perhaps even harder working because of the circumstances, who are not receiving the same treatment and/or are not reaping the same rewards, simply because they are minority citizens, and shouldn't we fix this?

Until we are able to see the concept of "White Privilege" with a clear eye and a clear mind, we will continue to have knee-jerk reactions in place of proper discussions, with white people taking this concept personally and responding with more dismissive responses when it comes to this very serious plank in the racist agenda.

Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me

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