Current events, Ferguson & Florida, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin…they’re so alien in my experience. Sure, I can intellectually get a grasp on these matters, but in my core, I’ve never walked their path. I’ve never feared a cop while I’ve abided by the law. But I’m Caucasian in America, college-degreed, professionally-employed, physically present as a six-foot two-hundred-plus pounder who walks solidly on both legs. Cops don’t mess with me, as on the surface, they have no cause. I also have fathered two sons, now healthy young adults, and there has been much they have done to cause me to have concern for their well-being, but I’ve never wondered if they would arrive home at night, safely. However, I know women, African-American women, who do have sons. They cannot rest assuredly at night as I can. So I’m considering my position of privilege.
My friend Daniel Fox just posted on Facebook, as follows:
I have no idea what it’s like to experience the omnipresent weight of exclusion from access to opportunity, people, and resources as an African-American.
I have no idea what it’s like to be avoided, targeted and looked at with suspicion constantly.
I must try to imagine.
It’s only the beginning of my duty as someone who has been handed every privilege, to use my empathetic imagination to understand what life is like for another human.
The world won’t change unless people who have privilege (and for the sake of simplicity, let’s just talk about white men) put their reputations on the line and speak up about ending the systematic oppression of portions of our human family.
This is my acknowledgment that I have failed to consistently use my privilege in an effective way to end oppression.
Yes, this post alone is slactivism. it can also be the beginning of a call to those of us who don’t face oppression on a daily basis to put “looking good” on the line and speak up and then commit to changing things.
To which I reply: Here’s a first step, or at least an early step- exchange eye contact with fellow humans you pass in public, strangers-but-once, to share our common bond. This is an entry to empathy, and relieves the costume of privilege. Not to stare, but to explicitly not divert our vision. Add some friendliness to your facial expression, a loose relaxed semi-smile. check the body language. We’re hardwired to wear game faces and postures as we navigate, but those of us who are privileged to know better can actualize our emotional intelligence and humanize our mileau, so let’s do it.
Please reply with your thoughts. Thank you.