Privilege and the pandemic
Twice in a month from me. Don’t pass out. There’s a lot to discuss.
As I posted on Facebook earlier this week, I’m not my typical snarky humorous self . . . because I’m not really in the mood. I’ve been toiling over this blog for DAYS, which is unlike me, and I’m forcing myself to finish it today, on Juneteenth.
People are funny, in their suggestions and expectations. Someone approached me recently, pointing out that my posts have been heavy, and suggesting that I infuse more “light-hearted energy.” My knee-jerk reaction was to say something like “Bitch, I’m not Bozo. Look at the world around you! You’re tired of hearing about racism? Well, I don’t care, because I’m tired of experiencing it.”
I refrained, although I wish I hadn’t.
At a time when everyone should be bonding together against a common enemy (COVID-19), we’re dealing with a messy tangle of anger and unrest, which led me to think about privilege.
Privilege is a term that we throw around to the point where it’s lost its original meaning, or the meaning has become secondary to the term itself, if that makes sense.
To be clear, to have privilege – specifically white privilege, for purposes of this post – doesn’t mean that your life isn’t hard; it means that your skin color isn’t the source of your hardship.
Privilege means that you can spend a great deal of time focusing on your success, if you so choose, without having your productivity overshadowed by thoughts of how you’ll be perceived or that you will be underestimated before one word exits your mouth. Or not even having to consider that the conversation would be different if you weren’t present among your otherwise homogeneous group of colleagues.
Privilege also means that the most uncouth, embarrassing ugly American (white) can travel freely to any country with the feeling that everyone there will be so happy to have him, as long as he’s spending the mighty US dollar. In the meantime, a natural part of my vacation planning – before booking a flight — is research, and asking friends and Google whether or not my desired destination is safe for black people.
Privilege means that you don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about how simply going about the course of your day, and casually finding yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time could get you into a stupid racially-charged argument, at minimum, or potentially killed.
Privilege means going through life without the realization or recognition of the fact that racism is actually a white person’s problem. White people created it, and it’s going to take white people to get rid of it — once they pay attention to it.
And, white privilege can be defined as the white person’s ability to look at the Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd murders, or even incidents with people like Amy Cooper — alias Central Park Karen, and the stupid woman who called the cops to report a man stenciling Black Lives Matter on his OWN HOUSE, without seeing him/herself in those situations.
Every single altercation and murder has been very personal to me. I could have been Breonna Taylor, shot dead in my home. I could have been Sandra Bland. I could be any of the departed, murdered in the street by an egomaniacal cop (likely one whose previous documented use of excessive force has gone unpunished) who has decided that he should be judge, jury, and executioner for a crime that I didn’t commit — because he operates with the (societally-supported) assumption that my life does not matter. I can imagine the desperation that each victim must have felt — that their lives were dependent on the whims of a psycho with a badge, and there’s not a damned thing that anyone can or will do about it. Dying wasn’t on the agenda for the day, yet here they are.
Despite the “compliments” I’ve received from white people over the years (“you’re not black black, you’re white black” [WHAT?] or “you outclass yourself” [HUNH??]), at the end of the day (or at the beginning of the day), I’m just a random black person in the eyes of white strangers and most important, law enforcement, regardless of how much education I have, or what I happen to be doing.
But I believe in the Universe and cosmic connections and it’s no accident that this is 2020, the year of perfect vision and hindsight. It’s only fitting that we start to see this situation in a new light, create real change and perhaps begin the dismantling of an entire judicial system that’s been in place since we were regarded as 3/5 of a person.
And I’ll tell you what . . . I’m sick to DEATH of hearing the argument “if they follow instructions, they wouldn’t have been shot.” So . . . WHY would anyone blindly follow the instructions of people they don’t trust and have NEVER been able to trust? Also? The majority of the people who have been shot and killed by police weren’t committing crimes. So, their crime was maybe resisting arrest for resisting arrest? You get that doesn’t make sense, right?
I’m also sick of the black-on-black crime argument because it’s used by racists as a distraction from the real issue.
Let’s not forget that the job of a police officer is to de-escalate a situation and apprehend a suspect. The fifth amendment of the constitution tells us that no citizen shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or property without the due process of law.” This means that Officer Asshole is not entitled to be judge, jury, and executioner for a person who’s crossing a street, selling loose cigarettes, going five miles over the speed limit, or any other petty crime that has been the catalyst for killing a black person in recent years.
You cannot stand for the flag while ignoring the constitution.
Now, before I completely digress, let’s get back to the pandemic, which has been pushed to the side since the George Floyd murder. While everyone’s protesting unprotected, and returning to their lives of carefree gathering, hugging and handshaking, the Coronavirus infections and fatalities continue, and I’m sure we’ll be quarantined again within the next month.
So, throughout all of this, I guess I’m curious about how everyone is dealing with this.
If you take everything that’s going on, and layer on all of the other lifey-life shit (money, family, career, relationships), while removing the ability for joy, it’s truly a recipe for a mental breakdown. Without friends, gathering, movie theater nights, or social experiences to alleviate the general sadness, our spirits can become really dark.
I would like for us to remember that there’s only so much we can take, and encourage us all to take breaks when and wherever we’re able. It’s going to get harder before it gets better.
I wholeheartedly agree, Gina. Thank you for giving this an ample voice.
Thank you Gina. You say it all so well, so spot on.