I Am White and I Am Privileged

I am white, and I am privileged.

 

It has always been this way. I remember ten years ago, hunched over in an alley in Washington Heights waiting for my dope dealer when I spotted a couple of the NYPD’s finest approaching on foot. “What are you doing in this neighborhood?” they asked me. “You shouldn’t be here at night. Go home.” Little did they know that I was the criminal who was further perpetrating the gang culture and drug violence of the beat they were responsible for walking every night. I was the one they should have stopped and frisked. I had just as much drug money in my pocket as the dark figure in a hooded sweatshirt on the corner that they headed toward after leaving me there in that alley. I carried the pipe, I carried the paper. I stalked the streets for tiny wax paper bags.

 

I remember nine years ago, getting pulled over by the cops with some friends while joyriding on the New Jersey Turnpike. I was forced to empty my pockets on the hood of their car. As I placed each small baggie stuffed with marijuana and cocaine down, they were snatched up one by one by the officers. Shortly after, we were sent on our way. Did it make a difference that we were middle-class white kids?

 

I remember eight years ago, basically overdosing in a friends’ car at a rest stop somewhere by the shore. The cops came and took away all the drug paraphernalia, leaving me to ‘sleep it off’ in the backseat. If I had dark skin, would they still have ridden me of my works and left my narcotics-induced slumber undisturbed?

 

I remember growing up without anyone ever referring to me by a racial slur instead of my name. I remember every single day, free from the fear of being stereotyped or preemptively hated because of the color of my skin.

 

I remember being told that crime, drugs, gangs and poverty were Black problems for Black neighborhoods. I remember being told to stay out of said neighborhoods.

 

I remember being taught to be proud that I am descended from Europeans who sailed the shining seas to this mass of land on a ship called the Mayflower, to engage in brutal tactics of mass murder and claim it for their own, build their houses, make it a home. I remember going about my life without ever feeling as if I was being unfairly scrutinized by store employees, without pedestrians crossing the street when they noticed me walking up the sidewalk behind them, without knowing that more ‘white’ candidates would be considered for a position that I was applying for than people of my color – because I am white.

 

And I am privileged.

 

My memories will continue to form in a similar manner. Ten years from now, I will still be a white female. I will still feel somehow ashamed and entirely undeserving of the advantages I have been granted by some weird default gifts because of the color of my skin. I will continue to experience heat rising in my head and my limbs beginning to tingle with anger when my world is inundated by the ever present racially motivated tragedies such as the murder of Trayvon Martin, or when yet another friend of mine gets turned down for the job, or accused of shoplifting, or waitlisted for the school, simply because of the color of their skin.

I refuse to pretend that there is no such thing as white privilege.