What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege

More on White Privilege . . .

A Little More Sauce

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than…

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The Definition of Insanity

They tell me I’m insane. They say I have a mental disease called addiction. My mother hates to hear me say it but it makes sense to me. You see for a few years in my life I kept doing the same thing and expecting different results. My drug of choice? Cocaine, I tried all kinds of different ways to use cocaine without suffering the dire consequences that came along as a result. It seems no matter how I used cocaine, as long as I kept doing the same thing (using cocaine) I kept getting the same results; jail, homelessness, pennilessness, etc. They told it was the very definition of insanity. Makes sense to me.

I was recently in conversation with a friend whom I have known for quite some time. She knew that I had been married at one time but wasn’t sure. “Now how many times have you been married?” she asked. When I told her that I had been married and divorced three times, she suggested that the issue just might not be entirely with the women that I’d married. Again I say, “Makes sense to me.”

Despite my insane cocaine use, and unsuccessful attempts at marriage I nevertheless found myself in a meeting at the White House along with other civil and human rights advocates. The primary topic of conversation was about the events in Ferguson Missouri where an unarmed Black teenager was murdered by a white police officer. As I sat and looked around the table and listened to advocates talk about the programs that they had either established or are in the process of implementing in Ferguson, or communities like it throughout the country something occurred to me. The thought came into my mind that with all of these programs and strategies in place or being implemented in Black and Brown communities nothing seems to significantly change.

I began to think of my own experience and what “makes sense to me”. Maybe if we keep changing one program after another to improve the condition of the Black and Brown communities, and they continue to be in dire need of help and development, maybe, just maybe it is not entirely the Black and Brown communities we should be looking to “fix”. If we have been trying different ways of doing the same thing and expecting different results they tell me that is the very definition of insanity.

Could it be that we are addicted to privilege, specifically white privilege? Tim Wise makes the point very nicely that if there is a group that is dis-advantaged, then there is a group that is advantaged. If the is a group that is under-privileged, then there is a group that is . . . (wait for it . . .. yes) privileged! Finding different ways to “fight poverty”, eliminate health disparities, or eradicate inequities in the criminal system without doing anything about privilege, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Focusing all our efforts on “improving the lot of the underprivileged” without working to eliminate “privilege” is the very definition of insanity.

Makes sense to me.