It is time for me to speak my truth to my privilege… I am a middle aged, upper middle class white woman and white privilege is all I have ever or will ever know. Just a few of my realities… I will never know what it feels like to get on an elevator and have other people exit immediately due to discomfort over being alone with me – we might in fact strike up a conversation about our shared journey or destinations. I will never know what it feels like to have people change sides of the street just because I’m walking on the sidewalk – people always smile and frequently say hi, even if I don’t know them, especially if they look like me. I will never know what it feels like to have any fear of a law enforcement officer when they stop me for an infraction or if they stop to render aid during my rare mechanical breakdowns – in fact if it’s an infraction I will likely end up with a warning (many times, even for things that were very serious) and if it’s a breakdown they’re only going to offer me help. To be clear, in neither set of circumstances at no time will I be referred to as “the suspect” and I will be treated with the utmost in respect and kindness. I will never know what it feels like to be followed around due to suspicion at any of the multiple luxury stores I walked into this week at Mall of Millenia in Orlando – the only reason I will be followed is because they want to sell me All. Of. The. Things. And lastly, if I were in my vehicle, even if I were armed, if an unrelated police activity happened right beside me, law enforcement would ask me politely to move away or even escort me to safety to ensure that nothing happened to me since I was not their target. I never am. Because I am a middle aged, upper middle class white woman. This is my world.
The only one I’ve ever lived in.
But that doesn’t mean I am stupid enough to think that everyone lives here with me. America is a great country for me… but to be clear it is not a great country for everyone else who isn’t like me. And it is especially cruel to its black and brown citizens, and it has been since the very founding of this country. That is reality. It may make you uncomfortable to deal with that reality, but that doesn’t change it.
There are two Americas.
Now here’s the real truth… if I had to live in the other one, where none of my reality has ever existed even for people who share my socio-economic reality, even for only a day, I might be uncomfortable enough to burn some shit down. I might take to the streets. I might try to make some folks like me damned uncomfortable. Because I would not settle for less than what I have now. I don’t have to. And I wouldn’t. So why do we tell them to sit down? Why do we say that they are wrong in how they say no? Maybe their way is the only way to wake us up. Charlotte is a shout to #WAKEUP #whitepeople. This is our America too. Deal with it.
“I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
All photos taken by Jonathan Brashear. You can see more in his Facebook album here.