After being an academic term for decades, white privilege has come in the mainstream spotlight of the American lexicon in recent months.
The Black Lives Matter movement that started in 2012 after the Trayvon Martin murder and subsequent acquittal of his murderer, gained greater attention during the Ferguson and Laquan McDonald race related murder protests of the past year.
Of the many points raised during the dialogue Black Lives Matter has rightfully forced the American population to have, is white privilege.
White people, who will even engage in a conversation on this topic, naturally take the route of denial of the existence of white privilege in general and/or that white privilege has not benefited them individually. Denial is a natural stance for white people to take, because to not just acknowledge, but to understand and empathize with the concept of white privilege involves a complete paradigm shift.
And paradigm shifting is very, very, very, very hard to do. Anyone who says otherwise has never really attempted to undergo a paradigm shift. To shift paradigm is to change the deepest of deeply ingrained habits of thought, perception, and action.
I personally first became aware of white privilege during my first real romantic relationship as an adult which was with an African American woman. Spending time with her in both public and private, talking with her family and friends, and between ourselves was a very eye opening time for me.
That time along with an active meditation practice makes denying white privilege impossible for me personally. Though it is at least understandable, how millions of white people living at or below the poverty line in America, could think that white privilege either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t exist for them. After all, if they had white privilege wouldn’t they be rich?
White privilege is a macro theory. White privilege is much bigger than one white person’s or one white community’s circumstances. It is culturally structural. In America, white privilege is akin to gravity; it is there at all times whether we think about it or not. Why? Because it is white Anglo-Saxons that settled in America and purged the country of it’s indigenous population. To the victor goes the spoils. White people have been enjoying the spoils of their genocide against Native Americans for over two centuries.
The Flint Water Crisis has lead to an American city being in an official state of emergency over two months and counting. The final cost of this tragedy has been estimated at $300 billion. How much is that compared to the 9/11 terrorist attacks?
It has come out that officials knew up to a year in advance that the citizens of Flint, Michigan were having poisonous water pumped into their pipes. They knew ahead of time and made sure to get certain people clean/safe drinking water while others were bathing and drinking toxic water? That’s criminal. At that scale, that’s terrorism.
Knowingly poisoning an entire city of people, didn’t that happen in Syria during their civil war? Lead tainted water versus a chlorine bomb, the difference is colored bubbles.
But instead of a coalition of nations going in with armies and targeted air strikes, the leaders in Flint get to testify in front of Congress in a modern day, toothless witch hunt. Public shaming means nothing compared to permanent damage done to the civilians of Flint who have long term exposure to toxic water.
The consequences and complete lack there of for the people responsible for the Flint Water Crisis is white privilege personified. They should already be in jail and should be awaiting to hear if they face a harsher punishment. But they are white and in office, so they face some negative public scrutiny and maybe a slap on the wrist down the line.
What if it came out that a group of minorities poisoned the water supply in a major American city? What would the reaction be? What consequences would they face? What actions and reactions would the public demand?