In an effort to go color blind, the world has missed an opportunity to recognize that brown and black lives matter too. It’s dismissive. Saying that you don’t see color, that you only see people is wonderful in theory but the fact of the matter is that, color does matter, especially to those who are of color. White privilege is real. Racism is real and those of us who are brown and black we feel the effects of casual and systemic racism almost as often and naturally as we breathe. Underneath the color of our skin, we are all human beings. By denying that the experience for those of color is no different than that of white privilege is uncaring and, quite frankly, the most condescending thing of all. The privilege of living your life without being first assumed to be a criminal is something most Americans can take for granted because criming while white often doesn’t have the same consequences as just existing in color. It’s much more dangerous to have black skin in America.
I’m not black. I can’t pretend to know how it must feel to be a black man or woman, especially with the contentious history with white America. I did, however, grow up in a predominantly black neighborhood, I am Latina, I’m a woman and grew up as blue-collar as they come. I’ve had a taste of what it feels like to not be white in America and it doesn’t feel good. In some cases, it is more than being treated as less than, outright hate and blurred systemic racism is terrifying.
The very word minority means being few in numbers, less than the majority. When you are of color, it’s “their” (to borrow a word from my white privileged friends) world and the rest of us are just trying to survive in it. Black kids and brown kids are raised knowing that “criming while white” probably won’t amount to any consequences but being born with melanated skin can get you murdered in the street for doing nothing at all. We accept this and whenever we get any crazy ideas to assert our equality, someone is always there with their white privilege and systemic racism to laugh in our face and not so gently remind us that we should go back to “our country”. Spoiler alert: this is our country. We have to work twice as hard to just be “equal”.
If you’re reading this and you have never felt less than (believe me, you can be white and feel this way too but there is a certain level of entitlement that comes with having alabaster skin) I am happy for you because it is demeaning. It’s like being caged and silenced. Imagine having to always try to prove yourself as worthy. Imagine praying that people can see past the color of your skin and get to know you the person before putting you in a box because of what you look like. If you do dare to be “equal” to deem yourself worthy of a better life, be prepared to fight the uphill battle of your life. It won’t be easy and you will be tattered and torn by the time you reach the top but it will be worth it.
The thing is you can’t hide the color of your skin. Before you even open your mouth or say a word, the world has already judged you on your skin color. It doesn’t matter who you are, we all have preconceived notions. We can’t help where we came from but we can help where we are going. We can choose to treat people equal. We can choose to judge people on their merits and not on the color of their skin.
The preconceived notions are what continue to kill our children. I hate to say it but I think when people see color, that color is automatically associated with a stereotype. It doesn’t matter what’s real and what’s not because the stereotype is ingrained and naturally believed. The volatile reaction to civil rights for all is born of the fear that we might actually be equal to the people we feel better than. Privilege only exists because one group is allowed to diminish the worth of another.
I grew up in the Chicagoland area and there are many people of different ethnic backgrounds but still, if Latino or black kids are seen in a group, they must be up to no good. They must be gang bangers, carjackers or some kind of other criminals. In these areas, we know our boundaries. We keep to certain neighborhoods, where “we belong”. We know that veering outside of those boundaries could mean trouble for us; like accidentally being shot or harassed by the cops. Never mind the south, we try to stay north of the Mason Dixon line because confederate flags still fly proudly in the south. I don’t know about you but I’ve always seen that as sort of a warning sign. Do not enter. Turn back now. Run. They fly Confederate flags freely, they don’t believe brown or black lives matter in the same way white ones do.
I’m not making this up. I didn’t create this broken system of hatred and systemic racism that refuses to embrace the rallying cry of black lives matter. This is the truth for many of us. How many young people have to die for us to say no more? Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and etc, etcetera. I could go on for days. Just watch the news. White privilege has been around as long as our country has. It started with the Native Americans. We have to choose to change it; to raise our children with bellies full of equality and respect for other human beings. Color should not be a consideration in matters of love and humanity.
The country is outraged and talking about racism today and that is wonderful but in a few weeks, it will fade away and the people of color will be abandoned once again by their current day freedom riders and be once again alone to face the bigots who would just assume shoot them in the face then ask questions. The saddest part of all, there are still people who will argue that the cops were within their rights to shoot these boys dead. There are usually no consequences for these officers. This is criming while white at it’s finest.
Here is where we differ.
I don’t believe that any boy, child, man, woman or girl should be shot dead in the street like an animal. I believe in justice and equality for everyone. I believe that until black lives matter, none of us are free. Until all of us are equal, none of us matter. To put it simply, being black or brown is not a crime and being white doesn’t make you exempt from moral accountability. If you shoot, we bleed, we die…whether you care or not.
Check out the # Criming While White hashtag on Twitter if you don’t believe me. Racial profiling is deadly. Ask yourself, are you white enough to pass “their” skin color test? If not, you might want to pay attention to the state of the world and your part in it. Be better. End systemic racism. Let them know that criming while white has consequences and those who pretend not to see do not get a pass of plausible deniability because they chose to close their eyes. Remind them that brown and black lives matter and we will not stand silently complicit as they get away with murder.