An Op-ed on White Privilege

As most of us, I’ve been thinking a LOT about the racial divide in this country as I sit here on Kaua`i, thousands of miles away from my birthplace of Baltimore. I joined every single decent person in feeling deep deep sadness, rage, pain and despair as I watched the death of George Floyd happen before my very eyes. I watched with pride as my friends protested in Baltimore, and in horror as I watched the PRESIDENT of the United States pose for a photo op with a bible in his hand after his administration ordered the police to tear gas peaceful protesters in order to clear his path.

There are really no words to say to all of it. What can I say to my friend Candace who posted a picture of her black grandchildren on facebook asking how she can protect them? What can I say to my black men friends who can’t jog without looking over their shoulder?  I will NEVER know what it’s like to be judged by the color of my skin. I will NEVER know what it’s like to worry every time my child puts on a hoodie. I will NEVER know what it’s like to see a police officer and wonder if he’ll come into my apartment in the middle of the night and pull a gun on me.

That’s the first step. White people need to see white privilege. Please, my fellow white people, stop saying “I don’t see color”. Because when you say that, what you are really saying is I don’t see systemic racism. You’re saying that there is no difference in the way black and white communities are treated, that you see no difference in the job opportunities for black and white youth, that you don’t see that predominantly black schools are way underfunded compared to predominantly white schools. I know that last part is true, I worked for the Baltimore City Public School system.  I also work for an economic think tank that looks at the intersections between race and economic opportunity. Black unemployment is consistently higher than white unemployment, period. And I could go on about all the ways in which institutional racism is alive and well in 2020. I know you mean well when you say that you don’t see color, I know that my dear friends and family who say that mean well. But we need to do more than that, we need to see color, and we need to accept that our experiences in the world are not the same as people of color, even if we have our own economic or other personal struggles. They’re just not. We do need to see color, and speak out about these injustices whenever we can.

I’ll stop there and re-state what I wrote above: This won’t stop until white people take some responsibility. Yes all lives matter but not now, please don’t say that now. Be silent and listen to how we can best be allies to create a world where black and brown people can feel safe. Let’s all step back and let them have the mic, and lead us and teach us how to best be allies. And then we can stand behind them and support them in their struggle.

Peace and Aloha