Thoughts From a Privileged Black Person
We are in the middle of the biggest human rights movement of this generation. Right now, there are so many emotions being felt by millions of people. Many feel intense grief for losing equality and rights, while others feel anger that this injustice continues to exist and grows while many stand idly by.
As I scroll through my feed every morning and see what the black community faces, one emotion stands out the most to me. I feel guilty. I feel guilty for being a privileged black person and for most of my life not using my platform or privilege to make a difference. My parents are African immigrants but I lived in a bubble my whole life; a bubble that did not regularly discuss or acknowledge race and sub issues like white privilege.
I never wanted to be “that black girl” who wouldn't shut up about race. My whole life, I was raised in white communities, neighborhoods and schools. I was the only person of color in every room for 80% of my life. I knew about systematic racism but I never educated myself or talked about it because I was comfortable borrowing the crumbs of white privilege granted to me and I didn't want a social status demotion. I knew the system in and out, I knew exactly what to say and what not to say to avoid getting crucified. I knew the misinformation, the ignorance, and the prejudice that filled every environment I was a part of but I never said anything. In fact, I regularly engaged in it.
My silence did not mean I was unaware. I saw and even experienced racial stereotyping, discrimination, and profiling every day. As I got older, I got more tired of pretending I didn’t see it. The more educated I became, the harder it was to stay silent. So I started speaking out.
There are many black privileged individuals who learned what to do and say to fit in. The more accepted one feels, even if that acceptance is fake, the harder it is to speak out. Following the crowd and getting rewarded for it feels much better than fighting for equality and getting crucified. The possibility of losing friends, social status, and comfort is often at war with an innate, inner desire to do the right thing.
One of the reasons many black privileged people stay silent is because they experience better conditions than those who do not. The more “white” you act, the more wealth you can acquire because you can climb the social ladder quicker and with more ease. That can be as simple as taking out your box braids for an interview or changing the pronunciation of your name to make it easier to pronounce. Every time that is done, some part of your culture continues to be oppressed and you lose a part of yourself.
For us, the privileged black people, it is our duty to stand up and take action. The only way to use privilege for good is to utilize your voice. We must educate ourselves on the realm of injustice that our brothers and sisters in the world face every day. It is vital to learn about the mental, physical, and emotional abuse that racism has on people of color. It could have been you, it could have been me on the television screen begging for equality and not receiving it. The only hope our society has, the one shining light that might redeem our future, is dependent on every single person refusing to allow racism to hide and grow into a virus. We must take action. We must say no because it could have been you.
Written by Grace Mutiri