Racism and white privilege have been hot topics for the past few… well, decades, if we’re being honest. But right now, it’s pretty intense.
In the past three months, I can think of at least three specific black individuals who were murdered either by law enforcement or by a white individual with a power complex.
On February 23rd of this year, Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was less than a year younger than me, was shot to death while on a run. It took over a month for footage of his murder to begin circulating online.
Less than a month after Ahmaud’s death, Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in her own apartment by law enforcement. Her crime? Dating their suspect two years prior.
And just this week, George Floyd was killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck in attempts to restrain him. Pictures of his death have been circulating online.
This isn’t strange. This isn’t surprising. This is America.
Black people have been being killed by white people since the conception of this country. With technology becoming more advanced, it’s just now becoming evident. We see it happening. We see the pictures. We watch the videos. We cannot deny it or look the other way. It’s right in front of us. Black Americans are regularly killed at the hands of White Americans, and there isn’t an end in sight.
As a white woman, I know my privilege. I’m not afraid to go on a run. I have never been discriminated against because of the color of my skin. In fact, I believe there was a time in my life that I may have directly benefited from racial prejudice.
During my junior year of high school, I was sexually assaulted by a person of color. After it happened, I immediately went to the principal and told her what had happened. My assailant was immediately expelled.
It was an extremely traumatizing event, as sexual assault normally is. But around five years later, I started to question some aspects of my experience.
I had always prided my alma mater on the way that they handled my assault. My assailant was expelled and I was never shamed or victim blamed by the school. The principal and vice principal never once questioned my story. I was believed immediately. And for a long time, I didn’t realize that many stories of sexual assault aren’t met with the same ending.
When #metoo became prevalent, I remember reading stories of sexual assault victims sharing their stories. I began to wonder why so many of them were not believed, but I was. Now, I truly believe a big part of it was because I was a white woman who accused a person of color.
Was the outcome fair? Yes. I made the decision not to press charges, and was content with just not having to see him at school. But I do not believe that the process was fair. If it were, either my story would sound a lot more like the other victims of sexual assault, or their stories were sound more like mine. The ends do not justify the means, even if it benefits me.
White privilege is being believed when you report your sexual assault.
I dealt with a lot of guilt when I came to this realization, but what good does guilt do? I don’t have anything to be guilty about. I didn’t do anything wrong.
I will never know if I would have been granted the same grace if my assailant was white. My first instinct says no, that they would have at least questioned me more.
And that is white privilege.
By sharing this story, I hope that I am using my privilege to raise awareness of how racism and white privilege can present itself in our own lives, not just on the news. It is closer than you think.
We need to be better. Do better. The world won’t change unless we do.