The idea of white privilege showed up in my life long before I recognized it. That’s true for most of us, really.
Before any of us knows it, we’ve benefitted – or not – from the color skin we were born into. No greater gift. No greater sin.
Then some of us become aware, before others, that something is different, that something sets us apart.
It’s hard to put your finger on it as a young child. The words are there, the thoughts, the looks, the attitudes. But our innocent minds are still being formed, can’t yet grasp what it all means.
Later, looking back, it becomes more obvious. The words we overheard, the actions we witnessed, the pain we experienced. It all begins to make sense as our lens of prejudice and privilege comes into focus.
That was my experience.
You see, I look white. By society’s perspective, I am white. It’s true that I am half white; my father was a white man. But I am also half Native American; my mother was a Native woman.
In the end, it’s what I look like, not what I think like.
Because of what I look like – white – I experience privilege. I experience “white-passing privilege.” I have no choice, no voice. It just is.
And once I realized it, I started to see it – everywhere.
Lesson #1: White Privilege Makes You Accountable
The dark night comes into clear focus.
My mother was shot and killed in front of me. I was three years old. I could only watch in horror even as my older brother, himself only five, cradled her head, pleading with her not to die.
She died anyway.
I look to the assailant. My mind fogs with the realization that it’s my father.
I didn’t understand the slur at the time, “Prairie n*gger got too big for her britches.”