Katie McDowell

Please stop with the excuses: Racism is real

White privilege is absurd.

That the color of one’s skin should influence his or her advantage in life is ridiculous.

That does not, however, mean white privilege isn’t real.

It is. I know it, you know it, and your racist uncle knows it, whether he’s willing to admit it or not.

Non-white people sure as hell have no doubt.

What I don’t get is some white people’s desperation to deny it. As though to acknowledge it takes something away from them. As though to simply say, “Yes, you are right, I do not understand your struggle, because I have not walked even a moment in your shoes” is so hard.

As though the ability to pretend racism isn’t rampant in our country isn’t proof of that privilege, in and of itself.

I was lucky enough to grow up in an extremely diverse neighborhood, in a suburb a stone’s throw from Washington, D.C. My first four friends in kindergarten were a Jewish girl, an African American girl, an Indian American girl and an Asian American girl (no boys allowed, apparently).

Our street had families of all colors and backgrounds.

And while it’s true that then, none of us children seemed to think twice about our differences, it would be naive and insulting to claim we lived in a color-blind world.

My mom may have been — and still be — super close with the black woman who lived next door, and my brother best buddies with her youngest son.

But I would wager she had warnings for her three boys that my mother never dreamed of having to share with her own tow-headed children.

Like: Be careful, the cops might kill you.

Like: Be above suspicion, because the system will fail you.

Like: Even when evidence of our inherently racist society exists on front pages, dash cam videos and cell phone recordings, white people — some of whom call themselves your friends — will still refuse to hear your cries for justice.

Can you imagine?

If you’re white, chances are no, you can’t.

And this is exactly the problem.

Since the much-needed and long-overdue protests began in the wake of George Floyd’s death and spread around the globe, I have seen a lot of my white peers wondering how we can help.

But I’ve also seen a few who, for whatever reason, feel the need to assert their own trials, as though oppression was some kind of contest to be won.

“I get scared when I see police lights, too,” they might post. Or, “I’ve worked hard for everything I have.” Or, “I just wish they’d protest peacefully/quietly/respectfully/differently, then I would take them more seriously.”

To which I can only say: Shut up.

Just stop. Hear yourselves. Look around you. Adjust your view.

See the pain.

Quit treating civil rights as though it was a zero-sum game.

We lose nothing by listening to others’ voices for a change. Nothing. The only thing at risk is our ignorance.

Cease the self-serving arguments long enough to pay attention and we all actually stand to gain.

Perspective. Empathy.

A sense of our responsibility in a society built upon the backs of black, brown and indigenous people, and what we can do better. To be better.

White privilege is real. If you’re white, you have it. Period.

Now is the time to use it for something good.

Speak up. Speak out.

Speak the truth. Own it.

That black lives have always mattered.

But so far, we’ve failed them miserably.

Katie McDowell is the enterprise editor/lifestyles columnist for The Dominion Post. Email kmcdowell@dominionpost.com.