I Will Check My Privilege When You Check Your Protest
There is clearly an anger level throughout the country that I have never seen in my 37 years on this planet. Some of this anger is righteous. Some of the anger is not. But who am I to say what is and is not righteous? I grew up inside the city limits of St. Louis. I have been arrested more times than I care to discuss. I have had more tickets than I can count from speeding to window tint and no front license plate on a Thursday morning, on my way to work.
I grew up in an 8-foot by 8-foot bedroom I shared with my sister. My parents lied about where we lived so I could go to a good school. I was not born with privilege. Neither was the majority of Americans. So, when people are protesting and screaming about my privilege, I will balk at their protest and become defensive. Not because their protest is unfounded because there are plenty of wrongs in our country, but because you have discredited a significant portion of the country due to their skin color alone, not by their actions. Is that not exactly what racism is, judging a person by their skin color?
I have gotten into many social media debates and arguments about White Privilege. I do not deny that there is implicit bias. I have no doubt the police will pull a person of color over for being a person of color and nothing more. But to think I haven’t been pulled over for being a “suspicious looking vehicle” at 1 A.M. after leaving my girlfriend’s house is ridiculous. I have been pulled over to “remind me that my plates expire this month” driving down a road at 3 A.M. Luckily, I am not much of a drinker and was sober. My stories are 100% true and can be told by millions of other citizens across the country no matter their race.
So, can we have an open and honest dialogue? Do not tell a white person to check their privilege without first knowing what privilege they have. And as a white person, white people should stop ignoring the injustices that happen in cities across the country regarding people of color. It is time actually to affect change, but this can only be done by coming together. Not by pointing fingers, telling people to check their privilege, burning towns, and ignoring the foundational problems.
Since Ferguson erupted, protests are happening almost weekly. Some of the protests are righteous, and some are not. But can I tell you a secret? If your protest is righteous, and your fellow protestors are lighting buildings on fire, spitting on police, and trashing your neighborhoods, your righteousness has just disappeared. Protestors forget that they need the backing of those at home, watching the protests on T.V., to affect change.
Society ignores those that scream the loudest, but those that speak to the people of the country are heard. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this idea. He was for peaceful protests. Mr. King did this because he understood that to truly affect change, you need the backing of a united country. He also understood that violent protests did the exact opposite of unification. Pre-Civil War, when slavery was still very much part of the culture, the movement towards emancipation of slaves was slow. It gained ground, but it was painstakingly slow.
Not until a book that brought the horror of slavery to every home in the country did people begin to hear. The most popular book of the 19th century and the number 1 most sold book behind the Bible created the environment for true change to happen, and it happened quickly. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first published in 1852; the first openly anti-slavery president was elected eight years later, and the Civil War began just the following year. This rapid change did not occur following violent protests, or burning cities, or slave revolts. No. This change took place when a book caused the country to begin to hear.
This country is on the precipice of change, but a violent protest is not going to push the agenda of that change. Violent protests are going to cause change to stay at the precipice even longer. Ignoring each other, calling each other names, judging someone by their skin color, black and white, burning cities, breaking windows, spitting on police are only going to impede change. It is time for all of us to come together for change to happen. But this must be done by every single one of us.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” Martin Luther King Jr.