Please, Check Your Privilege.

*This is a long post about me complaining – the ultimate purpose is to show support for BLM movement and all the lives affected by people who just won’t learn to not be racist or prejudice. *

I  am a white Latina.
In addition to being born in the US, my light skin color is a privilege I was born with. While I do not come from a connected, educated or wealthy family, I am at least privileged by the color of my skin. I, like many others, must use this privilege to elevate the needs and voices of those who do not share in this advantage.

I love to bitch about my problems (student loans, lupus, questionable upbringing, dead parents, limited social support, and so on), but I have to put my selfish pity party on hold because issues of the world are bigger than mine.

Now, I have many opinions, and I typically keep things to myself unless asked or provoked. But also because I do not enjoy wasting time and energy on arguing with people who do not want to listen to new ideas, research, or information that has not come from Fox News or that Facebook friend who can’t spell and thinks cell phone towers cause respiratory infections. 

As of late, I feel like I should share some of my opinions, at least they are based on and supported by my education,  peer-reviewed journals, and statistics. See that large sum of student loan debt I complain about, I acquired it by studying society and its social institutions.

Growing up, my hippie mother taught me to love everyone and the golden rule. I don’t recall being told too much about racism, other than it was wrong. Mom always said try to understand people, and not to judge based on looks or beliefs. I was also told that I had some family members who suffered from that racial ignorance bug, but thankfully that did not infect my mother, or at least the mother I knew. But what my mother taught me borders along the line of color-blind racism. Though she told me to get to know people for who they are (which is a lot more than other parents did apparently), I was not told to recognize, appreciate or empathize with people different than me or to work to understand how diversity, equity, and inclusion is not necessarily incorporated within societal institutions. I was taught how to love others, but not necessarily taught how to be an ally or advocate for others.  I am thankful for my education and professional experiences that have provided me with knowledge and tools to round out my cultural competence (Always room for improvement). My education specifically in sociology and public health (and currently law) aided me in understanding the world and all of its unbalanced access, treatment, outcomes, etc.

Every day I am saddened by the world. I feel guilt for my own privilege and often feel my attempts to improve my community is too inadequate to count. The issues of injustice, brutality, inequality, and hate continue to occur in the world. While these issues are so visible and in our faces, so many people choose to ignore, deny, deflect, or retreat from talking or taking action.

For the last few years the news, social media, shit politicians, and shit people, in general, have promoted, provoked, allowed, and praised civil injustice against minority groups here in the United States and all over the world (based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and/or economic status.) These atrocities have gone on since people left the continent of Africa and some people’s melanin production slowed or disappeared. It is apparently easy to forget that we all came from the Rift Valley or that race is socially constructed. This social construction has created a space for people to be ethnocentric and look down on and hinder other communities from living their best lives.

With modern technologies, these acts of aggression and oppression are easily broadcast for all to see. Some people still seem to forget that CC TV and smartphones are everywhere nowadays. People (the good ones, the bad ones, and those in between) are able to share all the perceived challenges and threats they encounter via the web. In true human fashion, everything posted somehow creates two camps (ethnocentrism and cultural relativism). There is always a group that agrees with the oppressor and one agrees with the oppressed.  There are also people who don’t pick a side or play “devil’s advocate” and those people suck. (As the saying goings – the devil has enough advocates, get the fuck out of here).

It seems that many people choose to ignore history, disregard peoples’ experiences, and overlook blatant wrongs in their community that happened in the past or are currently happening. I find that history and the bible are often treated the same. People pick and chose what they want to remember, what they want to forget, and what they think should guide the future. There are people who choose to remember history in its entirety, to analyze it, and learn in order to improve the future or at the very least not repeat it. Some people learn or are taught only one side of history or one segment of history. And then there are people who get their history knowledge from people who claim aliens are responsible for everything.  In my opinion, the latter two groups are currently those with the most power and influence in this country.

The social institutions that have been established in our country are infected with racism, prejudice, and inequities. Authorities within these institutions appear to perpetuate institutional racism, act on implicit and overt bias and many just stand by and allow it to happen. That is not acceptable. When people are allowed to hurt others and hide behind the public institution they are employed by, that is not fair. There should be substantial ramifications for all those individuals involved. I can accept that there are bad people in the world (Nature v. Nurture) but I can not accept that we will allow those bad people to continue to do the bad things. It is unfair that stereotypes can be assumed as true and reputations can be ignored. While progress has been made to improve equity and inclusion, the progress to rid people of their biases and institutional policies has truly slowed.

My siblings and I are Mexican American.  We are lucky to pass as white, we are able to walk down a street, into a store, a restaurant, a school and no one would be cautious or suspicious of us. But my family members with darker skin, my friends, or their children with complexions that differ from any of the average fox news anchors are not that lucky. They face discrimination, judgment, and challenges that I cannot comprehend. 

I worry for my nephews, for my best friend’s son, for children I used to work with, for the children in my neighborhood, and those kids I will never know. To be assumed guilty, wicked, or dangerous base simply on skin tone is ridiculous. (As if people have the choice in their skin tone, what family they are born into, or what country they come from.) It is important to recognize that we are all different and that is what makes being an individual so grand, but we must realize that opportunities, resources, and privileges are not equal among our society. Unfortunately, simple privileges like the color of our skin can only be ignored by those with that privilege. Many seem to think that privilege, [dis]advantages, and hard work somehow balance each other out to make everyone equal. With current societal norms, hard work only gets you so far, and opportunities and access get you so far. The privileges that we are born with or not born with, or our ascribed statuses, are critical to our individual successes, failures, and ability to move around socially. We can not bestow our privilege on another person, but we can use our privilege to help others – lift them up, echo their voices, fight for just treatment, etc.

To perpetuate hate, double standards, and injustice is not acceptable in what is supposed to be the greatest and freest country. It is absurd to demand respect because you wear a badge, have a gun, or sit in a chair that rotates every few years when that person has no respect for others or a sense of responsibility or humility. This is not what y’alls precious forefathers wanted ( I mean in a sense,  we all know they were not truly intending to be inclusive with their writings) and for sure your boy Jesus wouldn’t be cool with the:  continuous shooting of unarmed black men, shaming POC for protesting but praising weaponized white people for surrounding capital buildings, turning away the impoverished, the sick, or the undocumented, praising law-breaking white women while brown women detained for the same charges went unmentioned/ celebrit-ized (let us pretend that is a word), or incarcerating men of color at six times the rate as white men for similar nonviolent offenses, yet setting white men free after three months when found guilty of sexual assault and battery (an inherently violent crime). 

If you know me, then you know I often take a Marxist or Parsons world view, and like my armchair theorist heroes, I feel shame that I have not done enough to stand up for those oppressed. My conversations, voting, donations, emails, phone calls, and petition signing have not greatly improved the lives of minorities, immigrants, or LGBTQ+. Hopefully, once I have that JD behind my name people will listen or read my emails/letters. Moreover, as I continue to grow professionally and educationally, I may one day have money to back up the alligator checks my hummingbird ass writes. (Meaning I will be able to use money and privilege to follow through with all my talk about needing to improvise diversity, equity, and inclusion in our institutions).

I hope a big change is coming to better our communities, our countries, and our world. Until then I can only try to help out those around me. So FYI- I am a great listener,  I am a great passive-aggressive email writer and I make the world’s best peanut butter cookies, (which have been proven to help heal a soul). If you need some extra support – feel free to call, text, zoom, email, or visit me. I will listen to you, cry with you, rage with your and/or bake for you.

To my friends and family of color: I love you, I see you,  and I am here for you. I know we will win this fight. While this battle has gone on longer than we have been alive, we cannot stop, we must persist. We must tell the truth and expose lies. Hold your head up.