It’s Never Too Late To Wake Up.

I’ve documented before how I – regrettably – had to wake up to systemic racism. I had my privileged blinders on until George Zimmerman was found Not Guilty in the Trayvon Martin murder. It was then that I realized: The system is racist. The system is conditioned to criminalize young boys in hoodies before they’ve done anything illegal. The burden of proof is on the innocent where young black men are concerned. Their guilt is assumed, their innocence must be supported by good character, while white frat boys raping drunk girls at college parties get off with a slap on the wrist.

Since then I’ve done everything in my power to keep learning. To keep my eyes and my heart open to painful truths. I sit in my discomfort and examine it and find more power behind it. I reflect on my defensiveness and I try to look through the eyes of someone who has not grown up or lived with the privilege my skin has given me. I reflect on THEIR truths, not on MY discomfort.

When it comes to racism – that’s something I have to always remind myself: It’s never about me.

On the day of the election, several of my favorite voices – mostly black women – were writing about how racist the suffragette movement was in many ways. This was all new to me, as with a lot of our black history. During that time, white women were trying to secure the vote and found that pushing Black Women to the shadows made their efforts more palatable. Even if they had supported abolition and freedom for slaves, things changed when it came to the suffragettes. Many openly campaigned against the black vote, implying that white women should have been allowed to vote before black men, that the black man should not have more rights than the white woman.

Yet in 1870, the suffragists found themselves on opposing ends of the equal-rights battle when Congress passed the 15th Amendment, enabling black men to vote (at least, in theory) — and not women. That measure engendered resentment among some white suffragists, especially in the South.
Source

This was hard for me to read on a day when I wanted to celebrate women like Susan B. Anthony. But I read it and I sought to educated myself on Ida B. Wells – An African American Woman who was also fighting in the suffragette movement. I sat on all of this and learned from it. Since then I’ve been keeping my mind and heart open to ideas of intersectionality.

Intersectionality was on my mind in the wake of the Women’s March this weekend, as many Black Women wrote about the March. There are several good pieces I sat with including Kelly Wickham Hurst’s Facebook post.

Let’s dig into the “zero arrests” thing. Because it’s making my entire ass itch.

To accompany this, let’s also look at the videos of protestors going up to a line of police officers and shaking hands, high-fiving them and hugging them.

If we don’t dig right into this we could miss an important lesson that’s really trying to get taught.

There were no arrests because of the supremacy of whiteness. The inherent goodness of non-threatening white ladydom. The pinkness and innocence. The stereotypes, y’all.

There were “zero arrests” because of whiteness. We really have to understand this and stop back-patting over how “good” and “peaceful” this march was. The dichotomy of seeing police officers show up in matching pink hats and handing out flowers as opposed to showing up in riot gear is just, whew.

We have to walk this thinking all the way down the line or else we can slip and fall into a vat of self-congratulatory privilege and never come up for air again. We gotta call the roll on this one as well as how we frame the inconvenience of protests we didn’t participate in previously.

Otherwise, you ain’t checking for everybody.

I kept seeing all of the “no arrests!” reports and feeling weird about it and Kelly’s post helped me validate my feelings. This is the change I’m seeing since waking to systemic racism, a part of me now seems to be aware of the subtle racism even if I can put it into words. I knew this “no arrests” line of praise was not something I felt comfortable shouting, I just wasn’t sure why.

I also read this piece about intersectionality at the march:

Intersectional feminism isn’t leaving thank you notes on the cars of police officers, and high-fiving them for being nice to you at your march, while completely ignoring that if this march had been BLM, law enforcement would conduct themselves with hostility. If only you’d seen how the chants went to murmurs when it was time to say “Black Lives Matter” or “refugees are welcome here!”. Ignoring these very facts alone is the root of the problem when it comes to feminism.”

And then finally I read and sat with this poem by Johnetta Elzie. Here is a small part of the powerful truths:

Where were you when we asked you to #SayHerName?When Rekia Boyd was killed while playing at the park with her friends?
When Tanisha Anderson, Sandra Bland, Shantel Davis, and others died at the hands of police, with little media attention?
When our trans sisters — Brandi Bledsoe, Rae’Lynn Thomas, Dee
Whigham — were also murdered and also forgotten?
Where were you?

I read all of these words and soaked them in because – as many have said before – it is not the job of the Black Woman to educate the White Woman. Black women voted against Trump in a 94% majority. White women did not.

I read these words and I think about our history and how I want my stance to be preserved in history during these tumultuous times. How I’m glad I’ve said the name Sandra Bland when I was asked to by my brown sisters. History will show that I did learn at some point, and I will keep learning. I will sit with the words of these painful truths as many times as I have to in order to create true intersectionality. I will not apologize for hurting feelings because I remember when my feelings were hurt – and then I remembered the most important lesson I’ve learned in ages.

BLACK LIVES > WHITE FEELINGS.

There are a lot of exclusionary practices I have participated in ignorantly. I didn’t consider my Trans Sisters when loving all of the images of biological reproductive systems. Those images define “woman” on a biological level when my Trans Sisters are trying to changing that view. I didn’t know about the 750,000 Black Women who marched in Philadelphia in 1997, and I realize those participants and the black women who celebrated them, might have felt jaded by all of the attention the white women in pink hats were getting this weekend. Wouldn’t they have loved to have had all of us at their backs when they took a stand.

But I’m learning and I’ll keep sharing my lessons so that maybe I can save others from the same discomfort.

Racism is hidden in seemingly benign language if you’re white. For example, WhiteHouse.gov – who has deleted their racism section – now has chosen to boast that the Trump Administration is the presidency of Law & Order.

Sounds GREAT, doesn’t it? Love it! Law and Order!

That is an example of hidden racism. It’s the same thing that had me naively supporting the Bill Clinton 1994 Crime Bill. When you’re white and not inherently scared of the police, Law & Order sounds great. However, it has been proven time and time again that these attitudes and the associated legislation negatively impacts the minorities in our communities, especially young black men. Watch the documentary The 13th. Read The New Jim Crow. See the stats that demonstrate how this increase of policing creates more racial divides and punishes the poor and the minorities at a higher level than equivalent white people.

We have to be aware of how our government will disguise racism. And we can’t fall victim to the same language. Just like Kelly said that bragging about the No Arrests thing is due to the “The inherent goodness of non-threatening white ladydom. The pinkness and innocence. The stereotypes, y’all.” If we had replaced every face with a brown one the police would not have been given high-fives and wearing pink hats. And if you believe they would have, then we are coming from two different levels of understanding of our culture and there’s no place in the middle for us to meet.

It would have been different. Period. And the second we recognize that and understand it as true, we learn to see this in many other places, many other times. And that’s where I’ve been. I’m finally open enough to this type of subtle racism that I felt the underlying racism behind these reports of “no crime” – it’s not something you inherently see at first. But I felt weird bragging about it, like there was something icky about it.

We all need to start to feel icky. That’s a sign that we’re learning to spot the subtleties of the systemic racism that surrounds us. We need to be alert to the criminalizing of poverty. We need to recognize the safety these white bodies gives us and be brave to stand up for our brown brothers and sisters because – more often than not – we have nothing to lose.

Modifying the Zoot Approach

I’m do a lot of reading about Black Lives Matter and Criminal Justice Reform and I follow a lot of writers who address white privilege and how to be an ally. And there is a definitely a divide in how people think we should be discussing white privilege and racism with non-believers. There’s what I like to call the Zoot Approach which is where you try to get people to understand with relatable language (I often bring up the lessons I’ve had to learn so no one thinks I’m perfect) and empathy. It’s less confrontational and more conversational. It allows for time as it sometimes takes awhile for people to really understand the complexities of systemic racism. People like me hope that in the long run, this method changes more hearts and makes more progress than harsh confrontation and criticism.

But some days I wonder if the Zoot Approach is validating racist systems before it tries to tear them down.

Kimberly Foster does amazing videos on the For Harriet channel that often encourage the opposite approach. And every time I watch one I think. Shit. She is totally right. Her most recent one criticized Trevor Noah, not for the Lahren interview, but for his response to criticism afterwards as he pushed the Zoot Approach (he didn’t call it that, obviously). Here are some of the best quotes from it.

In theory, coming to a base level of understanding with the Right seems like a great idea but that requires betraying the trust of the people who are most marginalized. We are talking about people who can’t leave their identities at the door to come to a compromise.

we’re asked to engage racism as a valid political viewpoint

Yeah, there might be people who are converted through conversation but racism acts as a complex deeply entrenched set of systems, it’s not just about individuals.

To say both sides are equal is to say both sides are equally threatened or threatening that’s not true.

And I’m just so tired of people wagging their finger at us, the people who are victimized daily by systems that threaten to kill us, to tell us that we are being impolite.

I got another taste of it reading this soul-punching piece in reaction to Van Jones’ Love Army (which I adore as a privileged white person, of course). Here are some key quotes from that.

I learned from this dumbass ordeal that bigotry is based in belief. It’s emotional, not factual or scientific. That is the reason that you can’t reason it out of people. But you can’t love it out of their asses, either. Sorry Van Jones.

In the same way that so many millions of black people can harbor generational resentment of white people but still deal with them nonviolently, civilly, and productively, white people should be forced to deal with us the same way, even if they believe every single bullshit stereotype about us. It shouldn’t matter whether they “like” us or “love” us or not.

….

I’m just saying–black people are already a love army. The fact that we haven’t attempted, at any time, on a wide scale, to burn this country to the ground for what it did and continues to do to us, despite how we have fought, labored, and died for it–and in it–and because of it–shows that we are filled with love for our fellow Americans.

Racist people’s selective blindness to that is an indication that they will only ever see what they want to see when they look at us, no matter what we do.

So we should stop putting on all these performances of “respectability” and “morality” for them and do something that will actually improve our condition.

We should love ourselves enough to fight for what we want, not roll over and beg like good little pets.

Both of these angles address something called “tone policing” and I see it often. I got added to a bunch of Pantsuit Nation groups after the election and I can’t keep up with all of them, but there was a debate in one of them that involved a lot of tone policing. I didn’t dig into it because there’s too much going on in most of those groups and I can’t keep up with it all, but there were people calling out someone’s tone policing when they talked about how they (as a privileged white person) feel beat up a lot by black writers taking the stances I mention above and requested that everyone just “play nice” type of thing.

There were plenty of people calling her out on it and by the time I saw it the conversation had gotten a little out of control, but this is something I have to make sure I’m not doing. The Zoot Approach is not as much a deliberate decision to be passive, it’s really a reflection of who I am at my core. I’m not confrontational, I have a lot of empathy so I try to relate to people no matter how much I disagree with them. However, I am starting to feel more and more like time is not on my side. And I’m still letting people say things that I should be calling out because I’m worried about upsetting relationships or hurting feelings.

(Yes. I know. I’m adequately ashamed.)

I have had many people tell me my approach has helped them open their eyes to something they wouldn’t have seen if it had been yelled at them. So I’m not saying there’s not a point to my approach, but where do I need to draw the line? This is not just casual friends on Facebook. I’ve got deeper and more important relationships in jeopardy. These people who just say they’re not going to be friends with Trump supporters, I just can’t do that. Someone told me recently that putting politics into relationships was petty and part of me understood and agreed but then another part of me heard Kimberly Foster’s voice reminding me, “WE DO NOT HAVE TIME TO BE POLITE.”

Our criminal justice system is so complexly racist and it is removing men from families indefinitely. If they return, they are broken and thrown into a society that won’t have anything to do with them. They can’t get jobs, they can’t vote, they are angry and find solace in other angry people abandoned by the same system and they turn to violence and crime and then end up imprisoned again. It’s a cycle that starts with suspension in schools that puts kids in the private prison pipeline where businesses make money of criminals.

My friend Leah posted something the other day and I think it’s valid. She said she can’t engage in conversations without people agreeing to educate themselves in certain ways. And y’all? I am starting to kinda take the same approach. If you REALLY want to have a conversation with me defending our criminal justice system? I need you to read The New Jim Crow and watch The 13th first.

So I learn these things, I read these books, I watch these movies and I think about the Zoot Approach. And I think about lives in danger. I think about Mexican families who have raised children here and now may be sent home any day after doing nothing wrong other than trying to create a future for their children. The hope of a path to citizenship from the Obama administration for children who grew into adulthood as illegal immigrants knowing only our country, is now gone. They have committed no crimes other than trying to escape harm and poverty. And now they might be sent back to a country that hasn’t been home for a long time and thrown into a war zone. I think about mothers raising black sons in a country that has demonstrated time and time again that their lives are valued less than those of their white counterparts. I think about poor people who have been misguided by their trusted media sources to think this new President has their best interest at heart. I think about trans men and women who live in parts of the country where they can be forced into a dangerous situation simply for using the bathroom.

There are lives at stake. The Zoot Approach is too slow. I need to learn to pushback on tone policing as equal rights are to be afforded to all people – not because they’re nice – but because they are citizens of this country. I need to not let people openly support laws that prevent our marginalized citizens from having their voices heard in their votes, without challenging them. I need to ask people who cite the Black Panthers like some sort of pantheon of violence and white hatred if they’ve ever watched Black Power Mixtape or Vanguard of the Revolution. Did you know the Black Panthers provided meals and education to the black children abandoned by our country? I need to call people out for spitting out lines from Breitbart as if they’re a fact-based news source.

And I need to check myself when I a black activist calls out the Zoot Approach (not by that name, that would be weird) and I feel defensive. People of color suffer in silence all around me. They quietly take the abuses because if they jump up and speak out and point out the unfairness, they have a lot to lose. They could lose their job, their freedom, their life. What do I have to lose? Nothing. Why do I feel the need to so gingerly step around the issues? My skin color protects me, and yet I’m trying to be careful? If anyone should be bold with their stance it should be those of us with little at risk. I can’t change the inherent nature of my peace-keeping, but I will take steps to be more deliberate with my approach, I will be more bold with my arguments, I will risk losing friends because that’s small in comparison to the things the marginalized around me risk losing every day.

The Grief Period Is Over.

Tomorrow is officially four weeks post-election. Since then I’ve attended a 4 gatherings set up solely to discuss political action. That’s four more than I’ve ever attended in my entire life. I’ve set up a political digest with a calendar where we are accumulating all local events that either support communities who could be negatively impacted by the new administration, or events that support the political advancement of more progressive candidates in North Alabama. That’s a lot to have done in four weeks. Right?

I say this because the mourning period is over. I have to come out of my echo chamber. I said for years that echo chambers were dangerous, and that I was only creating one for temporarily self care, and now it’s time to let go of it.

I found a great document last week – “Opportunities for White People In The Fight For Racial Justice” and it was SO CHOCKED FULL of information that I wanted to just memorize it all. It has sinse been moved to an actual website and I encourage everyone to take time to read every word. There’s great links/resources and great plans of attack. I love this thing and plan on making it my bible.

One of my key takaways in the your white communities section is:

Reach out to other White people in your life (family members, old friends, distant social media connections) to engage them in conversations about racism, Whiteness, etc. Bonus points for seeking out and engaging (White) Trump voters in your personal networks.

Um. Yeah. I don’t do that. Not at all. It was a struggle to coach myself on how to engage when I feel like someone has said something racist…BUT ACTUALLY REACHING OUT TO START THE CONVERSATION BEFORE IT GETS THERE? That’s a level I haven’t reached yet.

But I need to.

It’s not like I’m letting people who drop the N-word go about their lives like that’s okay. Not at all. But I know I’ve had my hackles raised at hearing comments that I’ve not addressed. And I’ve worked really hard to coach myself to deal with that in a proper way. But to actually initiate conversations? I just can’t see how that works. But you know what I can see? How important it is. I actually have been thinking about that – about how to start these conversations. And maybe it makes me The Person No One Ever Wants To Talk To Anymore, but I can feel how important it is.

But one thing I know I can do is stop ignoring shit on Facebook. I had convinced myself that to engage on someone else’s wall is a social intrusion. Bring white privilege to my wall and you’ll get called out, but I’m not going to go to YOUR wall and call YOU out on YOUR status.

Partly because I’m a chicken.

And partly because I’ve now unfollowed everyone who says that type of stuff.

And as of tomorrow? The vacation is over. I’m going back in and (trying) to remember all of the people I’ve unfollowed in the last four weeks and follow them back. I can’t live in my echo chamber anymore. Not if I want to make a real difference in my real communities.

No. Seriously. Let’s Empty Out That Knapsack. It’s Been Sitting On The Floor Of Our Bedroom For Far Too Long.

(Can I start with a sidenote just to point out that my rage towards clickbait is so strong that I think I’m choosing titles for posts now that might be the OPPOSITE of clickbait? I mean…look at that title! Who in the hell will ever click that title? WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN? This is just one of the many ways that my self-righteousness will be my own downfall. Just like how I’m pretty sure I’m destined to get run over by a recycling truck with how militant I’ve become about waste management.

ANYWAY.)

As I slowly began to wake systemic racism, I stumbled upon White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – by Peggy McIntosh. I love this paper so much that I uploaded it to my server just in case any of my bookmarked links fail in the future. I want to ALWAYS be able to reference that document. I also printed a copy to put in my bullet journal. I reference it often and read it regularly.

Basically, it breaks down systemic racism into small, relatable moments.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

This is one of the many things I had never thought about. NEVER. Where to get my haircut? I always go to the place close to Target. You know the place. Because there’s one close to EVERY Target. And it doesn’t matter who works there because the majority of the people who walk through the doors are white women so the people cutting hair there know how to cut white lady hair. It’s not something I’ve ever stressed about. I do, however, breathe easier if the person has curly hair. “They know what’s up.” But really – my hair is not that special. If you set up a camera in that shop I’m certain there’s a decent percentage of white curly-haired ladies that walk in every day so the odds are still good that they’ll know how to cut my hair.

Do you watch This is Us? I don’t love it. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. It feels manipulative at times. BUT WHATEVER. There was a GREAT scene where Mandy Moore (who has adopted a black son in the 70s) gets approached by a black mother who says something like, “You need to take your son to a black barber who knows how to cut black hair. That’s why he has a rash on his neck.” Obviously something Mandy Moore had NEVER thought about. It was a great moment like I had when I first considered how lucky I was to just walk into the place next to where I buy my groceries and get a trim…NO TROUBLE.

Let’s move to a deeper level, and why I woke up at 3:30am, desperate to write this morning as my brain tried to sort out some pushback I have seen lately to the concept of institutional racism. Here’s two that fit the mold of the type of statements that I see getting that pushback.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments lately from my Cisgender Straight Trump-voting Conservative Christian White friends/family about how they don’t feel welcome in our society anymore. They feel like their religion is being persecuted because everyone is forcing the checkout people to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They feel like they’re being looked at as racist because they admit to voting for Trump. They feel like they’re being judged for being successful because everyone thinks they’re only successful because they’re white. Every news source and news channel is bashing the man they elected so they feel very outnumbered.

And I get it. I have seen some online communities gang up on these people in a way that becomes very ugly, very quickly. The internet tends to rally in force, and not always in good ways.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I have to do that sometimes, spend time ruminating on something before I can write about it.

First of all – this really could be an enlightening moment if you are someone who pushes back with your own stories of isolation in any of those ways. Because if you look at it in it’s purest form, you might be getting a taste of what it feels like to be a person of color in our country. That isolation, that desperate desire to find someone around you who is like you, that loneliness when you feel like the world is against you? If you can put aside the “Why?” for a moment and just look at that feeling of solitude even though you’re surrounded by bodies and voices? That loneliness in a crowd? That feeling is the same that your neighbors of color feel every single day. Every time they walk into Zoe’s Kitchen (which I love and eat there once a week, but I jokingly call it the Rich White People Sandwich Shop). If you would really just sit with that feeling of desolation amidst the masses, being the lone conservative in a liberal conversation maybe, you could truly be awakened to that glimpse of life as a minority.

But here’s the difference: You can fake it.

I once found myself in a conversation about church and religion with a bunch of people I really like. I felt kinda left out so I just started talking about my aunt the Nun. She’s my Go To religious person of reference because I adore her (she’s in the hospital currently, if you’d like to offer her prayers she’d appreciate it) and because everyone always feels impressed that I’m related to a Nun. She gives me credibility to talk about religion even as an atheist.

Or if I’m in a new group, people won’t just assume I’m an atheist if they start talking about religion. I might feel a little awkward and out of place, but they don’t know that I’m an atheist as I don’t wear a sign on my head saying such things. I can choose to reveal the thing that makes me different, or I can choose not to. Either way, it is MY choice. I do not fit in, in that moment, but I can hide that if I feel like it will work out better for me in that situation.

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Imagine if I couldn’t hide the thing that made me different.

What if you had to wear a tattoo on your head that said, “Voted for Trump.” Or maybe, “Atheist.” Or maybe, “Hates Hamilton.” Think of that one thing that often makes you feel isolated in a crowd. What is that one characteristic, that one belief, that sometimes makes you feel judged? What if you had NO WAY of hiding that? What if everywhere you went, everyone knew that one thing?

That’s having brown skin.

Or wearing a hijab.

Or speaking English as a second language.

Or being disabled.

Or…sometimes to a lesser extent…being part of the LGBTQ community. Depending on how your live your life, your ability to “pass” could be somewhere on a spectrum. Some can’t pass at all, some shock the crap out of people when their truth is revealed.

Imagine if that one thing that the MAJORITY of people around you didn’t match up with – what if that ONE THING was obvious from every angle? There was no hiding it.

White privilege isn’t about saying all white people are the same and we never feel isolated or alone or judged. I sometimes decide to wear long sleeves to cover my tattoos so I won’t be judged. I talk about my aunt the Nun so I won’t be judged. I reference my college degrees so I won’t be judged. We all get judged for things and we avoid that when we can. White privilege is the fact that – as a governing majority – we enjoy some privileges that people of color do not. The moments we might get judged by our skin color are few and far between.

Part of the pushback I see sometimes is the declaration that white skin color is a disadvantage because of Affirmative Action. (To which I direct them to this older article about the myths of Affirmative Action or this more recent one about how it seems to help white women most of all.) This is always a strange conversation to me. I would ask you to sit in your own discomfort and really really sit with that belief that maybe you missed out on a job because of the color of your skin. (Often times there’s debate if that’s true, but let’s just allow you to really believe it.) If you sit with that for a moment you could SO EASILY follow the train of thought…Hmmm…Imagine if I felt like this at every job. At every academic and professional opportunity. At every social event. That must be what it feels like to be a person of color in this country.

I mean, you might still hate Affirmative Action, but in that moment? You might could at least recognize the problem it’s trying to solve as you feel the sting of being judged, not by your qualifications, but by your skin color.

The truth is – to the person who refuses to acknowledge their own privilege – it’s always easy to find examples counter to the one in this knapsack Peggy McIntosh writes about. Hell, I still catch myself doing it every time. The resistant white privilege still runs very deep into my blood.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

My children have parents that are open atheists, and therefore so are they. Their parents are also open liberals, so any parents-of-friends who know us through social media know that about us. They have had many negative encounters at school because of their denial of God and of their support of the LGBTQ community. So I read #14 and my privileged brain thinks, I can’t! We’re liberal atheists in the heart of conservative bible country!

But I remind myself…AGAIN…we can fake it. My kids can choose to make their beliefs an issue. They kinda like to make it an issue because they like the attention it gives them, honestly. But if they’re really trying to get a teacher to like them or really want to be accepted into a key peer group, they can refrain from discussing anything controversial.

I am constantly having to check my own privilege.
I can hold hands with my husband in public and not worry someone is going to attack us.
I can walk into a restaurant and not wonder if I’m going to be the only white person in there.
I can submit a resume to a job and not worry my ethnic-sounding name could cause it to be put in the “no” pile.

I think Peggy McIntosh’s paper is simply a must-read for every white person. But not just to read, but to really sit and think about it. And every time you think of a defensive response/example, I think you should ask yourself the following questions:

How rare was your incident of judgement or isolation? If you can concretely point out ALL of the examples in which YOU also experience this judgement or isolation mentioned? Then you are privileged. Ask any person of color to list the times they’ve experienced the judgement or isolation and they’d laugh at you. Too many to even bother remembering.

Did you choose to make your unique characteristic that called for judgement or isolation known? Could you have hidden the fact that you were the Trump Supporter in the crowd of Liberals? Could you have hidden the fact that you’re an Auburn fan when your friends were talking football? Maybe not in that one moment, but at other times? Is that thing that made you feel judged or left out something that you could hide if needed? Ask a disabled person or a person of color or a Muslim woman in a hijab if they wish they could – in a moment’s notice – hide the thing that people judge them for.

Is this thing you were judged for…is it deeply rooted in a tragic history of violence and hatred? This is often where the crux of the difference lies. Being judged for being an atheist sucks. Especially when the person seems to think I lack a moral compass because of it. But my family does not have a dark history of abuse for being atheist. The history books I learned from in class didn’t contain stories of lynching atheists. Those history books also did not gloss over some of the darkest parts of how atheists were treated. My family doesn’t have stories of being enslaved because they didn’t believe in God. So, even if I’m judged in a moment for something I don’t really have control over, that thing is not rooted in a history of injustice and violence.

In my opinion..that’s really…deep down…what people who fight over the concept of privilege have not yet been able to come to terms with yet. If you think you didn’t get that job because of Affirmative Action…if you feel like you’re a minority in this country because you’re a Trump-supporting Christian and the media makes you feel like you’re an anomaly…none of these feelings of persecution or judgement or isolation are even remotely backed in a history of violence passed down through your blood.

Every time a person of color feels that their skin is the cause for a negative experience, that moment is backed with images of slavery and abuse and lynchings and segregation and violence. If you are white and feel judged or ridiculed or isolated because of your political beliefs, or religious beliefs, or economic status, or even your skin color…none of that is backed by a traumatic history that haunted generations before you.

The debate stops there, in my opinion. The familial history and the cultural history that backs every racist experience that a person of color has in our country…that is the line where a white person’s experience can not cross. We have no idea what that burden is like. And that, in itself, is the root of our privilege.