Kindness Knows No Color
In a previous blog, I said that I know many people who have experienced racism, but it is not my place as a white female to speak on the subject. So, I let a long-time friend do what I can't. Below is a guest blog based on her life experiences.
It is up to us as a society to do better. To educate ourselves by stepping into someone else’s shoes, or in this case, skin.
I encourage you to read her words with an open mind.
Remember, this is by no means an opinion, this is a series of a young black woman’s personal experiences; there is no right or wrong side to someone's personal experience. You never know what it's like until you experience it yourself.
Let’s talk about white privilege.
This is a term that makes people very uncomfortable, but hear me out. If you are white, and a person of color says that you have privilege, we are simply saying people of color have experiences that you as a white person, typically won’t have.
This does NOT mean you are racist.
This does NOT mean you have done anything wrong.
This does NOT mean that you haven’t had struggles.
Take a moment to seriously think about the following things. Be real and honest with yourself.
1. Do you ever worry about being followed/harassed when you go shopping? Has it ever happened to you with no explanation?
I am referring to store employees as the ones doing the following. This is something that I (and many other people of color) have personally experienced and it is infuriating. For me, it usually happens in high-end or designer stores. Store employees will often try to hide that they’re following us by pretending to fold or organize nearby merchandise. No, this is not me being paranoid or exaggerating. It actually happens. I have refused to spend my money in certain establishments because of this. The scary part is that if an employee were to make some kind of false claim, I have no idea how the situation would end for me.
2. Have you ever been asked how you can afford a nice car or name brand things?
I happen to drive a Mercedes-Benz. I sometimes enjoy wearing designer clothes or shoes. I see absolutely nothing wrong with having nice things if you work hard. I once started a new job and had white co-workers tell me to my face that they thought I was a stripper because of the car I drive. Apparently, that was the only way I could be able to afford such a car. I’ve been questioned so many times about how I have the car that I have. My white friends who have ‘nice’ cars don’t get this treatment. It’s perfectly normal for them to have expensive cars.
3. Does the lead role in Hollywood movies often look like you?
Remember when Black Panther came out and it was a BIG DEAL? There’s a reason for that. It shouldn’t be a big deal that a movie cast is almost all people of color, but it is because that’s so uncommon. Is it a big deal that the lead actor in a movie is white? Nope. That’s because it’s the norm. Take a look at the below image of Hallmark Christmas movies. Notice anything?
4. Are people surprised because you are well-spoken or speak proper English?
THIS. This has happened to me so many times. It’s almost disgusting. I’m a black woman. I have a college education and I was corrected as a child for pronouncing things wrong or using improper grammar. As a result, I am pretty well-spoken. I have many black friends who are very well-spoken. I have many white friends who speak proper English as well. The difference? White people don’t get shocked looks for speaking correctly. I received a call one day about a job I applied for. I had a nice phone conversation before being invited to an in-person interview. I wish I could have recorded the look on the interviewer’s face when I walked into the room. Why am I expected to speak a certain way because of my skin color?
5. How often are you the only person of your race in a room?
It started in grade school. Rarely were there more than one or two black kids in my classes. Now, it’s almost every day of my professional life. I’m in meetings all the time where I’m the only black person. It’s not usually a problem, just something that we notice as people of color. An example of when it becomes awkward or uncomfortable (for me anyways) is in restaurants. I don’t even know how to put into words the feeling that I get when I KNOW that I’m not welcome in a restaurant. Ask your black friends what I’m talking about. They know. When we’re trying a new location and we see another one of us, we kind of lock eyes and give each other that slight head nod. I need to know where my people are in case something goes down. White people don’t have to think like that.
6. When you ask to speak to a manager or person in charge, are they usually the same race as you?
A lot of companies have made improvements here in recent years, but it’s still a problem. It’s more shocking for white people to see a person of color in charge than it is for me to see a white person in charge. I’ve been on the receiving end of shock here too. I used to be a manager and lifeguard trainer at a water park. (Yes, I’m black and I can swim.)
7. When you open a history book, do the majority of past American leaders look like you?
Need I say more? Since 1788, there’s only been one President of color. But then we’re ridiculed for celebrating when it finally happened. Sometimes it’s not about politics – it’s about representation.
8. For your own safety, do you think twice about calling the police when there’s trouble?
Police treating people of color differently than white people is not a myth. It is utterly terrifying. This is deep and I want you to really think about this one. If I’m in trouble, I have to stop and think about whether or not it’s worth getting police involved. I have to decide if I should try to handle it myself, or potentially risk my life. Yes, my life. Think about this - I refuse to call the police on a black man unless someone’s (or my own) life in danger because I don’t want to be the reason another black man is killed by police.
These are just a few examples based on my own everyday experiences. Take the time to have healthy conversations with your friends of all backgrounds about these experiences and white privilege. I guarantee that there are many more things that can be added to this list. If you think this privilege doesn’t exist, think about it this way: Fish don’t know they are in water until they are taken out.
We must be better at opening our hearts and our minds to different experiences. Have the conversations. Rather than argue right or wrong, try to understand the experience itself and how you would feel if it were you. It's called empathy, and it's a trait many are lacking. It's 2021, it's time to bring empathy back.
Encourage others to be kind and not judge someone based on the color of their skin or their outer appearance. Be kind to everyone, everyday; you never know what they're going through. Kindness knows no color, so why should you?
To thank our guest blogger, we've created a discount code in her honor. Use code CSPRIGGS for 20% off throughout the month of February.