Westport’s Diversity Council had the seemingly progressive idea to hold an essay contest on the subject of “White Privilege”…and were surprised to find themselves facing backlash. Now, I don’t know what’s surprising about the push back because, if anything, the past couple of years have taught us that people who believe they are basically good don’t like the implication that they might not be perfect. Especially “good white people” which I’m sure Westport is full of…because the law of averages says that when there are that many white people in one place, many of them have to be good humans.
When people are faced with terms like “white privilege” and “white fragility,” I imagine a wall that would make Trump jealous appears in their mind…somewhere between their brain and their ears. No one wants to have their advantages pointed out to them because the world likes a struggling underdog. (I mean, even poor white people have privilege because of the color of their skin. But we’re not even talking about economically disadvantaged white people here…not in Westport.) They see it as an attack. This is a thing that they were born with and can’t control…how can you say it’s problematic? They didn’t do it. How dare you? But the Messerschmitt aircraft arrives filled with Good White People baggage and it takes a long time to unpack all of that. It takes time to realize having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person…it’s what you do when you’re faced with it. Then you can be judged. (And I’ll judge you with the best of them.)
While there really shouldn’t be any surprise at the push back (bless your naivete, Diversity Council), maybe we should look at why there is push back. I mean, by now, having it pointed out that white folks (or lest I offend anyone, yt, yte, wh*te, peachies, whatever) enjoy a certain amount of advantage based on the color of their skin should be about as shocking as being told that smoking causes cancer or Cheetos (not to be confused with our President) will make you fat. What’s so hard about it? Why, as someone was quoted as saying in this article by ABC7, would we not “go there” in this day and age? Women will still wear high heels, and we will watch reality television, which to me are both incredibly uncomfortable experiences, but we don’t want to get a little uncomfortable in our heads. Can you hear me sighing from where you are? Let me do it a little louder.
Look at where we are, people. We have President Cheeto and Himmler reincarnated (Steve Bannon, if you’re not keeping track), a documented racist about to be confirmed as Attorney General…and…you don’t want to set the next generation up to be a little different? Freaking about an essay topic on white privilege is flying your very own White Privilege flag so high. Pull that down, fold it up, tuck it away with your Izod, Uggs, and Barry Manilow and think about where you’re focusing your outrage.
But hey, if you can write a decent essay about recognizing your white privilege, the system will reward you again and give you $1,000! I’m gonna go ahead and encourage the winner to donate it to NAACP or ACLU…just sayin’.