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  • Francis James

Leverage Your Privilege, Punk

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

I know white privilege exists, because my eyes have been opened and I have realized what it is. I have realized how it affected me after I started experiencing anxiety and depression. I started to experience these things in college, Junior year and forward. Turns out I had experienced anxiety pretty much all my life, but I didn’t know it. Story for another day.

I know white privilege exists because of the expectations placed upon me by society. These expectations have caused me a great deal of anxiety and depression. They've been placed upon my shoulders like Atlas and the globe, only to make me knees buckle under the pressure. I’ll be the first one to rebel against some meaningless group thought like “society”. Mountainous, vertical, rock walls of expectations, and deep, dark, pits of preconceived notions have made traversing the planet of the human experience something to fear. We are born with two innate fears: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Both can mean imminent death. And we've placed these physical obstacles that can cause a trigger experiences of our innate fear into the ether of the human experience from the dead nothingness of expectations.

I’m a straight, white male living in the United States of America. There’s lots of expectations placed on me and they all point to the truly subjective but somehow impossibly objective and universal philosophy of “success”. Some universal success that can only be defined by the individual pursuing it. And yet we’ve come to terms with some total fodder that there is true universal, objective success. The only true, universal, objective success is joy. Joy of one's self. Celebration and joy of one's individuality and autonomy.

As a straight white male I am expected to go to college and get educated. To take my life seriously. To work hard, and climb the ladder of success - which is really a metaphor for “increasing my salary every year to maintain a lifestyle that others find attractive and acceptable while secretly maintaining pace at a minimum but with the ultimate goal of outpacing the ever popular “Jones’s”. I’m expected to have a family, and be a family man. If not a family man, a career oriented man. You know, a “good man”. A man that will provide for a family, protect his family, and raise his family, for him to eventually become what society would call “a good man”. I'm expected to be white.

What expectations does society have on black men? A lot of them don’t point towards ‘success”. They’re more like:

Be five more times likely to wound up in jail compared to his white counterpart, me.

Be six times more likely to go to jail for drug related charges, while he and I have a pretty close statistical chance of using illicit drugs.

To have a better chance of getting killed by the police than his white counterpart, me.

Whether you like to believe it or not, this ideal is still etched into our DNA as a nation, and it takes time and effort and hard work and commitment to not simply let it die out passively, but to combat it actively. To acknowledge its faults and wrongdoings and negative effects, and to throw it away and start anew with the past in mind and learned from. History only repeats itself if you let it. And if you let it, to me that means you lack self-control. Society lacks self-control.

Why would I have a better chance of walking away from a police confrontation unscathed, unharmed, or without charges? Because as a white male I was never taught to fear for my life during a police confrontation. I was told I have rights. I was told the police are here to protect me and honorably uphold the law, truthfully and justly. I was never told that if I walk to into a room filled with people who don't share the same skin color as me that I'll be looked at as different, at the least, but potentially as a threat. I was never told to worry about how my skin color is going to impact people's opinions of me before I open my big, fat mouth and prove me worth and value as a human being.

So if you’ve never feared for your life during a police confrontation, if you’ve never been patted down, stopped and frisked for no good reason, if your car was never searched during a routine traffic stop, if you never had people look at you in a weird way and keep their distance just because you exist, if you’ve never had anyone tell you to "talk more white", if you’ve never been told “you probably can't afford this”, if you’ve never been the victim of a simple remark or total harassment based on your skin color, if you can go home during a time of worldwide riots and not fear that your stuff will be stolen or destroyed, if you can turn off the news and binge a TV show because "the world is such a crazy place right now", if you can spend countless hours on the travel blog of someone whose life you wish you had and ignore the injustices experienced by other human beings that deserve your respect, than you are privileged. The saddest part is that you didn’t realize.

Now you know. Now there’s no excuse. Now is the time to make the unheard voices finally feel heard. Now is the time to give the underdog a bone and give the disenfranchised a loud AF voice.

It’s time to stop ignoring, start educating yourself and those around you, stop worrying about what the small-minded, insignificant people in your life will say about it, and start realizing that you are better than no one, no one is better than you, and you have a responsibility to use your words, your privilege, and your logic to promote true societal equality. You now have a moral obligation.

It’s time to leverage your privilege.

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