I am privileged and white. I examine my conscience and recognize a need to be an active member of my community and committed to social justice, but that is different than recognizing how my privilege negatively impacts others and how it favors me. It is easy to be an active and committed member of a community, but much harder to reject privilege.
Our laws, policies, and practices intentionally, or maybe unintentionally, favor Caucasians and especially those in upper income levels. I can walk the streets, enter a department store, and walk through a neighborhood without anyone questioning my presence. I’ve never feared the police, been served last, or felt excluded because of my race. When I was active duty the uniform alone resulted in me being given preferential treatment from boarding planes first, to free upgrades, to being treated with respect by total strangers.
We passed laws to protect voting rights not because we wanted to make things equal, but because we needed to end the inequality. No law will end the biases that live one’s soul and so long as that bias is present in human beings there will be those that justify their attempts to keep their privilege intact. No one questions if a Caucasian person should vote, nor are voter ID laws intended to stop people like me from voting. I’ve lived in states that required ID to vote and still haven’t been asked for mine. Voter ID laws are about fear that all others will vote. Essentially we are saying we trust you if you are Caucasian, but we don’t trust others. This may seem like a minor inconvenience that anyone should accept to maintain the integrity of the system, but it also maintains white privilege. I will feel no stress when I go to vote. I know with or without everything I need I will be allowed to vote. Not only does that benefit me, but it disadvantages others. If they, out of stress or fear, do not show up to vote then my vote is favored not just because I showed up, but because my privilege made someone else fear showing up. How hard would it be to insist that they not only take my ID, but take the time to check it?
Health care is much the same as voting. My privilege results in greater access to care in areas that are convenient to me. Yet, if I lived in a poor or predominantly minority neighborhood almost anywhere in the country I would have less access. The overabundance of health care facilities in predominantly Caucasian areas results in an inadequate number in predominantly minority communities. My privilege has an adverse impact on the access to health care of others. How different would Federally Qualified Health Centers look if all of us had to get our care at one? What impact would it have on health care outcomes if facilities were evenly distributed?
When we consider laws, policies, and practices we need to consider how privilege is not only benefiting us, but adversely impacting others. Standing for justice matters, but not as much as renouncing our privilege.