Visualizing White-Privilege During MLK Jr. Week
White-privilege is a hot button word that stirs quite a bit of emotion in people. Why? Because it's not properly taught or explained and many white people do not truly understand what it means. It's difficult for many white people to understand this concept without getting defensive because it sounds they did something wrong or that they do not deserve what they have. Which is not the case. Many miss the critical point - there is no blame, it is simply describing a system in which white people have been favored, privileged, and used as the default example for so many years. We need to change the way we teach about race and history so that our collective grows empathy towards one another. Right now, it seems like the opposite is happening.
When I teach about white privilege it helps to show images or visual stories to help illuminate this topic. Since white privilege can seem so complex for people to understand I love using visual examples to teach about it.
For example, take this picture of body building trophies:
Who do you think is the recipient of these trophies?
A blonde-haired, ken-like hulk type of human?
Not quite. The recipient is a black Nigerian bald man - Sunny, who is an entrepreneur that I am working with. He competes in body building competitions, and has obviously won a few along the way.
When I walked into his apartment that was the first thing I noticed - why does he have almost ten statues of naked white men? I asked him and he laughed - he was surprised that I even noticed that because he hadn't - but that's how my brain works. It just also goes to show that just because you are black or a minority, doesn't mean you know everything about race issues.
Why does this matter? Well, it's the same if you were to buy a white doll for a black girl. For Sunny, these are rewards and representations of his accomplishments - except the reward doesn't even look like him. Because whites still hold the power and are the oppressor, it's a bit discomforting, to see a black man winning statues of white men.
Even in 2016, we are still working through our past. I am assuming the group who makes the trophies did not intentionally get together and plan to only have white men trophies, I just can't believe that to be true. I do assume that it was a group of white people who, because of our system and how invisible race is if you are white, did not even think about this or how their participants would react to such a trophy. Because the people making the decisions were white, and potentially do not know any better, they designed trophies to look like them and not their participants.
MLK Jr. fought, protested, battled, and spoke in the name of equal rights and freedom, and because we are still working through this today, we have significant residual effects of our history and the oppression of non whites. It's our system that is unbalanced and little things like this are still prominent - we need more white people to be aware and stand up for these issues. Multiracial emojis came out TWO flipping years ago, that's insanity! Things are changing but slowly. At the of the day, white people are going to the be ones who have to nip these small invisible signs of racism in the butt, not through large scale protests and demonstrations.
Pay attention to your environment - what do you notice that may be an example of white-privilege?