Me and White Supremacy : (Day 1 Journal Questions)
I’m leading a group discussion circle on “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad. I’m taking the journaling challenge daily throughout February even though I’m not white. If you happen to be white, why not take the challenge? If I can do it, you can do it too.
Day 1 Questions (from the text):
1. In what ways do you hold white privilege? Study the list from Peggy McIntosh and reflect on your own daily life. Make a list of the different ways you hold white privilege in your personal life.
2. What negative experiences has your white privilege protected you from throughout your life?
3. What positive experiences has your white privilege granted you throughout your live (that BIPOC generally do not have)?
4. In what ways have you wielded your white privilege over BIPOC that have done harm (intentional or not)?
5. What have you learned about your white privilege that makes you uncomfortable?
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I remember the very first time I got a gentrified ad while listening to Spotify Free.
It was the moment after I first connected it to my Facebook account. For those that may remember before Spotify was purchased by Facebook, other than your email address it really had no idea who you were as a person aside from your musical tastes and the algorithms that gave you suggestions. As such, Spotify “listened” to my song choices and decided I was a white guy.
How do I know this? Because the minute I signed in through Facebook, all of the sudden all my ads were voiced by AAVE-speaking people. Most of them were geared towards or selling products aimed at Black folks. Not that I see anything wrong with doing this — however the contrast was both immediate and stark. I caught a fleeting glimpse of what it was like to be on the other side of the color line.
This got me thinking about the other ways in which I hold white privilege, and it occurred to me that while I don’t directly have this privilege, I do when my audience can’t tell that I’m black. Online without a pic to properly represent me, on Zoom calls without my camera on, and especially over the phone, I realized that my treatment in these scenarios is very different from my in-person dealings. When I require assistance from a medical office, car repair place, law office, etc., there’s a reason I prefer to do it via phone, and that reason is people hearing my voice via phone paired with my anglicized name assume I’m white 100% of the time. And I get treated as such.
In part one, there was a term that caught my attention — “White adjacent privilege”. This has been my entire life, beginning with living in the suburbs from as early as I can remember, attending first Montessori and then private school until I was 11. Most of the people I’ve been surrounded with in my environment growing up were white, even the people in my dreams who are not my relatives are white. This is how powerful unconscious bias can be — it can run as deep as your subconscious mind. And if that’s true for me I imagine it’s also true for you.
I grew up having had the benefit of economic privilege as well. Which also meant I was included in spaces very few (if any) black people had access to. This included birthday parties, social circles, visits to country clubs, and foreign countries. This does not mean I never faced discrimination in these places, only that my adjacency to my white friends and peers allowed me access I probably would not have had otherwise.
As such, my white adjacent privilege had protected me from some of the shame that my father, for example, faced. He told me stories of having to sit outside while watching his white friends swim in the hot Kansas summers. I remember the first time I saw kids playing in a public fountain or a hacked fire hydrant, and being shocked that this was how inner city kids my age cooled off in the hot summer sun. It’s something I never needed to imagine, because I had access to swimming pools, in part due to my proximity to whiteness.
I was very aware of how I differed from most of the other black people I encountered (when I did encounter them). Recall that my neighborhood at home, as well as my peers and teachers at school were all white (or non-black) so this did not happen often. What I was less aware of, what how different I was from the white people that surrounded me most of the time — especially from their perspective.
I suppose the clearest thing I’ve learned about my white adjacent privilege that makes me most uncomfortable is that it exists.