I’m checking my white privilege, and here’s why you should too
By Emily Volz (an excerpt from the full article on the GMA website here)
Emily Volz is a psychology graduate student at Pacifica Graduate Institute specializing in Community, Liberation, Indigenous, and Eco Psychologies. Here, in a personal essay below, Volz shares how the racial awakening and protests across the country have made her check her privilege and how an intervention is necessary within white America.
My family owns a building in downtown Seattle. On May 31, I woke up to images of the building in a Seattle Times article. The images show shattered windows, mannequins toppled and goods scattered.
One photo shows several police officers walking out of the building, a symbolic image of the structural causes of the destruction.
I spoke with my mom that afternoon. “I’m not mad,” she told me.
Losing windows is nothing compared to losing Black lives. Every single death is a loss to our nation, to the intricate web of our society. Windows can be replaced. Lives cannot.
I write as a white woman. We are a white family. The land the building sits upon has been passed down through several generations in our family. We benefit from intergenerational wealth, settler colonialism and white supremacy. Our family has a range of opinions on these topics.
Even the statement — “windows can be replaced” — is a statement of privilege. While my family has the means to file an insurance claim and replace those windows, there are many business owners who do not.
Many businesses will not reopen because of the destruction and that, too, has long-term implications for health and well-being. When these businesses are owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color, we can see how systemic racism compounds the impact of challenging situations and makes these moments even more complex.
This moment we’re in is centuries in the making. Systemic racism is an over 400-year-old system in the United States. It has come in many forms: slavery, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration of Black bodies, land grabs, employment and housing discrimination, the war on drugs and many more. It will not be quick or easy to dismantle.
The intervention needed is not within Black America. The intervention needed is within white America. Black communities have resisted white supremacy since its creation. And they should not have to do it alone.
Our racially violent patterns will not end if white Americans do not take the time to understand the power and privilege we hold and then be willing to give some of it up.