“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Happy Juneteenth—a day that has been a long time coming and an issue with a long way to go. Martin Luther King’s quote couldn’t be more relevant today than almost ever before. We are at a time in our country when character is at the forefront of our nation’s divide. A fight for Black Lives Matter kicked up a backlash by the Proud Boys, white nationalism, and overt racial hate. While this hate and these groups have always been in the background, they have been encouraged, “called upon,” and embraced by our nation’s last leader, resulting in overt hate that we haven’t seen in decades.
When “Black Lives Matter” became a rallying cry inviting our nation to support black men, women, and children, many whites became angry and were quick to respond with “All lives matter.” Next, conversations regarding privilege crept into the dialogue, and many white men and women were quick to deny they had privilege—often taking offense to the idea that this was true.
You are not responsible for being born with the color of your skin. And you should not feel guilt or shame for your skin tone. However, it is high time that everyone realizes that this one attribute gives many tremendous privileges and others incredible hardships. Our world judges books by their covers and human beings by their looks every day, and unfortunately a person cannot hide their skin color.
Learning for Justice defines white privilege as “a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.” Being born with white skin gives you privilege. If you are born black, you are born with a backpack of negative prejudices, biases, and assumptions about who you are and what you’re capable of becoming. If you are born white, you have these same prejudices, biases, and assumptions awarded to you; only they are positively skewed. You don’t even have to open your mouth, and these positive assumptions and biases play out due to your skin color. Our world is organized under the framework of “white”—from the top of our government (predominantly white males) to racial profiling in our streets.
Challenge: To all the white people reading this: on this day and forever after, stop, watch, and notice all the little things that you, as a white person, don’t need to worry about, think about, or even see. Stop questioning privilege and accept that you have it, and then take steps to change this game for people of all colors.
To all the black people reading this: Happy Juneteenth! May this day be a constant reminder for our world that until all people treat one another as equal, the words in our constitution that “all people are created equal” are just words.