Gratitude: The Journey that Helps Me Identify and Use My White Privilege for Good

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I am grateful. I am grateful that a hate crime that happened during my college career expanded my understanding of the fear some of my black peers faced daily. I am grateful that experience allowed me to be the only white face in a room, knowing that some of my black friends experience that singular feeling daily. I am grateful for studying racial identity theory in graduate school so I can better understand the evolution of some of my friends and former students. I am grateful to have had an interracial relationship. It helped me to see the apprehension and hatred a little more up close. I’m grateful for 20 plus years in higher education and my experiences with multicultural directors, African-American studies professors and students, and social justice advocates. They all helped to give me a deeper understanding of race and what I can do to be an ally. I am grateful for my colleague, Larry Moses, with whom I was able to have honest, funny, and challenging conversations about race and identity

I am grateful for people who helped me understand the privilege of being white and why the #blacklivesmatter movement is so important for us all. As defined by Wikipedia, “white privilege is a term for societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.” When you think about walking into a department store, do you think you might be followed because of your skin color? When you are driving through a new neighborhood, have you ever thought that someone might call the police because they don’t think you belong there? I have never had to experience these issues, most likely partially due to the color of my skin. I am grateful for understanding that although our society doesn’t always act as though black lives DO matter, I can use my voice to advocate for why they do. I’m grateful I won’t have to teach my son to be careful when driving just because he was driving when black. I know that is not the case for all parents.

I’m grateful for a church that is diverse and places me with people who challenge me to grow and puts me just a little outside my comfort zone. I’m grateful that same church will teach my children that interracial relationships and LGBTQ (lesbian gay bisexual transgender questioning) are regular and accepted parts of our society.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to dialogue with others. Those who agree with me, those who are more knowledgeable on social justice issues, and those who might not share my views all help me to grow and refine my views and arguments.

I hope I can help my children to advocate for their peers who may fall into a minority group. I hope I can help them to learn about a person and not just see skin color, class, sexual orientation, or gender identity. I struggle daily with how, in our divided society, I can raise global citizens. I want my kids to understand that the privilege of their skin color gives them some responsibility to lift others up. Advocacy is expected. I hope I can give them the skills to be those advocates.

I am an ally. Am I perfect? No. I will need to continue to check myself, ensuring that I am examining thoughts and actions that might be perceived as racist. I will need to listen with an open heart if someone else checks me. I need to find more time to read about race and identity so I can be more knowledgeable. I want to continue to grow and understand. I will work to call out racism. I will be part of the solution.

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