Check your privilege -
3 prompts to get the conversation started
The Traffic Stop
You are on your way to your significant other’s house. You have planned a really fun date night. It’s a warm summer day, you are listening to your favorite artist and singing along, you smile as the wind touches your face. All of a sudden, you see flashing lights behind you. To your knowledge, you haven’t broken any traffic rules, you just got your car checked out so you know there’s nothing you are missing or anything that is out of the ordinary. You pull over and wait for the cop to approach your vehicle. What is going through your head? How does your heart feel? Do you get a ticket or a warning? How does the interaction go?
The goal of this first prompt is to shed light on the different experiences POC have compared to a person that has white privilege. A person with white privilege will often get away from a traffic stop with a warning, little to no accusatory remarks by the cop, they won’t feel as nervous about being stopped by a cop if they feel nervous at all (if they do it isn’t about the color of their skin) and the traffic stop would not end in violence/death.
The Shopping Trip
Your mom’s birthday is coming up. You want to buy her the perfect earrings and necklace set so you go to a department store. You walk in and begin shopping around for something that you believe she would love. There are so many beautiful things that you can’t make up your mind so you just keep browsing knowing that the right set will speak to you. How is everyone around the store acting? The employees? Do the employees check-in on your more than they are checking in with other customers? Do you get referred to the sale section? Does the employee make remarks about how expensive a set you are wanting to look at is? Does the employee follow you around more than it makes you comfortable? Do you get the “all eyes are on you” feeling?
The goal of the second prompt is to highlight a person of color’s shopping experience. A person with white privilege does not get followed around as often as a POC would, the employees do not assume that they can’t afford what they are looking at and they don’t feel as if they are being watched at all times.
The Police Talk
You buy your 17-year-old their first car. They are so excited to get on the road and visit their best friend and show off their new car. Before they go, you must talk to them about driving safety. During this talk, you tell them about the dangers of texting while driving, speeding and any other thing that you know would keep them safe on the road. Do you talk to them about how to act if they get stopped by the police? If so, how does this conversation go? Do you tell them to keep their hands at the steering wheel at all times and to ask for the permission of the police officer before reaching anywhere to get anything? How does this conversation feel for you? How do you think it feels for your child?
If you don’t have to, what else do you talk to them about?
The goal of the third prompt is show the difference between how a POC and a person with white privilege raises their kids & the differences in conversations that they must have. A person of color has to talk to their kids and make them understand at a young age that there are people out there that judge them solely based on the color of their skin & that such judgement could cost them their life.
If throughout these prompts you have realized your white privilege, or if these prompts just assured you of them, I hope that your next move is towards change. How can you use your privilege to invoke change? What conversations can you now have with yourself and those around you to raise awareness and stop racism? What will you do next?
To start/continue the conversation, I’ve compiled a list of resources: