Owning My White Privilege: Stories I won’t (have to) tell my children

Sept. 21, 2016

The beauty of privilege is that is invisible. If you’ve got it, it’s really hard to see. A right-handed person might not feel they have any unearned privilege but just talk to a left-handed person about that subject. Being privileged does not mean you are a bad person, it just means you have been given an advantage. And there is nothing more real than white privilege. It’s evidence is a dead father in the middle of a lonesome highway in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


There’s a whole army of white people who want to deny the existence of white privilege. “I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve got!” they crow. “There are black people with a lot more money than me and a black man in the White House!” they’ll point out. “It’s a liberal plot to make me feel guilty!” they’ll bleat. These folks don’t understand the concept of white privilege. They may or may not be racist, but they’re definitely ignorant and ignorance can be fixed. We’re all ignorant about things, especially things that are invisible.

There are a lot of folks who have written about the daily experience of white privilege more eloquently than I have, people like Peggy MacIntosh and Tim Wise. Although my next book project is a tome on privilege called Recovering Asshole, so maybe I can join their ranks. The daily stuff is like just turning on the TV and knowing I’m going to see people who look like me or knowing that when people see me, my race isn’t the first thing that registers. This post is about the privilege that keeps me from being killed when my car breaks down.

I always tell my students about a local news broadcast I saw about two separate sexual assaults in Portland in which the attackers were still at large. In the first story, the wanted man was 6’1 with brown eyes and long dark hair. In the second story, the wanted attacker was 5’10, black with brown eyes and short dark hair. See the difference? The white man was colorless, because white is the “normal” race. You don’t even have to mention it. If you say “a person,” it’s just assumed to be a white person.


There’s a lot assuming that goes with race. Assumptions that Asians are good at math, and Mexicans want to steal somebody’s job (How is that even possible?) and, of course, that African-Americans are naturally violent and animalistic. This last one has gotten a lot of unarmed black men shot by police over the years, because, well, you know, we don’t know what any of them might do. Meanwhile, there’s an “open carry” white guy on the side of the road who thinks cops are agents of the ZOG (that’s the Zionist Occupation Government for you non-right-wing extremists), but let him pass. He has rights!

White “Sovereign Citizens” are America’s top cop-killers.


The shooting of Terence Crutcher by police last week next to his broken-down car in Tulsa is such a textbook case. We don’t know what the police were thinking as the father of four, heading home from a music appreciation class, held his hands up as instructed. But we do have audio from the police chopper as it circled over head. “That looks like a bad dude, too. He could be on something,” they said. Why would they say that? Because they were playing the race card. All you need to be a bad dude is black skin.


If I were to breakdown on an Oklahoma highway, I am willing to bet my life that police would never unholster their weapons in the first place, let alone shoot me, even if I ignored a few commands. Because I’m white. Just because I’m white. My whiteness gives me the benefit of the doubt. And there are countless examples of this every day. Just ask how police dealt with Dylann Roof, the white guy that shot 9 people to death in a black church in Charleston last year. He got the benefit of the doubt. Instead of shooting him, the police got him some food from Burger King.

It’s called implicit bias and you don’t have to be a white supremacist to have it. Pretty much everyone does. Research has shown that white people have been successfully taught to fear minorities even though most crime is white-on-white and committed by someone known to the victim. African-Americans get the brunt of this insidious lesson. When I was a kid and we drove into Atlanta, as soon as my mom saw black pedestrians she‘d lock the car doors. “They will snatch you right out of this car, Randy.” (I grew up thinking black people collected white kids.) So I leaned that lesson, too.

CLICK HERE  to take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test but be prepared for your results!


Implicit bias is precognitive. It happens before you have a chance to think about it. As a criminologist, I know that the overwhelming amount of property crime is done by white people (especially in Portland) but if a black guy is near my car there’s a little switch that goes off in my head. It was put there by a nation steeped in white privilege that very clearly whispers in your ear, year after year, that black lives matter but just not as much. Police officers, being humans, experience the same implicit bias. Before any rational thought it says, BLACK MAN = THREAT!!!! When the officer has a gun, that message can have disastrous results, as we add another unarmed black man to the body count. “Well, we couldn’t be sure what the true threat was.”

Let me say that I know a lot of good cops and they will tell you that every police interaction is different and there are often factors in some high profile cases that the community doesn’t see. (Was Crutcher on PCP? Am I on PCP? White people need a defense!) I’ve also done a “use of force” training with the Mutlnomah Sheriff’s Department and know that a momentary hesitation can get innocent people killed. (I tried to tell a gunman that I was going to shoot him in the crotch if he didn’t put the gun down. Instead, he hopped in my police car with my rifle in and sped off to do more killin’. I should mention that this was SIMULATION.) But the reality is that even the most fair-minded police officer is up against the same racist messaging that says that, when it’s a black guy, better to be “safe” than “sorry.”

So here’s one example of my white privilege. I won’t have to explain to my light skinned children that the police, who are sworn to protect them, might accidentally kill them. Even if they have their hands up.

Again, if you want to say, “All lives matter,” you need to prove it, because it doesn’t look like it to me in 2016. The first step, if you are white, is stop being defensive about your white privilege. Secretary Clinton said this very clearly this week. “We white Americans need to do a better job of listening when African-Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers they face everyday. We need to recognize our privilege and and practice humility, rather than assume our experiences are everyone’s experiences.” I don’t care what you think of her. I want you to care about this truth, in this crossroads in our history. We can tear down this wall.


10 thoughts on “Owning My White Privilege: Stories I won’t (have to) tell my children

  1. This is a well written piece and there are definite societal occurances that could be classified as white privilege. Yet, I have to disagree with the main evidence you cite throughout, which is the police shootings of unarmed black men. While this is a horrible thing, and there are reasons to believe that racial profiling can be to blame in a few, the overall statistics say your premise is inncorrect. In fact, a white person pulled over changing a tire is more likely to be shot than a black person. Its hard to have an unbiased opinion when the media narrative is so clearly biased. Unarmed white people getting murdered by police officers is not newsworthy.
    This study from a harvard professor found the shooting statistic to be unbiased, BUT did find physicality towards blacks to be at a higher rate.
    Also, FBI statistics back this up as well. I respect your viewpoint, and enjoyed the read, even though im crowing, lol.


  2. Excellent work here Randy.Thank you.d

    From: Watching the Wheels To: deliaraesaldivar@yahoo.com Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 9:11 AM Subject: [New post] Owning My White Privilege: Stories I won’t (have to) tell my children #yiv1238075919 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1238075919 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1238075919 a.yiv1238075919primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1238075919 a.yiv1238075919primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1238075919 a.yiv1238075919primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1238075919 a.yiv1238075919primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1238075919 WordPress.com | Randy Blazak posted: “Sept. 21, 2016The beauty of privilege is that is invisible. If you’ve got it, it’s really hard to see. A right-handed person might not feel they have any unearned privilege but just talk to a left-handed person about that subject. Being privileged does ” | |


  3. i grew up in the deep south. so i am well of aware of what white privilege is all about. most children in the south did. we had our school, they had a a shack supposed to be equal. it was not. even as a child, i was aware of how it worked. fortunately my parents taught me in a different way. i was taught to say yes mam and yes sir to one and all. i was taught to give my seat on the bus to the old people, black or white. i worked at a drug store that had a soda fountain that also sold food. white yes? black sold outside the back door. we could take their money but not sit with them. my aunt was rich and had many black servants, that more or less raised their children. i always saw the irony of trusting their kids to black people, while they spoke of how stupid the black people were. all their food was cooked and served by shiftless black people. did they not see the paradox in that? i did at eight years old. i am glad my parents were so enlightened. however , i never passed those attitudes along to my peers. didn’t want to be seen as different. that is white privilege . i passed my attitudes on to my children. my children grew up in Ca. they felt superior to Mexicans. it was in the culture here. that is white privilege. i don’t know the answers to the race problem. don’t pretend to. the chaos in S.C. over the last couple of days sure doesn’t help the image of black Americans. i am hoping the day will come, when all will really be equal. i am an old white woman, i try to treat each and every person the same. if you have an answer to the sadness of all of this, please pass it on.


  4. As much as you won’t believe this, but I’ve seen many white people in the army get passed on a promotion for non-white people. The reasoning I heard and told was it was about equal opportunity. I believe in equal opportunity, but also I believe in hard work pays forth.

    Let me ask you this question, you are applying for a job and you are more than qualified. You have all the qualifications the employer is looking for. You have the education, training, and experience. On paper, you are the ideal candidate. On the other hand, you have someone who is under-qualified, barely has college and no training/qualifications. That person is hired over you. Thing is, that person is non-white. The reason why the employer hired them was because of equal opportunity. Now I ask, is that fair?

    If there’s someone who gets hired over me, equally qualified and non-white, I’ll shake their hand and congratulate them. If the other person gets hired on and is under-qualified, then I would have a problem.


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