Understanding and Owning My Black Privilege

I have gone through life thinking that there is only such a thing as white privilege. The more a black man or woman “passes” as white, the more accessible the privilege is to them. It wasn’t until after watching “Black Privilege” by Crystal Valentine that I finally began to understand the concept of my black privilege. The stairs that I climb is not lined with opportunities and money as I would imagine the fictional stairs of white privilege is but with the blood of murdered black women and men not only in the United States but around the world. I am privileged that I am still alive in 2015 unlike Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown Jr., Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and all the countless others whose blood make the stairs so difficult to climb with my spine straight and my head hung high. I’m privileged to be able to use their names as examples while their family still mourn for their death. Unlike some in the U.S. I am privileged that I grew up with food in my stomach, clothes on my back, educated, and never had a negative encounter with the law enforcement. These few things should be a basic human right, not a checklist that some people should cling to in order to count themselves as “blessed” or privileged. The thought not only saddens me but angers me as well. It feels me with rage that black lives, not to mention the lives of the black transgender women murdered for their identity, is now so considered worthless in this state -so called “land of the free”- that to grow up black and be alive is now a privilege. The current U.S. society is one that fosters rage.

As mentioned by Angela Davis in “A Place of Rage,” rage is what keeps some people in the black community going. To be angered by the injustice that surrounds us means that we still care. Once we give up that anger, we do not find peace, but instead try to escape the harsh reality through drugs and other means. The reality of what Black lives face in the United States is depressing, yes, I use the word depressing because the disrespect that I face as a young Black woman most likely contributes to my depression. Unlike crack-cocaine, the antidepressants can’t dull my pain or briefly take me into a fantasy world where there is equality for all race, class, and gender. I am part of a generation that will hopefully change society so I have to hold onto my anger and use it as a weapon to change the future for generations to come. I do not want more Black lives to fear for their lives with every encounter with the cops; I do not want any African in the United States to be denied opportunities because the person at the other side of the table could not understand their accent (a harsh reality that I have faced myself). I want future generations to not doubt that their Black is beautiful.

I have enough black privilege to hope for a better future. I take strength from the role models that come before me, especially Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whom I identify with as a young Nigerian from the Igbo culture who understands the difficulty of uttering the words “I am a feminist” to other Nigerians. I hope that through this class I can be able to be one with my identity despite the backlash. My hope is that one day I will be a role model to someone so that they can accept and love their identity.

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One thought on “Understanding and Owning My Black Privilege

  1. Thank you, Milinda. I want to learn more of the intersections between Nigerian and African American women and how feminism can bring us closer together rather than divide us.

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