White privilege involves the advantages that white people have that they did not earn, which people of color do not experience. But what are these advantages? One example that hits home is the privilege of being relieved as a law-abiding citizen when you see a police officer pull over if your car breaks down. For law-abiding people of color, seeing this same officer triggers anxiety because it could mean anything from help to threat, to unwarranted arrest or murder.
A less intense example of white privilege is the power of being part of the normal. For example, having your race widely represented in movies and on television shows. Even today, there are shows that have no people of color or display most black men as evil and women as strict. I have recently watched the portrayal of every black man in the first five seasons of Supernatural in the same sickly fascinated way I would watch an oncoming trainwreck: every single black man (not an exaggeration) has been a threat to the two white male heroes, even the black demon-hunter, the black angel and the black FBI agent. My friends watch Supernatural and see people who look like them portrayed in the full range of hero to neutral to villain. But in every episode, just as I start getting into the storyline, another bad black guy pops up, snapping me right back into my reality of how I am viewed as a black male by much of white America.
The power of normal is not having to search for the section of black hair products in the supermarket. The power of normal is not having to wonder if the store clerk is saying hello as code for I’m watching you or because he really is just trying to welcome you to his store. The power of normal is opening a first aid kit having flesh colored band-aids that match your skin tone. The power of normal is not having to go to the multicultural section of the grocery store to find your regularly used items.
The AFAM Project is to educate young students of all races on Black History, White Privilege, and Civil Rights. In a month’s time, we hope to find engaging resources in hopes to fill in gaps that people might have in their knowledge about African American history. We would like to do this in the form of a hands-on presentation that includes guest speakers, literature, arts, media, and verbal speech. Ignorance is not a crime but it is something our group can help extinguish.