Reflections on #whiteprivilege
Last evening, over a thousand people of conscience marched through Union Square in NYC in grief, anger and protest over the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a white hispanic, in Florida. Trayvon’s crime was walking while black. Florida’s crime is its gun laws. George Zimmerman has yet to be charged with a crime.
Among those present in the city last night were many friends, including The Rev. Mark Koenig, who has written a very moving reflection on what it meant for him to be present, and the importance of all of us speaking in this moment. Mark’s piece brought out the tears that I have needed to shed for this tragedy. I commend it to you as a prayer.
My son is five years old, and white. To borrow Mark’s words, what happened to Trayvon Martin “is less likely to happen to my son than it is to the sons or daughters of many of my friends. Less likely than it is to happen to the sons or daughters of people I do not know. Less likely than it is to happen to children of color.” This is white privilege.
My son is already a veteran of all sorts of demonstrations, and understands symbols and their power to change people. I told him that a very large group, including many of our friends, marched in the city last night, wearing hoodies, because they believe that “all children should be safe.” Because we believe that too, we both wore hoodies for our walk to school today. He was very proud of this act. “I’m really glad we’re doing this,” he said.
While he and I regularly talk about the problem of guns, and the need for better gun laws in our nation, I did not tell him this week about the killing of Trayvon, nor explain all the reasons for the demonstration in the city. At age five children should still be developing a fundamental trust in their world, and in the ability of parents and police to protect them from danger. And while he is already beginning to explore the edges of his trust, all on his own, he does so without needing to explore the violent history of race and its continuing legacy in our country. But this too is white priviledge.
May our future be different because of our actions today.