I noticed my white privilege today. And I did it in a way I don’t think many people get the opportunity to think about. This is because there are a lot of people who aren’t in my situation.
I am a criminal. Not just any criminal, I am a registered felon. I had a drug problem, I got caught, I went to jail, and now I wear a scarlet letter. During my drug phase, my poor decisions didn’t just involve intoxication. I stole. I damaged property. I did whatever I could to get a rush no matter who it hurt. And that had a lot of cop involvement. To the point, I memorized shifts and shift changes and squad car numbers. To this day, some cops still know me by name. Nothing to be proud of, but at the time I was.
I also dreaded my hair. I have wanted dreadlocks since I was 15, but it was too ugly for my mom to accept. When I got to the age where I could do what I want, I just did it. And I finally felt like who I was supposed to be when I looked in the mirror.
I’ve had a difficult time landing jobs. I’m a felon. I have a petite theft misdemeanor as well. I got fired from every job I’ve held due to drugs or stealing. It doesn’t look good. And I’m past it all now, but on paper, I am still the monster I once was.
And I used to think I could relate to black people in America. I’m a woman, so I am a minority. I have a paranoia about men that I’m just sure everyone is a rapist until they prove otherwise. I am a criminal, so I worry about the police, and they treat me like garbage. One look at my name or just my sheet, and I turn into some street rat. It’s crazy to see the change in how I am treated when they get back from checking my I.D. And I am discriminated against in the workplace because of my record and my hair.
I really thought that could be compared. I truly thought I knew an ounce of what they go through. You know what I don’t worry about?
I freak out when I see a cop, but it is never my life I worry about. Only my freedom. I worry if there’s an unsettled warrant I don’t know about or whatever they could use to send me back to jail, but I never fret over my life. I actually have said out loud, “ I hope he’s white,” when I saw someone pulled over at night. I can’t compare anything to that. And I get to see how they treat an average law-abiding citizen before they check my record. I get a glimpse into the humanity that was left in that officer. Some people don’t even get a glance.
(Not every cop is a bad cop. But in my personal opinion, a good cop is someone who treats you like a human being regardless of your record. And I unfortunately still do not see that. It’s easy to love cops when you have never gotten caught for a mistake you’ve made. But once you do, you get to see that there are a lot of power hungry children on the force. With that said, there are some of the most amazing people I know who are on S.W.A.T and P.D’s and I have nothing against the force as an entity. Only those who abuse their power.)
I get discriminated over my hair, my choice to make my hair this way. While people are discriminated against because of just their name on their resume. A name that was given to them that insinuates their race. I have been frustrated because someone has looked down on me from how I choose to look, and others are looked down on because of just what they looked like from birth. Which I can kind of compare to in a woman’s point of view, but it’s not the same.
I get discriminated because of my record. People of all colors and genders make mistakes. But when I walk in, they want to give me a chance. I’m 5”3, 95 pounds, white as snow and I look 19. I appear harmless because I depict the ideal fragile woman our society has drawn up. I see the look in their eyes, the want to hire me. I’ve even heard someone half plead on the phone to higher ups because they felt I would be such a good candidate. But in the end, the corporate rules deny me any chance. But I get that look of sorrow as I walk away. I had someone try for me. That right there is something that I take for granted too often.
I noticed my white privilege today. And it really put things in perspective. I thought that I knew, but I don’t. I never will. I’ve always just wanted to understand, but sometimes you can’t. And all I can do is just be here for my brothers and sisters of humanity, and work towards a future where there isn’t a difference that involves negativity, but positive cultural differences that make us fall in love with one another. This realization really helped me, and I hope that maybe I helped someone else as well.