Unending Black Experience: White Privilege Stories

The Abuse of White Privilege

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The Unending Black Experience #12

White Privilege

No one seems to care what you think!
Your ideas are immediately dismissed.
Just when you think no one is listening,
Someone repeats your idea.
The standing ovation is deafening,
I wonder, “Did anyone hear me?”

This happens to everyone.
For black people, it is LIFE!
This Failure to listen to “the disadvantaged” is a societal norm.

Heck, black people don’t even listen to each other.
Many don’t support each other,
Partly explaining our lack of social capital.

Failure to listen breathes anger and resentment
Unfortunately, too many in dominant groups
With loads of social capital exploit and manipulate
Then destroy the lives of black people,
Other minorities, weaker cultures and nations
They bully, scapegoat and instill fear
Now in a fancy nuanced pattern
An invisible pattern of abuse aimed at groups without social capital
Repeated in a variety of contexts over many generations
Continuing unabated into the future
White privilege is supreme


Without White Privilege

I went sailing in the British Virgin Islands with friends (they are sailors) in the fall a few years ago. In a chartered a Catamaran, each day we sailed to remote islands in the BVI having nothing but fun and laughter. It was truly a memorable experience. We spent one lovely week basking in tranquility, the beautiful ocean sunsets and the company of good people — seven beautiful souls, two of whom are dear and treasured friends.

Our last adventure was on the island of Jost Van Dyke. On this tiny island in a remote section of the BVI, we met a young man, a kid—he had that deer in the headlights look of fear. Being the only white person on this tiny island of black people, where everyone knows your name and your business, was not what he expected.—He was there to become a scuba diver instructor (if I recall correctly).

He was very cute with his (I think) blonde dreadlocks — I bet an attempt on his part to fit in. Unfortunately, I don’t think there were many dreadlocks — I don’t recall seeing any except him. He seemed to gravitate to me— we shared a role not often shared back in the US, we were both minorities in our groups.

I was the only black person but our surroundings (context) different dramatically. I had no fear and felt completely at home. While many in the group were new to me, we quickly embraced the concept of fun and laughter making us closer.

He, on the hand, was without White Privilege. He was no longer the Golden Boy. I don’t think he knew many black people, if any. I suspect his fear stemmed from stereotypes infused by the media back home in the US. Based on our conversation, the communities on this island were just as curious about him as he was fearful of them.

I left the island knowing he would be just fine! What an opportunity! Getting to know another culture without carrying the big stick. If he leaned back, observed and listened he may see the many communities, the poverty and the communities’ resilience. I sensed these people would not let him leave with any other impression.

My next story comes from an acquaintance who like the young man above found himself transiently without his white privilege. Thank you for allowing me to share your story. He and his daughter were shopping at Home Depot when he sensed something off, starting looking around then noticed – They were only the two white people in this “HUGE” Home Depot Store. The funny sensation steadily grew to a discomfort that was relieved the moment he left the store.
I asked him if he was threatened or did someone make him feel uncomfortable. Nothing of that nature happened. He just felt uncomfortable. He then thought it must suck to feel that way all the time.

For him, the Black Experience was a growing discomfort which never subsides. Kudos for listening as well as having insight into your culture

Have you ever been in a situation where you were visibly different?


Unending List of The Black Experience -Updated 04/08/2013


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

16 thoughts on “Unending Black Experience: White Privilege Stories

      1. well as a non-American I haven’t understood the depth of the divisions within the American society until just recently – why this post showed me something new.. I just wonder what was in the white boy’s mind when he seemed so frightened/what was his worst fear? I can imagine the stereotypes he would have about young black men if they seemed aggressive and he met them late at night in a poor area (We have “Cops” in Sweden too) – but on an island where people obviously had come to spend their holidays, having money? Ofcourse you cannot speak for him but I’m curious to know more what you would think… Btw thanks for a really interesting blog

        1. Hi Jenny,

          Interesting question! I don’t know his thoughts…but he talked about the experience of being the only white person. He did not speak about people being disrespectful or aggressive ( I would remember that).

          My perspective; He was young on a foreign island, far from the midwest. For the first time he stuck out and people were curious about him, instead of the other way around.

          Island people have accents, gestures and mannerisms that can be easily be misunderstood as agreession but within moments laughter erupts — see the potential for mis-interpretation based on his cultural norms.

          Very important point, they understood everythng he said, but he did not understand everything they said, especially if they did not want him to..
          Who knows? An interesting question.

          Anyway, I was on vacation sipping a VooDoo drink! 🙂

  1. I think a lot of it boils down to the perception of the individual based on their past experiences. As a US citizen having grown up in the city of New Orleans my views might seem somewhat skewed to the average person. For example when I was younger , my teens ( a millennium ago), whenever hitchhiking it was always an African-American that gave me a ride or when having a broken down car on the side of the road the same helped me out. I tend to gravitate more to a person of color, maybe due to past gratifications or just knowingly they are more approachable and easier to talk to than my fellow white boys.( I relish saying boy only because I am 54 LOL ) In reality I feel that caucasians are much more clannish , in some cases literally , and unapproachable. I tend not to be a joiner so when at an event I am more probable to strike up conversation with African-Americans .
    I stumbled upon your blog and like it!

    1. Ken,
      Thank you for stumbling onto my blog and liking it too!

      I learnt something from your comments, something I never thought about. You said Clannish…that is a unique way of framing it. I‘ll have to remember that next time I am slighted by the dominant culture. 🙂

      And I agree it does boil down to perception based on past experiences, in essence, culture.

  2. Sorry, being the only white person in a store – or even on an island – does not make you “without your white privilege”. It might be an unfamiliar experience, which may or may not be uncomfortable… However:

    – It doesn’t change your sense of entitlement and privilege you grew up with. Even the ability to travel to a distant place to do something fun like learn to be a SCUBA instructor – is a freaking privilege.
    – I have yet to visit a place populated by brown-skinned people, where cream-skinned people were not afforded automatic respect, or even awe. It is a far cry from being followed around the store by security people sure you’re going to shoplift, being shot by a white guy in your neighborhood for wearing a hoodie, or being cavity searched by airport personnel because your name is Ahmed or Nasir.

    I am really glad to hear people becoming *aware* of their status due to experiences like this… But they still need to understand the privilege they had and regained, and the difference between them and people who have a completely different life experience.

    1. Femina Invicta “It doesn’t change your sense of entitlement and privilege you grew up with. Even the ability to travel to a distant place to do something fun like learn to be a SCUBA instructor – is a freaking privilege.”
      Very true!!! However, he was a kid, a young adult, still discovering his privileges.

      “But they still need to understand the privilege they had and regained, and the difference between them and people who have a completely different life experience.”


      Your astute awareness of these issues and comments are much appreciated.


  3. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that people of color constantly feel they stick out. Maybe some do. Maybe most do.

    I don’t.

    I’m so used to being the only person of color wherever I go that I don’t even notice it anymore.

    This summer I went to a concert with attendance of around, oh, 20,000 people.

    It took me hours before I noticed that there was only one other person of color there. Still makes me chuckle that it took so long for me to notice that.

    It’s a good idea for everyone to have the experience of 1) being able to blend in with a crowd, and 2) being the only one who looks like you in a crowd.

    Gives you perspective.

    But as far as white privilege goes, I think maybe most of it is in society’s perceptions and associations with a certain lack of melanin, but some of it must also be in the individual’s own personal sense of power.

    Haven’t you met people with so much personal charisma that it overwhelms you?

    The video of the gentleman with no arms or legs — he has so much charisma that I wouldn’t be surprised if he is constantly hit on by women.

    In other words, maybe people of color can assume the attitude of white privilege as well.

    Which gives another meaning to the saying — “don’t leave home without it.”

    1. Valeria: “I’m so used to being the only person of color wherever I go that I don’t even notice it anymore. I can relate.

      I think Black People are more heterogeneous than suspected. I agree there are people as you describe who are looking for discrimination and they find it always, repeatedly. There are others who are oblivious–that would be okay if some did not beat up on themselves, blaming themselves for everything, under-appreciating the order of things. Notice the tone of many older black folks…there is a quiet seething bitterness for white folks, and then, they blame black folks. LOL….

      Why does justice appear almost magnetically attracted to white culture and repelled by other cultures? Which culture is the norm, the standard, the benchmark used to judge others? Btw, who really had and still has the WMDs?

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