I have a unique perspective on this subject. I’m a White American who has both traveled widely in the world and who has a large number of Black friends from all over the world.
I have Black friends who are Muslim. Some who are Christian (obviously). Quite a few who are from outside of the United States.
One friend of mine is from Nigeria and an American Citizen. He’s a former United States Army Officer. He left the US Army as a Captain. Another friend who is Black is a retired Army Major. Yet another is a retired Army Command Sergeant Major. I’ve worked for two Black gentlemen who were retired Army Colonels. I’m hard on my supervisors. I rate them on a curve. What I call the Shit Curve. Most supervisors whom I’ve had have been horrible. These two Gents were superior in all facets in my experience. One was a Tanker Battalion Commander. The other was an Infantry Brigade Commander before he was retired short of his Star. Dude should have had that Star in my opinion. The Army missed out on a GREAT leader in letting McKenzie Collins get away.
I could keep this list going forever it seems. For every guy I’ve listed here, I have ten more whom I could use as examples.
I also have a few “bad apples” as friends who are the reason that the guys listed above get such short shrift in the reputation category.
I have traveled widely outside of America with some of these guys. In doing so, I’ve had occasion to see how they are treated.
I’ll say this beforehand. There are quite a few Africans and Black Americans who get into quite a bit of trouble in America and out in the wider world. Yet, I know quite a few White Americans and Europeans who get in the same kind of trouble.
White people, on whole, get the benefit of the doubt.
Black people do not. Period.
Black people are judged by the lowest common denominator of their “race’ or skin color.
White people are judged, more often, by the best of us.
I remember being in Germany and walking into a club. Thinking that it was nice, I went back to another club to grab some friends. One of whom was Black. We went back to the aforementioned club and, suddenly, we could not gain entry. So we left.
The next night, I went back to that club. The door security apologized to me and said, “Sorry about last night. We don’t let Black people in.” He didn’t say “Black people, though.” I told them that they were wrong for that attitude and left.
This was Germany in the ’90s. As Racist as you’d associate with the Jim Crow South.
Every White person knows a few or a lot of really messed up White people. Yet, they don’t judge all White people by these folks. Yet, it isn’t that difficult to find White folks who judge all Black people by the worst of their number.
I’ve had similar experiences all over the world.
In Afghanistan, I had an Afghan Colonel tell me that he didn’t like Obama’s cousins meaning Black people. He didn’t like it when he was advised by Black people. Occasionally, he respected a Black advisor. More often than not, he ignored them. I tried to tell him that this was a substandard attitude. I also reported his statement to my chain of command. Yet, the attitude was fairly prevalent amongst Afghans. The people for whom I worked listened to me and told me to drive on. Nothing happened because there was really nothing that we could do. We were there to advise them not to change their entire culture.
In the Arab world, Black people are treated as second class citizens. Usually, once they realize you are American, Canadian or British, that attitude changes.
In Southeast Asia, I’ve seen Black people treated like they are drug dealers even when it is obvious that they are just tourists. I cringe every time I see it happen. And I have. Not too far from my house is a bar where marijuana is regularly sold and used. Police rarely bother anyone there or on the street near the bar. However, the only people whom I have seen the Police harass have been Black people.
In America, Black peopleare automatically treated differently by Law Enforcement. Police interact with the average Black American as if they are a possible criminal. White people are afforded more respect and dignity automatically. These are defaults.
This is universal in the world in my experience. If you’ve never hung out with a Black person in public, you’ve probably never experienced this. It’s galling. To have a person treated as if they are less than or, worse, a criminal simply because of the color of their skin is a wretched thing to experience. I can only imagine how it feels to that person as it feels horrible enough to me as a bystander who is only vicariously affected by it. I can walk away and not be affected. I’m always White and will almost always be treated with default dignity because of this fact.
Yet, it is a misnomer to call the treatment of White people some kind of privilege. Is it a privilege to be treated with decency and dignity? Is it a privilege to have one’s rights respected? Is it a privilege to be treated innocent until proven guilty?
No. None of these are privileges. These are basic and universal rights.
White people aren’t privileged. Black people aren’t under privileged.
Not having one’s rights violated is not a privilege. It is basic human decency. It is the least that should be expected in America.
Having one’s rights disregarded or worse being brutalized simply because one is Black (or poor) is not being under privileged. It is a collapse of human decency and it is a failure of the system.
Police and other government agents should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for violating the rights of Citizens. The problem and the reason that they are not is the legal standard called “qualified immunity”. As long as this evil construct is in effect and the public servant is held above the law via qualified immunity, no real or measurable progress towards justice is possible.
And justice is the end goal here.
The term White privilege does not good for anyone. It is not a privilege to be treated with respect and dignity. This should be the default.