I’ve heard it before. I’ve said it before. I base my writing and my activism and my parenting on this fundamental truth: race affects everyone’s life.
Still, when I heard it from Pam Spaulding1 in a BlogHer session, there was that moment of frisson, that “what?” that comes from my privilege, from the belief drilled into my every neuron from birth on that race is about them, those brown people over there, not me, I don’t have to worry about race, race doesn’t affect my life directly.
Years of working to rid myself of it, and still that moment appears. Still. Maybe always.
Perhaps there is no getting rid of that moment completely. Most of the time, now, such a phrase feels right at home in my ears, familiar in my heart. Race affects everyone. White people have white privilege. I am infected with racism. My soul nods — not because it loves these things, but because it knows them, now, knows the knapsack I was granted at birth (was grafted on me at birth), and works daily to become familiar with its contents.
But still, sometimes, when least expected, someone will reference, offhand, the thing on my back — and I startle. Just for a moment, but I’d forgotten. I can forget. Everything in my culture wants me to forget, wants me to stop talking about my knapsack, wants me to stop pointing out the emperor’s. And sometimes it succeeds.
Maybe I can’t get rid of that moment completely, but I can change what comes next: of course it’s there. Of course it’s real. Of course race affects everyone. Of course race is a part of my every moment. I can recognize that frisson for what it is: the protestations and self-protections of the privilege inside me. It is not truth: it is what kyriarchy would have me think true, so that I might propagate racism, scatter its poisoned pollen everywhere I go.
I cannot counter that which I do not acknowledge exists, and so I say, again: I live with white privilege in every moment; race affects me; race affects you.
Race affects everyone.
- Paraphrase: “…because race affects my life. Well, race affects everyone’s life.” ↩