Earlier today, I watched a clip where a mega church pastor named Louie Giglio (@louiegiglio) suggested instead of saying “white privilege” he would suggest “white blessings”. You can watch the clip here: https://twitter.com/namenzie/status/1272692946907824135?s=20 . This is disturbing for many reasons but I want to use an analogy to show why this statement along with “all lives matter” are being used to discount and discredit the need for change in our country.
So let’s say Louie, a young white male, dislocates his thumb and heads to the emergency room. When he arrives he is triaged by a nurse who takes his vitals and determines his injury is minor and his life isn’t being threatened. The nurse instructs Louie and his family to wait in the waiting room until a bed opens and a doctor can see him. While Louie is waiting the ambulance shows up and wheels in Leroy, an young black male, who has been shot and is danger of dying. The paramedics immediately rush Leroy to surgery because his situation is urgent. Louie’s family gets upset because they came in first. When they questions the nurses, the nurses respond by saying Leroy is hurt and in danger of dying. Louie’s family responds by saying “Louie is hurt and his injury is important too.”
Louie’s situation isn’t urgent and he’s not about to die. But something needs to be done for Leroy to prevent him from dying. In that emergency room, saving Leroy’s life is the most urgent need. Leroy’s life matters. When white people decry “all lives matter” this is what we hear. We hear our pain from racial injustice and disparity aren’t urgent or important. Trust me, every black person knows that all lives matter, but right now, because black people are being racially targeted, we need everyone in America to help us save the lives of people in our community who are being killed by white people almost daily.
Ok, so let’s go back to the emergency room scenario. Let’s say everything up to the point of Leroy arriving happened just as before. But this time, instead of the paramedics rushing Leroy to surgery, the leave him on the gurney in the waiting room and call Louie back to see the doctor. Louie gets called back first, not because he showed up first but because unfortunately the all white hospital staff have some racial biases against Leroy. The paramedics just leave Leroy in the waiting room because they assume he doesn’t have insurance coverage. One nurse looks at Leroy and mentally calls him a thug. The doctor knows Leroy is in the waiting room but when he steps out to get his next patient, he chooses Louie because he determined Louie was a good kid from a good home, with a promising future, so he chooses to help Louie over Leroy. All of the little things that contribute to white people looking less favorably on Leroy, even though they don’t know anything about him other than he was shot, create a situation where Louie gets better treatment.
That’s what we call white privilege. It happens at job interviews, in car dealerships, when we buy homes, when we (black people) encounter law enforcement, in school classrooms, just about everywhere in American society. It’s what happen when the hiring manager says “Leroy just doesn’t seem like a good fit for our company culture.” So he chooses the white applicant who appeals to him even though Leroy has better work habits and more years of experience. It’s what happens when a law enforcement officer stops a Louie for speeding on the side of the road and calls him “sir” and has a calm conversation letting him go with a warning. But when he stops Leroy because it seemed unlikely a black person would own such a nice car (not speeding), he doesn’t use honorifics, runs a check to see if there are any outstanding warrants, calls for backup, and the simple traffic stop escalates to jail time or death.
Why did I say all of this? Because Louie Giglio wants to call this “white blessings”. He wants to say white people have just reaped the blessings of slavery. But saying “white blessings” doesn’t bring awareness to the rampant problem of racial disparity and discrimination that needs to be addressed in this country. Instead, it helps white people who could use their voice to say racism and racial disparity are wrong, avoid dealing with the issue all together. Think about it; a person doesn’t have to deal with the ugly truth that black people are being killed by white police officers and racially motivated hate groups when they say “all lives matter.” They don’t have to deal with the sin of racism and the inequalities in our society when they choose to say they’re just receiving “white blessings”.
Both of these phrases allow people to avoid the issues. It allows them to even retaliate and play the victim because they feel uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. Reconciliation is uncomfortable. But the discomfort felt by white people who hear “Black Lives Matter” and “White Privilege” are nothing compared to the discomfort and struggle of being black in America every day.