Charlottesville, White Privilege and White Supremacy
By Cary Betz-Williams
By now we have all seen it—the men marching in their polo shirts and khakis, carrying tiki torches from the local hardware store. The confederate battle flag, the flapping swastikas. The faces—not even covered—are white faces, white men. A group meets them and violence ensues. The images on the TV don’t show a narrative or context, just people fighting (no wonder Trump thinks he can get away with saying it was “both sides”). Why was the young man holding an improvised flamethrower? Was he an attacker? Does it matter?…he’s black. He must be at fault, even if the man opposite him is trying to hit him with a confederate flag. The only innocent is the white girl killed by the car driven by the white supremacist.
What about us? We’re not carrying flags. We are not white supremacists. Many of us are white, but we aren’t like that. We are the “good ones”. Our ministers stand between the KKK, the neo-Nazis, the alt-right and the counter protesters. We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of everyone. We can’t be part of the problem.
Except we’re missing the point. We, as whites, may not be the “bad guys”, but we profit from white privilege. We live in a society that has been designed to benefit white people at the expense of people of color. Education, religion, land usage, business, politics, the government, law enforcement, notions of the correct way to be, feel, speak, and present ourselves to the outside world—what we consider the norms—inherently favor white people. Us. You and me. Even our beloved Unitarian Universalist faith has not lived up to its first principle of honoring the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
So, though we might not be white supremacists, we who are white do benefit from a culture of white supremacy—the collective and ongoing structures, policies and practices that are skewed to favor white people and do profound harm to people of color. And that’s a hard thing to sit with, I know. But I invite you to do that. Please. Because things aren’t going to get any better until white people start to realize they have to dismantle the system that favors them. That includes us, good people of People’s.