From the According to Keir dictionary:
Privilege Denier | /priv(ə)lij) də.nī.ər/ A person who does not believe that they have received special rights or advantages from being born not black.
A Privilege Denier shows their colors when they believe that they are being accused of racism. A PD is not a racist. A PD truly doesn't believe that race makes you a better or worse person. And as any good PD who thinks that they are being accused of racism will tell you, they "don't have a racist bone in their body", they "don't see race or color", they think everyone should just be kind to each other and will vehemently tell you that they even "have black family members"! They have sometimes even asked their " black friends" if they are racist and the friends have said no, so there you have it. Not a racist. (Where is the sarcasm font when you need it?)
So you try to say, "I wasn't calling you a racist, just that some of your comments really show your privilege. And the inevitable: "PRIVILEGE?! I grew up poor, I had to work my whole life!" At this point, trying to explain privilege is pointless. The whole conversation is just circling the drain...
I have privilege, I know that I do. I was never followed around a store just because of my skin color. I never had a cop do a U-turn to follow my car on the way to work . I never had someone question my intentions while walking in my small town neighborhood. I was never asked to join a sports team with the assumption that I'm fast, never asked if my hair was real and never told that I should (this one just came from a now ex-friend), "just dress normal." I've never had anybody comment that I must not have a job if I go to a protest, or that it must be nice to have a brand new phone because I'm probably on welfare. I've never been accused of getting a job or promotion because of the color of my skin. I'll say it again, I have privilege. I know I do.
A good little PD will tell you that none of the above happens. They will tell you that their black friends have "gotten over slavery" and so should the rest of "them". They will tell you that it's white people causing all the issues and that if we all just acted respectfully to each other, everything would be fine. They will tell you that the Irish and the Polish had it hard too. And my favorite, everyone should just ignore color and get over it.
This one boils my blood. Ignore color. So just ignore a significant part of the very makeup of a person? Ignore someone's heritage, culture and individuality? And "get over it." Pardon me, but What. The. Fuck?
The PD thinks that POCs need to get over slavery. They think that since slavery and sitting on the back of the bus is over (and of course, they never owned slaves) that racism and privilege is over, so POCs need to just get over it and move on. Their Irish family is over it. They get called Polack and don't cry about it or protest over it. My favorite is when the PD says "I'm just not dealing with it any more, I'm over it". I tried to explain to the ex friend that he was able to be over it if he wanted to, but POCs can't get over it, that it's living daily with them because of the color of their skin. They can't just step out of their skin and say BOOM, no more racism for me!!
(There's that train of thought thing...moving on...)
So I really think that if the conversation starts with the word "racism" or "racist", it's immediately going to get heated. It's an UGLY word. Yes, there ARE racists, don't get me wrong, but the PD is that friend that you love, that you don't want to have to say goodbye to,( like Janet from high school who thinks Colin Kaepernick should respect the flag) but that doesn't believe in white privilege and therefore says things like : "I just don't know why they are still protesting, plus, Floyd was no angel ya know!". That's the PD that maybe, just maybe, can be encouraged to listen and learn from people who are truly trying to change the world. PDs are the ones that maybe will take the time to actually read something that makes them uncomfortable. There is still hope with the PD. but if the conversation starts with the word "racist" or "racism", the shit has already hit the fan and there is no getting it back in the bag.
So here are my suggestions:
PD "I'm over this, I don't even SEE color"
Me "Oh my god, stop, that's so racist!"
PD: "I'm not a racist, I love black people, I have black friends, my cousin is married to a black guy!"
Me "I know you aren't racist, but you are showing your privilege"
PD "PRIVILEGE!!!! I GREW UP WITH A SINGLE MOM, I WORKED MY ASS OFF SINCE I WAS TEN AND I NEVER ASKED FOR SPECIAL RIGHTS BECAUSE I'M WHITE LIKE THEY DO!!!
Me "THAT's NOT PRIVILEGE! OH MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?"
(You see where this is going, right?)
PD "I'm so over this, I don't even SEE color"
Me: "I think it's a little unrealistic to say that you don't see the color of someone's skin. I mean, it's right there. Shouldn't we try to appreciate someone for who they are, including their skin color?
PD "I guess I didn't look at it like that. I just meant that I don't judge people by skin color"
Me: "I know you don't, and I love that about you. It's just that sometimes I don't think you understand how privileged we are. We are so lucky to be able to be "over it" because we don't really have to deal with it. POCs can't just take off their skin and by saying that you don't see skin color kind of sounds like you think that POCs have lived the same lives we have, and unfortunately, that's not true."
PD. "None of my black friends have ever told me that I act privileged. "
Me: "It's not ACTING like you have privilege, it's simply understanding and admitting that you have it, and that the only reason you have it is because you WERE BORN WHITE.
So my goal, along with continuing to learn from other people, is to try to actively engage people BEFORE the temperature starts to climb. Because once the mercury starts to rise, breaking the glass is inevitable.