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A White Woman's Thoughts About White Privilege, Police Brutality, and Racism in General

Updated on July 12, 2020
shanmarie profile image

Shannon is a passionate individual whose feelings and thoughts tend spill onto the pages, often in the form of poetry and sometimes essays.

In a world filled with hate be peace.

— "Be a Light" - Thomas Rhett

This isn’t an easy topic to discuss, but it’s been weighing heavily on my heart lately. Probably because the concept of white privilege has become wrapped up in the topic of police brutality, injustices within the judicial system, and race in general. I’m nothing more than an almost middle-aged white woman, which means to some people my opinion doesn’t matter. But I think love is the answer. True love for our fellow human beings means the same thing it does when we love a lover, family, or friends. It doesn’t always mean agreeing with one another. It doesn’t always mean we like one another. It means things like kindness, compassion, understanding, and respect. Respect is a prerequisite for almost everything else in a relationship. With that in mind, I respectfully hold true to my opinions until someone has a compelling enough reason to change them.


When I was young, it never occurred to me to ask my grandparents what it was like during the Civil Rights era. I learned about it and I recognized racism from extended family members, but I never questioned what it was like from a white family’s perspective even while simultaneously fascinated and saddened about the other perspective. As an adult living in the south, I have heard more about the white perspective than I ever wanted to know. I cringe when I hear stories about injustices that happened during that time, especially when I hear someone brush it off with something similar to “that’s just the way it was back then” like it was never morally wrong to begin with. I can’t say what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone whose family history passes down the pain of being victimized that way, especially when that part of this nation’s history is not ancient history; there are people still alive who lived through it. Relatively speaking, slavery wasn’t that long ago, either. I have an enormous amount of empathy for what happened in the past and the legacy it left for today. It all led to this point in time when what is happening in the world brings me to tears. How do we change things here and now while being truly progressive in regards to race relations if we keep perpetuating the same things and no one wants to listen to any other narrative than the one that seems to be most popular? Both literally and figuratively speaking, it isn’t a black and white issue. There are gray areas. There are areas of color.


That said, how can someone like me fully participate in anything meaningful with a sincere heart when I am told that my opinion doesn't matter? My thoughts are invalid and passed off as white privilege, as if I haven’t taken the time to think and to research before taking a stance and following my heart when forming my opinions. It’s frustrating, but what really stands out to me is that the people telling me these things are also white. Who are these white people to tell me that I am hurting my black friends or black people in general because of my opinions or because I dared to share them? My intentions have never been to hurt anyone. My thoughts are on healing friendships and crossing chasms, not creating more division. I realize the issue of race has always been around, despite vast improvements to the injustices of our past. I realize that being white puts me on what some might call the wrong side when it comes to history and race relations, but I have a voice that I intend to use.


Both literally and figuratively speaking, it isn’t a black and white issue. There are gray areas. There are areas of color.

Worldwide Beautiful - Kane Brown

Lady Antebellum/Lady A Controversy

I’ll start with the Lady Antebellum and Lady A controversy. For those of you who are unaware, it all started when Lady Antebellum, an all white country band, did some soul-searching and reached the conclusion that they should change their band’s name due to the word ‘antebellum’ having ties to the Civil War and slavery era. Before they made their official debut in 2006, they named themselves after the antebellum style homes in the south, never meaning any disrespect. But after more than a decade, they have decided to officially start going by Lady A, a nickname fans have called the band for many years. It probably seemed like a no-brainer, considering their nickname has been so well-known that even radio DJ’s referred to them by their nickname quite often. The trio did not anticipate any disputes after making a formal public announcement.


However, soon after the announcement was made, blues singer Anita White spoke up to say that she already went by the name Lady A and had been doing so at least twice as long as the trio has been a band. White’s initial reaction led her to proclaim that “for [Lady Antebellum] not to even reach out [to her] was pure privilege.” This prompted someone to post the above article on FB, along with a plea for white people to stop being so self-centered and selfish. It sparked a debate between myself and the person who posted it. A few other ladies joined in to take up a stance against me and it went round and round in circles. Their objective was to get me to realize that white privilege is a thing, except that I never said it wasn’t. They also seemed to want me to admit that I am part of the problem because of my superior attitude. None of these women appeared to pay attention to the point I was actually trying to make, which is what I have already said. Taking white privilege to extremes is a mistake and, in my opinion, more harmful to equality than transformative.


It’s hard to live in color when you just see black and white.

— "Be a Light" - Thomas Rhett

How Is It Harmful?

How exactly is the notion of white privilege harmful to racial equality? For starters, it is not feasible to expect that every time a white person makes a decision he or she must first consider if it might be construed as white privilege. For instance, in keeping with the Lady A example, in order for Lady Antebellum to have been acting out of white privilege they would first have had to believe there was a black artist somewhere out there already using the name Lady A. They might have thought to research better if they weren’t already known by their nickname as well as their actual name for so many years without a single complaint from any other artist by the same name, but that is not white privilege either. In order to act out of white privilege or any sort of ignorance to white privilege, one must first assume the other person or persons involved are not white. Why would they have any reason to assume this when they were unaware of her existence in the first place? One could say their original name might be attributed to white privilege (or maybe more accurately, white ignorance), but not their lack of knowledge about a blues singer by the same name as their nickname/new name. There were definitely no racist intentions.


Also, it is offensive to white people to be accused of white privilege when they have not lived a privileged life. Are we as white people still to this day supposed to assume that each time we gain a promotion in the workplace that it was due to being privileged. Are we to second-guess our hard work and ability to earn our successes? Vice versa, is anyone from another race supposed to second-guess their hard work as they climb up the ladder of success? Should they wonder if they really earned it or if they were just handed a new title due to the color of their skin? In the last couple of decades, you should have noticed there is a lot more diversity in the entertainment industry, both music and film. Even television commercials are showing more diversity in their ads than ever before. In the corporate world, there is also more diversity on all levels of the ladder. Law enforcement, too, has more diversity than it used to at the higher levels of command. Especially given all the diversity around us, no one wants to question their true worth. Success is earned and not given to you by nepotism or skin color - unless you truly have been privileged.


Listen to Find Out Why He's Offended

Police and Racism

All that said, I do believe that racism exists and I do believe that it can be shown toward white people as well, although that isn’t as commonly expressed in ways that have sparked the nationwide protests. I have known people in dire need for housing that the government housing facility couldn’t offer a home to because of the mandated racial diversity quotas. There are more scholarships available to minorities, which makes it harder for poor white Americans to get assistance for education. But neither of these two examples speak to racism. They are two more examples of how privilege is not for all whites, especially economically. However, in close relation to that, I have also known people who went to an organization for utility assistance and were turned down only to learn that friends of a different race did receive assistance that same day at a later time. I’m not saying there is a racial reason for that, but in an area where whites are the minority, it’s not impossible and the question lingers at the back of the mind.


When it comes to the police, I do believe that racism exists most often in the form of preconceived prejudices that even they may not be aware of. I’ve experienced what I believe to be an example of that firsthand. I was with someone in a small Texas town. We passed an older black woman walking to work. The person I was with knew this woman personally, having worked with her in the past. She had maybe at least another half a mile to go to get to work, maybe closer to a mile, and the temperature was in the 90s, only getting hotter. We didn’t think twice about turning around to go offer her a ride even though there were a cop and his partner parked near where we turned around. Because that’s just what Texans do. It’s not uncommon to offer a ride to someone waking, especially in the heat, cold, or bad weather.


These cops waited until after we stopped to talk to this woman to pull up behind us. At this point, we’d only been talking to her about a minute or so and she was about to accept the ride. I’d even moved to the back of the vehicle to make room for her. However, the cops questioned her first and then sent her on her way. This encounter ended with the person I was with being arrested for an unrelated misdemeanor, but the original reason for being pulled over was because we supposedly looked suspicious. What exactly was so suspicious? That two white people stopped to talk to a black woman who walked up to our vehicle? It’s not as though we had exchanged money or baggies or anything appearing to be a drug exchange. There was no drug paraphernalia. No weed smell coming from the vehicle. Neither one of us do drugs and neither did this woman. Not that any of us would’ve been stupid enough to do that in front of a cop if we did.


That is not the only time I’ve been questioned by cops about what I am doing. I’ve been questioned for things like walking in the neighborhood late at night and easily attributed that to a cop just doing his job. That was, however, the only experience I’ve had with a cop that I would attribute to racism. It was an eye-opener, for sure. I cannot honestly say that I know what it is like to witness it happening often to people that I know. I do not know what it is like to worry about being treated unfairly every time I am pulled over for a routine traffic stop or to be questioned about what I am doing and why.


So I do understand why people are protesting for changes in the justice system. Although, I don’t know that changes will alleviate racism. In fact, I think it won’t. I am inclined to believe that those people like two white officers that questioned us had underlying prejudices that they need to address on a personal level. However, I think reform has the potential to make a huge difference in police brutality issues even for those that argue more white people are killed by cops than any other race. I won’t quote numbers, though, or even bother to research them for myself because when an entire race regularly experiences what I experienced only one time over a decade ago, the fears over police brutality are understandably amplified. Even though I think racism is better addressed on more personal levels, I do think that changes in laws and changes in training would help lessen the incidences of police brutality for everyone.


But that also requires support from the average citizen. In addition to reform within the system, we also need to find ways to support the officers trying to keep us safe. Americans have raised their voices louder than ever before. It seems that enough noise was made to spark change and discussion. It appears to be sincere. And yet there are still cries to defund the police and, worse, cries to kill the cops. Please don’t tell me that it is just my white privilege talking when I say that has to stop. There are cops from every race. How can we expect systemic racism to end if we don’t let the voices be heard? If we don’t allow the discussions within the individual departments, cities, and communities to happen without fear of anyone being injured in the process?


When I was in the discussion with the women about the Lady A controversy, I was told that I don’t get to define the boundaries of white privilege; it’s not my job. I disagreed, stating that it takes everyone discussing the issue before true change can happen. There’s enough division already. This isn’t a white against black thing. We can’t keep going forward if we stay stuck in the past or even the present. And we can’t eliminate any remaining roadblocks to equality if people are quick to jump to conclusions and if the definitions of the boundaries keep changing on a daily basis.


I get that the ladies hellbent on pointing out my supposed inherent racism are simply trying to be supportive in the call for social equality and justice. They want to prove that they are listening to the collective black voice. There is nothing wrong with that. All I am asking is that it not be taken to extremes in every other part of life. I even had a black friend make a post today pleading for people to stop taking the race thing too far. She stated that white women were calling her racist simply for defending a different white woman who said that she wouldn't date a black man. She defended the woman’s statement because everyone has their own tastes when it comes to who they are physically attracted to and what they look for in a dating partner. It doesn’t mean that anyone hates anyone else. It doesn't affect things like friendship or general social equality. It’s a legitimate preference.


At what point do we all help one another heal from the past enough that we can learn about it and learn from it without allowing that pain to control every aspect of our lives? Personally, I think that history of white slavery (the Irish history in America, for example), history of Native American atrocities, and black history before slavery in America all need to be taught better than they have been. Beyond that, we as a collective society of Americans need to stand united in teaching our children that the past is not the present. We need to teach our children to keep those pure hearts they had as children so easily befriending people of all races. ThWe can break the long standing habits of certain prejudices by choosing not to pass them along to the next generation. We do this through leading by example. People of all colors need to be open to recognizing our personal prejudices and then working to correct them. Don’t allow bad experiences to taint our attitudes toward fellow humans. Instead, we should all listen, learn, and be careful not to overthink every aspect of multi-cultural interactions. Doing so leads to more anger and more resentment. We can and we will do better. I choose to not be discouraged by all the negativity happening in this country.


"Be a Light" by Rhett Thomas

© 2020 Shannon Henry

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    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      3 weeks ago from Texas

      Hi James. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'll gladly take polite largely in agreeance over rude total disagreement. The older I get, the more I dread election years.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      3 weeks ago from Chicago

      I enjoyed reading your piece this morning. Well done. We are largely in agreeance.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      5 weeks ago from Texas

      Hi Dora,

      Thank you. I think that should absolutely be the goal. Even when it isn't, we can all make an effort to respect one another. Definitely less selfishness and more caring,

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Shannon, I appreciate your participation in this discussion. The more we share our thoughts, the better we understand one another, if that is our goal. You mentioned love as a virtue we all need to possess; and I think selfishness is what we all need to lose. We can all learn to respect each other, if we all make the effort.

    • abwilliams profile image

      A B Williams 

      6 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Yes, President Obama was definitely prejudiced against this Country. Sad, but true!

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      I think it was there bubbling just under the surface. Racism has always been in the background. Although, it seemed to be getting better with each generation. There's a difference between racism and prejudice, although prejudice is linked to racism. I think maybe Obama's presidency is when it became more of a political issue. Many things wrapped in politics can become explosive.

    • abwilliams profile image

      A B Williams 

      6 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I did too Eric and Shannon!

      In fact, I had a long comment about the peace and harmony we experienced here until Obama told us that we had a problem that needed transformation.

      So I've condensed my comment...the meat of it, is going into my next article. :-)

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Me too, Eric.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Hi Dana,

      That's a beautiful prayer. I'm with you on it!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am sorry for those who did not grow up in peace. I did.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      6 weeks ago from LOS ANGELES

      America is rooted in a lot of pain due to the atrocious thing done in the past. We have the ability of healing our nation with first recognition, acknowledgement and forgiveness.

      We cannot change our past however, each generation has the power to change the future. My prayer is that we care enough about the children we choose to bring into the world and give them what we didn't have, which is, a world full of harmony, peace and equality.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Hi MG,

      I agree with you. Talking about it probably does fuel some fires. That was part of my issue, I suppose. People blow a lot of things way out of proportion instead of giving the benefit of the doubt that people are simply sharing valid points of view and prefrences without any hate in mind. I too hope that, as you put it, evolution will take its course without violence. We've gone through a several generations since slavery and only a few since the Civil Rights era. There's hope that in the next few generations race will barely be talked about and will hardly be considered a hindrance in our society.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Thank you, Pamela. Some would say that not thinking about white privilege is white privilege, but I think that for many, it's just that we see everyone as equal already in our own eyes. We view everyone as having the same opportunities to pursue greater things.

      I agree that defunding the police won't work the way people envision it to work. City or state governments might resort to using the military to enforce the law. I don't' think it will come to defunding the police, though. It seems extreme to me.

      I guess we'll see how this crazy year plays out. Have a great day.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Thanks, Bill. There was a time I wouldn't touch that topic either. A time when I wouldn't have had the discussion that prompted this article in the first place. But I did. Until I realized we were just going in circles and they only heard their own point of view. Apparently, since I acknowledged that I understood theirs, In fact, I was told that I was attempting to undermine the entire concept of white privilege, according to them. I was supposed to no longer present my point because my "one" example didn't matter in the grand scheme of things or something like that. I gave up and put my energy elsewhere (here).

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Hi again, Eric. I think it was just a situation where she (the blues singer) reacted first on pure emotion. When it was brought to her attention, she was upset about possible legal ramifications that could potentially put her on the losing end even though she had the name first. I think maybe race was only an issue because the country was already wrapped up in controversy over it. But, yes, they all talked privately on Zoom and worked it out. Who knows, maybe they will collaborate together sometime down the road and like each other enough to form a friendship.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      LOL....Thanks, Angie.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Thanks, John. I hope you have an enjoyable day also!

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh 

      6 weeks ago from Singapore

      This is an explosive subject in America and definitely difficult to write on. I will give you credit for giving a lucid view.But sometimes I wonder that the problem in America is more you discuss the race problem the more it seems to grow.I hope we can allow evolution to take its course and try not to be violent about it.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      I think you put a lot of thought into this article and it is very good. I have never given white privilege much thought yet I suppose it exists as I don't get stopped by the cops for being white. If I am out somewhere I am friendly to anyone I encounter, no matter what color they might be.

      I hate what's happening in our country right now. There is no excuse for burning down buildings, stealing for stores, etc. Slavery occured about 5 generations ago, but I do think black peo. ple are not always treated fairly. I don't think all police taret blacks but some do. I think more extensive training for police is good but even talking of defunding them is stupid.

      I really like your last paragraph as you summed up several thing that can possible heal this country and those that have been treated poorly.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Always interesting to read other perspectives. I'll give you kudos for taking on a topic, or topics, I won't touch with a ten-foot pole. In fact, I'll give you tons of kudos.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      This stuck with me. " settled amicably through a conversation between the band and the singer," A conversation and not a yelling down exercise. That kind of deal is the real deal, not the hype of racism.

    • abwilliams profile image

      A B Williams 

      6 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I agree with Jodah, it is measured and well thought out. I should have addressed that.....before my rant. ;)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      I applaud you on writing this measured and well thought out article, Shannon. There is not a hint of racism anywhere in what you wrote, and you make many good points. Have an enjoyable day.

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      I'm not going to delete your comment, Angie. It's not like I wrote something expecting it not to potentially cause controversy or to get people fired up.

      That said, I can't support something like ANTIFA that uses violence and destruction as a means to draw attention to themselves. That, in my opinion, is morally wrong and draws the wrong kind of attention. Much like toddlers throwing a fit. They are heard loud and clear, but they get the wrong kind of attention that comes with negative consequences.

      BLM, on the other hand, is something that at least on the surface, I can support. As a slogan, it is meant to raise awareness and not to be insensitive to anyone else or political. But there are individual groups doing their own thing under the slogan.

      But to be clear, I do not think the rioters and those destroying anything and everything they can are peacefully protesting. In fact, that kind of destructive behavior is helping to make the division worse. Besides, if I use the toddler analogy and getting negative attention from bad behavior, don't most people teach toddlers that it is not okay to destroy someone else's property just because they are mad?

      But anyway, back to the issue of race. There is no reason for race to be the political thing it seems to have become, in my opinion. That's another thing that people are taking too far. It's gotten to the point that a black conservative who dares to speak up about their personal political beliefs are being attacked by members of their own race.

      It's all sad to me. Humans make things more difficult than we have to.

      So you're not feeling the love tonight? At least you aren't feeling hate!

    • abwilliams profile image

      A B Williams 

      6 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Hi Shannon,

      I am a proud, vocal, flag waving patriotic American.

      I will never apologize for that!

      I am planning an Independence Day celebration on my property for any and all that have nowhere to go this coming 4th of July and wish to celebrate America!

      I will never stop, nor take a break from celebrating my beloved Country, where opportunities exist FOR ALL who choose to recognize them....as opportunities!

      Like the song says, "Only in America, where you dream as big as you want to..."

      I have had it with weak and spineless individuals, who do not wish to make waves nor speak out, nor bring attention to themselves.....wringing their hands, with their oh-no's and oh my's, hiding in their basements, while, IN THE MEANTIME, street thugs have free rein to destroy anything and everything in their path!

      Did they not see this day coming when B.O. said {about a thousand times} "we will fundamentally transform the United States of America"?

      Did they not see it when the toppling of statues started back during his Administration?

      When BLM was formed?

      When offense was taken in crosses and memorials? (I remember when they took down a 100 year old Confederate memorial, here in Orlando, because a crazed Muslim shot up an Orlando nightclub) Made absolutely no sense then, nor does it today!

      When classic novels were being removed from the shelves of libraries?

      TaDa!!

      This is what "transformation" looks like!

      Maybe a little more AGGRESSIVE than previously planned and thought out.... with us voting in Trump in lieu of Ms. Hillary......gumming up the works and all...but, it's transformation, is it not, what did those of you (that aren't okay with any of us) think he meant?!?

      What did you think it would look like?

      I am just pissed off right now, the love may return, at some point, but I am not feeling the love tonight!

      Not directed at you Shannon. Feel free to delete, I will understand. :)

    • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shannon Henry 

      6 weeks ago from Texas

      Hi Eric. Barely published and already a commenter. Nice to see you. I wish we all felt privileged to be an American. I thank God for all the blessings in my life.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am privileged to be an American. I have never been given another privilege. One can check my background. We were given the privilege to work, not always even for a good wage. If that is too much to expect then I have issues.

    working

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