Those of us who enjoy white privilege rarely take the time to think about it. We take our privileges for granted.
As a middle aged white woman, I know for a fact that if I were walking in that neighborhood wearing a hoodie in the rain, I would NOT look suspicious. If I felt that I was being followed by a strange man in a suburban neighborhood, I would not hesitate to knock on the closest door. And if I knocked on stranger’s door and said that I thought I was being followed by a man, I am pretty sure I would be invited inside by those strangers. I would probably be invited in if the host family were white or black or Latino or Asian. If the family were speaking another language amongst themselves, chances are I could knock out a few phrases in that language, which would immediately endear me to the family. If the host family spoke Spanish, and I started rattling off fluent Spanish with occasional syntax errors, I would be held in very high esteem by my hosts. Latinos who speak fluent English with occasionally flawed syntax are dumb. White people who speak fluent Spanish with occasionally flawed syntax are really smart and nice and wonderful. That is just one little part of white privilege.
Another part of privilege combines both class and race. I am accustomed to having doors opened for me. I can walk into a fancy hotel lobby and ask where the bathroom is, and the doorman will courteously direct me to the bathroom. I bet Trayvon could not walk into a fancy hotel and be directed to the bathroom. And on the other end of the spectrum, I can be walking through a neighborhood that perhaps doesn’t see many white women walking alone at night. But I am well-traveled and confidant, and comfortable in a wide range of environments. I would approach the group of young people hanging on the street corner, introduce myself (now, at this age, I get to behave like someone’s mom – I used different strategies when I was younger) and explain my purpose for being in the neighborhood, and *ask* the scariest, thugiest looking guys on the street if THEY think it is safe for me to travel from point A to point B. Nine times out of ten, the scariest looking guys on the street corner will give me an escort. If I treat people with respect, I usually get respect in return.
I enjoy privileges that Trayvon did not enjoy. And not privileges that I have earned.