• Jennifer Jade Merrihue

MY WHITE PRIVILEGE.

I moved to Florida for university from London.


It was the first time I had ever lived in the states.


I had never seen racism, not like the kind that exists in the USA, not like the kind in Florida.

I quickly came across it.


People making jokes.


Dead baby jokes, sexist jokes, rape jokes, racist jokes, - against Blacks, against Latinos, against every possible race or identity other than white.

It seemed to be - the more fucked up the better.


Especially in sororities and fraternities.


I didn’t understand and it made me angry.


The jokes weren’t funny.


They were gross.


I didn’t understand the racial stereotypes so every “joke” that came out of a person, just came off to me as disgusting and for what it was: racist, bigotry.


People who were my friends would tease me about being Latina. They would tell me to go pick the weeds, lovingly.


I was very confused about why they would laugh after because:


Didn't they remember I was born in Ecuador?


I lived in different countries in South America my entire childhood. So at first, I thought this was a compliment. Latin women are beautiful and powerful.


It took a WHILE before I finally asked what the hell they meant by it.


Then they tried to explain the racist joke while Lovingly laughing.


And I sat there, completely confused and baffled.


I did not react.

Except to internally churn and feel nauseous and confused at my friendships.


It was so confusing to find out that people I cared about were making fun of my heritage, to my face, and that they believed it was just teasing.


I didn’t leave though.


I didn’t get loudly angry and say “that’s so fucked up”, I didn’t tell them to stop.

I would just silently withdraw.


Sometimes leave the premises and try and go understand how I was supposed to understand this. Respond to this.


Was I?

Wasn’t it easier just to laugh along in this strange country until I fully understood what was happening?

Not call a lot of attention to my utter discomfort and disgust?


Eventually, people backed off because of how proud I was of my heritage.


I made friends with other Europeans who also didn’t spend their time making fun of other races.


But I still dated Americans, some in fraternities where I was CONSTANTLY confronted with racist jokes (about other races), sexiest jokes, rape jokes…and more.


The “jokes” made me angry.


Sometimes, I would tear up, not understanding how these people I cared about could be making fun of such cruel, violent, and disgusting themes, and of other people.


I felt frozen and shocked whenever it came up.


I would be clearly affected by it- people would tell me to relax.


They would make racist Black jokes even when their Black fraternity brothers were in the room.

They too would laugh along or make the racist jokes themselves.


No one seemed shocked or angry, like me, it seemed, though now I'm sure the must've been frozen or worse, used to it.


When I would bring it up to my boyfriend or friends, I was told to not take life so seriously, to stop making such a big deal of things, to calm down, to not be so dramatic, to take a joke.


In my early college years, some of my friends would get furious with me because I would start heated debates with people at parties.


I would engage people on these themes trying to understand what was at the root of the jokes, or racism, or the other themes that were so uncomfortably LOUD to me- that others seemed not to even notice.


Most people were actually quite eager to share, to talk about this stuff, to actually NAME this fucking madness and question it with me.


But others just wanted to party and didn’t want me to bring up such heavy subjects. They would get annoyed at how inconvenient my anger was at this subject.


Which made me more angry and confused.


So I decided to study sociology- maybe then I could understand better.


I had to buy the 11th edition of a social problems textbook. I'd like to point out... someone had time to write 11 editions of the same social problems.


ELEVEN. I digress.


It seemed the only other person as OUTRAGED at the outrageous things I was seeing in the social scene, in the textbooks, on the news, was my teacher. But he was so intense that most just spaced out and called him crazy.


And even in the class, no one seemed outraged or surprised. Each chapter that was heartbreaking to me was just old news to people raised in the states.


Eventually, I learned to laugh off the stupid jokes about my race.


I learned to politely smile through the disgust when strangers, friends, friends of friends, friends of the guys I was dating, would sexualize my being Latin.


I learned to not make it a big deal and try and move past it as soon as it came up.


I assume the other races did this as well because no one was talking about race openly. No one was complaining or fighting back.


I learned, in my own way, to do the same. Because it was easier.


AND GUESS WHAT- even in this. I HAVE WHITE PRIVILEGE.


I look white.


If I wanted to, I could not think about nor talk about race.


I have the OPTION to check out, to not deal with it.


Even though my friends thought it was okay to make racist comments at me.


It was still done through loving eyes because they could make fun of my race AND brush it off because I still looked white.


So I was privileged to be able to wear my Latin blood electively or hide it.


This is my white-looking privilege.


To not have to think about or deal with race if I don’t want to.


Before I started doing anti-racist work, all of the times I experienced racism had me believe I fully understood it.


It had me believed I understood what Black people and People of Color go through in this country (the fact that I believed I understood Black experience of racism because of my experiences makes me cringe in shame right now).


It had me believe that I was ABSOLUTELY not racist because I had experienced it.


But now I see.


I could CHOOSE to hide my race.


To hide and use white privilege for my comfort.


To not deal with it or think about it.


People of BBIPOC do not get to do that.


There is not a day they can take a day off of dealing with the racism that is sprinkled all over this country.


And I can have experienced my own hardships, racism, and be completely behind the Black Lives Matter movement, and still never fully understand what. the experience is for BBIPOC in this country.


I still have so much to understand that I just didn’t understand before starting this anti-racism work.


Have you started to deconstruct your own racism?


Have you been brave enough to consider you have it in you?


Have you considered that you have the power to change things in this racist system?


Because the first step to contributing, to deconstructing systemic racism- is finding it, owning it, and deconstructing it in you.


This society is built on the shoulders of racism, it is innately racist in its very foundation, which means no one raised in it or who is influenced by its media or culture (aka. the WORLD) can escape having that racism in them, no matter how unconscious it may be.


It will not deconstruct itself.


You need to choose to do it.


Otherwise, like I was doing in my past, you commit to enabling it and being an active participant of a racist system that justifies lynching Black People and People of Color.


I know it’s hard to digest and to hear.

I know all your defenses might be up.


I promise you, once you start looking, once you start deconstructing what’s inside you, you will not be able to unsee it… but you will be able to own your actions, your life, and show up powerfully to choose how you want to show up throughout history and what you want to contribute to it.


I invite any and all adjustments or corrective feedback from BBIPOC on what I have shared. I am open and willing to hearing/learning if what I am saying or how I am saying it is in any way wrong, hurtful to the cause, to you, to the intention. I am not asking BBIPOC to teach me, that is not your responsibility. I am paying for that education from BBIPOC educators for that. I just invite you to share freely if you want.



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Jennifer Jade Merrihue

Los Angeles, CA 90291

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jenniferjade@merrihue.com

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