I have written about white privilege before, and I am sure I will write about it again and again. It’s a hard topic to understand, especially if you’re a white person who grew up in a middle class family and always considered your other (mostly white) better-off friends to be the privileged ones while you felt like you were faking it. Yes, that’s pretty much my story, and I have seen other white folks with similar backgrounds deny that they have benefited from white privilege because they came from backgrounds that included struggle.
White privilege is not the absence of struggle. It’s the many ways that being white makes your life easier in our society. It is the big stuff such as societal expectations, systematic discrimination in your favor, media bias, etc., but it is also a lot of little stuff that goes unnoticed–like the color of band-aids.
Here is my stupid white privilege revelation story:
At the end of last summer, I was hanging out at the bandshell in Prospect Park with my kids and my husband. The kids were scootering around the concrete area and we were lounging in the shade watching them. A couple of teenage boys were doing tricks on BMX bikes when one wiped out pretty badly. All his friends ran over and were yelling, “Awwww!” and “You’re bleedin’, man!” My kids, ever-fascinated with blood, ran over, too, to see some gore.
Being the mom of two kids who seem to trip over the air itself, I had a homemade first aid kit in my backpack with hand sanitizer, band aids, spray Neosporin, and some individual doses of Benedryl because I don’t know if Nico is allergic to bee stings yet (runs in the family). The hurt kid was a tall and lanky boy–that awkward age where his limbs had outgrown the body in terms of proportion–with a dark brown complexion. His knee was bleeding pretty badly, and as I shoo-ed my kids away from the bloody scene I told him that I had band-aids and first aid stuff, would he like me to fix his knee up for him? He said yes, so he sat down and I tissued off the blood, sprayed Neosporin on the large scrape and gash on his knee, and then applied three band-aids. I figured that a tween boy wouldn’t want the Hello Kitty band-aids, so I dug around for the flesh colored ones instead.
But when I put the band-aids on this skin on I realized that they weren’t the color of his flesh, but MINE. These flesh colored band-aids may as well have been neon green with hot pink polka-dots against his dark chocolate-colored complexion. I stared at them, befuddled, almost unable to figure out the disconnect (honestly, imagine me here, staring at this kids knee with a perplexe expression on my face) when he hopped up, said a quick “Thanks,” smiled and waved, and took off with this friends.
I was 39 years old, and I had never even noticed that band-aids are the color of white people’s skin. Even clear band-aids, when applied, work best of the palest of us, as shown below when I cut my leg shaving on Sunday. I am a pretty fair white lady and the band-aid just about blends with my leg.
That, my friends, is another example–however small–of white privilege.