Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Several groups on campus here are starting a SafeZone program, where the general idea is to “identify people and places where students can seek support free of bigotry and harassment”. Wonderful idea, and it’s been about a year in the making.

At any rate, at the NSBE meeting I attended last night, a draft of the main race-related SafeZone documents circulated for approval. I took the time to read them out of curiosity. Of particular interest to me was the question “What is white privilege?” (I broke their frames in order to directly link to the page in question.)

Their list is well worth reading and is highly enlightening, whether you’ve never had to think about white privilege before or if you’ve just never attempted to enumerate what it entails.

Hell, I’ll even quote:

White Privilege is…

  1. Being fairly sure that renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live is possible.
  2. Being pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  3. Shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store security.
  4. Turning on the television or looking at the front page of the paper and seeing people of my ethnic background widely and positively represented.
  5. Being shown in school that people of my color made our national heritage what it is.
  6. Being sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their ethnic background.
  7. Going into a music shop and count on finding the music of my ethnic background represented, into a supermarket and finding the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, or into a hairdresser’s shop and finding someone who can style my hair.
  8. Counting on my skin color not precluding the appearance of financial reliability.
  9. Being able to arrange to protect my children from racial epithets.
  10. Being able to swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
  11. Speaking in public to a powerful group without putting people of my ethnic background on trial.
  12. Doing well in a challenging situation without being called a “credit to my race”.
  13. Never being asked to speak for all the people of my ethnic group.
  14. Remaining oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
  15. Criticizing our government and talking about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
  16. Being pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
  17. Being sure that I haven’t been singled out for my race if a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return.
  18. Easily buying posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
  19. Going home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, out numbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
  20. Taking a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job accuse me of getting the job because of my ethnic background.
  21. Choosing public accommodation without fearing that people of my color cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
  22. Being sure that if I need legal or medical help, my color will not work against me.
  23. Not needing to ask if each negative event in my life has racial overtones.
  24. Choosing blemish cover or bandages in flesh color and have them more or less match my skin.

For some reason, my brain is currently stuck on #14: “Remaining oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.” Coincidentally, I’ve found it fascinating over the past few weeks the things I can talk about with Luke versus Dr. 7 versus Andrea versus T-dawg. My own bastardized culture leaves me in an odd place, perhaps, but the differences are there and dictate heavily what jokes are told and even what topics of conversation will be in some cases. It’s highly annoying to receive a blank look and a careless shrug—and worse yet, with no curiosity behind it—in response to some excited story or joke. It sounds trivial (because it’s just a story or joke, right?), and it may just be my perpetual annoyance with some folks’ lack of curiosity, but it can weigh surprisingly heavily in a friendship.

Okay, I’m done rambling.


  • Dess

    So fantastic to see a SafeZone-positive note from someone!
    The project started so quietly, almost as an ‘it-probably-won’t-go-over-well-so-let’s-not-all-get-excited’ thing, and it’s so heartening that the group of students working on it has done such a great job with the documentation.
    Hopefully in the fall, incoming freshmen will receive safezone documentation with their freshmeat packet 🙂

  • Michael

    HOLLA @ ME! Inga Musico’s new book Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society will rock your world when it comes out in april, i’ve preordered for like $15. PICK IT UP! I am so into these very issues right now (and I’m safezone trained 8P) and tonight i went to a drag show, and DAMN if that wasn’t political and educational. ne wayz, i’ll listen and discuss hit me up with more long ass email, and maybe i’ll put this shit there instead of post-in-a-comment

  • rackrent

    we (both Jenny and I) read something along the line of this in our english class last year. #7, 12, and 13 seem extremely on target for me.

  • Hannah

    I like to think of myself as a curious white people. Some of those also apply to gender issues, I’ve noticed, as well a age issues. For instance, the one about getting followed by security–definitely also an age issue. As far as feeling “tied in” after going to group meetings–definitely also a gender issue, at least as far as I have noticed at my lovely engineering school. Oh! And the “person in charge” and the people who make history (at least in school) are almost always male. What do you think?