White Privilege

A pastor and writer for the Gospel Coalition I greatly admire, Thabiti Anyabwile, wrote this* in a series of tweets Saturday night — which would have been Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday:

Tamir Rice would have been 14 today. Life cut way too short. Remembering the family in my prayer tonight. Hugging my son tighter tonight. Just left Toys R Us [with] my son. He had gift cards from his 9th [birthday]. He wanted to buy a Nerf Gun & Nerf bow. I let him. I thought VERY hard. While in the store and driving home, I kept asking myself, “Where can he play with these safely?” The only answer I have is “in the house.” I hate the notion that Titus’ boyhood play must be curtailed because of a society’s unjust judgment. But I love him too much to be blasé [about] it. I don’t want my son to love guns. We talk about it often as he just does what boys do. The reality is he cannot love guns safely. Love for guns is a right some people take for granted and others cherish and guard. It’s not a right that can be so treated by my son. For some he’s a menace on sight. He has no idea that’s how some see him. So his legal possession of a gun or play [with] toy makes him vulnerable. He’s not old enough to understand or negotiate this deadly vulnerability. But he should be able to play. Play should never be deadly. I’m not sure he’d be safer if I were outside playing [with] him. I’m a large man. Even unarmed, being large is justification for deadly force. It’s not difficult for me to imagine playing [with] him in our neighborhood and [one] or both being rolled up on, finding ourselves in a lethal [situation]. If it’s my son in crosshairs and things go bad, what would my son see? What would be the last image of his father? How would he cope? It just ain’t right. So we will play inside and he’ll wonder, “why not outside with more room?” I know it’s [because] there’s not much room outside. I let him buy the Nerf gun and bow. I hate the anxiety so he could be a boy. Being a boy is so precious to me. A gift I hope to guard and nourish. Okay. I’m done. Now to talk to God on behalf of Tamir Rice’s family, my son, and yours. Good night.

I will never have to worry about my sweet boy playing with a Nerf gun in the front yard. Atticus is too blonde, too blue eyed.

I see a plenty on social media about how White Privilege isn’t real, the media is biased, whatever. Or, more generously I guess, about how all of us are equal and we should just realize we’re all the same (cue Justin Timberlake) instead of focusing on race but here’s the deal: if all the studies, statistics, and stories from Black communities (and not to mention other non-Anglo communities) about White Privilege are wrong — they’re not but for the sake of argument let’s wonder if they are for a moment — and all the systemic benefits of being white (pay grade, police interaction, educational opportunities, etc) don’t actually exist White Privilege is still a thriving reality for one reason:

As a white person I get to choose when or when not to think about my race or the race of others. I can blindly assert that “we’re all equal” when we’re not.

I don’t ever have to consider what it means to be the father of a White boy playing with a Nerf gun in the front yard.

At the 2016 BET Awards last night Grey’s Anatomy — which I’ve seen now in completion twice — actor and equal rights activist, Jesse Williams, gavea powerful speech, which you can watch here.

A few choice quotes, the full transcript is here:

Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.

Now… I got more y’all – yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.

And let’s get a couple things straight, just a little sidenote – the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

Perhaps it would be better to weep with those who weep, stand with those who stand, fight injustice, seek forgiveness and reconciliation, maybe these instead of defending the high ground we sit on.


  • I gently edited Anyabwile’s quote for readability. Mostly just spelled out words the short hand used to get around Twitter’s 140 character count restriction.
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White Privilege