It has occurred to me that power comes in all manner of disguises. The President of the United States is the most powerful person in this country and, perhaps, even the world. This would be an example of earned power. How much it is deserved, especially to the rest of the world, is debatable, but there it is. No arguing with the truth of it.
There is the power of parents over children, police officers over citizens, the written word of the law over all of us. There is the power of education, an earned and deserved power to change lives. There is the power of money – sometimes earned, sometimes not.
But there is one kind of power which has been extant in the United States since its founding. It accrues to the holder through DNA at birth. It is a power that is unearned. It is a power that is undeserved. And it is a power that should never be exercised except in an effort to neutralize it. And yet, throughout the history of this nation, it has been used as a whip to demoralize, humble, cow, silence, frighten, and otherwise control those without it. Sometimes it is used to take the lives of those without it.
I’m speaking, of course, of the power that comes to every White baby the day he/she is born. How this power will be used – if it is used at all – will depend upon the upbringing the baby experiences at the hands of parents who are certainly aware that it exists. We all know how this has worked out during our short 200+ year history.
“No Coloreds Allowed!”
Even young children have been aware of this power.
As a very young girl, I was aware of it as I put my dime in and watched it catapult down to the bottom of the little glass box on the city bus and then turned to choose any seat I wanted. From that seat I watched old black men and women enter and move to the back to take the least prestigious seats into which they would lower work-weary bodies to rest aching bones and feet.
I, a 10-year-old girl who had accomplished absolutely nothing – who had contributed absolutely nothing – could enter by the front passenger door and could elect to sit anywhere at all – because my skin was white. And, as surprising as it seems, I was not unaware of this. I knew I had that power. And I knew it was wrong. I knew it and I was embarrassed by it. And, if a 10-year-old can be said to be ashamed of something they had no part in creating, I was ashamed of it.
Those were the days when a person with black skin could not talk back to one with white skin without risking a beating – the loss of a job (which was most likely shamefully underpaid) – and, sometimes, even death.
We have come a long way since those days – but we have not come the whole way. Not even close.
Today people stand on the border and scream at little dark-skinned children to go home – back to where they came from – We’ve got ours – F-You! We don’t want you here! And they screw up their faces into incredibly ugly masks of hate and hold up their misspelled signs all the while believing themselves to be superior. These are the people on the left side of the photo below. The ones on the right side were screaming obscenities at a young black girl for the unforgivable crime of wanting to go to school.
Today a black man exercising his right to open-carry a weapon (in states stupid enough to pass such laws) is stopped at gunpoint by police and forced to the ground while a half-dozen police cars come to the scene with lights flashing.
Across town (figuratively) an entire group of white “boys” with rifles slung over their shoulders are approached by a police officer who is laughing and joking with them about “you boys out here scaring people again?”
White Open Carry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1G1IscWi58
Latin American boys win a contest within which they built a robot that, shockingly, took a victory from a group of moneyed, privileged boys from MIT. Later, you find the boys from MIT all have cushy jobs while the young Latin American boys can’t find the money to further their educations – and no job offers were forthcoming – so they turned to cooking, mechanics, whatever they could find.
There is power in the color of white skin. Unearned power. Undeserved power. Power that should NEVER exist. And certainly power that should NEVER be used for anything but setting things right - fighting for equality for all people until that undeserved and unearned power no longer exists at all.
Thanks for your time.
~ AngelMay ~