A large part of the black experience is learning to accept as fact injustices that many other minority and ethnic groups would find horrible or incomprehensible. Today my brother had his first experience with blatant white privilege.
My brother standing near the stage at an event he helped prepare for. He is an engineering student at Stanford University (please note that his educational pursuits do not make him more deserving of humane treatment and respect than any other person) and was learning from other sound engineering students the intricacies of equipment and the procedures for setting up an event. The doors open at 7pm and it is quickly apparent that the show is standing room only. My brother, having finished help set up, is conveniently located relatively close to the stage and so settles into his spot to watch the show.
Enter middle-aged white man.
Man: (taps my brother on the shoulder) Are you a part of the crew?
My brother: (raised by Southern black parents) Yes sir.
Man: Well maybe you can move to let some of the paying customers see.
Let’s pause to dissect everything wrong with this situation. This grown man 1) had absolutely no right to approach my 18 year old brother in this manner 2) made a judgement that because he is black, my brother could not have possibly paid for the show 3) then assumed, again based solely on race, that my brother did not have as much right to be there as he did, despite the fact that my brother arrived at the location first.
My brother: Well if you can’t see I can squat down.
Man: I don’t want to see over you, I want to see around you.
So in the year 2016, in Southern California, one of the most “liberal” states in the county, we have a middle aged white man asking a black child to give up his spot at a venue because the man, as a white person, feels inherently more deserving. This is despite the fact that my brother arrived at the spot first, and the man could have easily moved to a location where his view was less obstructed. Does this scene seem even remotely familiar?
Later, when my brother tells me the story.
Me: You have just as much right to the space as anyone else. He is not more deserving simply because he is white. Next time stand your ground!
My brother: Cam, if I stand my ground, I’ll get shot.
He is being facetious of course. He understood my point, that I was referring to this specific instance, and not the Florida legislation. But he is also not incorrect. At 18 years old my brother, just like every black child, already knows that the rules meant to protect white people do not apply to him. So it goes.