Columns / Discourse / April 11, 2018

White entitlement disrupts the validity of people of color

Being a black woman has really honed my ability to catch every instance of white entitlement. You know, the things white people do that people of color would never dream of. It can be as light as assuming a space is yours, or as bold as assuming you are more knowledgeable than someone else. This entitlement is pervasive in white culture and it is something that people of color unfortunately have to experience as well. My annoyance with this phenomenon reached a new level when I watched a white student tell our black professor — who has degrees as well as personal experiences in what he is teaching — that he was wrong about color-blindness being racist. I was heated. Angry. Distraught. Why would this white student think that he had the authority to argue about something he has no experience with, with someone who actually has that experience? It was his white entitlement, which is one of the consequences of hundreds of years of institutional oppression experienced by people of color. This entitlement resides in the validity that white people take from people of color, or other marginalized groups, when they enact their entitlement. When the white woman at my job told me that “Power + Prejudice = Racism” was my opinion and that I was racist for insinuating that I understood the black experience better than her, she invalidated me. Her entitlement resided in her belief that she knew more than me, and that what I said — which is actually supported by research and my own experience — was wrong. This notion of “my experiences are universal and the only possible experiences” has been around for as long as colonialism and it continues to perpetuate the oppression that people of color experience. When I was called a “dumb nigger” at the Aldi’s in Galesburg by a white man, he completely invalidated my identity and more importantly me as a human being. His entitlement resided in the fact that he felt he had the right to call me out of my name while simultaneously sharing his view of black people as a whole. This notion that it’s acceptable to tear people of color down with words, or, as is often the case, with weapons, is another example of white supremacy and oppression rearing its ugly head. When the same student who argued with our professor stated that women deserved to make $0.77 to the man’s $1.00 (it should be pointed out that women of color make even less than $0.77) because men and women are biologically different, he invalidated every woman/femme in the room and arguably in the world. His entitlement resided in his belief that men deserve economic advantages simply because they are men, and also his complete disregard of trans-non binary people and intersex people. This notion that it’s acceptable to speak about things that you have no actual knowledge about exemplifies how oppression is felt and seen by marginalized groups. These instances of entitlement are unbearable, but so are the instances that are as simple as white people not being the ones to move out of the way on the sidewalk. They are a constant reminder that white supremacy is pervasive and that America is not a post-racial society.

 

aiyanagodsil

Tags:  people of color racism white entitlement

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