In this day and age, the idea of white privilege is many things. As far as Blacks Lives Matter is concerned, if you are white, you are guilty. Make no mistake about it: The U.S. is a nation of deep contradictions. We have a hard time wrestling with the legacy of the past. Despite the deinstitutionalization of state-sponsored racism, people of color — African-Americans in particular — remain marginalized. Needless to say, the people of white privilege have not been silent about this sordid state of affairs. It seems that some of the most vocal supporters of Black Lives Matter are whites burdened with white privilege.
Something needs to be done about this sorry state of reality. However, the problem begins with the same group of whites that proclaim to care so much about black lives. It is all too ironic. The people of white privilege arrive to protest in areas that are far removed from the places where the actual hardships are. There is nothing more hypocritical than white people emerging from newly gentrified areas by way of the car culture. How is that not associable as a double whammy of white privilege rolled into one hypocritical thing? What does the average person of white privilege have in common with African-Americans, in addition to all other people of color?
The fact of the matter is overwhelmingly simple. If whites are so guilty about white privilege, why not effectively do something about? What happens once the protests are over and the white canvassers for Black Lives Matter go back to their corporate day jobs? Does anything change in communities that remain locked in the demographic fringe? How many people of white privilege are taking vows to be part of the same communities they protest for? Nothing communicates a gesture of transparency more than interactive communal solidarity. How many college graduates are going into communities of color to share their education with the socially marginalized?
How many whites are moving to neighborhoods in north Minneapolis before gentrification sets in? If you really want to help a community, the best solution is to become part of it. Instead of frequenting a coffee shop or a public library in white comfort bubbles, why not take your laptop to one of those two places in north Minneapolis?
White people voraciously boast about how much they care about lives of color, but the reality could not be further from the truth. No volume of selfies taken at protests is going to turn things around in the same communities that whites proclaim to sanctimoniously care about. Such gestures communicate one simple thing: guilt-ridden self-justification.
It is all too easy to stage a protest outside of the affected community because the majority of the protesters know that if they are reasonably well-behaved, they will be allowed to drive back to their white-privileged homes. The problem is that the same privilege is a far cry from reality to the people that live in those demographically marginalized communities. How many people would be willing to protest if they knew that such protestation would mean long-term exile into communities of color? Would more people of white privilege stay at home? African-Americans need support and recognition, make no mistake about it. The best way to do that is to invest in their communities. In other words, become part of their community. Take a selfie with your new African-American neighbor in an area of north Minneapolis.
You could make an impact as a community organizer by opening up a business that is economically accommodating to an average family’s income in north Minneapolis. People in these communities deserve much more than fast-food restaurants and dollar stores. They need real change. If the people of white privilege really cared about black lives, they would directly engage them in their own communities. Suggestively, such efforts could be vindicated through the establishment of literacy centers, bookstores, grocery co-ops and credit unions managed and staffed by people of color; trendy restaurants; vibrant coffee shops; hotels, and community venues.
Protests help us revisit issues that have long been in the headlines, but very few long-term solutions are proposed. The best way to overcome your white privilege is to become part of a community of color in order to break through trends of cultural stratification, also known as America’s living demographic nightmare.
Omar Alansari-Kreger, of Minneapolis, is a Muslim-American, a writer and a social activist.