Darren Wilson was interviewed by the New Yorker and he reflected on the August 9, 2014, shooting of Michael Brown Jr. The profile gave a glimpse of Darren Wilson’s background; his mother was a thief and a crook, she wrote hot checks, stole money from everyone and anyone. Darren even had his own separate bank account to prevent his mother from usurping his funds. But in his eyes, she was a “good woman.” Michael Brown was 17 and he stole cigarillos; when riots erupted, Darren’s daughter asked “Why did you shoot him, was he a bad guy?” and he replied “yea, he was a bad guy.” But he admits that he never reflected on the type of individual Michael Brown was, he just knows that Michael was trying to kill him.
The concept of privilege is a relatively new term; the term started in 1910 from a W.E.B. DuBois essay The Souls of White Folks. Social privilege is defined as an exclusive set of unearned benefits held by only a certain group of society. These perks create and perpetuate a system of social inequality, creating a caste system or type of social hierarchy. There is inequality in power balances, there are social struggles, there are haves and have-nots. Individuals who have privilege are not disenfranchised and it is harder to notice you have privilege versus noticing that you are oppressed. Privilege gives you comfort and oppression is troublesome, forcing you to notice what is wrong.
I often talk, and read, about privilege in terms of race and gender. “White Privilege” and “male privilege” are now commonplace terms, if you use those phrases, members of that societal group tend to feel affronted. However, it is limiting to only discuss privilege in the context of gender and race. There is ability privilege (are you disabled or able-bodied), there is class privilege (economic class and social class), there is education privilege (access to higher education and the benefits it confers), gender identity, religious privilege, passing privilege (can you assimilate into another group), and sexuality. It also would behoove me to mention the concept of intersectionality and how it can amplify or decrease the amount of privilege an individual/group can have.
I type up these definitions to discuss how you and I have privilege and why we need to check it.
In 2011, documentarist Bill Dukes’ “Dark Girls” caused an uproar of repressed emotions and experiences. This documentary aimed to discuss the colorism issues within the black community; as a black woman, I enjoyed the concept of this documentary. The concept that “light is right” spans cultures, this is not native and characteristic of the American blacks. You see these thought processes in India, China, Japan, Jamaican, all over the Caribbean, Hispanic cultures. On January 19, 2015, he debuted “Light Girls”; his first movie, “Dark Girls”, discussed the ugliness that darker skinned women have experienced from their own race, images in the media, familial reinforcement, et cetera. “Light Girls” aim was to share the pain from the other side of the spectrum, show that fairer skinned women of color did face discrimination from their own people.