Thoughts from a Recovering Racist


I grew up white, not just in the color of my skin, but in the culture of my youth.  My wife and I call it “super-white”.  I was raised in a small farm town in Illinois – white family, white friends, white people at my church, white teachers, white kids in my classes, white players on my sports teams, white players on the teams I played against – WHITE!

My parents are amazing and did well to raise my brother and I as unprejudiced as possible, but that background is a large obstacle when it comes to issues of race.

But I didn’t see it that way.  For many years I was convinced that, in spite of my monochromatic background, I was still able to see race issues clearly and with a balanced perspective.  And most certainly, I would never have classified myself as a racist.

I was wrong.

To be clear – I wasn’t racist in obvious, belligerent ways.  My racism was subtle and nuanced.  It appeared in silent assumptions, private fears, and in my total, absolute, pervasive ignorance of my privilege.

Thankfully, living overseas and in urban areas has diversified my life some.  This includes introducing people that are black into my world.  I have black friends, black church members, black small group members, black colleagues.  My daughter is black. Admittedly, I experience the world differently than I did growing up.

Over the last couple of weeks two grand jury decisions have rocked this country.  Some of my friends and church members have been wounded in this.  There is deep sadness, anger, frustration and hopelessness.  And I don’t know what to do about that.  I am wrecked by what this is doing to them.

And this morning was the final straw…

Last night as Minhee and I got ready for bed, I told her I was going to write something today.  The grief of watching so many friends struggle yesterday was too much, and I needed an outlet.  I decided I’d wait for morning, for a fresh perspective, and then write.

This morning I dropped off Minhee at work, then Lucy at school, and was driving back home, thinking about what I wanted to say – when all of a sudden lights were flashing behind me.

I pulled to the side of the road and waited as the police officer approached my window.  He asked for my license and registration which I handed him.  The registration had expired months ago, and he pulled me over for having an expired sticker on my plate.  He told me that if he ran my plates and found the registration was indeed expired, I wouldn’t be able to drive and we’d have to tow the car home.

I told him I had the sticker at home, but I had no proof of this.  He told me to wait and he went back to his car.

After 5 minutes he approached again, gave back my information, and handed me a warning ticket.  He told me to keep the warning ticket with me, so that if I was stopped again I could show the officer the citation, tell them I’d get it fixed, and could be on my way.

He also told me that he didn’t run my plate, just in case the registration was expired, because he didn’t want me to be towed.  He looked at me and said, “I’m trusting you here man.  I’m trusting you.”

Just to recap before the icing on this cake… the officer gave me a citation that cost no money, but would save me time on subsequent traffic stops for the same issue, and also didn’t check my plates just in case I had been lying to him about them being renewed, which would have forced my car to be towed.

He then tipped his hat, returned to his car, and began to pull away.  But then he made a sudden stop and motioned for me to roll down my window.  Just in case I did need to still renew the registration, he gave me exact information on the RMV to go to, told me to skip the line, and then gave me the exact window # to approach to get it taken care of without waiting.

I looked over and told him, “I promise, it’s at home on the counter.  Two days ago my wife told me to take care of it but I ignored her.”  He chuckled at that, waved his hand, and gave an, “Alright brother, take care!”, and he drove away.

That is white privilege.

Honestly, earlier in life I would never have said that.  I would have attributed the pleasantness of that police/citizen interaction to my willingness to follow instructions, or to the calm and submissive tone of my voice in the conversation, or to some other explanation born in the womb of white privilege.

What I didn’t consider before was how easy it is to be obedient when the officer assumes trust in you.  How simple it is to be calm and submissive when the officer is treating you so well.  Back then, I just couldn’t see that I was treated differently because of the color of my skin.  Of course, it wasn’t only the color of my skin that mattered, but it DID matter.  And back then, I refused to believe that.

Over these last couple weeks, the responses of some white men and women have been discouraging, and often infuriating.  And yet, while I want to get angry, deep down I know that at times I have been them.

And so I want to end with a few thoughts to any white readers out there.  Some of you are way out in front of me on this, and I need to learn from you.  But for those that are still waiting to put the “recovering” in “recovering racist”, a few final thoughts:

  1. If your whole world is pretty much white people, like what I described above, watch what you say.  I shouldn’t tell a woman not to yell and scream during childbirth, and you shouldn’t tell the black community that they are overreacting, or missing the point, or biased.  We have no idea how they feel or how deeply this hurts.  These last two weeks have inflicted serious injury, so please keep quiet and don’t aggravate their pain.
  2. I know some of you want to defend cops, and I get that.  You feel that the everyday, sacrificial lives of police officers should inspire gratitude – not rioting – and you are absolutely right.  But these marches and riots are in response to a systemic issue of racism and prejudice, not just individual officers.  And if the primary response of the white community is to make sure police officers know they are appreciated, while showing little concern over black men dead in the street – that only exacerbates the pain and frustration of the black community.
  3. Please, please, please don’t say things like, “Race doesn’t matter – we are all just human” or “Race isn’t the issue here”.  Race matters.  Race is the issue.  Being black is the issue.  Being white is the issue  Skin color is the issue.  And to suggest that these don’t matter devalues the life experience of racial minorities as well as makes you someone they know doesn’t understand – and they can’t trust.

Finally, if you are someone that reads the Bible, then you may know Paul’s verse in Romans that says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.  This verse assumes that there are patterns of thought informed by this world, and that those are old ways of thought that must be made new. 

And I know that I am someone whose mind was, for a very long time (and partly still is), conformed to some pretty old patterns.  But time and experience have me thinking new thoughts – and I am grateful for the transformation that has come so far.


    1. We are shooting a documentary for a Major Cable Network and are looking for people (must appear to be 16-24) who want to openly talk about race and how it affects them.

      What is it like living in a town where everyone looks the same?

      How is race an issue in your community? Are you afraid to talk about race in your community?

      If you have difficulties identifying with a specific race and get criticized for it?

      Is race an issue in your community & does it affect you?

      If you have a unique story about how your race affects you in social situations, email a photo of yourself, your age, and a brief description about your race issue to racedoc (at) punchedinthehead (dot) com

      We will be traveling to communities and colleges to discuss the idea of race and how it affects us in different ways.

      *This is for MTV’s anti-bias “Look Different Campaign”, and will be joining with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/filmmaker, Jose Antonio Vargas, to explore how young white people are tackling issues of race in modern day America.

      MTV is seeking young people who are dealing with current situations in their lives, which are forcing them to examine their feelings on race. This is a groundbreaking event that will offer an outlet for young people to express themselves openly, and be received with respect.

      1. I know this is not directed at me, but I feel like I could have valuable input. I am from a town in Georgia that went through an immigration boom in the 80s. A town that was once mostly white has become 50% Hispanic. Race relations have not always been the best, especially when the town wasn’t ready for such a rapid change. Dalton, Georgia, though far from the border, is becoming the new Dallas in terms of racial composition. Because I grew up in this environment, I never really knew what it was like to be a minority. But I did struggle with my identity because of so many negative aspects associated with being Hispanic (low graduation rates, high teenage pregnancy, etc.). I stopped speaking Spanish and turned away from my heritage. There are times when I try to really relate back to my heritage and culture, but my own friends and family laugh at me for not being “Mexican enough.”I now attend a college an hour away from my hometown, and it is the first time I truly have been a minority. The college is a private predominantly white institution. Racism is not overt, but there is a definite lack of understanding of the “minority struggle”. I am a Gates Millennium scholar, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, and attending this year’s conference was one of the first times I felt free to be me. We were just a giant group of minority students who experience similar struggles. We didn’t pre-judge each other because we all know what it feels like.

        If this at all sounds like it could be helpful to your documentary, please contact me. Thank you.

  1. Joshua, thank you and God bless you for writing this. And I had the exact same scenario happen to me in July of last year in a neighboring town from me and I got off for precisely the same reasons.

  2. Thank you for this! I will re-post it because there are white people that just don’t get it nor do they believe it’s racism and hatred how the policemen treat black men. They feel that they are just criminals….and they deserve what happens to them. It disgusts me.

  3. Thank you. So many don’t understand the privilege they have. Group think is very dangerous. As a Black man, I would hope that the officer would have treated me the same way no matter if I were wearing a hoodie or a business suit with or without my White wife.

  4. I hate to burst the bubble here, but once again, another article which supports this bizarre notion of “white priviledge.” I would argue the police officer treated you with respect because you treated him with respect. Regardless of color, had you been belligerent, dressed like a thug, had a dirty, messy car with junk inside, you would have not gotten a break.

    Please, by saying simply because a person grows up in a white environment, they are automatically a “racist,” as your article is entitled, is the same as saying black people who grow up in all black neighborhoods are racist as well.

    1. There are plenty of stories of black families and individuals who play by the rules of “respectability politics” yet still find themselves in messes with the police or experience bouts of racism.

      For instance, the black Harvard professor who got the police called on him for entering his own home.

      And this:

    2. Define “dressed like a thug”. One could make an argument that wearing gym attire or being dressed for yard work in sweats, t shirt & ball cap is dressing like a thug. The point is to NOT make snap judgments & treat people fairly

    3. White privilege is real and is often invisible to those who are deeply emerged in it and is benefiting from it. I have taught anti-racism workshops for over ten years for a mainline denomination and the concept of white privilege is often the hardest for white participants to grasp until we do a simple step up-step back exercise, asking a few ordinary questions of both black and white participants. As the line of people begins to divide as white folk step forward and black folk step back, privilege becomes visible. Also, as a black clergy woman (60+ years of age), who ministers to street people, I often drive a dirty, messy car with “junk” inside; food, clothing, toiletries, etc. I dress down when I do this and I get belligerent when I see injustice. Sounds like I was stereotyped in your comments. You would do yourself a service to really examine how you have benefited from a racial system that favors you and is at odds with people of color. Peace!

      1. I am working on setting up some seminars in my area about race and overcoming racial/class prejudice. I would love to hear more about this. How do I contact you privately? Thank you.

    4. Me thinks the gentleman doth protest too much. He didn’t call you a racist, Michael, he called himself one. This piece explores the fact that racism can be subtle and nuanced. For the author, “it appeared in silent assumptions, private fears, and in my total, absolute, pervasive ignorance of my privilege.” As you can see from the number of people agreeing with the author, this hardly falls in the category of “bizarre.”

      1. He called everyone who is white and grew up in a predominantly white community a racist at baseline. What he is doing is being a racist. He is judging me without knowing me. That is ignorance & at the very heart of racism. The tragedy of Ferguson & New York are not simply due to the color of someone’s skin. Let us stop making it the only issues. Instead of everyone wagging their fingers at each other saying you do not understand, start teaching. Start offering answers not only criticisms.

      2. Maybe he is not calling you a racist at all. Maybe he is looking at himself and saying “I am a racist and have acted as such, as have many other whites.”

        If you are free of racism, then good for you. Really. The world will be a better place when we let go of racism. You are one of the people who can set the example of living free from racism.

        I myself find resonance with Joshua’s post in that I find myself living a life where I am protected from the worst parts of our social, cultural, and political structure. I find that the dictum from several millennia past of “The unexamined life is not worth living” still holds true. By examining my life, and making changes, my life is more fulfilling, and more worth living.

        We all are at different steps along the journey.

    5. I agree with you. I grew up in a community with mostly white people, I am white and from a single parent, low income family. We didn’t qualify for the assistance we applied for because my mom “made too much money”. The black people down the street from us received similar assistance we applied for, for low income families, and they had 2 working parents. Would you call that “white privilege”? I call it politically incorrect bull.

      1. Did you see their bank statements or pay stubs? Because unless you were completely aware of their entire financial situation, how could you make such a statement? Assistance doesn’t come by color it comes by your economic status. And yes, because of “white privilege” it may seem that more black people receive assistance, but it is because black people (not all black people) lived in poverty and continue to live in poverty, while white people (not all white people) stole land and money from minorities (not just black people) to raise their status. Look at the amount of wealth in this country now give me the percentage of wealthy whites and wealthy minorities juxtaposed with poor whites and poor minorities.

      2. Just a thought: If your family didn’t qualify for assistance because your mother “made too much money”, and theirs did, it was in all likelihood because the combined income of the black family’s parents was sufficiently small that they could in fact qualify for assistance. Clearly it doesn’t occur to you that your family’s economic status (even one where applying for assistance is in order) was STILL greater than theirs. One of the hallmarks of privilege is to assume that your personal circumstances, are the baseline for what “everyone” has. That you perceive their more impoverished state as some sort of indicator that YOUR privilege doesn’t exist is something for you to contemplate.

      3. My husband and I are black and we make too much to receive assistance. My friends are black with one child and only qualify for WIC? An old black co-worker of mine had an adopted son and twin girls still didn’t qualify for assistance with a library job! Guess you didn’t factor how income, # of children and cost of living plays into who gets assistance. So what were you saying?

      4. I will assume you’re commenting in good faith, that you feel empathy to people who live lives which differ from yours, that you want only the best for everyone in the world.

        White people in America won the galactic lottery. We are the focus of American entertainment, government, education, entrepreneurship, and of course political power.

        We live in a world where if there are chasms there are always bridges. If there are deep spots there are always islands. If there are fires there are always fire fighters.

        Around us, nearly invisible, nearly muted, are tens of millions of Americans trying to tell us that we white Americans live a life of perpetual freedom, of privilege, of being pampered and cossetted and adored. We can experience a setback and walk into the next job, the next business, the next position and have almost nothing to explain. We can rent a room or a car, get a meal, catch a taxi, go through TSA, walk on the street or even in the street, smoke, drink, sing, cuss, and even fight in public with virtually no pushback because this is “our” country.

        Black Americans especially, but any other Americans as well, are trying to tell us something about this, that it is not like this for them, that they are routinely excluded from the same privilege and freedom we experience. They are not complaining. They are simply telling. To bring in the Christian vocabulary, they are bearing witness.

        It does nothing to us as white Americans to listen, to attempt to hear, to attempt to comprehend, to attempt to engage with our own feelings and thoughts, and to consider that these Americans are trying to connect to us.

        Who knows, by listening we might come to understand ourselves better, at the slight cost of getting to understand others.

    6. What does a thug dress like? Baggy pants that hang down low and a hoodie is what I imagine you’re picturing? That’s also the uniform of many a youth. Even if it’s not a young man, who are you to determine what particular clothing makes a particular character? And how dangerous an assumption, literally might-get-someone-killed dangerous. Do you remember why you would don an outfit that didn’t sit well with your parents when you were young? Because you were identifying with your group and that’s very, very important at any age. And a dirty messy car! I’ve been living through a 3 year drought and haven’t washed my car in month because of it plus I’m a chauffeur to endless children. I didn’t know that was cause for police harrassment!

    7. So, you’re saying if a police officer doesn’t like my outfit or thinks my far is too messy, I don’t deserve to be treated with respect?

    8. I would like to share my similar experience with the police as a young african american woman. I live in philadelphia PA and at this time roughly five years ago,I worked in the surrounding suburb of Wynnewood. I was late for work and asked my uncle who lived close by for a ride. he agreed. my job was roughly fifteen minutes away despite being in an adjoining suburb. unbeknown to us, my uncles inspection stickers had expired ONE DAY prior. during the 15min ride to my job, less than ten miles, we were pulled over THREE times. My uncle and I were VERY respectful the first two times he was warned about his day expired inspection, however on the third I became a bit unpleasant. as I already stated I was late to work. The third officer was very apologetic once i informed him this was the third stop this morning. he even became a bit embarrassed. because we both knew why these police officers were so astute at identifying my uncles stickers. We both knew why they had paid particular attention to his late model sedan that morning. When I finally arrived at work I was assigned to drive thru (I was a bank teller). My very first customer, a very pleasant white woman, had inspection stickers that had been expired over six months. she was very happy I informed her of this. This killed my mental musings that maybe police officers of montgomery county where just sticklers about such matters as inspection stickers. That i was being too sensitive and the perceived slight was all in my head. Yes my uncle should not have let his stickers expire and it is his responsibility as a motorist to be on top of such issues. Yes the officers were polite and respectful and did let us go with a warning. But WHY were we stopped three times for something so small when my white counterpart can ride around with the same infraction for 6 months with no “warnings”? and if the third officer “felt threatened” by my poor attitude, he could have me spread eagle in the street or even kill me? that’s not fair. its just not fair….

      1. I am sorry that happened to you, Marla. The story is too long to tell here but my sister and I were bullied by a police officer. We were in the police station asking for help in a matter that was mostly civil but bordered on criminal. The officer was abrasive, interrupted us and basically accused us of abusing our elderly mother. It was a horrible experience and he had no power to do anything to hurt us, physically or otherwise. I am not trying to say I have any clue how a non-white might feel when s/he is confronted by a white police officer. Clearly, I don’t. The reason I told that story is to say that I have encountered a subtle misuse of power. It was awful and if it can happen to a middle-aged, white professional with no criminal history I am positive it happens often to non-whites who are also respectful, well dressed and playing by the rules. I am glad the officers were polite to you and your uncle but this is still troubling.
        The positive note is that you have a voice and a forum that your ancestors did not have. That gives me hope that someday your story will be another example of how things “used to be” in America.

    9. one of the most unfair things you ca do is downgrading someones opinion.. the thing about his’truth’ is that it doesn’t have to also be yours to make it ‘true’

    10. First and foremost: Thanks for writing this, Joshua. Not an easy thing for you to write, I’m sure and putting your own dirty laundry out there is rarely as simple as it seems.

      Second (For everyone, but specifically in the hopes of receiving a reply from our brother, Michael Rodriguez): As a black male (with an MBA from a top-tier school and a legally-earned household income roughly triple the national average), my experience driving with expired tags recently didn’t go this way at all. “How was your experience different?” you might ask:

      1) The officer pulled me over and immediately called for back up before approaching my vehicle, before announcing why he had pulled me over and before communicating with me.
      2) Both officers approached my car from the opposite sides of the rear with hands on firearms that had been unbuckled from their holsters. Guns weren’t drawn, but to Josh’s point about trying to remain calm in the presence of the police, I think we can all agree seeing TWO Law Enforcement Officers with their hands on their firearms doesn’t make staying calm a simple task.
      3) The first communication wasn’t “Good Morning. Do you know why we pulled you over?” It was “Show us your hands. Is this your car?”

      In the end, they pulled my license and registration and saw that I was in the same boat as Josh: Had paid for the registration and even had it with me in the car, but had forgotten to put the sticker on the rear plate. No ticket and after my politeness, they were completely cordial and even told me to have a nice day.

      Michael – Let me analyze your statement to see how I stack up against your assessment of the factors that contributed to this exchange:

      My clothing: A Brooks Brothers suit and Kenneth Cole tie, so I don’t think that I fit anyone’s description of Thug-wear.
      My car: Clean and well-kept (although it was admittedly about 15 years old).
      Belligerent-Level: Zero- Not that an initial bout of belligerent-ness could have had an impact on the tone of the interaction: As you may recall, the officers had their hands on their guns before they’d ever spoken with me.

      The end result was the same for both Joshua and I, but the processes were vastly different. So, Michael: To what would you attribute the experience I had if not my skin color?

      For those who would say “Well, those officers were the exception to the rule” consider this: I’ve been stopped more than a 1/2 dozen times for no reason at all. If you’re wondering how I KNOW there was no reason at all, it’s because when an officer in Upstate NY (where I did grad school), an officer in CO (college) and an officer in CA (where my family lives) open with “What are you doing here?” or “What are you doing in this area?” you can be sure that I didn’t have a tail-light out, I wasn’t speeding and I wasn’t driving with expired tags. In two cases, I had white passengers with me. Both were asked by the law enforcement officers if they were okay. As though I was holding them hostage and not simply giving them a ride home.

      I’m not mad at these officers. I’m not mad at the police. For perspective, here’s some background on me and law enforcement:

      My best friend (White) is a Sergeant on a police force. He let me go through the firearms simulator that highlights terrifyingly realistic situations that officers face everyday and the snap-decisions they have to make in those moments. I could not do that job. Old and young, rich and poor, red and yellow, black and white: when approaching people as a police officer, you just have no idea what to expect and that’s something that takes a rare person to sign up to do on behalf of a frequently ungrateful public.

      That said, I’m terrified that, as a nation, we’re missing the point about what is unfolding around us. This is not a conversation about SIMPLY race or SIMPLY ABOUT law enforcement protocol, or SIMPLY about judging based on appearance (thug-wear). I’m sad that the reality we as a nation have allowed to become normalized is that people are best viewed through the lens of past experience. If God looked at us through the lens of our past experience, under no circumstance would He have sent His only Son to die for us.

      You had a bad experience with a black person? I’m sorry to hear that. Please don’t take it out on EVERY black person.

      Had a bad experience with a Police Officer? I’m sorry to hear that. Please don’t expect the same out of EVERY police officer.

      Your sister’s roommate got robbed by a person from Mexico? I’m sorry to hear that. Please don’t assume EVERY Mexican is out to rob you.

      Some white guy was a racist douche-canoe to you and your family while you were on vacation? I’m sorry that happened to you. Please don’t assume EVERY white person is racist.

      God sees who we can be if we are at our best. Who are we to look at one another through the lens that assumes each person we encounter will be at their worst?

      God is good. All the Time.

      P.S.- Michael Rodriguez: Holla back, sir. I welcome your thoughts.

      1. This was a great story, summary and the points made about making judgement based on one experience are quite powerful. As a young person in America, this sort of thoughtfulness means a lot to me and makes me optimistic for the future of race in this nation. Thanks so much.

      2. Beautiful writing skills, what a great read to find in the comments of what was already an uplifting moment of internet reading 🙂
        Enjoyed the way you told your story with clear descriptions, and very valid points! Hope this goes viral and opens the minds of some people that really need it.

      3. ***Michael Dominguez. My sincerest apologies for mis-naming you in my post. I do hope I’ll hear back from you, sir. Be blessed.

    11. Um. How does a dirty messy car mean you would not have been treated well? Messy car is not a reason to mistrust or mistreat a person.

    12. Michael, Michael…. There is none so blind as those who will not see. Try applying some professional make-up to look like a young black man and go for walk in your own neighbourhood. We can chat afterwards.

    13. Define “dressing like a thug”. What you are saying is the same as saying “dressing like a whore” and blaming that woman for being raped or sexually assaulted. People are not allowed to dress different from you? OMG TAZE HIM! HE’S DRESSED LIKE A CHINAMAN!

  5. Thanks for posting Josh! So where do we go from here? How can we as God’s people…a church community….make a difference? Thought on this?

    1. I support you. Even though I am not God’s people, I would also like to make a difference. No reason we need to work separately towards the same goal! 🙂

  6. I appreciate you and your supportive wife. This was respectful and reasonable and I have shared it with all of my friends. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain how you feel.

  7. Racism in this country is real (but its something that might never go away). there are plenty of people in authoritative positions who shouldn’t be and who abuse their power. but there are lots of cops out there who are good guys. we need to remember that too. also there are white people who don’t get special treatment from the law either. my family has been harassed by the NYPD b/c I have a uncle who is a drug addicted or recovering addicted I should say. My parents have had detectives knocking on their door or I have been stopped with my mom by them out on the street. And after being arrested 3 times for low misdemeanor crimes (last one supposedly stealing a bike) he is away for 25 plus years. There are rapist and murders who don’t even see this time. The law in general is unfair. Our justice system needs an overhaul. We need something done. And I’m proud of those who are going out there and (peacefully) protesting for change. We need a change in our system.

    1. If harrassment does not look like beatings, shootings and murder at the hands of police then your experience illustrates white privilege and your ignorance of it.

      1. So it’s still white privilege to be in jail for 25+ for stealing a bike? But either way that wasn’t my point. I wasn’t arguing against white privilege to begin with, I’m arguing that our justice system is crooked. that their are murders and rapist who don’t get placed into a choke hold, that don’t die at the hands of the cops, and that don’t get 25+ years…

      2. I think Heather’s point is a valid one: drug crimes are unfairly prosecuted and sentenced and, yes, that crosses racial lines sometimes. Ending the war on what is a health and wellness issue would do a lot to help our society, regardless of race. There is a prison industrial complex and without “customers” it will collapse and there’s many that have a stake in the “school to prison” pipeline inflicted on the poor of our country. This disproportionately affects people of color, but it’s present for all low income people or anyone who cannot afford good legal aid. Make no mistake: in a country where the prison guard unions are in the top four most powerful political lobbying groups of all time, we have our work cut out for us to change this.

      3. So happy to see your comments on the prison industrial complex. It’s one of the prime examples of something that should NEVER be privatized. It destroys any notion of rehab or preparing people to return to society. This is no profit in that. And, of course, there’s all that cheap labor provided to private business that they just want to keep coming. It’s wrong on so many levels that I cannot imagine how sane people of a ‘free’ country could have ever permitted this to evolve. It’s just one symptom of the sick disregard for humanity that will eventually ravage our country. Profit over people will bring us to our knees.

    2. I agree that the justice system is broken. I agree with the bias inherent in the adjudication and sentencing process. I agree that this plays out for minorities, the poor, mentally ill, etc in the worst ways. However, I was speaking to what happens to most blacks during the initial police encounter before they ever make it to the police station.

  8. Sorry, this is not a “privilege” problem. This is a culture problem. Why is no one asking what effect the complete disintegration of the African-American family has on the black community and how that perpetuates the conditions which lead to a mistrust of minorities? Further, why is no one asking who is responsible for the breakdown of the African-American community and who benefits from keeping the poor and minorities poor and dependent? Answer that question and you will find who you should really be protesting, and it is certainly not law enforcement.

    1. The breakdown of the African-American community stems from the ill effects of 200+ years of slavery and oppression in America. It is most definitely a privilege problem. By casting blame on a community that is utterly under privileged, impoverished, and broken, issues which you do not face, you exemplify and assert the very privilege you have.

      1. C’mon, man…as they say on that sports network. You have to stop blaming a condition which ended over 100 years ago and trillions of dollars has been poured into to fix.

      2. @Michael Dominguez below, slavery in America (legally speaking) may have ended a long time ago, but if you take generations of people who were subjected to physical abuse, denegration, not recognized as equals (flashback to the 60’s and now, really), received poor or no education, and lived in paltry financial state, I don’t know how all of this can’t contribute physically, mentally, and emotionally to the following generation. And please don’t say a blanket statement like “trillions” have been spent to undue a terrible inhumane event because that’s absolutely inaccurate. In any event, if you think that money is the answer then you’ve totally missed the boat.

    2. Mike,
      You must remember that the “disentegration” of the African-American family started when the slaves were brought to this country from Africa. Families stated to “break up” when Blacks were “taken from Africa. Many were simply snatched up from their families in their homeland, sold into slavery, shipped to this country and never saw their biologocal family members again. I can almost assure you that there were no “volunteers”. That trend continued in this country when slaves were (again) bought and sold at will, with no regard to taking (at the descretion of the “masters”) wives, daughters, husbands and sons away from their true, biological family and selling them off. So please know that if you are saying what I think you are, this is something that was started in this country not recently, but by white slave owners. Slaves, the same as you, would never want to be seperated from their own families.

      1. What you are writing is puke. You speak like someone who has never experienced the world or been out of the town you were born in.

        Asians who come to America are primarily of the wealthier and well-educated classes. They were not brought here as slaves, they did not have their parents, children sold off to different owners. They were not deprived of education, or any of the other vehicles that facilitate success. There is no comparison. And, that said, there is still discrimination against Asians in many corners of society. And even among Asians, there is a lot of resentment and mistrust.

        You statement that majority of blacks males are criminals is also total b.s. Just because a cop is more likely to arrest a black man, and the courts are KNOWN to give blacks harsher and longer sentences is not reason to ASSume that most black males are criminals. If the only place you look for crime is in black neighborhoods, guess where you will “find” the most crime! Nor are the majority of black families on welfare. In fact, the largest recipients of welfare are poor whites. The states with the largest welfare rolls tend to be the poor white states (read “red states”).

        If you’re going to come here and make totally false racist statements, you might want to find the data that backs that up. Otherwise you look like just another ignorant racist and hater. You sound like Cheney who is more than happy to accept the death of innocents to justify the deaths of the guilty. You buy the lies to justify your hate. And that makes you a racist, and despicable.

    3. There are obstacles in the way holding black men back from being the dads they want to be. Police really are on a fishing expedition targeting black men. Employers really are more likely to hire a white man compared to an equally qualified black man. And white people really are still inheriting wealth that their families built by buying homes black people weren’t allowed to buy with loans that weren’t made available to black people. If your daughter was pregnant by a man who is having trouble earning good money and staying out of trouble, what would you counsel her to do?

    4. False. It is not just a cultural problem. It is not just a class problem.

      It is racism, pure and simply. A friend who is a sole proprietor businessman is stopped routinely in my town. I am not. He is black. I am not. He is no better or worse than I am or that anyone else is.

      It is not cultural. He does nothing but drive. It is not class. He drives a late model vehicle.

      But he looks different from most of us, and for some very odd, coincidental, and frequent reason he is stopped and questioned.

      It’s not just DWB, of course. It’s not being served in a restaurant when others are. It’s being called an extremely derogatory name in public. It’s countless, petty things and gross things that go into making up what racism is in America.

  9. I really appreciate this and disagree with Mike’s comment just before mine. Whatever the merits of Mike’s critique, that doesn’t negate the discrimination that people of color suffer, nor the privilege that whites enjoy.

  10. What if it wasn’t white privilege? What if the officer was just a Christian and in good gesture just decided to extend you some grace for breaking the law. What if it wasn’t white privilege which puts the focus on you, but a black officer showing you the power of a kind and good heart regardless of your deserving otherwise. Thus, he may be showing us all that the answer is not a privilege issue but a heart issue. So rather than you being privy becasue of color what if you you were just blessed becasue of his heart?

      1. Because ‘christians’ think that anyone who is not one of them is an immoral and evil animal. What they fail to understand is that non-christians do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because some god counseled them to behave in a certain way.

    1. Amen…..To God be The Glory!!! I was thinking the same, I believe the same. As I was reading the article and as I read “white privilege” my heart felt and believed something different. I immediately believed the officer was and good-hearted individual who treated Josua the way he would like to be treated. Before being an officer, a doctor, a lawyer, we are people first. Who we are as an individual is who we shall be as we stand behind any title. I believe the officer’s act of kindness had a lot to do with who he is as a human being.

      1. Of course that officer’s actions had to do with him as a person. No one incident is evidence of systemic racism and oppression: it’s anecdotal. But you take that anecdotal evidence and multiply it by thousands of people and a distinct pattern emerges where people of color are disproportionately more likely to suffer police brutality, be arrested for the same crimes White people walk away from with just a warning, the list goes on… then you see a pattern of systemic racism. Check out the hashtags #livingwhileblack and #crimingwhilewhite

        It would be a beautiful world if we could just consider a person’s heart in a story like this. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in yet.

    2. The point is not “this happened because I’m white” but “this probably wouldn’t have happened if I was black”

  11. you’re right no mother should ever have to fear for her son’s life everytime he robs a store or fights for the officer’s weapon. This isn’t a white or black issue. This is a sin issue.

    1. @ kraig pike …Or walks down the street in a predominantly white neighborhood or gets stopped because his hands are in his pockets or gets told she can’t afford a Yukon even though she can or gets pulled because a black man in a brand new (insert make model of luxury car) must have stolen it or runs to the police for help after a car accident and gets shot dead or carries an air gun and gets murdered before the patrol car stops rolling. Your showing you racism.

  12. Like you, I grew up in rural southern Illinois in the late 1940’s and through the 1950’s. Are you familiar with the book “Sundown Towns” by James W. Loewen? The author grew up in central Illinois in the same time period.

  13. Hi Josh. I read this yesterday after your cousin Erica posted it and it has stuck with me. I grew up in Carbondale, IL and was fortunate to be around black people starting from preschool. Simply being around black people each day made it much easier for me to grow up seeing them just as kids like me, without a fear of them that people with zero interactions either consciously or unconsciously have.
    That said, I have to work at this. When I’m in my car and I see a black man walking down the street toward me and I get nervous I ask myself “am I nervous because of the way he’s dressed or because he’s black? Would I feel this way if he was white?”
    No, I am not racist, but it is possible I hold some racist ideas. The key for me is contemplating that possibility as a vehicle for change rather than banishing the thought.

  14. Hi Josh, I found your post through a link from Andrea Horst.who referred to you as a Bureau County native. I write a weekly column in the Tiskilwa paper, the Bureau Valley Chief and would like permission to reprint your blog post in a two-part column. Also I’d like a bit of a bio like where you grew up in Bureau County and where you life now. All five of my grandchildren are bi-racial so your post hit very close to home. Thank for writing it and sharing it with the world. May I have permission to share it with my column readers?

    1. Do you not realize that all the evidence you’ve supposedly gathered from trusted sources only proves that you are indeed a racist. On top of that it proves the underlying truth that your community fails to reveal; that many African American man are racial profiled and charged for crimes that they never committed. It’s individuals like you that paint cruel and disturbing pictures in the minds of weak and ignorant Americans of African American men to make your racist appear to have some prestige. However, we see clear through you. How much longer can you use your money, position, and your fair skin to cover up the black bodies your white hands have killed out of hate, the innocent black men your white hands have locked away to keep your white children free and how many more will you murder infront of our eyes and undermind our intelligence by ruling it self defense. I know all Caucasians don’t think or act in this manner but it’s very clear that you do and if you continue you will surely burn in hell for it.

  15. I agree with you but one item is missing …if everyone would stop saying “African American” to all being “American” it would be a very welcome improvement. A close second would be an improvement in everyone speaking our English language.
    Would love to hear back from you …. & I loved the picture of your beautiful family!

    1. Patrice, I identify myself as African-American and it is my right to do so. I think you missed the basic premise of this thoughtful post. White people do not get to tell black people what we should feel nor how we should identify ourselves. As for your comment on speaking English, I don’t even know where to begin.

    2. you realize that the US doesn’t have an official language, right? and that English is a terribly difficult language to learn?

      basically, this is actually another kind of privilege … you’re fortunate/lucky that you already know the language that happens to be widely spoken, and that you’ll more easily accept a person if they’re more similar to you in this aspect.

      1. I doubt Patrice was talking about blacks speaking English. She was digressing to another topic, and I was addressing that.

  16. I’ve had similar experiences as a black woman (officers showing they trust you) but yes, white privilege does exist and I’m glad you are soul searching especially for your daughter’s sake.

  17. Thank you so much for writing this. I admire your openmindness and courage in trying to understand the thoughts/feelings of the black community. This really put a smile on my face.

    God bless you sir!
    Kimyona Ray

  18. so if you had been belligerent, though white, you would have gotten off with no ticket? If you’d been a light-skinned Hispanic with gangster bling? A guy with tattoos, body piercings and a shaved head? And conversely, if you’d been a well-spoken respectful Black young man, you definitely wouldn’t have potentially gotten the same treatment? What about a scared teenager? A girl showing cleavage? What about if it was an officer having a bad day? What if you’d looked like the officer’s old math teacher who always humiliated him? There is just absolutely no way to call what happened to you anything other than grace and kindness– no color about it. I can safely say that every time I’ve been pulled over, I’ve gotten a ticket, and I am white, middle class, with kids in the back seat, and a nice young woman. Same with my husband, my mom and my dad. The only person who has ever gotten out of tickets in my family is my grandpa, who could sell a mule his own hind leg… I’m not saying “white privelege” doesn’t exist, but your article has nothing to do with it; neither the court cases (or lack thereof) nor this traffic anecdote!

    I know personally race has FAR less to do with what I assume/expect about a person than how they are dressed, their posture and their manner of speaking.

    Two studies for you to read:

    Click to access Correll%20et%20al.pdf

    1. Amen…..To God be The Glory!!! I was thinking the same, I believe the same. As I was reading the article and as I read “white privilege” my heart felt and believed something different. I immediately believed the officer was a good-hearted individual who treated Joshua the way he would like to be treated. Before being an officer, a doctor, a lawyer, we are people first. Who we are as an individual is who we shall be as we stand behind any title. I believe the officer’s act of kindness had a lot to do with who he is as a human being as well as having a heart love, peace and happiness.

  19. I don’t know you, but I’m so thankful that you shared your thoughts. It has been good to be in conversation with the folks from my multi-ethnic church
    about the issues of injustice our country is currently facing. Having this article to share with my white friends on Facebook also opened some healthy doors for communication. Bless you.

  20. Thank you for your very clear piece. Some years ago I was working in an all black community in the South, a town founded by ex-slaves after the Civil War. I had a bi-racial son. Seems like a white woman beyond racism but I KNEW that I wasn’t. I had a conversation with another white woman in the area, well educated, working at a clinic, who claimed she didn’t have a racist bone in her body. I said that I knew that I had prejudices. I was raised in a white family, in a white neighborhood, in a white church and school, my first contact with black friends was in college! How could this NOT have an affect?? I KNOW that underneath my very real and honest beliefs in equality and that as a white woman I am very
    privileged. I was so struck by the naivete of the woman I had the talk with – that she didn’t see this. We are so much a product of our early surroundings and education that it takes a long hard time to recognize it much less dig through it.

  21. Personally, I get really annoyed with people who cannot recognize their white privilege. I have some dozens of stories from my long life that are proof the the idea of white privilege, and likewise stories where being a woman was a bonus, but still more where being a woman was a detriment. In the end, our world view is a collection of anecdotal experiences from our life and observations of the experiences of others. Science and research tend to support those experiences we view and interpret honestly (emphasis on “honestly”). But, research reports, like news outlets, are often selected because they reinforce our views. Until the day that white people take ownership of their/our privilege and acknowledge that it’s not right, we will make no progress in race relations NOR equality under the law. As long as there are whites who deny their privilege, and use this as an excuse to denounce the special burdens of those without that privilege, we will be locked into this hate-filled life of blame and finger-pointing. Acknowledging your white privilege does nothing to devalue your own personal achievements, it mere respects the idea that some people have a greater burden to overcome. We don’t all come into the world with the same assets, and this is where our idea of meritocracy comes unglued. I was born white with above average intelligence and a decent health and physicality to parents who worked hard and taught me how to live a life. Of all those advantages I was blessed with, not ONE of them was of my own doing. Not one of those blessing was anything I deserved. I was lucky. End of story.

  22. Many thanks for sharing this, Joshua. It’s very healing for me as an African American when someone sees outside the bubble. We need more voices like yours.


  24. Humans are an evolving species. As long as we have an amigdala and a hypothalmus gland, people will mistrust “other”. As long as people refuse to practice the golden rule, ego will persist to try to drive “other” below us rather than pull ourselves up. Step one in that process is displayed in this article. Each of us must develop the tools of self examination to uncover our assumptions of the world. Once that process of honest self examination has begun, then we can begin to change. The process is not easy. Many of our deepest assumptions were learned before we were 6 years old and they have become automatic. I hope that the death of these two boys inspires all of us to begin to examine our assumptions. In the best hope, this nation can begin to reconcile the violence against our fellow man that has helped to build this country.

  25. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING. I am a light skinned latina. I accept that I benefit from white privilege; I also accept that I carry with me biases that influence my assumptions of others. This past week I saw an accident on the main thoroughfare in my town. As soon as I saw that an elderly lady was one of the drivers, I caught myself assuming that she could be the one responsible.
    I asked myself ” are you willing to find out if your assumption based a bias on elderly people is true?”
    I had no time to find out; but the situation showed me how bias against older drivers crept up. That does not mean I am an ageist, but I do have to keep in check my biases when making judgements on other people

  26. Why do you think the black policeman treated you like that?

    Most black people have nothing to worry about from white people. Come on be honest here.

  27. Thank you for this, this is a really well written article. As the comments talking about this not being racism but ‘black culture’ etc, I don’t even have a reply. Some people are so blind they refuse to see what is in front of them.

    I see you’re in Brookline MA, which I’m well acquainted with. My wife (fiancee at the time) who is white, used to live there. I’m black. I remember one incident in particular from 2004.
    We were waiting for a bus, a police car drove by, and then swung around and almost climbed the curb in front of us. The white cop looked at my wife, and asked her ‘Are you OK?’. When she said ‘uuh yes’, the cop gave me a glare that would have killed me if looks could kill, and drove away. The assumption being that a white woman arm in arm with a black man must be in mortal danger.

    This was but one experience I’ve had with police in the Boston area. The worst was a cop who pointed a gun at me and forced me to the ground for the crime of ‘jogging while black’. I’ve also seen a friend get his face slammed into a wall and then thrown in jail for ‘resisting arrest’. His crime? politely asking an Everett MA cop why we had been stopped while walking (we were walking one evening, a cop stopped us and very rudely demanded ID).

    I’ve also had numerous ‘random’ stops while driving (The Boston Globe and Northeastern University did a landmark study on racial profiling in traffic stops that showed definitively that police in the greater Boston Metro area were profiling by race.

    But this is not something that anyone who is black has to be educated on. Between the early 90s and early 2000s I was averaging 2-7 ‘random’ traffic stops per year, along with a few searches and terrible treatment. Keep in mind I drive like an old lady and have only gotten one speeding ticket in my life (for doing 42 mph in a 35 mph zone, and the cop lied, I was going the speed limit, he kept me there for 1/2 hour running my license, quizzing me over a bullhorn hoping to either find something in my records or infuriate me to the point he could arrest me for being ‘non cooperative’.

    Now, to the so called ‘thug’ problem. I’m an African Immigrant with a vaguely ‘British’ accent (this will become relevant in a bit). I tended to dress over-formerly, but the treatment I got indicated that the racism had nothing to do with so called manner of dress (and lets keep in mind white frat boys dressed in caps and shorts are not afforded the same mis-treatment that blacks are). When apartment hunting, the treatment I got over the phone (when my accent was mistaken for British and thus white), and the treatment I got when I showed up was very different (the number of apartments that disappeared between my calling and when I showed up a few hours laterwas mind boggling. My wife also got to see it when we went apartment hunting together. And this was in liberal Somerville (where I had lived for a while and loved). And I’m a Software Engineer, making close to 6 figures at the time and with perfect credit (not that it should make a difference, everyone deserves fairness, but to head off at the pass comments about this being about class rather than race).

    If all blacks started wearing suits and ascots tomorrow, racism would not magically go away. Instead suits would be the new hoodies.

    1. this! this this this!

      this is what people fail to hear and understand, especially all those folks who commented earlier who say you get treated according to how you act and dress. when you look at the big picture, the Baiskeli’s experience is much more commonplace than people think. and that’s ’cause they’re generally living on the advantageous side of privilege, and don’t realize that’s where they are.

    2. Your experience is not an example of
      white privelege or — it’s an example of individual white landlords treating you unfairly. You ran into racists, not “white priviledged.”. Most people, white or otherwise, in our culture, would say what you endured was unfair and unacceptable.

      Similarly in my hometown of Louisville KY the foster care system is run by racists, who- though they have a public “policy” of not discriminating based on color– in practice DO discriminate and only will place African American childrn with Black families, even if they have more than the home can legally hold, and waiting white families have none. (However White & Hispanic are all lumped together.). The women in charge are racist, pure & simple.

      Individual people can make be racist without attibuting all fair & gracious treatment to majority privilege.

  28. Thanks for writing this. You put into words things I have been thinking about but could not express so well.

    Some of the problems I have is that I want to rush towards an explanation, I want the explanation to exempt me, and I want to be the person who has figured it out and is on the “good” side.

    A lot of white people get upset when confronted by racism and white privilege because these attitudes are seen as negative or bad things (which I think they are), but they don’t consider themselves to be bad people or the kind of people who knowingly affirm and perform bad things. So when someone tries to hold up a mirror and say “Yes, you are acting racially; you are enjoying your white privilege; you are blind to how you are granted access to all that America grants to white Americans,” it comes across as saying “You are a bad person.”

    But think of racism and white privilege not as the conscious acts of bad people, but the unconscious acts of blind and deaf people.

    Once people are made aware of what racism is, and how they participate in it, and what they can do to work against racism and towards full equality, I believe people of good will will change their behaviors and attitudes.

    Getting to that point–of getting people aware–is very, very hard. Almost all that they hear, all that they experience, all that they know, everyone they meet and work with and go to church with, affirms their providential escape from any participation in racism and privilege. We are told, as white people, that we have mostly been wonderful people with good motives, and only a few isolated incidents in the distant past are of any concern. Nothing we’re doing today perpetuates it. Nothing we’re doing involves our participation. It’s not true, of course. It’s not in the past, and we are not exempt from being a part of it and continuing it.

    I have been trying myself to disentangle myself from endemic, systemic American racism. I am nowhere near done. I am no kind of an example. I’m not doing for anyone else, or to get respect, or to be “good.” I am doing it for me, for my own actions, for my own life, for what I myself own. I can saw that it is very, very hard. I make lots of mistakes and early judgments. I say stupid things. I am probably that awful person everyone knows who is earnest and well-meaning and clueless.

    That’s OK. I’ll own all that. I’ll own all my mistakes. I am willing to be stupid, to admit my ignorance, to ask for correction. I am willing to do it all in public.

    One of the reasons to be upfront is to help others stuck in the same situation, where they are beginning to become aware of their own responsibilities but don’t know the first steps on how to break out. I figure that if I talk out loud, then others can get unstuck by thinking about what I’m saying and finding new or different ways to think about American racism.

    The weird thing about all this, all this work and thinking, and overcoming the fear of being wrong, of having to go back and unwind things that have gotten wrapped all wrong, is that there is no downside. Learning to become free from white racism does not lead to any lessening of life. Enjoyment of life is not restricted by chucking racism. Job opportunities are not lost. Life is bigger, better, full of more things. More people come into your life because you have more space for them.

    Well, maybe there is a downside. You have to regret that you’ve wasted a lot of your life living by a set of silly, unrewarding, and utterly bizarre rules that keep you from knowing the people around you.

    1. Well said Mr. Matlock. White privilege does not make one racist and being racist, bigoted or prejudiced doesn’t make one inherently evil.

      It makes you human.

      And it isn’t reserved for white folks either.

      Introspection is hard. But it puts one on the road to enlightenment and empathy. Therein lies power. I think that Jewish kid whose birthday is coming up wanted us to understand that.

  29. Thank you for writing such a brilliant piece.
    I am from South Africa and black, it is rather discouraging to see injustice against your fellow man. Most of my white friends are oblivious to the white privilege thing and this is not to make anyone feel guilty but rather to bring awareness and notturn a blind eye because you benefited from a situation.
    I am not saying by any means that there are no black, asian or other ethnic group that doesn’t contain of a group of recist crowds

    When Jesus was still walking this earth as man he tackled this and new that the one of the biggest fruit to sin is insecurity. Prejudice and fear are rooted in that. The problem is that we are quick to label each other and put each other in boxes whuch we use our prejudices to classify and we call preference, experience.

    We ought to look at people and be moved with compassion we cannot afford to be a brute of vipers like the pharasees, , carrying the spirit of prejudice yet on the outside pretending like we care.

    In all honesty the world needs to be redeemed as christians we can never afford to ignore such. We need to be authentic in all things and love as Christ loved anf and lay my life formy fellow as he did.

  30. Joshua, you had a great story, and as a white man with a similar upbringing I was tracking with you. Then, in the midst of making sense and reason, you give one of the worst examples of white privilege I have ever heard. Dude , how can you even use that as an argument when there are so many more better examples? The only person I know who was ever given a break like that was a black friend at work who was stopped by a white officer.. No insurance, no registration, nothing and he was let go and came to work.. And this was in NC.

    Terrible, inaccurate example of white privilege that will just tick people off and make us argue. It is hard enough to get many white people to even believe there is white privilege (and I do) , but when you make terrible arguments like this you just kicked the cause back 3 steps.

    You’re smarter than this.. Do it better please

    1. then go read Baiskeli’s comment. and look up #crimingwhilewhite and compare that to #livingwhileblack.

      while there will always be individual stories that conflict each other, the big picture (at least to me) shows that “well-behaved” black people still get the short end of the stick more frequently.

  31. Exquisitely done. I needed this today.
    Forwarded your blog link to some loved ones who, while are very good people, fail to see how the color of skin they were born with dictates the privilege they’ve long enjoyed–and expected.

  32. Great article. I am happy to see that there are intelligent and compassionate people of all cultures/races in OUR world. Our paths are different, our journeys are different, and it is awesome to know that there are people who stop to think on things and care to try and educate those who are ignorant and unaware of how ignorant they really are. Every LIFE has purpose, and NO PERSON has control of who, where, and what circumstances they are born into! That is the one thing that every person seems to forget! What matters is what you do in the here and now! If races were forced to switch places for a single week…to walk in the shoes of those who are blatantly discriminated against on a regular basis, they would not survive…maybe not even a single day! Be thankful and appreciate LIFE by showing compassion for your fellowman, by demanding that the rights of every citizen are protected (because it is only a matter of time before any one of us or our child or sibling may be brutally attacked by ANGRY/POWER HUNGRY Officers with a badge) if we all sit and do nothing, or say nothing, regardless of the color of our skin. Every single individual on planet earth has purpose, we are each members of the human race, filled with beauty, unique gifts, and passion, made in the image of our Divine Creator. To deny that truth proves that you just can’t argue with a dummy, so don’t even try! Look in the mirror, the positive changes in OUR world must begin with YOU. If a person chooses to be blind to the facts…to reality… to truth, then it is their WRONG CHOICE that they will have to live and suffer with. But, TRUTH and LIGHT cannot be avoided regardless. The day will come when they will be forced to face it, and then…it will be a MUCH HARDER lesson that will BREAK them since they refused the good opportunities that were kindly given to help them learn the easy way! So KUDOS to you Recovering Racist, as a fellow human being, you’ve made me proud! Now, you have joined with those of us who are TRULY LIVING LIFE! I appreciate you! Peace to you and your family!

  33. Commenters that believe that “white privelage” doesnt exist or consider it bizarre obviously havent experienced it. It does exist and is evident all over the world. Dont be ridiculous.

    1. I think that white people who do not believe “white privilege” exists believe that because, like the air, it is invisible, it is all around them, and without it they would not survive a full minute.

      It *does* exist.

  34. I really was preparing to cringe when I saw your post on my dashboard. I really hate when white people say lets talk about issues of race especially when coming from an environment that is all white. Its refreshing to hear someone say hey we arent all treated the same and its because we have these views of how we see each other.

  35. I’m very sad. Frustrated. I’m angry. People like you with skewed perspectives who want to fan the flames of bigotry. I cannot tolerate lying just to make yourself feel good. Let’s not confuse racism and prejudice. Racism is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Nobody is superior in standing due to their skin color, or sex, or religion. Not in our country.

    Is there racism in America? Yep! But not like it used to be. Is it a problem in the black community? Yep! But not for what you think. Large crowds of people marched to protest the shooting in Fergusson. “Hands up don’t shoot!” Looked pretty bad to me too. But I’ve learned you need to wait for facts before judging too quickly. I’ve been fooled too many times before. A jury of 12 people found that the evidence did not show the police officer shot and killed the young man inappropriately. The evidence did not show he was shot in the back while running away. Six witnesses said he was charging the police officer. One said he was not. I’ve read through about a tenth of the Grand Jury transcripts. But you still believe the officer is a racist who shot Michael Brown. I think the police officer was defending himself against a 6’4” 260 pound man who just got done punching him in the head several times and tried to take his gun. It’s tragic a young man would behave that way, but his behavior has nothing to do with skin color. He made a bad decision and it got him killed.

    People in positions of power are lying to the black community. They won’t say that the case of Michael Brown got special consideration because he was black. I don’t think you’ll find many cases where the white men that have been shot and killed by police officers got any trial. District Attorneys simply call it a justified shooting and press no charges. They don’t go to trial.

    You are still a racist Joshua, but you don’t know it. You cannot separate race from your experiences. You assume the same black cop would have given a black driver a ticket and had is car towed. You said you were let off because of white privilege. I believe that cop is better than you think he is. I think he would have extended the same courtesy to a black or Hispanic driver provided he was treated the same as you treated him. But your racist lens says that black cop gave me special treatment because I’m white. That’s frankly insulting to him and you should apologize.

    Joshua, I’ve been pulled over three times for expired tabs. Got off once because I left my sticker at home and they can check online to see that you paid. Two other times I got tickets AND I had to pay for the new tabs. I’ve had a cop offer to line me up against a wall and shoot me because he thought I was shooting fireworks at kids when I was just picking up the mess the other people had left. I had a cop enter my house with his hand on his gun after midnight one night. I politely asked if I could help him. He requested to see some ID and asked if I lived there. You see my front door was open and there had been burglaries in the neighborhood. I didn’t yell at him for trespassing and tell him to get out of my house like the stupid professor. Everyone has different experiences. Where’s my white privilege? There are good and bad cops, just like all other people. Most people are good. Don’t put racial preferences where they don’t belong.

    It’s time for everyone to stop lying to themselves and each other. We must begin to take responsibility for our actions and treat others with respect. You don’t want to tell a black person they’re missing the point? You might be a racist. Through sharing our experiences we have a better understanding of each other.

    “…response to a systemic issue of racism and prejudice, not just individual officers.” Where are those facts? Another lie told by people in the media who fail to deal with facts. Again you are stating that most police officer shootings are due to racist cops. Your racist beliefs are shading your understanding of the facts. It looks like you have a beautiful family. Be careful not to teach your daughter your racist habits. She should be a beautiful intelligent woman raised in a country with boundless opportunities.

    My privilege comes from coming from a middle class family wtih two parents who love me and taught me how to behave. I was also told I wouldn’t be given anything and have to work for it. Do people view me differently because I’m white? Probably, we’re all a little prejudice. But the world is much more complex than that and we shouldn’t be using race as an excuse for bigger problems.

    Economist Walter Williams says it better than I ever could.

    It’s time for us to grow up and start addressing the root cause of each problem and not hide behind racism. Let’s all continue our transformation in this great country.

  36. It’s garbage like this that will keep everyone divided.

    Keep thinking this “white privilege” gift basket is handed out to all whites (see Appalachia to disprove this), and that’s what will keep you down. Instead of striving to be better, you claim others have it easier.

    We don’t

  37. i am sure if he had prior’s and was well known to the police or matched the description of a suspect who had just committed a strong armed robbery things would not have gone so smoothly.

  38. Such kind words. I’m so glad u wrote this from your own experience and perspective. Not only for your own growth but to understand how to relate to your daughter when race issues arise. The struggle is real. I always tell people that instead of complaining about what’s going on, use that energy to bring forth change. Start with the man an in the mirror.

  39. True story…20 yr old married white woman (husband in military) applied for college and assistance. Received acceptance letter and 80% tuition assistance but noticed that the school had made a mistake and listed her as black. She informed the school of their mistake. Weeks later received a new acceptance letter and denial for assistance. She never was able to go to college and at almost 50 has never made over $25,000.00 a year. White privilege lmao.

    1. What college? What was the original assistance based upon? Sometimes scholarships are funded by private parties/donations which are directed towards people of certain qualifications, among them being ethnic or religious heritage. When I was shopping around for scholarships that’s what I ran across–wealthy donors specifying that the funds were to be someone descended from a particular family/clan, or from a certain region, or whatever. Schools and financial offices and private parties have their ways of distributing money.

      But without more information nothing more can be learned from this. Certain people groups have been wildly underrepresented in American society and opportunities. Private groups have been created to help equalize that, and they fund representatives from those groups.

      I myself checked the wrong box on my SAT test way back, and mistakenly was listed as Puerto Rican. I got college letters because of that. When I corrected it, as I should have rightly done, I didn’t get as many offers. Why? Because Puerto Ricans are historically underrepresented in colleges and universities, while plain ol’ European males are not. I still had lots of opportunities, and I was happy to think that someone from a disadvantaged group got a chance. It wasn’t “my” place. It was the college/university’s place to determine whom they wanted to attend.

      There are way more opportunities for people of European heritage in America. Way, way more. There are far fewer blocks to someone of European heritage who wants to succeed.

      It doesn’t make what happened any better, but it doesn’t mean that there is absolutely no advantage to being white. There definitely is, even though it is not perfectly applied.

      Was that the only college acceptance letter? Were there others?

  40. I am so happy you wrote this. I’ve been dealing with issues myself. I am a white male and have been frustrated with the responses of my peers to the recent rulings. I just want to say thanks, but be careful to ever think we are not ignorant at all. We will always be recovering. We as whites will never understand what our skin color has done for us. All we can say is that we are somewhat aware that our skin color has made a impact on our life. Otherwise i love your article. Just remember that we are all racist and always will be but we can be aware of it, but not always.

  41. Thank you so much Josh – am a South African who has just returned home after 3 years in Americaland so a following the stories on both sides of the ocean with much interest and definite echoes of yours over here and vice versa – been trying to create some spaces for conversation over here:

    Found your comments super helpful though and your story really hits home with the message of white privilege in the clearest of ways.

    Really appreciate the spirit in which this is written
    keep on
    love brett fish

  42. AWESOME!! Your thoughts need to be published in every newspaper and on all social media everywhere. I applaud you for sharing.

  43. We should all be as open to personal growth as the author of this letter is. I hope that I am. It’s amazing many people can read this and miss it totally. I have a question for every one of you who wrote opinions opposing this author’s assessment……….How many black friends do you have ? Do you even have one? Read the author’s letter again as well as your response and all of the other responses. Now try to figure out how is it that so many white people have friends of other ethnic groups (including blacks) and you do not..

  44. I believe the way in which the officer reacted and responded to you had nothing to do with your “white privilege” but had more to do with the person that he is. It was a reflection of how he communicates with others; the respect that he show to another human being being. He was simply acting as a loving and caring human being; the way that as humans we are suppose to behave. A lot of credit has to be given to him; and maybe his social, human and interaction skills can be taught as a humanistic approach to dealing with the public. His methodology should be emulated by other officers to reinforce that I am human, and you are human and I know this. You also emphasized that it was a “black police officer” I just think that he acted as a human being, saw you as one also (neither white or black) and proceeded to treat you as one. I don’t think that his treatment of you had anything to do with your “white privilege.” He is who he is; a man with the love of God and self love.

  45. I have NEVER left a comment on any of these, but this was brilliant! Awesome read & it came from the heart. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

  46. I re-blogged this today on marylef.wordpress. This was a thoughtful and thought provoking post. I will say that as anecdotes go it may not be the best everyone has seen but it’s not about any of you. It’s about Joshua and his experience so relax, stop trying to tear it apart and find your own experience. Putting yourself out there like this in these tumultuous times is not easy. I’ve written about this experience and have been shocked at the number of people who have chosen to hyper-focus on one point and, deliberately or otherwise, cannot seem to see the bigger picture. Mad respect Joshua from a St. Louis resident

    1. This is a great response. I think there is no one “perfect” story that encapsulates white advantage; there are always elements to a story that make it less than perfect. Perhaps the cop was having a good day. Perhaps you were more afraid of the situation than you needed to be. Perhaps some people do get more involved because they become more inflamed. Perhaps even the situation is reversed, with white Americans getting the short end of the stick while a non-white American gets an advantage.

      All these may be true, here and there. But the actual picture can be formed from the overwhelming consensus of evidence and stories: non-white Americans, especially black Americans, and most especially black male Americans, are unduly disadvantaged in their participation in American life, and are grossly mistreated in their interactions with the police force, at every stage, from initial encounters, to questioning, to arrest and physical confrontation, to jailing and jail time, to charges, to excessive charges, to trial, to conviction, to imprisonment, and to fines and penalties, including the death penalty.

      Maybe no one black American has a perpetual experience of always being mistreated. Perhaps no one white American gets the breaks every single time. But in listening to the stories of white Americans, the exceptions are seen as egregious and uncalled-for, and in the stories of black Americans the experience is near-uniform and widespread.

      There can be a conversation about this, where white Americans and non-white Americans can participate, but I have to say, as a white male American, we have a lot of listening to do that consists of more than just waiting to interrupt and tell our side of things.

      1. Hear Hear!! If it starts with open minds and open hearts it can only end in a better place than we currently find ourselves. Why is it so difficult for so many to understand that as members of the white privilege we cannot decide what people of color know or what they experience on a day to day basis?

        This morning on my way to work I was listening to the radio and they were talking about a “Journey for Justice” group who had embarked upon a week long walk to our state capitol in Jefferson City. I was brought to tears when the interviewer remarked upon a small town here in Missouri called Rosebud where the marchers were met with people yelling obscenities, comments such as “No peace no welfare checks” and boxes of fried chicken, melons and 40 oz beer bottles lining the streets. Even hours later as I type this I have tears running down my cheeks as I think about how absolutely horrific that experience must have been for these people. I am mortified because I live in Missouri and have my entire life. I was so naive. I didn’t know that there were so many racist people and racist attitudes left in this country.

        If we could just stop talking and start listening we would hear the stories of the struggles that minorities in this country have always faced and still face today. These stories are all too real.

        What can we do? Start by watching our own words, actions and reactions. Take it a step further by not allowing inappropriate things to be said in our presence without pushing back. Call out someone who uses a racial epithet or tells a racially charged joke. Don’t let these things slide, take an active role in fighting the stereotypes and let it be known that this behavior cannot and will not be tolerated. Don’t smile and nod when you see something racist or bigoted posted on a wall or receive an email. Saying “OMG You’re so bad!” does not go far enough. Tell them, forthrightly and directly, “I do not care for that kind of joke so please don’t share it with me again.” If we don’t take an active role in changing behaviors, nothing will change.

  47. I have to disagree for some to most of this. You didn’t get out of the ticket because you were white, but because you we respectful and cordial. Also, whites are not the only racists, there are racists in all races. If I was a white in a “black” part of town there is a good chance I would be stopped and questioned. Police question what looks out of place, as do we. Is that 100% right to do in every case, of course not, but in other cases absolutely. Racism will never go to the side completely. We just need to learn and grow together and work together instead of allowing all this negative bull pull us apart. There may just be a reason why we are pinned against one another…

  48. You have said some good and comfortable words, to the black man police always seem to act like protecting white from blacks thus making black man not feel like American. Like Micheal shooter, he was afraid of his size and fear of black man in a black and white America, why did he choose to be a police officer? If you are afraid of even an animal and you attack it it will respond. When can we see a white police man give direction to a black civilian with smiles instead of hand on gun ready to fire.

  49. Good article. At least for making me think.

    Nevertheless, racism is doing harm based on race or believing one race is better than another. I wonder if white folks trying to claim they are racist is in some way allowing minorities to keep a victim mentality that hurts them. We need a better uplifting story.

    I lived overseas for fifteen years and do not consider myself racist, even though I am a white as you. As a Christian it is my calling to help all my contacts to learn to live as created in the image of God. If someone thinks that I have some edge, it would serve us both better to find a way to help that person “up” than for me to take on a false humility.

    Second, I don’t get the story about the white guy and the black policeman proving white racism. The story could have been reversed, two black folks, two white folks, or any mixture of races. It was a guy with power (policeman) letting a citizen know he better get the issue fixed. But he was being nice about it. You can’t tell me the reverse situation never arises. I know officers that would do that for anyone.

    I have reason to contact folks in a campground throughout the summer. When I walk into a group of folks who are black, often I feel a distance, maybe a distrust? That cannot be my problem. I have to treat them with the respect I give everyone, and the respect that they truly deserve.

    The legal issues need to be addressed, but by making sure everyone is on the same standing, and that can only be done through honest respect.

  50. In my opinion, you just said it all. What a gift you are to the big wide world. My nephew said more or less the same things to me not too long ago and I learned a great deal from his words. Many thanks for your input.

  51. My husband and I, raised 3 boys. From a very young age, we instilled in our son’s minds……”don’t place yourselves in positions where you are going to “find trouble”. One of my son’s arrived home from his Middle-School one day, to report that “Coach Joe” “got in my face and pushed my back into a row of gym lockers”. I asked my son “was there something that you did, or said, to upset “Coach Joe”? The boys face showed it all. He never did “fess up”, but he knew that I knew – he had placed himself in a position that caused “Coach Joe’s” action (and the boy to find trouble). When young adults (teens or older) behave in a manner that becomes a threat to society (stealing from a convenience store and “roughing up” the proprietor, verbally threatening others, including police officers etc….) they are placing themselves in positions where they are going to “find trouble”. Was “Coach Joe” a bit rough with my 14 year old son? Maybe, maybe not. Are cops too eager to pull their weapons? Maybe, maybe not. When a recent (local to me) scenario which seemed initially, to be totally non-threatening, turned into the fatal shooting of a Police Officer… is hard to say. I agree that we all need to look inside ourselves and to continue to work on the racism issue, I believe we always will. More importantly, we ALL need to continue to hold our (and other people’s) kids accountable. They need to KNOW the tragic consequences, when ANYONE places themselves in any position where they might just “find trouble”.

  52. Well said and well thought. Transcending is exactly right. I am not a very religious man but I am a very spiritual man. I believe in Christs teachings if not all the frills and nuances that are sometimes associated by various Churches. That being said I believe that the quote you chose from Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” is perfect to sum up what we as a society as a species must do to find peace and salvation.

    It takes courage to speak the truth. Oftentimes we are persecuted for doing so. Just take a look at Christ. They did him wrong, really wrong because he spread the TRUTH.

    Thank you for speaking it and sharing it with everyone.

    Jonah Jose from Miami, FL.

  53. Trav777 what do you know about freaking biology!?! Where the hell do you get off quoting biology in your Ludacris rantings about the authors personal life exeprience.
    It is clear you are not only blind but are also clueless.lets take your biological road map, the first human originated from Africa, its been proven “google” it the onlt reason for your fai complexion is attributed to the migration of humans throughout the globe into hatsher winter weathers and evolution then too course.
    Also since you say blacks are inclined to commit crime and all. Blacks are biologically stronger than whites that being said the rule of biology is survival of the fittest so how come whites took over the world, it certainly wasn’t because they were stronger at war but we’re only more devious in manipulating through trade.
    I am a black woman with an advanced degree, I was born in the ghetto slum. My entire family is made up of nurses, it personals and we have an MD in the family. I had good friends who fell on the way side mainly due to socioeconomic dumps that white supremacy left black neighbors in when the took the resources and the people and made generational wealth off of their deaths and misfortunes. In corporate American today, white privilege can be clearly observed, I’m not referring to traffic stops and crime rate but opportunity, which is what white privilege is all about. I work with people high school degrees for a position that requires just that while whites with my educational background and experience have project management roles and are trusted to run state public programs for people populations they do not represent, I have no criminal background what’s ever or excuse of no experience. If you cannot understand white privilege, look outside your minute existence because it exists where you agree, approve. I would go on with examples but I’m afraid you are what many would call a lost cause, I recommend you watch the movie crash.

  54. Reblogged this on Everything Indie and commented:
    I simply couldn’t not share this article by Joshua Throneburg. It’s too easy to believe that being “colour-blind” is the solution to racism. Thinking that “race doesn’t matter” is a dismissal of the experience of those subjected to prejudice and a denial of the privileges afforded to those who are not. I hope you’ll read this well-considered article.

  55. Good thoughts. Much the same as you I grew up in an almost exclusively white community. Some how my parent managed to shield me from knowledge of the racial strife that occurred during my middle youth and did not instill overtly prejudiced attitudes in me. When I started middle school we moved to a new city and lived within a 4 block area of white families surrounded by the major portion of the black community in our city. My school was predominantly black students and it never occurred to me that there was any cultural differences. I lived oblivious to any racial differences. Later we moved to the southwest and for the first time I was in a truly multicultural community where even among the “Anglos” there were two different cultural views. The community was predominately Hispanic with the second largest population group being Native Americans. There was exactly one black family with children my age. I remember a time in a sociology class one white girl saying something to the effect “us Anglos need to stick together” and she definitely had included the black student in the class in that group. The division’s there were more cultural than racial. I chose to hang out with the Hispanics because the other non-Hispanic white kids were definitely more obviously prejudiced than I had been raised and I did not like their arrogance. The NatibeAmerican

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