Watching Deterioration of Spirit

For those who do not know, I work in an extremely impoverished area and have for over 13 years.  I roll into the parts of the city that people don’t usually drive to visit on vacation or choose to live in.  This is where I have dedicated a lot of time, efforts and love to those who are the most needing of that type of support.

Today, on an average Monday morning,  I drove into work and decided to stop at the gas station for a bottle of water and a protein drink before going to the site.  While in the store I got to watch one of the most bothersome exchanges between a place full of Black employees and a “privileged” white woman who was upset about an overcharge for gas on her credit card.

Prior to speaking to the manager, this woman had already contacted the Oakland Police and was very rude to the lady at the register, therefore she was sent to the manager of the station.  Might I add that this is no mom and pop gas station, it is a Chevron.

The manager came out, a middle aged black woman, and spoke very professionally and empathetically to this woman.  The woman went into her story about driving a brand new BMW and using top of the line gas, she included that she has no problem with paying for the gas that she purchased but was overcharged for her gas.  She mentioned that she went to the police and the credit card company and they threatened to open a fraud case and she said “no, I will talk to them first”.  The manager informed the lady that she should file the fraud paperwork and informed her of how the procedure would work from there.  She included that Chevron would then be contacted and could investigate what happened at that point.

The lady immediately went into “So you want to be accused of FRAUD!?! And I thought I was going to be nice to you and let you fix it first”.  She went on and on, the whole time the manager kept her professionalism and kept reinterating that by going through the process, the steps would proceed from there and investigate what happened.  She stated that she is not sure if it was a pump issue or any other reason this could have happened.  The lady went into stating that she is a owner of her own company and takes responsibility of what happens to her customers and cannot understand why this manager is not doing that.

Do I need to elaborate?  This went on, the whole while the employees attempted to inform the customer of the steps to take and maintain their jobs in the process.

Finally the lady said some insulting words, got in her car, flipped off the manager and drove away.  Good Gods! Can we say White Privilege?

There is always someone who wants to state that there is no such thing as White Privilege (usually White themselves) and yet we see it and experience it all the time.  The manager was so upset afterwards (probably from holding her composure the whole time) and said what I would have wanted to say.  “Just because we are in a bad neighborhood, we are all Black and poor and we don’t own Chevron, she thinks it is ok to come in here and talk to us like we are stupid and incompetent.  Credit card fraud happens in all areas, not just here in West Oakland”.  AMEN!! …. I mean, BLESSED BE!

On the University of Dayton School of Law website, they have a definition of White Privilege that was written by Kendall Clark.  It states,

white privilegea social relation
1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities.
b. A special advantage or benefit of white persons; with reference to divine dispensations, natural advantages, gifts of fortune, genetic endowments, social relations, etc.
2. A privileged position; the possession of an advantage white persons enjoy over non–white persons.
3. a. The special right or immunity attaching to white persons as a social relation; prerogative.
b. display of white privilege, a social expression of a white person or persons demanding to be treated as a member or members of the socially privileged class.
4. a. To invest white persons with a privilege or privileges; to grant to white persons a particular right or immunity; to benefit or favor specially white persons; to invest white persons with special honorable distinctions.
b. To avail oneself of a privilege owing to one as a white person.
5. To authorize or license of white person or persons what is forbidden or wrong for non–whites; to justify, excuse.
6. To give to white persons special freedom or immunity fromsome liability or burden to which non–white persons are subject; to exempt.

Clark then goes on to say “I started in order to make the structures of white privilege—its causes and effects—less socially invisible, primarily by pointing out instances in U.S. society where it is or seems to be at work. I needed, therefore, a good working definition of the social phenomenon I was looking for. I hit upon the long, detailed definition—which has been used in antiracism education in many educational contexts, including a wide–range of colleges and universities and even PBS—one day, rather suddenly, while talking to a friend of mine, the philosopher Bijan Parsia, who’s spent a good deal of time working on the philosophical theory of oppression. “White privilege is after all,” Bijan said, “a form of social privilege per se.”

If that’s true, one good way to define racialized social privilege is by reference to social privilege generally. In other words, you can figure out what white privilege is in part by figuring out what any social privilege is. So I walked over to my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, looked up the word “privilege”, and after reading it through a few times, I realized that if I rewrote the definition of privilege to refer to white people, rather than people in general, I would have the basis of a working definition. And so that’s what I did, with a few modifications and changes as seemed appropriate.”

Thank you for outlining the intentional or unintentional deterioration of the spirit of many Black or other minority people by acting as if there is a social privilege that makes Whites automatically right and us inferior.  There are so many thoughts that ran into my head during that moment in watching these young ladies do their jobs and this woman yelling in their face.  One of which was, “bet she wouldn’t act like that if we were not in Chevron and were on the block out there.”

As a collective community we have to SEE this going on and support the eradication of such dynamics that perpetuate the divide among us all; so that we may find equality and solace in community.  What I want people to know is that as a collective Black or minority race, we feel this when it is happening.  It is like spider senses that run in us from the blood of our ancestors and has become a part of the genetic make up of who we are as people.  It has continues to serve us well in the course of survival for hundreds of years and when this happens it is like the spider suit underneath our clothing starts to glow.  AND it doesn’t matter if the clothing we have on is a suit, dirty clothing, a construction uniform, a Burger King uniform, a Ivy League College sweatshirt or a Chevron employee shirt with a name badge that says manager.

Going back to Clark, “Why is it important to define “white privilege” so carefully? Because, in part, many people want to deny that it exists at all, especially in response to other people’s assertions that it is at work in some particular situation, that it exists unjustly and so should be dismantled. This pattern of assertion and denial is itself racialized: for the most part, people of color say white people enjoy white privilege, while white people for the most part deny not only that they have it, but that such a thing even exists. I have been assured countless times by white people that there is no such thing as white privilege and that the very idea is nonsensical.”

AMEN, BLESSED BE, and Pass the Kool-aid!

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