And I will never completely get it because I am a white, Conservative Jew. Yes, I am a minority, but I am lucky enough that I can pretty much blend in whenever I want to. Unless someone is particularly fanatical, lucky and has phenomenal Jewdar, they are not generally going to detect that I am Jewish. I generally do not cover my head with a kippah in public except when I am going to, and coming home from, synagogue. I eat vegetarian in non-kosher restaurants. I am out and about on Saturdays. I am proud of my Jewishness – it is part of the very core of my personal identity – but it is not something that is always readily discernible from purely visual observation.
Yes, I can see what happens and I can know what happens; I can learn about it, both from the history of our country and from the many different years and places of discrimination that Jews have been subjected to throughout our history. Still, because I can easily blend in – because I possess white privilege – I will not really know it firsthand. Because of this I will never have to worry about what President Obama spoke about this afternoon and what every African American goes through merely from living their everyday lives.
I will never have people follow me in department stores, and elsewhere, because the color of my skin makes them believe I am more likely to steal or be violent.
I will never have people click their car doors locked because I walk by.
I will never have people clutch their belongings in an elevator, or elsewhere, because the color of my skin makes them believe I could rob them at any moment.
I will never experience countless other indignities because I had the simple fate to be born white in the United States of America.
And this, of course, doesn’t touch upon the added privileges that come with my being born male in this country.
The difference, however, between liberals and progressives such as ourselves, and conservatives is that we recognize the existence of white privilege. We do not ignore the fact that racism exists. We do not believe that the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States did anything to eliminate that racism.
Instead, President Obama’s election has brought that racism back out into the open. Even with all the platitudes, and the claimed changes, it still existed, lurking beneath the surface. Now, however, it is once again open. Sure, many on the right veil it in criticism of the president, but the language speaks for itself. It is the language of white privilege and it is the language of racism.
President Barack Obama spoke this afternoon about his experiences and I listened because that is what I can do and I learned because that is what I can do and I can use that going forward. However, despite all the words anyone says, and all that I can observe and listen and learn, I will never know what it is like to be IN his shoes. I will never completely get it, but I can help do my little part in eventually ending it. I doubt it will completely end in my lifetime, but I think my generation (those 30 and under – and yes I am still under 30 for just under six more months) can go a long way to making it happen one day.