What’s Your Invisible Wind?
White privilege is like riding the bike down the beach in Waveland. There’s an incline as the land rises toward Bay St. Louis, but it’s a basically easy ride. You pedal along. The Gulf is to your right, the lovely houses to your left. The temperature is okay, not beating down hot. You can feel it in your thighs, the exertion, but it’s really not bad.
Until you turn around.
The minute you head back toward Waveland, the wind that was at your back hits you in the face.
You didn’t even know it was out there, the wind. You couldn’t feel it when you’d been headed into town. But here it is, so strong you have to press into your pedaling. Your breath is coming hard now. You pass people who see you struggling, and in their judgment you see yourself casting your own judgment.
When you were the one enjoying smooth sailing, you judged people you passed. More so, you judged yourself. How smart you’d been to use the Desk Cycle every night, building up your stamina. Taking care of your physical self. Preparing for what was to come. You attributed the ease of the ride out to your efforts, your work, your smart self.
The concept of white privilege seems almost quaint now. We’ve switched to battling racism that is hardly subtle. Politicians hanging out with white supremacists. Members of Congress spouting racist crap. The act of finely picking through our actions and reactions to discern how we’ve been privileged—It’s been supplanted by the constant onslaught of astounding public racism.
But it’s still there.
We can’t see it. We often don’t feel it. It’s invisible, so we often aren’t even aware it’s there unless someone points it out to us. But if you’re white like I am, the privilege you get for belonging to the dominant racial caste is helping push you along at the same time it’s holding others back. If the privilege is noted to us, we can’t help but object. We talk about the incline we were battling, the burn in our thighs. We catalogue our own efforts that were propelling us forward. It wasn’t the wind at our backs, It just wasn’t.
But it was. All along, an invisible wind was helping us pedal to our destination. Stop. Feel it. Acknowledge it. Then do what you can to turn the bike around for others.