Recently I was thinking about when I began to generalize certain behaviors to white people. This came up because I once again saw that white woman who is a community leader struggling to open a door. And my first thought was “Good luck with that [slur omitted].”
Needless to say, I didn’t open the door for her this time. But I wondered if my inaction was more dehumanizing to me or to her.
My experience has been that most white people freely and happily partake of their privilege, often without ever stopping to think twice about it. And when they refuse privilege, I’m surprised. I’m at the store and I’m next in line to be waited on when the clerk starts to help a white person. And that white person indicates that I was first.
It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
My surprise indicates to me that I fully expected for that white person to take that bit of privilege and run with it. I don’t expect “common courtesy” from white people; it isn’t quite common enough. I’ve racialized their behavior to the point where I am expecting them to treat me as less-than.
But when I purposely choose to return their invisibility, I feel somehow that a piece of who I am is lost.
I chose not to open the door for that white woman, knowing full well that she would probably just sweep through without even giving me a glance or a nod. And I know that sometimes, on a less conscious level, I am less likely to offer courtesies to white people simply because I think they will respond with privilege.
Yet I remain unsure about my own actions or inactions. If I were to open the door for that woman, what would I be left feeling as a result? Does it even matter? What do I want? Do I want to force her to see my humanity? Or should it be enough that I see my own?
I remember that Martin Luther King said that we should not be lead to distrust of all white people. But what about when they do not see their destiny as being our own?
Edited fer badd grammer.