The Invisible Privilege of Not Being a Black Man

Mostly I post about science, but there was a very good Morning Edition item I’d like to share. It aired a couple days ago in the wake of the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death. I think it did an excellent job of discussing the topic, avoiding (justifiable) anger to provoke simple empathy. Because it’s a very emotionally-laden topic, I highly recommend you actually listen to it, not just read the transcript:

A mom’s advice to her young black sons

In light of the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, Steve Inskeep speaks with writer Donna Britt and her sons Justin and Darrell Britt-Gibson about how she prepared them as young black men for a world that might view them with suspicion.

Yesterday, in his first time commenting on the case, Obama said: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” That cuts to the painful core of this. People are more likely to believe a black man is dangerous and criminal. It’s not limited to “The South” — mistaken criminal assumptions of minorities happens in Boston and London. The consequences range from frustrating to horrifying.

The phrase “invisible privilege” has been used to describe a benefit that people on the favored side of a social divide aren’t usually conscious of. The story of Trayvon’s death brings my attention to a privilege I’m usually unaware of: I don’t have to live with this fear — the fear that my son or brother or husband could be mistaken for a dangerous criminal… and die for that mistake.

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