The Privilege of Ignorance

By: Maddy Levin

The Spotlight’s Maddy Levin Explains How White Silence Leads to Violence

As a white woman in America, I have had the immense privilege of practicing blissful ignorance in regards to racial injustices. I am not black, so why should I care? When I see a police car on the street, I do not fear for my life. I do not shrink away from the thought of an officer in blue dragging me out of my vehicle, slamming me onto the ground and laying a knee between my shoulder blades. I have no reason to think I will be killed if I retrieve my wallet from my back pocket to show identification when prompted. I can walk back from my local convenience store, Arizona Ice Tea and Skittles in hand, and will not be stalked, interrogated, and murdered.  

My wallet is not a weapon. My hands do not need to be visible at all times. I am safe.

But George Floyd was not safe on May 25th, 2020. Neither was Trayvon Martin in February of 2012. Nor were the hundreds of other African American victims of police brutality and racial profiling. Their wallets are weapons, their hands must be visible at all times, they are not safe.  

While a larger problem exists within American society, a less overt one plagues the nation: In the history of the United States, ignorance has been a privilege, and has been practiced by only the whitest of Americans. White people need not pay attention to their surroundings or the news, it doesn’t affect us anyway. We are not the enemies of law enforcement; the system will never fail us because it was built for us, by us. And while we may not be victims of racism, we are most certainly part of the problem. Blissful ignorance can no longer be a luxury that white Americans enjoy. These violent patterns of police brutality should not have been allowed to exist for so long, rather eradicated after the first incident. Yet, there are people who choose silence over action; blissful ignorance over activism, thus allowing these events to become normalized. Your skin should crawl at hearing news of senseless, unchecked beatings of African Americans by law enforcement. You should be enraged at the news of another fatal shooting of an unarmed black man. You should be ashamed that such a system has existed within what is supposed to be the greatest country on Earth. We should act as though this is happening in our own backyards. This is not the new normal; this is centuries of racism coming to a head. And we should be empowered to stop it. 

So what will you do when videos surface of a black person suffocating at the hands of police? Will you view it and return to your comfortable state of blatant disregard, or will you take a stand and fight for what you know is right? Your silence is representative of your ignorance and the future is watching. Which side of history will you choose to be on?
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