I have learned a lot in my public education career from government and history classes. I can recite the three branches of the U.S. government with ease as well as their responsibilities. I know the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I even remember many arbitrary and inconsequential details that link the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations. However, the one thing that stands out to me through all the quizzes, tests, lectures and class debates is that I, as a middle class, white, male, can afford to not care about politics.
That previous statement sounds callous to some and ignorant to others, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I, of course, care about politics. I devour news stories on the politics and current events, try and stay involved in local issues and regularly discuss politics with my friends, but my privileges — specifically as a white male — make this more of a hobby than a necessity.
My race or ethnicity has never been labeled as subhuman by the founding document of our country. The founder’s had the audacity to say that all men were created equal right before labeling an entire race of people as 60% percent of a person.
My gender hasn’t needed the approval of an entirely different group of people to vote overwhelmingly to give me a basic democratic right, and my gender has never been considered the property of my spouse.
I haven’t hoped that the next Supreme Court appointment will allow me to marry or adopt.
My parents and grandparents haven’t been labeled as an enemy of the state because of my ethnicity and sent to internment camps because they are a descendant of America’s enemy.
My older relatives haven’t waited with bated breath as a Supreme Court case determined whether they were equal to white men. No governing body has made the decision that yes, I can in fact eat at the same restaurant, use the same water fountain and attend the same schools as others.
I, as a Christian, am rarely, if ever, equated to the worst of “followers” of my religion and labeled a terrorist and danger to society. I have not been banned from entering a country because of the acts of a few. I haven’t had my place of worship threatened by the government because it “breeds hatred,” and the president has never suggested that because of my faith I need to register in a national database.
I’m not three times more likely to be killed by the police. I don’t need massive protests to make the simple statement that my life matters, and I don’t have mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately affect people with my skin tone.
A knot doesn’t form in my stomach and I don’t get the bitter taste of adrenaline in my mouth every time I pass a cop car or confederate flag.
I haven’t spent my life in abject poverty in an area teeming with violence and drugs, and I have never gone to bed wondering where my next meal will come from.
I’m sure future elections and judicial appointments may affect my taxes at the end of every year. I may have to worry a little sooner about saving for retirement or my kid’s college fund. I may have to be a little more stingy with my budget, and I may have a more difficult time finding a job out of college.
I won’t, however, have my basic rights on trial and need to make sure every election that I vote for the people that will at the very least let me keep my basic human rights.
The essence of white privilege does not mean that I, nor my parents and those around me, didn’t work hard. Sure, there were obstacles and challenges, but they weren’t exacerbated because of my race, religion or country of origin.
So, for the people who don’t care about politics or try and avoid the topic altogether, maybe pay attention. Because while your basic, day-to-day life may not change depending on who is in office, those around you may not have the same rights as you because of your indifference towards politics.