A Letter to my (White) Family, Friends, Neighbors, and Fellow Citizens

(White) Friends, family, neighbors, and fellow citizens,

I’ve seen your posts and heard your arguments speaking against the riots and destruction, against those who disrespect the flag and the country, and against the ideas of “socialism” and wealth redistribution.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to have had access to (tax payer funded military) education, world travel, and exposure to different cultures, I think I now understand your anger and confusion.

You perceive minorities as protesting and denigrating the ideals that you hold dear and form your identity. They burn the flag that you love that represents the nation and ideas you live in. The core idea you hold dear is that you worked hard for what you have and owe nothing to anyone else.

It’s the American Dream. If anyone works hard enough, they can have what you have. If people haven’t made it, it’s because they haven’t worked hard enough or they’ve made bad choices. The only problem is that it’s a myth – especially to those who aren’t white. I used to believe this myth too.

These people aren’t protesting and rioting against the America you see and live in. They’re protesting the America THEY see. Their America is overwhelmed by poverty, neglect, under-investment, discrimination, lacking educational and work opportunities, and violence. They don’t see themselves represented in media, in any levels of government, or in power. They don’t see the American Dream. They see it as a lie told to shame them for not achieving the (white) standard of middle class consumerism.

The riots and destruction of property may seem counterproductive to you, but consider how effective peaceful protest has been in the last 60 years. Have we really advanced so far after the major Civil Rights movements ended? Look at the conversations we are now having in our country. Would this reflection happen without the unrest we’re now seeing? I’m not so sure.

So, when you say protesters “lost” you when rioting started: 1) Realize the vast majority of protests are peaceful (despite what television shows) 2) Their view of the world is wildly different than yours 3) Your view is insulated and informed by white privilege. Even if you were poor (which some of my family and I were) you still never had to deal with the constant obstacles faced by our minority citizens.

White privilege isn’t something you can turn down. You have it. Nor is it something that you should feel guilt over – unless you ignore it. Instead, you get to choose how you will use your privilege. Will you use it to continue enriching “your people?” Or, will you expand your people to include all of our American family?

This post may evoke emotion and defensiveness. That’s good. Really sit with those feelings and figure out why you feel that way. Before you dismiss my view saying “he just doesn’t get it,” ask yourself the reverse question. “Maybe I’m just not getting it.” In doing so, you have the power to help heal the many divides in our country.

This isn’t just about justice and equality, though those concepts are critically important. Healing the wounds of our country are necessary to defend against the threats and attacks from countries who want our nation to fail. As a military member who watches adversary influence, I can tell you our enemies are actively trying to divide us and force us to retreat from the world.

White privilege is a form of power. Will you use your power to protect your power and let our country decay as Rome once did? Or will you use and sacrifice some of your power to heal our nation, defend our ideals as true patriots, and set a bright new course for our children’s futures?

I choose a future where my young children don’t have to ask me why people are treated differently because of their differences.

What will you choose?