By Chris Finnie
156 years after the end of the American Civil War, Congress has established a federal holiday to celebrate the emancipation of African slaves. Though the Emancipation Proclamation freed American slaves in 1863, the federal government couldn’t enforce it in the Confederacy until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.
But word of this didn’t reach Texas until Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived at Galveston on June 19, 1865. That was more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia on May13 of that year.
Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate that delayed victory amid ample proof that victory is still delayed for the descendants of those who were supposedly freed. So, I’ve decided to celebrate by using the white privilege I keep hearing I have.
I’ve actually never felt that privileged. As a woman, I’ve been paid less, found it harder to get jobs I wanted, been treated with disdain in a number of situations, and been viewed as a sex object in the workplace.
But I’ve recently realized that there are areas in my life where I haven’t experienced many of the dangers people of color do.
I have never feared a public attack because of the color of my skin or the shape of my eyelids.
I have never feared a simple traffic stop would end in my death.
I never thought I’d be shot and killed in my college boyfriend’s bed because he was dealing weed. I never even feared either of us would be arrested for what was then illegal. The latter may have been more stupidity than privilege. But it’s still a fact that I could get away with being that dumb because I was a middle-class white girl.
It never occurred to me that I would be denied the right to vote, or that it would be difficult for me to get the papers I needed for anything that required my identity.
I have never worried about what I held in my hand if there were police around. I never thought anything might be seen as a weapon, just because I held it.
When I’ve called police for help, I never expected to be mistaken for something other than a citizen in need. And I never have been.
I’m now an old woman. My hair is whiter than my skin. Nobody sees me as a threat. But the point is that they never have. They never would. Because I’m white.
Chris Finnie has lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains for 25 years. She has contributed articles and columns to several local newspapers before happily landing at the San Lorenzo Valley Post at its inception.