Black Lives Matter, So What Do I Do With My Privilege?

By Diane Clarkson.  

I am a Black prosecutor in Pierce County, Washington. I am the product of a single mom, born in D.C. and raised in a very segregated Birmingham, Alabama after the riots of 1968.

I attended Berea College – the only college I could afford to attend, a tuition-free, work/study college. I later graduated from Howard University School of Law. I came to Washington State in pursuit of career opportunities. I sometimes wonder what I’d be doing, who would I be if I had not been able to attend Berea.

I’ve debated and discussed with friends and family whether racism exists. And, I’ve tried to explain to some that “all lives matter” is not truth until “Black Lives Matter.” The phrase, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is often thrown around, but, what do you say to those who have no boots, no- “privilege”?

It is important to recognize the privilege we benefit from in various aspects of our lives. And, let’s be clear, White Americans have privilege, separate and apart from my privilege, because sometimes, not only have jurors assumed, though in my business suit, with briefcase and relaxed hair, that I am the defendant, I have had a juror try to explain why I am different from the horrible Black people he described in his questionnaire. (After that one I dread-locked my hair) But- that’s another conversation.

The Jim Crow laws that were enacted after the Civil War to limit Black Americans’ access to housing, health care, education, voting, and job opportunities have been modified over the years, yet the spirit of Jim Crow continues to exist in these very systems and institutions in 2020.

We must get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
We must stop changing the narrative.
We must educate ourselves so that we can speak from a place of knowledge when discussing the events that are not only happening today but have occurred over hundreds of years in our America. We must be open to engage in these difficult conversations about racism, which lives matter, and White privilege.

From where I sit, the struggle is real and Black Lives Matter. Here are some books and a couple of movies that I read and re-read for perspective as I navigate and code switch being Black in America:

How To Be An AntiRacist – Ibram X. Kendi
I’m Still Here – Austin Channing Brown
Tough Love – Susan Rice
Ghosts of Jim Crow – F. Michael Higginbotham What Set Me Free – Brian Banks

The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander
The Debt – Randall Robinson
So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
The Hate You Give – Angie Thomas
White Fragility – Robin Diangelo
The Half Has Never Been Told – Edward Baptist
The African Americans – Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Movie (and book) Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson *Movie (and book) I’m Not Your Negro –Raoul Peck

*13th – Netflix

Diane Clarkson is a Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney and 2017 President of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association