If you are reading this, you’re probably privileged. You’re probably white. You’re probably living in rural America.
How do I know that? Because we’re an agricultural newspaper and according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, less than 4% of producers in the U.S. identified themselves as non-white.
You’re probably privileged enough to, if you wanted to, tune out the protests that have been happening in urban areas throughout the country in the last week or so. Protests against what happened to George Floyd.
He was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. A video shot by a bystander shows Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, even as Floyd says a dozen times that he can’t breathe. Floyd wasn’t resisting arrest. He wasn’t armed. His hands were cuffed behind his back as Chauvin crushed the life out of him.
If only this was a one-time thing. Just one bad cop killing one black person. But it sure wasn’t. Floyd’s death was the latest in a long line of incidents of violence against people of color.
You’re probably privileged enough to not worry about what will happen if you encounter a police officer or get pulled over. You probably don’t have to worry that you might not make it home alive.
I know I don’t. I’m a white woman living in a small town in western Pennsylvania. The police chief of our town is a friend’s dad. We wave at each other as we pass by in town. I’ve never had issues with police.
Once, I got pulled over for rolling through a stop sign leaving a bar. I was taking my then-fiancé and brother home in my fiancé’s car after just learning to drive a stick shift. The cops let me go without a problem after I told them I was the designated driver and new to driving a manual.
I spent much of this past weekend in a 22-acre pasture surrounded by nothing but sheep, tangled-up temporary fence and the sounds of a nearby highway. I didn’t have to deal with protesters chanting in the streets or rioters destroying property.
All weekend I kept thinking about how lucky am I — no, how privileged am I — to have all these things. Safety. Security. Access to land. Access to clean water. To have the privilege to choose whether I wanted to see what was going on in the world outside my sheep pasture and let it affect my life.
I kept trying to figure out how I can be a good ally to black, indigenous, people of color, considering all the above. Do I need to drive into the city, join a protest and put my body in front of others to use my whiteness to protect them? Or is there something I can do from where I am? What’s the best way for rural folks to stand up against racism?
I’m still trying to figure that out, without adding to the white noise, so to speak. This isn’t about me and my discomfort and my sadness.
I think many of us need to start at the beginning, by acknowledging our privilege.
White privilege doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard too. We all face hardships. Farming is tough. There are so many things out of your control. It’s heartbreaking. It can financially and emotionally ruin you.
But our struggles aren’t based simply on the color of our skin. That’s our privilege. Until we recognize that, we remain part of the problem. We — out here in rural America — need to be part of the solution.
(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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