Activism isn’t something Orlando Dickson does for fun, it runs in his family.
“My aunt was basically my grandmother,” said Dickson, a Civic Educator at the Partnership for the Public Good. “She took care of me a lot on the weekends, and luckily, she was a Civil Rights activist in college. She taught me a lot about judging people by their character.”
Growing up white in Niagara County, Linnea Brett experiences led her to a life of activism.
“My responsibility, having inherited this legacy of whiteness,” said Brett, an activist for Standing Up for Racial Justice. “To actively commit myself throughout my lifetime to learning all of the things that I don’t know, and all of the things I’ve been taught that aren’t true. And addressing those with systemic change.”
Dickson and Brett shared their thoughts on their upbringing, the challenges they have faced, and what white privilege means to them as part of WBFO's series WNY Conversations About Race.
The 5-part radio series includes Black and white activists, clergymen, educators and business people talking about racism, empathy and diversity in Western New York on-air this week, with extended versions of those edited conversations available online each day or as a bonus afternoon edition of the WBFO Brief podcast.
Brett’s experiences in Niagara County helped her develop a strong opinion on the meaning of white privilege.
“White privilege is an undeniable reality. White skin affords me and affords all white people an array of structural and interpersonal advantages, on a daily basis,” she said. “Ranging from access to housing, access to resources, to not having really specific racialized negative encounters with the police.”
Dickson sees white privilege in all facets of society.
“White privilege is an undeniable reality, social, political, economic benefits or lack of disadvantages, because it’s not always a benefit,” he said. “Sometimes it could just be a lack of a disadvantage, all based on having white skin. I mean, our President in the White House right now is the most shining glaring example of white privilege. Basically, he can say whatever he wants, do whatever he wants and maintain nearly a 50% approval rating.”
“I constantly see people doing things that I can’t do,” he said. “For instance, if I get upset in a grocery store, I can’t scream and yell, even if the situation warrants me screaming and yelling. I have to stay reserved, I have to stay calm, I have to follow the protocol, I have to follow the rules, I have to know the rules better than anyone else.”