WATCH | Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand breaks down how she accepted her White privilege
"My whiteness protects me. I've seen it—it happens all the time."
U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) made quite a few heads turn at the most recent Democratic debate when she started talking about white privilege.
The senator from New York broke down point-for-point how in America, white folks and Black folks have widely different experiences based on color, and how she would use this as a teachable moment.
Not everyone was impressed or persuaded (“Kirsten Gillibrand explaining white privilege to Trump voters literally sounds like the worst idea of all time,” tweeted one commentator).
Others said it made for an interesting case study about how white people could do the labor of educating others about how racism works to their benefit.
I told y’all to pay attention to Gillibrand. She putting it down on white privilege and white women’s responsibility to go get their people. #DemDebate
— Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk) August 1, 2019
During an interview with theGrio this week, Sen. Gillibrand shared about hearing the stories of African-American constituents helped her realize her White privilege.
“Every time I talk to a Black person or a person of color and they tell me their story, I think, ‘Wow. That has not happened to me.’ And it’s because my whiteness protects me,” Gillibrand tells theGrio.
“I’ve seen it—it happens all the time,” continued Gillibrand. “And so when I met with young men who have all been arrested for marijuana possession and I recognize pretty quickly that my son —because of his whiteness— would likely not be arrested if he tried pot at age 15 with his girlfriend.”
“Every Black or Brown young man would be and when they’re arrested, they might not have the money to post bail. They might be incarcerated. If they’re incarcerated, they can’t show to work. They lose their job. They start a negative cycle that goes on and on forever and it’s holding back whole communities.”
“So I recognize that isn’t going to happen to me or my son because of our whiteness. I’m very clear about what white privilege is.”
When asked when she learned about white privilege, Gillibrand said it was over the course of the past decade, admitting that it wasn’t an awareness she always had.
Gilibrand also addressed possible distrust between women of color and white women, particularly in the aftermath of the 53 percent of white women who voted for President Donald Trump.
“I would just ask America’s women and America’s Black women, just be heard,” Gillibrand tells theGrio.
“You know what needs to be done. You know what your communities need. Hold the candidates accountable. They’re giving you a B.S.? Pushback. Don’t take excuses. Ask ‘what have you done lately?’ Ask ‘what did you do in the last decade?'”
For her own part, some of the issues Sen. Gillibrand has championed include maternal mortality, which disproportionately affects the Black community, and expanding entrepreneurship opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses.
“Ask because the truth is they should take candidates through the wringer. [Black women] should choose the next nominee because of the ones who chose to vote anyway. And they’re the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.”
Sen. Gillibrand has struggled in the polls, and was also criticized for her attack on Vice President Joe Biden’s commitment to women’s equality during the Democratic debate.
To earn a spot on the next Democratic debate stage, she’ll need to raise much more than the $2.3 million dollars she pulled in during the second quarter.
Watch the full interview with Sen. Gillibrand above and subscribe to theGrio’s YouTube channel for more #WokeVote2020 coverage.