This Spoken-Word Poem About White Privilege Should Be Required Listening
Writer and spoken word artist Kyla Jenee Lacey shared a poem on her YouTube channel on May 31 that perfectly puts white privilege into perspective. The heartbreaking poem, titled "White Privilege," was originally written in 2014 and takes a deep and powerful look into the injustices faced by the Black community for over 400 years, touching on key events throughout history that have perpetuated the societal imbalance still in place today.
"I grew up with this kind of thinly-veiled racism. It wasn't necessarily overt, but it definitely wasn't quiet either."
The poem calls out the privileges bestowed upon those with lighter skin and the injustices thrust upon members of the Black community. As a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, the opening clip shows a graphic listing the names of hundreds of Black men and women who lost their lives in instances of police brutality. "A lot of times, I think, people have a hard time accepting certain things as racist because they know that they've done those things," Lacey told POPSUGAR. "Nobody wants to look like the bad guy. Nobody wants to look like the monster under the bed."
Lacey's poem has gone viral several times since she first performed it at the National Poetry Slam in Decatur, GA in 2016, and it gained even more popularity after she performed it at the Write About Now (WAN) Poetry slam in Houston in 2017. The poem attracted anger-fueled criticism and hateful comments in the past, but more recently, it has had the intended effect of sparking a conversation about what it really means to have white privilege. "I think that a lot of people think that history exists in a vacuum . . . that everything just is what it is and there aren't centuries and generations that have caused things to happen," Lacey added. "I grew up with this kind of thinly-veiled racism. It wasn't necessarily overt, but it definitely wasn't quiet either."
"[The poem] is also completely relevant over and over again," she said. "I would way prefer that the poem not be relevant than it is because I was pissed when I wrote it . . . If I could live in a world where I wouldn't have to write things like that, that would be way better for me in the long run." Watch Lacey read the full spoken word poem here, and check out this list of political and civic actions you can take to fight racial injustice right now.