Love

What It's Like To Have "White Husband Privilege"

Photo: ProjectUA / Shutterstock
interracial couple sitting on bench

I’ve got a white husband. Blue eyes, pale skin, use ten-dollar words, drinks cider. His pants have a minimum of six pockets, and they come in one color — beige. He votes left of left, and he marches alongside his brown spouse at TBTN and Pride. He looks like a stereotype from a smartphone ad: white, male, moneyed, and confident. That’s my man.

No doubt, my white husband is privileged.

When he speaks, people listen to him — and they hear him. Even when I’m the one talking to them, they still respond to him. So, when I dialogue with the [male] plumber or the [male] mechanic, I ask my white husband to make himself scarce. Otherwise, these men will direct their questions to him, long after my husband explicitly declares that house and car repairs are my jurisdictions.

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Yes, I could take my money somewhere less sexist and racist, and find another plumber, electrician, mechanic, painter, landscaper, or mover… but this form of discrimination happens all the time, everywhere.

I prefer to make a stand. Alone, I force these [predominantly white] men to engage me. After all, I’m the only one here — my white husband is off researching organic thermal socks.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not interested in drama. It’s exhausting being a brown woman, especially one who is more butch than femme. White people don’t see me, and heterosexual men are baffled in general. To receive the same service and courtesy that my white husband receives, can take repeat visits and conversations.

The prejudice that fogs their perception keeps them from seeing and hearing what’s in front of them.

First, they have to overcome their surprise that I’m articulate and I know what I’m talking about. Then, they have to digest their discomfort about serving a brown woman.

The worst-case scenarios center on my expressing dissatisfaction with their conduct. They can be rude, inept, and mistaken but there is no place for me to complain or question their performance. Read: Be happy I’m talking to you at all.

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Experience and exhaustion have taught me when to bring along my white husband. For example, any visit to our son’s school requires white male accompaniment. 

When my white husband appears at school to speak with the [white female] principal, he’s treated like an involved and concerned parent, while I’m construed as reactive, demanding, and hysterical.

 So, when I visit the principal, my husband comes along as the supporting cast. He sits turned towards me, forcing the principal to speak to me or the side of my husband’s head, and he repeats what I say, word for word, in a show of solidarity. It’s not hysterical when he says it.

Yes, it’s theatrical, a manipulation of white male privilege but it works to take the edge off.

Kimia Eslah is a brown mother, a third-wave feminist, and a trauma survivor. 

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.