Search

Untangling My Privilege: Intent vs. Impact


Intent: to have in mind as a purpose or goal

Impact: the force of impression of one thing on another : a significant or major effect


We will never affect real change in our world if we cannot understand that the impact of our words and actions speaks far louder than the intent behind them.


Example:

White person: Black people use the n-word all the time, so why can’t I use it? People are so sensitive nowadays. I didn’t intend to cause offense, so you shouldn’t get offended.


What if I called you an ignorant bigot? It’s just something people say. People are so sensitive nowadays. I didn’t intend to cause offense, so you shouldn’t get offended.


White people are not being asked to fully understand oppression. That would be impossible; we will never truly understand it. We are simply being asked to look beyond ourselves and see the devastating impact that our ignorance can have. When people say, “George Floyd didn’t deserve to die, but…” or “All lives matter,” the intent behind these words may be rationality or equality, but this is not the impact. The impact is pain. By saying these things, we are belittling the struggle of every person who has been treated unfairly due to the color of their skin.

We don’t get to define the impact of our words and actions. We have no right to tell someone that they aren’t allowed to be hurt by what we say or do.

That is why it’s so important to leave politics out of it and simply meet people where they are. This past year, I had the privilege of working with an incredible woman named Simone. Simone is from the UK with Jamaican heritage. We worked together on a daily basis, and during that time, we were able to have deeper discussions about race and equality. These conversations changed my life. I have worked hard over the past few years to become a kinder, more open-minded person, but she taught me that it goes far beyond that. It’s about making a concentrated effort to erase ignorance. It’s about shutting up and listening to stories of racial profiling and prejudice, stories that we, as white people, are not able to truly empathize with in any way. But they do not need us to empathize. They need us to see them, to hear them. If we only walk through life collecting life lessons from our own experiences, seeing things from our own perspectives, we miss the opportunity to not only see the beauty of diversity, but to experience it firsthand. We are not all the same, and that’s an amazing thing, but we all deserve to be treated fairly. If you are one of the people adamantly saying “All Lives Matter,” please have a real and honest conversation with a person of color about how their lives have been different from your own. Read a book about systemic racism. If you do these things, and can truly say that your perspective has not changed, then we’ll agree to disagree. But please, before you post, realize that your words can have an impact far different than what you intend. Yes, “All lives matter.” That’s the end goal: same opportunities, same freedoms, all of us. But in order to get there, we have to lift up the oppressed and downtrodden. May the impact of our words be hope and peace, not pain and suffering. #BlackLivesMatter because #AllLivesMatter


Thank you to two of my strong and amazing friends, Simone and Melondie, for reviewing this post and having meaningful conversations with me about race. You are changing the world, beautiful warriors, and I love you dearly.