Post the Third or How to Check White Privilege

priv·i·lege

[priv-uh-lij, priv-lij] noun, verb, -leged, -leg·ing.

noun

1. a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most

2. a special right, immunity, or exemption granted to persons in authority or office to free them from certain obligations or liabilities

I work for an amazing organization. It serves the amazingly brave queer youth of central Texas and I am proud to call them my family. It has a long standing history of fighting against oppression and standing tall against hate and budget cuts. I have the honor of serving with them and help create a safe space where these youth can fully be themselves. I get to watch these inspiring youth be themselves and have their own problems and come up with their own solutions. And I am humbled.

However, despite the fact that this organization is so amazing it is still rife with white privilege!

Its so frustrating and disheartening for me to face this. Not only because I, perhaps erroneously, expect a space like this to be free of it but also because it speaks to the insidious and pervasive nature of privilege. How do you fight against something so all encompassing that it infiltrates your family, your home? How can you have any hope of defeating a foe so powerful that it convinces you, the victim and fighter, and the perpetrator that it doesn’t exist? Moreover, where does one begin without putting oneself in harms way?

These are the questions that I struggle with on a regular basis. And there is no obvious solution that presents itself to me. No spells to cast or people to bribe or cocks to suck. It seems so hopeless sometimes.

And yet I’ve seen some brilliant people who have faced their privilege, owned up to it and are incredible allies. Not only in the sense that they have some understanding of what someone in an oppressed group feels like but also openly advocates for those groups.

How did they do that? Well here are some common elements that I have found.

  1. They LISTEN. They actually listen and take People of Color (POC) at their word. They understand that POC will always know more because they can NOT ignore it. It is part of the warp and weft of their existence.
  2. They don’t expect POC to educate them and they don’t dump their white guilt on POC. They don’t whine about how hard it is to be white.
  3. They hold the anger of POC. They don’t minimize it. They don’t invalidate it. And they don’t run over it by acting as if their white guilt is more important. They give POC space to be angry and get angry in turn. There is a lot to be upset about!
  4. They EDUCATE themselves. They don’t wait to be educated.
  5. They know that talking about race and checking white privilege is an ongoing process and not something that you become and expert at in the space of an hour and half workshop.
  6. They don’t act “color blind”. They recognize racism is still very much a part of life.
  7. THEY LISTEN.

None of this is easy. None of this is simple. None of this is something that is going to revolutionize the world. But it is important. It is necessary. It is vital. And little by little, if we all work on this, than we can make islands of safety for everyone.

If anything here bothered or confused you, good. If you don’t know what white privilege is or what it entails, Google is an amazing resource.

Advertisements

About witchymorgan

I'm a 22 year old womanist, sex positive, pansexual, polyamorous, queer, bruja, transwoman. Social justice activist by day, social justice activist by night. Fun! View all posts by witchymorgan

2 responses to “Post the Third or How to Check White Privilege

  • Alex Alexander

    “POC will always know more”

    Isn’t this a type of… privilege?

    Could it be possible that the experience of being white, black, yellow, red, purple, green, etc. is completely justified in itself? That each has its own advantages and disadvantages simply by virtue of being what it is?

    Not to be a proponent of racism or anything, but the word “racism” is defined by New Oxford Dic as “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” So while the “white privilege” and inferior v. superior aspect is there, I think it’s important to note that what racism actually adds up to is the choice to look at human society as being composed of different races rather than different individuals. It’s a person’s tendency to judge or evaluate another person based on their race, rather than based on what qualities they possess as an individual human organism and a person.

    I honestly intend no disrespect, just a bit of healthy questioning, and part of that is definitely my tendency to wonder whether making a hue and cry about white privilege is actually any kind of solution to any kind of problem. I am ignorant of many things, no doubt, but I can’t understand why the best course of action wouldn’t be to treat all other individuals as individuals, and stop making active distinctions between the privileges or characteristics of this or that race. Though you may be trying to undermine the inferior v. superior game, I think there’s no way to do that without feeding the encompassing “racism” game, even if it’s not racism in a strictly or explicitly negative/mean-spirited way.

    Just wondering.

    • witchymorgan

      The thing you need to understand, Alex, is that there is a history of oppression that started when the first white men colonized indigenous land. There is a history of genocide (both cultural and physical) as well as theft of land and exploiting of resources, which is still happening to this day . White people, because of their privilege, can ignore this. People of Color can’t. The reason for this is because people have been socialized, since before they were making conscious thought, to oppress. Racism happens in many subtle ways now and its not just calling someone a slur. Oppression surrounds us and encases us everyday, there is no escape from it. Moreover, People of Color are the masters of their own experience and since oppression is so intrinsically a part of their experience, they will always know more about it. This is true for any oppressed community, not just People of Color.

      Not only that but it isn’t a privilege because one doesn’t gain any unmerited advantages from it. The knowledge of my experience isn’t going to make people any less racist, its not gonna help me find a job, its not gonna give me unfair advantages over other people. Further, one cannot just “treat people as individuals” when there is that history of oppression. This is because of the pain and suffering of that history. If someone murdered your whole family, could you honestly treat that person as an “individual”. Because thats what white people did to my people time and again. There is no way that I, or any Person of Color, can just forget that. Moreover, your subconcious mind has been programmed, by our society, to oppress others in subtle ways (by the words that you say, how you say them, who you say them to) and that too prevents me, and other People of Color, to just treat you as an “individual”.

      Finally, racism is an institutional form of oppression that privileges white people over everyone else. Guess who wrote the Oxford dictionary? A white person. And guess who you are? A white person.

Say something, hear something

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: