[priv-uh-lij, priv-lij] noun, verb, -leged, -leg·ing.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- They EDUCATE themselves. They don’t wait to be educated.
- 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.
- They don’t act “color blind”. They recognize racism is still very much a part of life.
- 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.