Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Word On Privilege

If you are: white, male, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, Christian, or economically advantaged, then this is a note to you. If you are any one of these things, you carry at least some privilege here in the States. So ~

Now is a time of reflection and introspection. May I suggest that we all take this time and do just that. Recognize our own privilege. This is gonna be uncomfortable. It's far easier to identify ways in which we are the marginalized than it is to admit ways in which we are culturally the oppressor, especially ways in which we may actually be the oppressor, in spite of our best intentions.

Look at those intentions. What are they really? Are you an ally because to win points? So we don't have to look too closely at ourselves? Are we doing these things because they are the right thing to do ~ or to come off as being "one of the good ones?"

Here's a quick litmus test ~ when you get told by a member of a marginalized group that you are incorrect, do you argue? Or do you listen and learn? When you get shut out by a group you want to support ~ because they have no obligation to take you in ~ do you walk away from the whole movement in disgust? Or do you keep working for/with them in your own sphere of influence? In other words, if you aren't getting cookies or credit, do you still care about the group?

Now, I get it. As a person who carries privilege ~ both real and observed, because not all of my marginalizations are obvious ~ it is reassuring to have the support of the group I am supporting. It is scary to stick your neck out, risk alienating your own group, and then not get lifted up by the group you are trying to support. But here's the thing ~ in my experience, if you are truly trying to be an ally, the group you are allied with will see it. Will support you. Will have your back, as you have theirs. But most marginalized groups can smell bullshit a mile away. Trust and believe, we know when someone isn't really in the game because they care about doing the right thing.

Which is why we have to be clear on why we are acting the way we are, supporting the groups we're supporting, making the choices we're making. Because if it's not because it is, plain and simple, the right thing to do, then why they hell are we doing it? To feel good about ourselves? Go, do something else that makes you feel good.

A friend of mine recently compared faux-alliance to an RPG (role-playing game) like Dungeons and Dragons or Magick or the Gathering. It's fun and it feels good and every now and then, you get to win! Maybe even a white person gets to shout down a person of color! Or a man gets to explain to a woman why she is the reason she gets paid less for the same job! Or a straight person gets to tell a gay, lesbian or bisexual why they just can't take a joke! Or, or, or...all of which allows us to feel like allies, while still proving our own privileged superiority.

For the privileged, it shouldn't be about winning. It shouldn't be about cookies. Unless you are truly willing to work your privilege into obsolescence, you aren't really a friend to the group. It's okay for it to be scary. Change usually is. The important thing is for the intent to be real, honest, have integrity. Otherwise, you're just playing a game where other people are trying to live their lives.

Let's take some time to reflect.

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.


sikesimaviking said...

Pobble, my dear, I am just now looking at my blog roll after probably two years of NOT doing that. I would just like to tell you how awesome it is to find you still here! Last I knew you were somewhere other than Boston. One of my girls goes to grad school in Boston now and it always makes me think of you! As usual, your observations are very astute. Peace to you and yours my dear. Traci

BostonPobble said...

Traci! I have thought of you so often. It is good to see you here again. Grad school in Boston; it doesn't seem possible any of your girls are that old. I hope you are well and happy. Peace to you, as well.