Happy Friday all, hope you’ve had a great week. Today I want to talk about a hot topic, and one that I feel many fail to understand… privilege. Whether it be white privilege, rich privilege, female privilege, male privilege, it seems as though it’s a word we don’t fully understand and I think it incites a lot of fear and also, anger. Today I’d like to get into what privilege is, why it’s scary, what we don’t understand, and how we can offer support to one another.
Quick disclaimer! If you disagree with me (and I’m sure some of you will) that is A-Okay. I respect and support your right to have an opinion, disagree with me, voice your opinion (nicely, constructively, thoughtfully), etc. I will not however, try to argue you into seeing things my way. I’m hoping that even if you do disagree, my point of view will at least incite some thought, that’s really all we can ask. Now, let’s get into this, happy reading! 🙂
So, what is privilege? Webster defines it as: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor; especially: such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office. Google defines it as: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. Okay, now that we understand what the word actually means, it really doesn’t sound so scary does it? Why then is the world so polarized over this word, who it applies to and who it doesn’t? Let me walk you through my thought process when I was first faced with the fact that as a white woman (just one example of “privilege”), I just might be privileged (stick with me here people!).
So there I was, watching the news about some riot that broke out due to a Black Lives Matter protest, there were plenty of interviews and that’s when it happened. Fingers pointed every which way at who has privilege and who doesn’t. Who is oppressed and who isn’t. As if identifying who has a certain privilege is going to solve all the problems, grant world peace and give everyone clean drinking water. At first I thought, excuse me? I’M privileged? Now rewind 25 years or so and it puts you back to a time when my single mother worked 2-3 jobs in an attempt to make ends meet, and sometimes, ends meet was still out of reach. Furthermore, I had a rough upbringing, I’ve got enough baggage to fill the belly of a large airplane, so don’t you dare tell me I’m privileged. The BLM movement seemed to storm the news, country and world, I sat back and took it all in. Animosity and rage were THICK and I truly believe contributing in any way, was the wrong thing to do. Fast forward a few months (or so) I overheard a random conversation while I was out and about, relating to poverty, not having money, etc. It was a conversation full of nasty assumptions about how one could become so poor, how could you possibly “choose” to live like that. It REALLY bothered me. The comments made indicated no experience with poverty, being poor, being disadvantaged. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and bite my tongue, HARD (I’ve gotten pretty good at that as I age). After stewing it clicked. These random people were speaking on something they obviously had NO experience with. They had never been poor (or if they had, it was quite the position to take on the matter and their choice in words were distasteful, at best), their assumptions were ignorant and offensive.
How does this apply to BLM or privilege in general? Well, lets discuss BLM first, because really, I’m using it as an example here to make my point about privilege (more on that in a minute). I also want to quickly mention/discuss this weird place the nation is in where, if you acknowledge that Black Lives Matter and white privilege, it means that in the very same breath you deny that white lives matter, or police lives and you hate white people. If you acknowledge women’s rights, you deny that men are important. So, the vicious cycle goes swinging back and forth on a dangerous and extreme pendulum. I’m not participating in any of that, I can acknowledge BLM and also still support, respect and defend police officers, I can and I will (for the record, I’m not like, out protesting and holding signs or anything, I just mean literally and simply, that black lives DO matter, and they HAVE experienced some ugly stuff over the course of history, and even currently, can we all just agree on that please?). Okay, back to my point, I see a lot of white people both republicans and democrats, telling this group [BLM] how they should feel and what they should do to “get over it” or not get over it. Yeah, I’m not going to do that. First, to deny our history with black Americans would be yet again, ignorant and offensive. If you’re here, reading this now, I’m assuming you have some form of an education and have at some point learned about slavery. I’ve never been black, I cannot tell them how they should feel about historical events pertaining to their ancestors, police brutality (that’s a whole other can of worms), racism, etc. or how they should get over it all, I can only offer empathy and try to understand. That’s not to say that I always agree with how they choose to express themselves, a lot of times, I think that could be done better. This movement serves as a relevant example of privilege and our failure to understand what it means to be privileged. The mobs from either side of the aisle have tainted the word and it’s meaning has been lost on, what seems like almost all of us. The bummer part? Understanding it could be a major key (should out to DJ Khaled) in bringing some much-needed relief and peace to the people. Also, understanding that you don’t get to tell people how to feel or that their feelings aren’t valid, WRONG. With that, we’re going to go ahead and shut the book on BLM for this post and get back to privilege in general and how our understanding of it can better serve us and our country (as previously mentioned).
Okay, here’s the deal. I’m sure you have experienced hardship at some point in your life, I’m sure you’ve dealt with sadness. Things haven’t always been easy, so when someone tells you that you’re privileged it’s annoying, maybe even hurtful sometimes. Thinking back on all that I’ve been through, it’s hard to feel privileged. But? I am in some ways, and you probably are too. The problem with pointing fingers and calling one group oppressed and another privileged based on skin color (for instance) is that it’s far too black and white (okay, bad pun not intended) for what is REALLY at the heart of things. Skin color is one privilege but you cannot just boil our issues down to this one thing. Not if you want to make a difference for the good. Americans are starved of empathy and appreciation for our stories and what we’ve been through, we seem to only know how to point fingers and shift blame. Imagine what a difference if instead of pointing at each other and slinging mud we said, “I’m sorry you’re hurting. Would you like to talk about it?” When did we become so selfish and defensive about everything?
What I want to say to all of those that feel/are oppressed is that, I empathize with you. I want to understand you, but please also try to understand me (generally speaking), what I’ve been through and where I’ve been. Don’t put me in a box and call me something based just on one single thing. Don’t assume to know my story based on what you see, hear briefly, one blog post, one Facebook status, etc. I will give you the same courtesy. What I want to say to all of those that still deny their privilege. You are privileged, in some ways, that’s just the truth, we all are. It’s okay, I don’t believe anyone should feel ashamed if they’re white (obviously), male, rich, etc. Those aren’t bad or negative things (unless you’re rich like, Bernie Madoff style, then yeah, definitely feel ashamed)! It just means that your story is different and that is OKAY, truly. Some of y’all need to quit speaking on these certain privileges like it’s a bad or negative thing, it’s only as bad as you make it. You should also remember that we’re all humans and it’s OKAY to put political parties and your favorite news anchor to the side in order to give and/or receive empathy and understanding from another human being (even one you might disagree with on social issues, YIKES, the horror). In case you don’t know what empathy means, Webster defines it as: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this. Google defines it as: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (quick, simple and to the point Google, I like it). Empathy, and in the profound words of Nike, just do it.
In summation, I’d just like to say that, I’m not taking a “side” (yeah, you heard me Eminem). I’m not a democrat and I’m not a republican, and probably, neither party would want to claim me anyway (haha). I mention this because that’s the immediate label when I (really anyone) share my opinion on basically anything, I can’t even facepalm hard enough. Actually, that’s a lie, I’m choosing a side. The human side, I’m deeply saddened by how mean people can be to each other. Even if we disagree, we can still be nice to each other, you can take a firm stance against things you disagree with and STILL BE NICE (yeah, my mind was blown too). Even if you disagree completely with privilege of any kind, I think it’s high-time we grow up and express ourselves thoughtfully, and with empathy in mind. Pro-tip, strong communication skills and empathy will serve you well in marriage and parenting, might as well start practicing now, especially if you aren’t married or parenting yet, practice makes perfect. The short of it is, most all of us enjoy a privilege of some sort, and yes some more than others. There are oppressed groups in America and all over the world that really need our understanding and empathy, these don’t have to be scary things that we fight over and they certainly don’t carry political affiliation. I can’t wrap my head around the animosity that surrounds this understanding… or lack thereof. Lastly, please turn off the news. Most all of it is pandering to your fears and again, political affiliation. They’re telling you what you want to hear, CNN and Fox News can cover the same story and spin it two completely different ways because they know what you want to hear and it’ll keep you coming back.
Okay, I’ll leave it at that… for now. Hopefully this comes as a positive addition to “the conversation” because that is my intention. Thanks for reading friends, I hope you have the best weekend and keep your eyes peeled for a bonus, less serious post tomorrow! 😉