Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Maybe you were born with it

Let's talk about unintended consequences....OR....You Aren’t Bad for Having Privilege

The truth is, I don’t have any control over the privilege I was given. I was born white, female, into a middle class family with college education, home ownership, and Catholic sensibilities as a part of my family heritage. I didn't get to choose this family of my birth. I'm not bad for being born with it, and at the same time I MUST realize what this means when I live with all of the benefits of my privilege but PRETEND that I'm not privileged. Confused? Yeah, this is work. Let me say it simply: I'm not bad for having privilege, but not being able to give up my privilege (as in, stop being white) is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for any bad behaviour or for reliquishing responsibility for both personal awareness and action.

Finding a balance between accepting my privilege and fighting against it is not easy. I struggle with it on a daily basis. I've been working in these posts to talk a little more clearly about this really complex topic. I am working on my own understanding and of privilege and working to understand what insititutional privilege is and how it benefits and normalizes white experience.

Here's the challenge: privilege is perpetuated in part by the silence of people when one of their own group does something racist -whether subtle, covert, or overt. This can be an inappropriate joke, or someone admitting that they committed a crime against a non-privileged person. It can be an assumption about a person, a dismissal of a person's opinion or simply ignoring a person. Don't do it. Don't think it. Don't say it. And work your stuff - and don't give up. Fix it.

While it’s a good thing for me to be engaging in this, I remind myself that I cannot expect to be praised or rewarded for my efforts; oppression may be a new experience for me, but it’s something people of color live with every day of their lives.

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