How do you talk to the people you love about privilege? It’s like trying to explain Thestrals to someone who’s never experienced death. It’s not in their reality, and therefore does not exist except as a sort of belief system by those of us who are actually oppressed.
Consider the following:
Quotes like “black and white people are not responsible for the mistakes of the past” (see “white privilege doesn’t mean what you think it means”. There’s also “let’s not take this Confederate flag business out on my favourite childhood show” (I’m paraphrasing here).
Or in a discussion about climate change, and that some of the world’s wealthier folks are taking out insurance against it while denying the existence of climate change publicly. This occurs while others are likely to perish do to events that were cause by the societies those same wealthier people reside in. The answer in this conversation? That “in history there is always been people who make it and people who don’t”.
These are the moments where a try not to vomit. I start a very angry blog post, delete it, take a deep breath, and think about the Thestrals.
How do I explain that my complaints about these comments, are not a claim to righteousness, but an understanding of history?
While we might not be directly responsible for that history, white people benefit from it. One of the many benefits of privilege is that the people who experience that privilege never have to openly acknowledge it.
The history classes we’re given in school leave a lot out. They’re written by the oppressors, the folks that did the segregating, othering, abusing, and murdering of other people. Our whole society is built on those things, and it would take too much explaining for a public school classroom. Or at least this is what we’re lead to believe. It’s easier to turn the page then let it in.
Ok that was a little dark, and you’re probably about ready to close this page, but please don’t. Or at least if you must, read some history Consider why in 2015 it is still acceptable to overlook the wrongs of the past, and assume that people simply struggle because of choices they made.
Rights on paper are just paper. Rights are not simply granted, they are not earned or given. No legislated measure creates them. They are acknowledged by the people, and that is when rights have power. No justice can come without first acknowledging that or power and easier transition though life comes at the expense of those who are oppressed.
The fact that you’re encouraged not to see this is not a conspiracy, but a maintenance of the status quo, so someone can keep the upper hand.
If you feel powerless, don’t despair, we’re meant to feel powerless so we don’t create change.
Is this the kind of world you really want to leave behind?
A better world comes with a better understanding of ourselves and our history.