When discussions of privilege pop up – whether white privilege, thin privilege, class privilege – that’s the objection I most commonly see/hear. It’s hard to talk about and it is divisive and it makes them feel bad and why do we have to talk about these things at all?
If discussions about privilege make you uncomfortable, that is a good thing.
If discussions about racism make you uncomfortable, that is a good thing.
If discussions about politics, fat hate, sexism, homophobia, etc., etc., etc., make you uncomfortable? That is a good thing.
Discomfort is USEFUL.
“Smile and stay quiet” is a self-protective measure that I understand, I really do. But it is solely useful as a self-protective measure. It does not accomplish anything. And yeah, it is a seductive strategy for dealing with how difficult the world can be for people who can ignore certain isms – the way white people can ignore race issues, the way straight people can ignore queer issues.
Activism is tiring and you can’t fight every battle. But if you aren’t willing to speak up at least some of the time? I really do think your silence is helping to foster an environment of oppression.
If difficult conversations make you uncomfortable, do some internal work to find out WHY. Why does acknowledging privilege make you feel (as it does a couple of people I know) backed into a corner? Acknowledging privilege is acknowledging a system that rewards some people and punishes others based on an accident of birth – it doesn’t accuse you of anything and it shouldn’t make you feel guilty about your own circumstances. It should remind you that the playing field is not equal and spur you on toward leveling things out a bit.
People on the losing end of the privilege equation feel uncomfortable all the time. And they don’t get to set the discussion aside and take a breather, not generally speaking.
Privilege is a concept that applies to social groups as a whole. Individual mileage varies a lot. Not every middle-class white male is going to lead the easy life on a golden path to success. Not every poc is going to experience in-their-face racism that holds them back at work. The continuum of experience is broad, when it comes to individuals. That’s why assumptions are dangerous. *grin* But when it comes to large social groups, some generalizations about our society can be made and that’s when we talk about the various privileges.
If it makes you uncomfortable, that is okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t mean privilege is a crock. It means you need to figure out the why of your discomfort, not that everyone else needs to stop talking about a hard thing.
Use the discomfort you feel to figure some things out. Use it to find new motivation when your activism energy is starting to flag. Use it to further the discussion, not shut it down.
It’s okay to be nervous, these can be scary topics for some people.
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, Fatty Politics
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