Friday, April 23, 2010

More about privilege.

Jaed left a comment and I'll look at it bit by bit.

you as a White person have the advantage of not having your skin color come into issue if you don't want it to be. (these italics are quoting me)

I see something like this, and I have to ask (with all politeness and everything), which planet are you resident on again? Because on Planet Earth, it's an issue if you're white. It's an issue if you're looking for a job - not always and invariably, but in a big company, it matters and you know it matters. In relations with workmates of another color, it matters, and it can matter quite a bit if someone decides to be a jerk about it. In social relations with someone who's another color, it usually matters at least somewhat. It can get you fired, It can lose you the presumption of innocence. It's something you're reminded of every time an official or bureaucrat demands you identify yourself in terms of race.

I live on planet Earth, specifically in Seattle Washington which is where I draw my experience from.

Now this is not the *same* experience as contemporary black people have with race (which in turn isn't the same as Asian experience, etc.), but it's just plain silly to say it doesn't matter for white people or isn't an issue. It matters quite a bit.

No where do I say it doesn't matter. It does matter which is why I believe it's important to talk about privilege on an accessible manner.

The point is, a person who is in the majority for whatever reason skin color, religion etc you have the option and the advantage of not thinking about that thing if you don't want to.

I'd be tempted to say that a statement like that is a symptom of minority privilege, if the misuse of that word didn't irritate me so much already. People don't always notice things that don't affect them personally; that is a human thing, not a political thing. The assignment of "privilege" to one side of these disjunctions of experience is pretty much always done so that the differences can be used as a moral club against that side.

Now, being that I don't know anything about you I can tell you that it's not silly to me nor a lot of other people.

When you are part of the majority there are things that you really have the choice of worrying about or not. There is no moral club, that is just how it is in a lot of places in contemporary America. And no where do I say or have said that everyone is going to have the same experience regardless of their race because I don't believe that.

When I use the term privilege here, as I said in my previous entry I am talking about an advantage that one can do nothing about.

Asking other people to be aware of the advantages they bring into a situation can be used as a club yes, however I don't think that it's necessarily doing so by asking someone to be aware of their advantage or privilege.

I fully believe that having an awareness of your own privilege can lead to a better understanding of what someone else is going through. I'll use an example from my own life.

In talking about gay marriage with a heterosexual couple I know they were both adamantly against it for reasons they couldn't really articulate but centered around the "special rights" type of argument. I gave them a look at their own privilege with this example.

As a heterosexual married couple you can go where ever you want to in the United States and in 99.9% of situations your marriage is not called into question.

No one can deny you any of the things included in the Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage.

It's quite a list.

As a heterosexual person you don't have to worry about that stuff. You have the privilege and advantage of not worrying about it if you don't want to.

If you are not heterosexual you don't.

Once my friends really thought about all the things they have as a heterosexual married couple, and then thought about how it would be to not have that, they have since dug more into the issue of gay marriage.

Now, they don't think gay marriage is "right" per se but, they are not trying to make it so that it can't happen because they do believe in equal rights.

In the context of activism, understanding the challenges of the other people especially when they are not thing that have an effect on you on a personal level, is in my mind highly valuable.

To use people, but it is completely possible to earn a degree or several without ever coming into contact with the concepts and terminology of academic grievance studies. The fact that someone is not familiar with this particular method of shutting other people up, nor with the associated documents and phrases, is not a sign that that someone is uneducated or not a "college grad".

(I am now tempted to use the term "women's-studies major privilege", because this really highlights what I find useful about the idea along with why I don't like the word "privilege" or the related assumptions. Someone who majored in a field where this sort of analysis is important may erroneously assume everyone educated has had the same experience. That's the "this concept is useful" part. The "this is the wrong term" part happens because very few people would refer to women's studies majors as "privileged" compared to physics majors. The groups have different experiences, and when they forget that, they can trip over their assumptions.)

I think you misunderstand my point. In the context of a lot of the activism I have and am participating in, the dominating voices are people with these kinds of educations. My admonishment is based in me being one of those people who was not educated this way and a reminder that there are a lot of us and it can put any group of activists at a disadvantage if people are being silenced or allowed to fall by the wayside because they don't have the academic terminology to actively participate.

I should also say again that I am not an educated person. I am 33 years old, graduated high school in 1995 and have no higher education.

"Shut up and listen."
I don't think so, no. I'll listen but I won't shut up

Well Jaed I say that's unfortunate. If you're doing all the talking how are you going to hear what anyone else has to say?

In my life, I have discovered the wonders of shutting my mouth and listening to what people have to say.

Even if I disagree.

I didn't always do that and I am eternally grateful that someone at some point told me to shut up and listen.

Now I'll turn it over to you folks.

Anything to add?

Have I gone wrong on this one?

Remember behave in the comments, (unless you say something super funny then I might let you slide).

Tomorrow my partner Uniballer and I are going to....THE SALVATION ARMY!!!!


They are having a huge sale and he has been instructed to bring the giant bag of holding.

OH, probably Sunday while I'm hennaing my hair I've got some Fat Dude Fashion and sex advice (I KNOW right? Two of my favorite things in one entry) to give out.

I love you my homies and haters.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Also while you're playing in the comments, leave me links. Show me cuteness, show me your hotness, show me stuff you like or that makes you go WTF.

Homo Out.


Haddayr said...

I think you were very, very, VERY polite to an extremely rude person who clearly is uninterested in learning anything.

Her rudeness and presumption just took my breath away, honestly.

It is hard to examine your own privilege, Jaed; I understand this. But it doesn't give you an excuse to be so hostile and rude.

I just cannot understand the hostility and rudeness of my people (and by "my people" in this context I mean white people) when discussing race. It is so frustrating and embarrassing to me.

Nudemuse, my hat's off to you. You are so incredibly patient. But I wouldn't have blamed you if you tore her a new one, either.

JeninCanada said...

Glad to see the new blog is up, Shannon!

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