Anyone who has ever blogged about social justice issues will tell you that it is hard work. In a case like Womanist Musings, it is particularly tough because I am the lone voice. Nightly after I put Mayhem and Destruction to bed I hit the computer and lay down the thoughts that occurred to me throughout the day. Sometimes it is about things that made me so angry I am almost irrational, at other times it is about things that made me incredibly sad. Either way it is just me, sending my voice into the void of the internet.
One of things that I have had to endure is cyber bullying. By that I mean people who enter my space and try to force their opinions on me, or police my space. As I said in my commentary section, an echo chamber of assent is not my goal for this blog however, if your complaint is because I pointed out your privilege in some way, seriously, do you think it makes since to prove the veracity of my claims by asserting the same privilege that I am deconstructing?
Privilege is something that I blog about a lot because there is not a single person residing in a Western country that does not exist with a degree of it. Naturally because of our race/class/gender etc hierarchy some people exist with more than others. In our post modern world we are trained to think in terms of power as a top to bottom pyramid divided with binaries. This sort of construction is a recipe for disaster for many segments of our society.
Calling out privilege leads to indignation on the part of many. I find most are okay talking about privilege until it refers to their race or class or gender. When the looking glass reflects us suddenly there is an untruth somewhere, or there are justifications and explanations. No, I worked hard for everything I have, or you are reading the situation wrong. My personal favourite is, if your tone were different I would be more inclined to listen.
If you feel the need to justify or explain away why you have certain benefits chances are the proverbial privilege shoe fits. We do not live in a world where all people are created equal despite the rhetoric that our leaders spew. No matter the individual effort, no single person can ever level the playing field. One or two may be the exception to the rule and rise out of poverty, but this is not a common occurrence. This is not because of an individual failing but a systemic one. A woman working two jobs to support her family does not work with any less vigour or commitment than Oprah (for eg) they just have been given different opportunities.
Even this woman who is working two jobs and struggling to raise her children is still a privileged body if not by Western standards, then by global standards. When one is struggling in poverty, daily battling to keep home and hearth together, it is difficult to see outside of what oppresses us and recognize the privileges that we do have, yet it is so very essential because it will help us to understand how power truly works globally.
The privilege finger pointed in your direction is not an attack, it is a simple statement of fact. Anger in response is not only a denial, it is a deliberate act in maintenance of said privilege. Anger implies that no one has the right to call out privilege and that those that do are greedy, blind, incompetent malcontents. Of course the privileged body likes the status quo because it is to their benefit.
What they do not realize is that thinking individually in this way is oppositional to the communal dependency that all humans are born with. Very few would be comfortable with a life of isolation, devoid of human contact and yet daily we commit acts that ensure that we are less and less connected in the maintenance of privilege. Each act of privilege maintenance or denial lessens our interconnectivity resulting in anomie.
The privilege call out may hurt but it is essential for our social healing. Social justice is something that is very important to me, but I am no expert. There have been plenty of times that I have not noticed the privilege that I have displayed. I know that I can occasionally be ableist and this is something that I was not aware of until some of the commentators here pointed it out to me. It was difficult for me to accept at first because I knew that my heart was in "the right place", but this does not change the fact that my commentary still 'othered' someone. What finally made me realize the error of my ways was questioning why this privilege call out made me angry.
I initially felt that no one had the right to question me, when I so clearly worked for justice. I wanted a cookie and I wanted to be given a free pass for all of my labour. It was my indignation and my desire that others appreciate me, that made me realize that I was not owning privilege. Since seeing the error of my ways, I have begun to try and unpack some of the ideas I have about what constitutes ability. I am still messing up, however I am committed to making a change. So keep calling me out when I fuck up, I cannot grow unless others show me the error of my ways. Seeing the privilege finger pointed at you may hurt, but a life of ignorance and disconnect hurts in ways that you cannot even imagine.
What privileges are you struggling with and what are the coping mechanisms that you have used to deal with them?