Saturday, June 13, 2009

Privilege and Ignorance Speak Volumes

One of the most dangerous things in this world is ignorance.  While no one can be expert in everything, choosing to live in purposeful ignorance allows the perpetuation of much of the worlds issues.  Daily I see the reflection of this in the comment section of this blog and it sickens me.  I don’t even have the words to express the frustration I feel when some “well meaning” commenter decides to educate me on a subject matter in which they clearly know nothing.

Most recently I have been told that cisgender is not a word, womanism is not a movement or a word, transphobia does not exist or I use the term incorrectly, whiteness does not act systemically and finally my favourite denial: racism does not equal prejudice + power.  If you are not familiar with a term, that does not image mean that it is being used incorrectly, nor does it mean that it does not exist.  If you cannot find it in a dictionary, try google or even better, academic journals.  No one ever promised you that education would be easy, or that it would be spoon fed on demand.

The aforementioned list is filled with 101 basics.  Despite my desire to move the conversations on this blog to topics beyond a 101 level, there are so many that are still so attached to their ignorance and privilege, that we end up having the same conversations repeatedly.  This allows those that are intentionally obtuse to control the topics and how we discuss them.  They certainly do not see this as a manifestation of power, however that is exactly what it is.

A cisgendered individual need not learn about the life of a trans person if they choose, just as a white person need not learn about the lives of people of color.  When you exist as part of a dominant social body your experience becomes normalized, thereby creating everyone else as “other”.   All of the agents of socialization are geared towards reinforcing normalized identities and therefore unless one chooses to challenge privilege directly, learning about those that society has marginalized will not occur.  Entering spaces designed to highlight the experience of those that we have assigned a spoiled identity to and once again insisting that conversation reify dominant social bodies, is an expression of power and privilege. 

In a post awhile ago I used the term “dumb” to refer to those that did not acknowledge their homophobia.  When a commenter rightfully pointed out that image my language was ableist, my initial reaction was to become angry.  I do believe I remarked to the unhusband, “geesh no one can even speak anymore.” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I realized that I had engaged in an act of privilege.  The instant you feel anger, that is a cue that an issue needs to be examined.  Anger does not result in a vacuum; in instances like this it is often the manifestation of a desire to maintain a privilege.  In that moment I knew that I had been ableist and I felt regret. 

No one is born outside of discourse and therefore historical events have a real and lasting effect on what is occurring today.  You may never have owned a slave, however there is a direct relation between the impoverishment of Blacks image today and slavery.  Did you see anyone get their 40 acres and mule yet?  When the spurious loans were made to the Black community during the so-called housing boom, it was predicated on a long held desire by the Blacks to own land because that is the best way to transfer wealth from generation to generation, within a capitalist system.  Land has always been denied Blacks because it is a form of racism that supports capitalism. 

Structures and ideologies exist for a reason.  We don’t create them out of boredom, we create them to support hierarchy.  Though we are an inter dependent species, many of our social structures flout our essential nature and promote a form of predatory individualism, that leaves many languishing for basic subsistence and respect.  Much of what I say has been deemed angry or even radical and that is because we have placed social construction above one another.  To actually believe that all bodies matter is understood as a radical thought because it means that I am unwilling to privilege my lived experience over that of another. 

To fight for justice is not an easy thing to do in a world that is dedicated to inequality. I will tell you quite frankly that there are days when I do not want to check my e-mail or even read the comments on this blog because they are often filled with such ignorance or hatred.  I press forward because I have no choice.  I press forward because despite the negativity, I believe in the fundamental goodness of people.   If we were to acknowledge how heartbreakingly beautiful we are as a species, much of the angst and social unrest we experience would disappear.  It is ignorance and privilege that will divide and destroy us but only if we choose to allow them to continue to be the barometer for how we lead our lives.