Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Don't Have Time For Your Privilege

I am a proud Anishinaabekwe of mixed heritage and I strongly identify with my Anishinaabe/Ojibway roots. I am an author, writer, poet and healer. On my blog, I share my life experiences through my poetry and stories. Areas and interests covered in my writing and poetry include: Anishinaabe heritage and culture, Anishinaabe territory, Native identity, Aboriginal/Native/Indigenous/First Nations issues, Native feminism, matriarchy, the Great Lakes, Michigan, Mother Earth, environmentalism, earth based spirituality, healing and the healing arts. 

White middle class privilege. College, a good job, a house, a dog, food in the cupboard, don't have to worry about the bills, can buy nice kitty liter and there's more, of course. You can buy a latte everyday from a coffee shop. Gee, if you saved the money you spend everyday on a latte by the end of the week you could buy a bag a groceries for a low-income individual. For middle class folks things go your way because of "luck." Its not luck, its privilege. There are some people I run across who complain of being poor and don't have a clue what that means when they have a husband and flaunt their diamond wedding ring in front of me. Before you speak about how poor you are, how you have struggled or what you know about the struggle take a good hard look at your privilege. Wait, I'm dreaming. Right?

Middle class people taking a good hard look at their marriage privilege, Christian privilege and the fact that they often benefit from white male privilege. They won't do that. Middle class folk love their comforts, cars, cushioned sofas, matching flower pots, matching kitchen knife sets and matching dish sets. They believe it is "Gods will," that they have the good job and an excessive amount of material goods. They believe that they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and were able to achieve success by doing so. They have no clue that some folks aren't even given boots to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Activists I am calling you out too. I know you are out there. Your fingers moving over the keyboard and you write about justice, equality, race, class, gender, sexual orientation and Native issues. But turn away from your laptop screen and you've got it made. You have a husband, you have marriage privilege, you have food in the cupboard and you can wine and dine on Friday night. You are a part of the "movement" and the "revolution," because it starts at home. You want to know what really goes on at home for Native people who live on reservations? You want to know what really goes on at home for Native people who live in urban areas when they experience racism from multiple cultures and not just the white culture? You write about it. You post about it. But you still can buy a new pair of shoes and your partner supports you.

Activists, its easier to do the "work" and be a part of the "movement," when you don't have to hustle for yourself and by yourself. You can get a foot rub in the evening and then some from your husband. I have not mentioned gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and two-spirit relationships in this rant but I want to make it clear that I am pointing out the activists who benefit from heteronormative standards if they are in a heterosexual relationship. You know who you are!

I don't have time for your privilege. There I've said it but I look around and no one is with me. I don't have time for your "revolution," when you go home and do mainstream things. This is not a part-time job. This is a full-time lifelong job. I keep it real for me and what I believe in. I revitalize my culture, language and traditions sometimes on my own because even the Native community can be exclusive. I am committed to the issues which means I won't sell out. I have watched friends become yuppified over the years and have left them behind because I don't agree with the blandification, yuppification and dumbing down that comes with a mainstream life. I have been fighting against this my whole life. If you do one thing that is alternative that does not mean you are alternative, radical or deep.

I've tried to be friends with the privileged. They have often dropped me on my ass, treated me like shit and said racist things to me. I can't be friends with the privileged anymore. I can't be your token Native friend. I can't be friends with people who take more than their share and say they are poor. I can't be friends with people who's activism is something they do in their 20's and then ease their way into a life of comfort that slowly kills them. I can't be friends with people who don't understand flannel shirt wearing folk who want a simple meal. I can't be friends with the privileged. I am done with you because you never had time for me. You had time to make me a token. You had time to exploit my labor. You had time to treat me like a charity case. You had time to take from me and not give back. I am done and I can't give any more time to the privileged.
"We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours. We did not interfere with you. The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here; you are taking my land from me; you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live. Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We do no interfere with you, and again you say, why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them." - Crazy Horse (Tȟašúŋke Witkó) - Oglala Lakota