This headline has layers. LAYERS I TELL YOU.
I have several resolutions for 2014, mostly typical ones— budgetary ones, health ones, work ones, etc. But I have one big personal one that will probably be my biggest challenge this year.
I resolve to pay more attention to my racial and class privileges, specifically with the intent to begin calling it out when I see it.
I have had what is, in this age, extremely good fortune to grow up both white and affluent. I have had access to remarkable resources (many of which I did not appreciate until more recently) and I have not had to stumble over, slip around, or otherwise best the obstacles that my non-white peers have had to deal with.
My suspicion is that it’s easy for people to want to deny or ignore privileges like these because it seems like it negates any hard work they’ve done. I have worked hard to get where I am and my privileges don’t negate that— but it means that other people with the same skill, intelligence, time, and hard work might not get so far, or that they might have to work twice as hard and overcome more obstacles to get here.
It’s also important to note that even if you are “not racist,” if you are white, you have white privilege. If you are affluent, you have…I don’t know, wealth privilege? Acknowledging this doesn’t mean you have been racist/classist, and “not being” racist or classist doesn’t negate your privilege. It’s larger than the privileged individuals, it’s cultural.
In the last couple of months I’ve had a lot of discussions with others who, like me, are becoming more aware of their privileges and then (myself included!) wonder: “Well, now I know. What do I do about it?”
That question is what has led me to this year’s resolution. To start, I’m going to push myself to be aware of it not just as a vague concept, but as a concrete thing that impacts my life on a daily basis. I want to realize, to the best of my ability, when these privileges are giving me a leg up.
The second step is, when I see someone else trying to afford me a privilege (or deny it to someone else) that I don’t deserve, I want to gain the courage to call it out— not to make others feel bad, but to try and spread that awareness. Just as it is up to men to stop victimizing women in the many ways that they do, the privileged bear the most responsibility for pushing back against unwarranted privilege— since we are generally the sociopolitical gatekeepers.
I’m not perfect. I’ll slip up. I’ll miss it. I’ll take things for granted. I’ll say stupid stuff (I probably already have in this post, which is actually my second attempt at writing this out). I’ll thoughtlessly make my friends or coworkers uncomfortable or unhappy without meaning to (CALL ME OUT IF I DO!). I may already even look like one of those people who is making the problem all about themselves. But I want to be a person who is at least trying to improve things, rather than ignoring it for fear of looking like an idiot.