Thoughts on Privilege

The privileged have been getting a lot of hate recently.

But that isn’t such a bad thing, is it?  They’re exempt from the hate most of the time anyways, right?

Having privilege is not a crime–it’s a type of blindness.  The ugly truths of the world are written in many colors, but the privileged see only in black and white.  Thus, we go through life with a certain perspective and live according to certain parameters, unwittingly taking advantage of our own situations.  White people don’t see the racism that black people experience.  Straight people don’t see the pressures that gay people experience.  Men do not see the double-standards that women experience.  That’s not to say none of these people are aware of the other’s situation–they just cannot possibly have the same perspective.

I will never know what it is like to be a gay person because I am not gay.  I will never be gay.  I can support the gay rights movement and have gay friends and fully believe that gay people should be able to marry but I cannot possibly share the actual experience of being gay.  There will always exist a level of ignorance in my life, a blindness that cannot be cured, because of my privilege.

With gay marriage, Ferguson, and feminism all storming around the internet, it is easy for those wanting change to throw privilege out as an argument, and they have a point.  Should an automatic ignorance bar us from having a say in matters that we obviously cannot understand?  On the other hand, does alienating the privileged really help the cases of non-privileged groups?  I feel like our goals should be to help the blind understand the world better, to share the knowledge and create more empathy so we can all live in peace.  We can idealize systems of society where we are all equal, with no past and no conflict, but that’s not how the world is right now.  We need to work with what we have to realize our goals, even if that means things will be a bit unfair for a while.  Life isn’t fair.  The universe doesn’t promise that every human life will be enjoyable; we just have to work for that.

I read an article yesterday that asked why all the white people taking the ALS bucket challenge on Facebook were so quiet about Ferguson.  I can answer only for myself: I feel like I don’t have the right.  I have no idea the kinds of racism people face in Ferguson, I see only statistics that could be lies and my own experiences as a half-white half-Asian California native that lean in the “everyone is equal” direction.  I don’t have an understanding of the issues and thus don’t want to get involved.  What am I going to do?  Tweet about how awful it is?  Facebook-status my support?  Renounce my non-black-ness?  I think that most people naturally want to help, and when given a goal or direction, will follow along the [easy] path to good things.  But at this point, I feel like it’s not my fight and that I will face the possibility of criticism for any words that I produce (like these… great example, but no one reads this blog anyways so it’s fine).  And while I don’t think that my inaction is admirable or by any means the “right thing to do” I also feel as though there is no alternative, no effective route for me to do… anything.  So I won’t.

The problem in our society now is that the privileged have way more power and way less information.  We/they cannot effectively lead others because we cannot relate to them properly, we don’t know what they face and therefore cannot be a good judge of what is or isn’t “fair”.  So how do we get more diversity in our leadership?  How to we amplify the voices of those with more awareness and less say?

There is no easy answer.  Awareness would help, perhaps, as well as the next generation being brought up with good morals and the current systems being revised so that they’re fair and a greater understanding of the current state of the world.  But the world is a complicated place, and when anyone has something to lose, I can guarantee that solutions will be that much harder to reach.  We just have to keep trying, I guess.

If you ever get mad at the privileged, for everything they are that you’re not (men, white people, straight people, rich people, sheltered people, influential people, bigots, natives-to-whatever-country-you’re-in, whatever) think about how much more you have experienced, and think about how you can convey that to them so that they will understand you.  Privilege isn’t a crime, it’s just an unfortunately fortunate state of being.


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