" … prostitutes, pansies and punks … "
— Tom Robinson Band, Power in the Darkness.
True in 1978. True now.
Our son goes to a fancy preschool with an electronic gate. Each family is given a little key fob which is held up to a magnetic panel to unlock the door. White privilege works a lot like this. Imagine our institutions were designed with special magnetic key pads. White people, particularly white people with money, are born with the little key embedded in our skin. We walk up to doors (apply for a job, try to buy a house, interact with a police officer) and they open without us having to do anything.
My sooooper-awesomely amazing cousin @JaimeJenett with an ever more sooooper amazeballsly awesome blog post on white privilege, embedded and systemic racism, and a whole lot more stuff. Read it and know how lucky I am to be able to call her “family.”
Oh, and her partner Laura Fitch, through whom I’m related to her? She’s pretty awesome as well.
Хит их в бумажнике / Hit ‘em in the wallet.
(h/t Brad Fraser).
Once you grasp the concept of privileged distress, you’ll see it everywhere: the rich feel “punished” by taxes; whites believe they are the real victims of racism; employers’ religious freedom is threatened when they can’t deny contraception to their employees; English-speakers resent bilingualism — it goes on and on.
And what is the Tea Party movement other than a counter-revolution? It comes cloaked in religion and fiscal responsibility, but scratch the surface and you’ll find privileged distress: Change has taken something from us and we want it back.
Confronting this distress is tricky, because neither acceptance nor rejection is quite right. The distress is usually very real, so rejecting it outright just marks you as closed-minded and unsympathetic. It never works to ask others for empathy without offering it back to them.
At the same time, my straight-white-male sunburn can’t be allowed to compete on equal terms with your heart attack. To me, it may seem fair to flip a coin for the first available ambulance, but it really isn’t. Don’t try to tell me my burn doesn’t hurt, but don’t consent to the coin-flip.
The Owldolatrous approach — acknowledging the distress while continuing to point out the difference in scale — is as good as I’ve seen. Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down. The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world.
As the author points out, a tricky balance, but really, the only tenable response. The fact that we’ll all fall short from time to time just makes re-commitment that much more important.
Video: Laura Fitch, Jaime Jenett and Simon Lev Fitch-Jenett in Listen From the Heart
A film by Antony Osso for The Devotion Project.
My amazingly awesome family. I cried on seeing this. (Well, except when Jaime describes Simon as all Jew, all the time. Everyone needs a hobby.)
You can see and read more at Team Shimmy.
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