i have read some REALLY helpful articles about privilege this week.
My fear is that the appearance of the word ‘privilege’ with the assumption of it being specifically ‘white privilege’ on my blog immediately drives the very people i am wanting to hear and engage with this stuff away.
But my hope, which is so much stronger than my fear, is that there are people like Bob [who a bunch of us had this long and helpful conversation with a while back] who genuinely are wanting to understand and be involved in the conversation and change where necessary, there are others who get or kinda get the need for change and just don’t know how to go about it and hopefully there are others sitting on the edge who will eventually at some point hear the proverbial penny dropping and let out a positive and helpful and transformative, “Ohhhhhhhhhhh!”
WHAT PRIVILEGE REALLY MEANS
The first one i read was titled ‘What Privilege Really Means’ by Maisha Z Johnson and doesn’t even use the word white, so maybe we’ll be okay here. She starts off like this:
I’m pretty fed up with privilege. But that doesn’t mean I hate privileged people.
When I write about the privilege that certain groups have, some people – usually those in the groups I’m writing about – get upset.
For example, I say how tired I am of how the system of white privilege excludes and harms non-white people, and some people accuse me of hating on white folks.
There’s only one problem: If you get upset when someone points out that you have privilege, that probably means you don’t fully understand what privilege is.
Because if you think having privilege means that you’re a bad person, or that you haven’t had struggles, or that you haven’t worked hard for what you have – then I can totally feel why you might be frustrated. If that were the case, then yes, it’d be completely unfair of me to claim that all white people or straight people or men or people of any other dominant group are living easy off their unearned privileges.
But having privilege doesn’t mean any of those things.
She lists 18 points which i found very helpful as many of them address specific things that people-who-have-issues-with-the-term-white-privilege are raising, some examples being:
# Having Privilege doesn’t mean you’re a bad person
# Having privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced oppression in other ways
# Having Privilege doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard or you should feel bad about your good fortune
As well as some of the positives, such as:
# Having Privilege means you can support the most vulnerable among us to strengthen your own fight
# Having Privilege means you have a choice about what to do with it
But go read the rest of that article because i found it so super helpful and i imagine if some of the people who have a reaction to the words ‘White Privilege” or “Privilege” in general got to read it, they would have their eyes opened a little bit more. Maybe if you’re a choir person and know someone this would really help, print out a copy and go through it with them and ask if they agree or disagree.
WHITE RACIST OR IN RECOVERY
Then Jordan Pickering wrote this piece on news 24 that contained some REALLY helpful points as well. Please go and read the whole thing.
It begins with a similar mantra that many of us could repeat from heart:
I was born into a system that I had no role in setting up or choosing. If asked, my family would have said that racism is an evil. When Mandela was released from prison, I was barely 11 and only followed the sports section of the news. If an apology needs to be given for Apartheid why would I need to give it? When it comes to taking responsibility for Apartheid, should that include me?
But then goes on to ask a series of challenging but helpful questions and makes some statements that dig more to the heart of the matter:
And this is really the main issue. The problem is not that whites haven’t apologised for our racism (after all, who would someone like me apologise to and what exactly would I be sorry for?). The problem is that we have never owned it at all. It was all someone else’s fault.
Apartheid may be dead, but it bequeathed to all of us those coloured contact lenses that make racism part of our way of seeing. Realising to what degree you see the world with Apartheid’s taint is the first step to owning the past, and taking nation-building forward into the future.
TWO OTHER EXCELLENT READS WORTH YOUR TIME
Hardly anyone read this latest extract i posted from the Steve Biko book, ‘I Write What I Like’ and yet it feels like an incredibly important one to take in as well. [Who would have thought solving all South Africa’s issues would actually take a bit of time and effort and energy and research? Seriously, these conversations are worth reading more deeply on. Make the time!] i was strongly convicted about my attitude of superiority when it comes to black people in general – wow, that is NOT a fun line to think, say or type out loud. Yet i see it in myself. i need help. And i imagine i am not alone in this…
And lastly there was this piece i wrote the other day in response to some of the pushbacks to White Privilege conversation [which continue in the comment section if you have time to engage] which was a response to a response to an article i posted on Facebook the other day.
You’re tired of me blogging about Race and Privilege and Hope for South Africa and more? Well i’m sure people of colour are tired of being racisted upon and so until that stops, there is a lot of work to do. i’m not the best person to do it, i don’t doubt that for a second. But i know some pretty good people who are helping me along, being gracious and sending me stuff to read and having conversations and writing for this blog and more.
The answer answer i’m convinced is RELATIONSHIPS – genuine, authentic, life-transforming friendships with people from other races and cultures and socio-economic groups who will continue to be gracious and loving and patient and more. If you don’t have those in your life and are arguing against any of this stuff, then you really need to shut up and go and make yourself some friends. This cannot be an isolated conversation in the mind space. This is real and has to be worked out and beaten out and wrestled and pushed-back upon and get-a-little-bit-out-of-control and fought over and repented about and confessed and loved and shared over meals and walked, but together. Come on, South Africa. i believe.