Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For the Privileged

A few days ago I transitioned from my old-new-home back down to my new-home-in-my-old-city. I lugged boxes around in 100-degree weather like the wonder woman I tend to be, and when I got down for a break, I reviewed a message from a concerned male acquaintance asking how he as a recipient of privilege (as a male) could move beyond that privilege to aide in change and revolution.

Instantly, with much sincerity and love, I applauded his efforts at acknowledging himself as a recipient of privilege on the basis of his maleness - and in comparison with Black females alone. It has been my experience that getting men of color to acknowledge privilege is a difficult task. The thing that is important to remember is that we are not only one thing; we do not only have to be one thing. The problem that a lot of people have with Black women and feminism/womanism/women's rights is that these ideas are centred around the oppression faced as women, versus the oppression on fronts of our color. Unfortunately for women of color, racial and gender-based oppression can come both separately and together. Also, while men of color (among other classifications) are discriminated against as a result of their color, they are often give special bias as a result of their maleness - hence, "privilege." My answer to moving beyond privilege is that acknowledging it is the best way to start. I mean, if you know you're in a privileged class in our shitty socially constructed hierarchy, then the best thing you can do initially is to acknowledge the privilege and educate other members of your group who don't identify as privileged understand what privilege is and the role that it plays in our society - both historically and in a contemporary context.

The next question, though, was this: if he (and others) know and can acknowledge that there is a disparity in the treatment of men and women, white people and persons of color, the rich and the poor -- what is their incentive for evening out the playing field?

This question always reminds me of those using-religion-to-justify-morality statements; surely someone who is able to acknowledge and fully understand how they have benefited by privilege, in a society that allows the construction of social and systemic inequality on the basis of any characteristic they do not control, should feel for the disadvantaged on want to change it just on that basis, right? Surely there should be no incentive for doing the right thing beyond their own conscience and consciousness, right? I don't know the answer. I don't know that there is an incentive beyond feeling for the those who are disadvantaged and oppressed in a modern and allegedly intellectually advanced era.

Be Righteous.

Also, for more posts on privilege, click here to a post I wrote a while back. It has links to some good work done on acknowledging male privilege in the Black community.

1 comment:

  1. the comic strip made me laugh. not because i thought it was hilarious but because it reminded me of this guy who got into an argument with a female because she said "you dont know what its like to be black". [ that statement was made after some ignorant fool said that black people today need to stop complaining about everything and made some reference to the civil rights act]
    now the guy who responded to the enraged female told her she didnt know what it was like to be white and how he loves black people and in fact his friend's cousin's nephew's next door neighbor is black and blah blah blah

    after reading the rest of the article i got into a debate with my ex about this. he kept saying stuff like "you females and this independent/feminism stuff" and "thats not true". but the thing that annoyed me, other than not listening, was that he really didnt give any arguments to his claim. he spent 30 minutes using all kinds of metaphors, "real world analogies" and using big SAT words like inconsequential and ubiquitous and ended up not really saying anything