Image: Mathy Shoots People
Ever since the election, I’ve found myself reading more think pieces, reflection posts, and opinion articles than my brain & emotional state can handle. Pieces that attempt to explain what the hell happened, why rural Americans voted how they did (and how we should or shouldn’t feel about that), how women & immigrants could vote for him, and what the heck we should do, feel, think, say …. yes it’s exhausting, but it seems to be all I can do these days as I STILL wake up wondering when I will no longer feel like I am in a bad dream. Because honestly, most of my days, I still cannot believe we elected this man to be our President.
But of the countless articles I’ve read, there is a topic that has caused me to do the most soul searching and questioning: the topic of privilege.
Privilege is a layered topic and one that is not always easy to discuss. I acknowledge that being a women puts me at an immediate disadvantage in some realms, but on the whole, being upper middle class and white, puts me at a certain level of privilege that many are not afforded. And while I can say that I empathize with those that are less fortunate than me, or aren’t afforded the same luxuries as me, I can’t truly know what it’s like to not have a certain level of privilege.
And I’ll admit that this is challenging for me. Sometimes I feel like apologizing to the world (“I never asked for this privilege”), sometimes I feel the need to get super defensive (“But I am also disadvantaged in other ways”), and sometimes I just sit at my laptop, reading, and not at all knowing what to do or so. If you know me you know that having nothing to do or say isn’t exactly in my nature.
So here I am, admitting that I am a privileged individual, that is conflicted and unsure of how to deal with that privilege. The think pieces and opinion articles written by those that are less privileged than myself have opened my eyes to the experiences of others that I hadn’t considered before. I am now potentially more aware, but still completely unsure of how to rectify or come to terms with my privilege. Do I read more articles? Do I try to have hard discussions? Do I ask questions?
I am worried of looking insincere, or offensive, or worse, ignorant. And if I don’t know how to deal with this, how the heck am I going to properly teach my daughter about the topic?
At this point I think the thing I’ve come back to the most, is the power of listening. Not always trying to defend myself or needing to say something in response – just listening to other points of view, trying to understand what it’s like from another, less-privileged perspective, and learning all I can from the varying pieces. I won’t ever be able to erase the privilege that my race, my upbringing, or my gender has given me – but I can continue to try and understand how that privilege might affected the way I react, the things I do, or the things I might say. I can challenge myself to listen more, understand further, and challenge others to do the same. Because what’s really the point of being granted something like privilege if I don’t try to use it for the betterment of others?