I have been smacked in the face recently with the privilege I experience. A big part is due to what I have been reading this year, most notably Margaret Hagerman’s book based on her study of privileged middle schoolers called “White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America” and Roxane Gay’s books “Bad Feminist” and “Hunger“. Roxane is very familiar with the lack of privilege and has chosen to fight for equality and justice using her abilities and avenues. I appreciate the frankness and vulnerability with which she speaks about her experiences. I get a glimpse of her life and have the opportunity to see through her eyes when I read her words. She has dealt with so many things I haven’t just because of things none of us can change – our gender, our parents, our skin, our sexual orientation. Our only obvious similarities are that we are women who love to read and write.
Through her books, it became glaringly apparent that my privilege has allowed me to opt out of conversations about social and political issues because they don’t directly affect me. I am appalled that I have been purposefully ignorant while injustice and inequality have swirled around me. Just because I am not directly affected doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be aware or work to change things that hurt or oppress other people.
I have allowed myself to live in a bubble. I have felt safe and thus not wanted to rock the boat. In the meantime, so many others have lived in fear, insecurity, persecution, and oppression. Now that I am aware of my ignorance and avoidance, I can’t go back. Now that I know better, I have to do better.
It seems to me that there are three steps in this awakening. The first is Awareness. An acknowledgment that things are not okay. That there is injustice and I need to be a part of change.
The second step is Education. Once I realize that I cannot sit idly by in our current climate, I have to understand what the issues are, what is currently being done, and how I can help. Continued ignorance is not acceptable. It may be figuring out whether I am unintentionally part of the problem or if there’s something I am doing that is harmful. I need to learn more about what is going on before I can become usefully involved.
The third step is Action. Once I am aware of the problem and have learned more about it, I can then do something. Obviously, I don’t yet know what that is, but that should be the goal of the education element – becoming equipped enough to move.
I realize that I must also be careful not to scapegoat into staying firmly planted in the education step. I know myself well enough to know that my perfectionism might keep me from action by continuing to persuade myself that I am not knowledgeable enough and will take imperfect action if I move forward without having perused all of the available information. I need to know enough to act, but I don’t have to become an expert. If I believe that I must know everything, I will never make it to action.
Another tricky thing is not becoming paralyzed by all of the different forms of injustice in the world so much so that it becomes impossible to take action in even one area. I know I cannot fix every problem. I don’t have enough time, energy, or resources to fight for all of them either. I need to be wise in looking at the problems and determining where I can have the most influence and/or which one is most pressing on my heart.
Are there any social issues that you are passionate about and working to initiate change? Do you have any good resources to help educate me?