Privilege and Self-Education

My heart hurts today, and I felt I had to write about what’s going on in America. Staying silent reinforces the current systemic inequities. Silence implies that the system we have is okay. And it is not okay. So I am sharing what little I know, and links for me and others in my position to educate ourselves. I have much to learn, because I have been sheltered by privilege my whole life.

A few ways in which my bubble of privilege have protected me from the current crises in America:

  • I am white passing, so I am not subject to systemic racism. As others have shared, I can safely go jogging (unlike Ahmaud Arbery), relax at home (unlike Breonna Taylor), go to the park (unlike Christian Cooper), and the list goes on and on.
  • I live in a predominantly white suburb, so I don’t have to worry about riots or looting destroying my home and/or business.
  • I am still employed and getting paid, unlike the 40 million Americans who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.
  • I can work from home so I’m not exposed to coronavirus, unlike the millions of essential workers (disproportionately people of color) who must be physically present to do their jobs.
  • I am able bodied without any pre-existing health conditions so I am lower risk if I do get infected.
  • I have health insurance, and savings, so that I can get and afford medical treatment if I do get infected.
  • I am male and tall and grew up in a white suburb, which gave me a huge advantage from the start in accumulating other forms of privilege, such as a top-notch education and subsequent opportunities for white-collar jobs, that enabled the privileges listed above. I have been given more opportunities, and more of a chance to succeed with those opportunities, because of my “potential” aka privilege.

So part of the work I am doing is to educate myself about what it’s like to live outside that bubble of privilege, and what needs to change to reduce the inequity. I’ve seen glimpses before (e.g. reading The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander on the inequities of law enforcement, or Whistling Vivaldi, by Claude M. Steele on stereotype threat), but I commit to doing more. As Taharee Jackson suggests in her Practical Guide for White Allies essay, the first step is to “Start with Yourself”.

So here are some resources that have been shared with me:

I will also donate to organizations that are doing the work and need assistance (still researching here). (June 7 update – I donated to the Bail Project, the Equal Justice Initiative, Campaign Zero, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, and Mills Teacher Scholars as a longer-term investment in equity (and because I’m on the advisory board))

I know I need to do more, but I wanted to share where I am starting in case it helps others, and would love to hear suggestions of other resources. I am anxious about publishing this post, as I know it’s not enough, and am reminding myself that any action, even if it’s not enough, is better than silence.

And I am here if you need support, or just somebody who will listen. This is how I can contribute, and how I choose to serve. Please reach out.

The coronavirus crisis has broken open our country – the systemic inequalities have been revealed in the disproportionate impact it has on the population, while we experience a total absence of leadership from the president. I am heartbroken at the pain and suffering being experienced – it has been going on my whole life, but it seems amplified in this moment. If those of us with privilege do nothing, then we are accepting the system as it is – thoughts and prayers are not enough. What will you do?

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