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Thread: On privilege: Oppressed grps differ from privileged ppl, & 1 way ppl often overlook is that having privilege means not being forced to deal w oppression every day or unseeing it. Ppl in oppressed grps are told we’re “obsessed” w “finding racism everywhere,” for example.
Here’s the problem-it’s not an “obsession” to see oppression everywhere for ppl who don’t have the option NOT to deal w it all the time. We can’t just turn off a switch & stop being discriminated against. Some privileged ppl act as tho we talk ab these things bc we just have
“nothing better to do.” No, we actually have so many things we’d rather do, but every time we try to just be treated/seen as who we are individually, we have to face oppression. This is not our “obsession”—oppression is so pervasive & systemic that we don’t have the luxury of
simply leaving our home & being treated w the same respect some privileged ppl take for granted. If you tire of hearing members of oppressed grps talk (for a fraction of a day) ab what they deal w, imagine the countless other times we’re not talking ab it but are facing it, being
assigned value based on such things, treated badly bc of it, etc. There aren’t enough hours in a day for a young Black man to tell ppl that he applied for > 1K jobs in months, but he lives in a city where the unemployment rate for his demographic is ab 50% (& > 40% nationally).
When he’s pounding the pavement, being dehumanized bc of who he is, he is not “obsessing” ab racism if he speaks up. Many privileged ppl seem to assume that oppressed folks spend all our time taking ab oppression (which there’s nothing wrong w), but we don’t have time do that; we
are busy fighting to stay alive & survive. Black kids are 10x > likely to die from gun violence that white ones, per a CDC study spanning > a decade. If you think it’s “obsessive” to need to talk ab this, isn’t that part of WHY there’s a need to say “Black lives matter,” bc they
are NOT assigned value by default? If you think it’s obsessive to say that @ least 1/5 women are raped & earn pennies on a man’s $, what aren’t you understanding ab why having trauma destroy a life or not making ends meet isn’t something to silence ppl ab? If you say “there are
other forms of oppression, like class,” you’re right, but here’s the thing: ppl in oppressed classes tend to deal w economic inequality far >, they also have ADDITONAL oppression that makes $ troubles even harder, & class-based oppression neither trumps nor solves other
oppression. White men who were a sharecropper STILL had it far better than POC. To date, indigent WM face difficulties, but they aren’t summarily denied employment bc they’re indigent. They don’t risk being shot bc police bc of poverty. They don’t get seen as predators on a
large scale, simply bc they don’t have $, & they don’t make up most of our prison populations proportionally. POC have unique, unceasing difficulties w basic survival, & when privileged ppl talk down to us or call us “obsessed” (or worse) for wanting to discuss oppression, that
makes it that much harder & perpetrates oppression. The idea of “a POC who’s wealthy being much better off than indigent whites” is based on many distortions. For 1, Black wealth in the US is largely non-existent & not remotely proportional to population. inequality.org/research/black…
2nd, POC w some wealth aren’t treated the same way as a whole. A Black law prof. from Harvard described how he gets pulled over 3-4x/wk, minimum, bc police assume he stole his car—they don’t think he could possibly have earned it. Black men are convicted of > crimes & subject to
higher penalties, esp if the alleged victim was white. On the other hand, if a victim is a POC, penalties for crimes (esp violent ones) are the lightest of all. This is not only ab class-society isn’t assigning the same value to POC. When POC are allegedly involved w drugs,
penalties go up, & the dehumanization is so severe that we’re called “junkies” & blamed for addition. No $ is spent on compassionate rehabilitation/outreach...until it’s an addition that seems to largely affect white ppl. WM do not have to live each day knowing that either: they
will almost certainly be sexually abused, &/or that they are seen as criminals, much watch every step they take, & are profiled/subject to police brutality/& judged by a system that doesn’t assign them value/credibility on a routine basis. White ppl do not have to worry ab being
lyched, or of being given a ticket bc they took a walk in a public park in broad daylight. They do not, by virtue of race &/or gender, have to keep many of their thoughts silent & follow a protocol where 1 simple “misstep” could get them killed if they’re pulled over. When I hear
that oppressed ppl are “obsessed” w taking ab oppression, I wonder if the ppl saying that had to be taught (for countless hours & yrs) to always put their hands on a steering wheel, be polite, not reach for anything, even during a traffic stop when they did nothing wrong, bc
otherwise, they may be killed, even w their kids watching, even if they ARE kids. Instead of telling members of oppressed grps to stop talking ab it, maybe try to stop it from happening. Or consider that we’ve been silenced, derided, & told we “don’t know what we’re talking ab.”
The assumption that we are incompetent or lack knowledge is the same argument that was made to justify making women & POC chattel & dent us education/gainful employment—we were thought of as deficient wrt intelligence. Look @ the irony of the NFL—football is very much a cerebral
activity, but it’s largely POC bc we we’re thought of as only being good for our “brawn” & “athletic ability,” not our brains. & when we take a knee, we’re out of work, even though POC are why many sports are able to exist, & so much $ is made by getting POC to play. Yes, they’re
compensated, but no one talks ab all the injuries sustained (many of which are permanent/degenerative/etc.), or ab how the NFL has moved to take away pensions for ppl who have to retire early (often bc of injuries). It’s also not acceptable that we’re restricted in our freedom of
career choices, & this is how the NFL, for example, treats former players: google.com/amp/s/www.thev…
I went to a top tier law school, & > women got in that yr & for yrs before & after, but we had FOUR women who were tenured profs (which hadn’t changed in > 3 decades), & not ONE was a WOC. It’s not bc we don’t exist—this was a school near the Mexican border, & we had a large
Latinx population, but no Latina profs w tenure. Our law reviews’ editors-in-chief tended to be WM. That was a big school, & it’s a pattern. I’ll leave y’all w this thought: I’m a disabled, LGBTQ, indigent WOC, but there’s a privilege I have, & I see it all the time. It doesn’t
matter that I’m a 1st generation immigrant on 1 side & Native (as in well > have my family has lived/grown up on reservations for several generations & still is). Here’s what matters when I walk out my door: I pass. Bc of that, I get an ENORMOUS amt of unearned privilege. I can
walk on the street & talk to ppl, & I get credibility simply bc ppl think I’m white. If I apply for jobs, no one refuses to hire me bc I’m a WOC—they don’t know unless I tell them or they ask/know me. I can go to the store or the park & not worry that ppl assume I’m a criminal.
White ppl who don’t know me have said very racist things in my presence (also hateful things ab LGBTQ ppl) bc they think it’s “safe” to be openly bigoted around ppl they think are white. Still, there’s a dilemma. The legacy of oppression from my anacestors’/relatives’ lives means
I don’t have the luxury of family connections, or legacies wrt education/employment, etc. This is something alluded to in Sweatt v Painter—that generational legacies of freedom, literacy, property, etc. confer major advantages on ppl. Danzy Senna wrote a beautiful, heartbreaking
book called “Caucasia.” 2 sisters have a Black father & white mom. 1 passes; the other doesn’t. The 1 who passes has trouble fitting into any community—the Black kids don’t believe she’s 1 of them unless they know her father, & the white ppl tell her not to get “too tan” or
she’ll look like a “n*gger,” they say blatantly racist things to her bc they assume she’s “one of them,” & she has no one. All I ask is this—if you benefit from privilege (I do), pls try not to be condescending & dismissive of those who can’t/don’t. Pls don’t tell us we’re
“obsessed” if we have the courage to talk ab something that’s incredibly hard to talk ab & that we talk ab FAR LESS than we deal w it. Pls don’t assume we lack knowledge or competence. Pls learn the names of ppl like Rickey Dixon & Nyla Jones. Most of all, pls do 2 things:
(1). Please don’t try to silence us by making comments like “you talk ab racism too much” or “the wwc has just as many problems as survivors,” or “you have no credibility bc all these other privileged ppl disagree.” (2). Try to put yourself in our shoes. Think ab Mark Hughes, who
subject to an arrest & national APBs/publicity well over a day after the police knew he wasn’t involved, & he has actually helped ppl & looked nothing like the ONE non-WM mass shooter here. He received tens of thousands of death threats for doing nothing illegal. No1 apologized
or retracted their national APB, & they were abusive & tried to terrorize him into “confessing” long after they knew he was innocent. Pls—know that such things don’t happen to privileged ppl on a systemic basis, & that not ceding privilege perpetuates it. Know that giving us a
or issued a retraction. He was terrorized, abused, & they tried to force a “confession” out of him after knowing he wasn’t involved. They took his clothes away from him. Pls if you’re privileged, know that we may talk ab something for what seems like a long time, but it’s a
what seems like a long time to talk ab oppression ignores 2 things: that our talking ab it is a tiny fraction or our lives reality, & that we’ve been silenced for so long, we rarely get a seat @ the table (or are subject to degredation).
Ceding privilege doesn’t mean you don’t get to talk—we simply want to also be part of the conversation & be able to participate in life & leadership to the same extent. We don’t ask you to go away: we just ask to be heard too. Ty.
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