Welcome to the First Blog Carnival on Privilege! First, thanks to all the bloggers who contributed to this first round of the carnival. I was excited to see all the different takes on privilege represented here, and the diversity of those who submitted. You can see all the entries below the cut, and follow links through to read the complete posts. I also want to announce that we will be having a second carnival, since this first round was so successful. To give everyone plenty of time to think about submissions, the second carnival entries will be due Sunday, May 23rd. The topic for the second carnival will be White Privilege, so start thinking about race and racism for your posts. I would also accept posts for the second carnival that deal with other sorts of racial privilege, for example if you want to write about a community where one group is privileged based on the color of their skin, but that group isn’t “white,” that’s perfectly fine. Submissions again can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we get a lot of submissions again, then I’ll probably switch over to a monthly format, and perhaps ask for other hosts for future carnivals. Also, because this came up a couple of times in this round, I do prefer new posts, but if you want to submit an older post for a carnival and not rehash an issue, that’s also fine.
And now, on with the carnival!
For a third example, take clothing. Yes, there is some very significant male privilege (first definition) in the expectations put on men and women when it comes to clothing and appearance. But I’d also say women have the privilege (second definition) of being able to dress either ‘boyishly,’ ripped shorts and an old t-shirt while biking, or ‘girlishly,’ makeup, heels, and a dress while going out. Now, that may simply be my (very, very, very) biased impression of having been denied the ability to put on heels and a skirt for so long, but I think it is a larger social construct that discourages men from dressing up beyond a certain point. For example, I’ve gone to work much more formally since transitioning – but still well within the acceptable range for women – than I could have as a man. I’d say, at least in younger or more liberal circles, women have a wider range of acceptable clothing options, and that’s been a privilege to discover.
I don’t know that thinking of privilege in this mirror or flipped fashion is useful beyond an interesting difference in perspective. But I’ve been trying to think about my discoveries of privilege in the positive – figuring out what bars it would be a privilege to go to, or what clothing I’d feel privileged to wear – rather than stand sadly on the ship of womanhood waving goodbye to the more traditionally-viewed male privilege.
- An American Christian can affix a Jesus fish to his or her car without having to give vandalism a second thought. And yet, I do not get to place any sort of symbol promoting science, reason, or atheism on my car for fear of vandalism or assault. The same goes for t-shirts.
- The state of Florida actually exempts faith-based day-care centers from state inspection and licensing while requiring both of secular day-care centers.
- Christian billboards are commonplace, but atheist billboards are typically met with vandalism, protests, and calls to the billboard owner.
- Public school teachers may come under fire for criticizing religion but are expected to criticize every other form of idiocy.
What do I mean by ableist? This article totally privileges the neurotypical and physically typical reading experience. Now, if it were a pair of blind bloggers bemoaning the lack of Braille literacy that would be one thing, as the NYT article that inspired the Salon bloggers includes, but judging from the Salon bloggers’ home blog, they wear glasses but aren’t legally blind. This is akin to people with normal hearing insisting cochlear implants are necessary for deaf children, or a white person explaining to everyone upset by Bloomsbury that the publishers didn’t actually do something racist, or a man mansplaining feminism to us poor little women.
The experience at the dinner table taught me a great lesson. I know an important part of undoing oppressions is calling it out when I am able to see it. I need to say: “That’s racism!,” “That’s sexism!,” or any “-ism.” But at the dinner table on this night, I learned a different lesson. As a person of privilege – a white male, I don’t need to be part of every conversation. If I am serious about the work of undoing oppressions, sometimes I am going to have to learn to be silent. I am going to have to make room of other important voices to be heard. I am going to have to learn to listen deeply. Sometimes this may be necessary during times that I have strong opinions. Maybe, even when really important decisions are being made. This is not something that I am used too. Feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness will rise up within me and this will be uncomfortable. It will take practice to become comfortable in that silence. But hopefully after much time and practice these feelings will pass and soon make room for mutual liberation.
All of these things could be the cause of my identification, but I am prone to think it may be a sort of socially-constructed emptiness that drives people like me to seek a grander, more interesting cultural membership. For me, growing up in the North American context, I think I picked up on the idea that to be white, to be a second or third generation Canadian, and to be middle class is to not have an identity–to be “identity neutral”; hence the many efforts to create a sense of what it means to have a white identity, such as the popular “Stuff White People Like” blog. The white identity, however, if asserted, will always have its history hanging over its head: the Crusades, the Klu Klux Klan, Nazism, Racism, Colonialism, Imperialism, the continuing marginalisation and erasure of people of colour, and all of the other stuff of which I am constantly ashamed; needless to say it seems safer as a socially conscious individual to opt for a non-identity, but this becomes extremely problematic for the individual and for the society. For the individual, the “identity-vacuum” creates both a sense of despair and a sub-conscious (or in some cases conscious) sense of superiority in believing that one is so much more neutral and objective than all of those other folks who can’t see past their identities; for the society, it creates a hierarchy, where the state of having a “non-identity” somehow becomes the identity that is valued; specifically, the state of being white and therefore “without an identity” gives one access to privileges.
Here is another example of privilege. This can be in high school, it can be in middle school, and yes, it can even exist in college. Anytime there is a dance, be it in a bar, in a school gymnasium, or in a second-party location, there is more and more heterosexual privilege being used. God forbid that I bring my (non-existent) boyfriend to one of these dances. If we danced how we would at a gay club in public like that! We would be shunned, ridiculed, or even worse, attacked. Again, there is a fear factor.
I will say this, however. There is a privilege that the Queer community has that the heterosexual community does not. And that privilege is a community. While some may argue that there is a straight community (and in many ways, there is) it is certainly different than the Queer community. Within the queer community, there is just sheer acceptance (although this is far from the truth in the great Queer community, the Queer community at Oshkosh is different, heck, maybe even unique). I heave met some of the best people, just by being a member. Coming from all walks of life, and each having their own identities provides the community with a unity that the heterosexual community does not have. It is a unity that can only happen with a relatively small group of people. It’s indescribable.
“You were wondering why you weren’t on the list for the test today?” “Yeah…”
“Well, that was because Cheryl S. called me yesterday and said she had wanted to take the test, and there are only so many slots available, so I made the decision to take you off the list, and put her on in your place.”
“Umm, why? She didn’t even go to any of the classes, I went to every single one and actually studied on my own time.”
“Because it’s more likely you’ll have a chance to take it once you get out, and she doesn’t have that privilege.”
His use of the word privilege in that context was quite foreign to me. I understood it to mean the opposite of a “right” – I didn’t get it – it wasn’t as if she wasn’t allowed to take the GED after she got out. She might not WANT to, but that’s damn sure not the same as not being “granted the privilege” to take it.
I was pissed, and I was certain that I was justified in being pissed. But the counselor kept talking, … “You’re release permissions say you’re going to be moving to your moms in QuaintNearbyTown, and there are 4 locations that offer the test during the year relatively near there, and you’re going to be living with a licensed driver …. ” He trailed off as he shuffled through the set of papers on his desk, “And Cheryl, let me see… she has 3 kids, all under 12 and is going to have to depend on the bus to get to the 1 location close enough to her that offers the test, and well, the only thing that would stop her from having her GED is the opportunity to take it, she’ll be able to pass without studying so thats not a problem… and well….”
Take comedians like Richard Pryor, or Chris Rock, who embraced the n-word in a way that riot grrrls in the ’90s embraced the words “slut” and “bitch.” By “taking it back,” they own the derogatory term and have power over what it was originally intended to do (offend, degrade). Pryor and Rock exposed racism as it happened to them and as they saw it happen around them. Especially in Pryor’s days, oftentimes his acts were just stories that were so painful and truthful (and outlandish and ridiculous) that you had to laugh to keep from crying. Because there’s that fine line between comedy and pathos.
It’s the same way Margaret Cho spoke about her experiences with sexism, with being raped, with being ridiculed for being overweight. Or any gay comedian exposing homophobia. And so on. Sharing these stories (and in an accessible way – one that makes people laugh) is a public service. BUT using racist jokes, rape jokes, or homophobic jokes when one is NOT sensitive to the issue at hand is just plain wrong.
I’ve experienced gender privilege because, as a woman, I’m the wrong gender. Going to Pep Boys or Fry’s is a harrowing experience; since I clearly don’t have a penis I also clearly mustn’t know what I’m doing when it comes to cars or computers. I’ve benefitted from religious privilege (and I noticed when I lost it). I’ve even had occasion to experience gender orientation privilege because, as my mother-in-law once said to me (and which I carry with me as a great compliment), I “scan as queer”. But I had never actually experienced race privilege before this class.
When I was a kid, my parents taught us that police officers are our friends. They’re there to help us. To protect us. I always thought the unspoken “us” was “all law-abiding citizens” but apparently, it means “white folk”. While on a bike, I’ve flagged down cop cars to ask for a bike pump, or directions. I boldly wave at officers in their cars when they pass me on the freeway (or vice versa). I make eye contact with officers walking their beat—sometimes, I even smile. I said this to my class and the professor, a privileged black woman, actually gasped. These are things she cannot do because of the color of her skin.
Julián at Un Solo Cuento contributed a reflection in Spanish for the carnival. Julie, who submitted this post for her friend, writes, “So the story is in Spanish. I imagine that’s okay. Sure not everyone will be able to read it, but I see it as another privilege that many of these resources are in English! So it’s an example of a privilege within a reflection on privilege!” I agree, Julie! Sadly, Spanish is not one of my own languages, so I’m just pasting in the first paragraph from the post–if anyone would like to suggest that I edit this carnival post and include a different snippet, please let me know and I’d be happy to change it!
Iuesmarín soñaba desde chiquito con ser como uno de ellos, uno de esos tipos altos que recorrían los andenes estrechos y las calles empedradas de su ciudad colonial, con mochilas gigantescas a sus espaldas, con los cabellos rubios enmarañados y grasosos como si nunca hubieran conocido el champú , vestidos con ropa cara y rara, aunque un poco vieja y sucia para el gusto pulcro de la gente de León, y zapatos de bota alta dizque warerpruf, que según le habían explicado, servían para subir los volcanes más empinados como el Momotombo, atravesar ríos caudalosos sin que el agua les mojara ni siquiera las medias y caminar por días enteros sin que los pies se les llenaran de ampollas. No obstante, hay que decir que aún con toda la admiración que les profesaba Iuesmarín, respecto al asunto de atravesar ríos sin que les entrara una gota de agua a los zapatos, se le antojaba que un poco de agua no les hubiera caído mal a esos calcetines sucios y empecuecados que llevaban los cheles.
I still managed to get close to one of the window, Dior I believe. Prices were astronomical. I’m talking about €2,000 for a handbag, €3,000 for shoes (a pair, though), €5,000 for pants etc. etc. I was turning my back to walk away when a couple walked by my side, toward the entrance of the shop. The two bouncers nodded and the door slided open. I caught a glimpse of the inside of the shop. It was full of people inside. Sure enough, a few seconds later, two women exited Dior, and walked by me, holding a bag full of their purchases.
I suddenly felt very out-of-place. Who were these people? Why them? Were they the elected ones? On which planet were they living? It wasn’t fashion week and we were in the middle of the week on a cold April day. It wasn’t for a special event. This was a normal day in Paris’ posh district. I kept thinking that the average monthly salary in France is €1,800. Considering the very high cost of housing, the ever increasing cost of food and utilities and an unemployment rate French aren’t exactly proud of, I was literally in an other world. A world that I knew existed but, naive as I am, had never really seen that close.
There is a ton of research literature surrounding “social justice education,” particularly studies that teach social justice to children from marginalized communities. However, in preparing for my final paper on “The Purpose and Effectiveness of Teaching Social Justice in Secondary Schools,” I also wanted to research how social justice education would play out when taught to a classroom of privileged children. I found that there was little research literature on this–but I knew that that didn’t mean that teaching social justice to children from the dominant culture is not necessary. Moreover, it should be the opposite.
Because children come from privileged backgrounds are the ones who need to know the most about power, privilege, and access; in other words, it is a necessity for these children to understand the foundations of social justice education.
And finally, we have a last-minute submission from RadDyke, who writes about hate crimes and the day-to-day fear queer people face:
So what can we do about hate crimes within the queer community? Especially the thought of hate crimes that all of us queer people know too well. You know, the walking out of a queer space and back into the cool night, and having that feeling that someone watched you come out. So you splay your keys between your fingers and pray to whatever the hell you believe in that no one looks at you, that no one bothers you. And there’s that fear, that “what will I do if that person marks me as queer and wants to give me a hard time?”
My roommate was adamant that we do something. She was annoyed with my hesitation and kept shooting down any excuses I could find. Because frankly, I’m afraid. She has the privlege that if she walks out of a queer space, she can summon up her football player size boyfriend and no one will bother her. No one will mark her as queer, unless she wants them to. I don’t. I have to worry about that every time I leave the house.
Thanks again to everyone who submitted! I had such a good time reading all your posts, and was particularly encouraged that the broad call for posts led to so many interesting topics. I look forward to hearing from some of you in May for our second carnival!