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Jun 2

On Privilege, Racism, and Oppression

Posted on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 in Theories

Let’s talk privilege. So, I’m a middle class white female-bodied genderqueer mentally ill Jew. I’d be the first to admit I have some privilege but I am also fairly oppressed by the system as well. There are people who hate me because of my heritage. There are people who hate me for being queer. There are people who won’t view me as an equal if they knew about my mental illness. I wasn’t born into money. My family was lower class and worked really, really hard so that their kids would never know what it’s like to go without food. My class status is a result of hardwork, not old or blood money. So, because my family wanted a better life for me than they had, somehow my privilege state is somehow my fault that I need to take responsibility for. I am being told by peers that it’s somehow my fault I am white and middle class. I never asked for this life. I just happened to be born into it.

However, for everyone person like me who admits their privileges – there’s a thousand people who don’t. I was talking to my friend about being privilege. My friend mentioned when she got home from work she turned on the television and “Desperate Housewives” was on. She watched the opening scene and one of the characters stated, “I am privilege and I don’t care.” That sentiment is a majority of people in my position. Yet, I do care and I am trying to use what I got to better the world – not just my own personal interests.

I keep being told I don’t understand racism but no one can explain to me how I don’t get it. I might not have to deal with racism but I do have to deal with the threat that people will hate me for my last name or being visibly queer. How is that any different? Yet, somehow, I am told by anti-racist racists that my experience as a human being isn’t valid because of the color of my skin. Just because I was born into a white meat suit, my whole life and experiences don’t matter. To classify a group of people, due to their skin color, and to automatically decide that people of a certain race experiences aren’t as valid as another race experience, is no different than what Hitler did by blaming the Jews.

Racism is always going to be a problem and I know class/race is related. That most people in prison are people of color and there’s racial profiling. But, if there were more people of color than whites, the situation would be reverse. If there were more queers than heterosexuals, the heterosexuals would be oppressed. It’s just dumb luck that things are the way they are.

Now, I have been told I’m not being a good enough white ally because of my lack of understanding that no one can explain how I lack it. I know my life and personal experiences. I know when I go to people of color events to try to be a good ally they don’t want me there because I am white. I’ve had people who won’t date me because of the color of my skin. I have never rejected anyone based on skin color. The anti-racist racists have already judged me and decided they don’t want me. Why should I bother trying to befriend people who don’t want to be my friend or want my support? Why should I go out of my way to try to support people who won’t support me? What about people caring about being an ally to me for being queer, Jewish, and mentally ill?

I’ve lost lots of friends over being mentally ill. I have people who I’ve known for years turn on me for something beyond my control. I’ve been assaulted for being a homosexual. I don’t know many people of color who’ve been assaulted for being a person of color or lose friends over it. It’s not like they wake up one day and they’re a person of color like I woke up one day with a chemical imbalance. I deal with anti-semantism due to my heritage. Yet, due to my visible race, I am being told I don’t understand oppression?

I am not trying to play the who’s more oppressed than who game. But I find the radical circles intolerable of differences. They want to be project an image of representing a minority and apart from my class and skin color, I am a minority. But all that is ignored and not validated because of my skin. I am told I don’t understand. I do understand and can relate because I am oppressed to.

With that being said, I am doing the best I can do to make the world a more loving, tolerant place. I am trying to be the best ally to everyone but to be told I am lacking without being able to be told why is madness. I would never turn to anyone and say, “You aren’t being a good enough ally.” Or “Your experience aren’t valid.” Or even “You don’t understand.” That’s hateful and violent within itself to not valid another’s experience. I do understand and know what it’s like to be hated for something that isn’t your choice.

To automatically declare I am an oppressor based on the color of my skin is as ridiculous to decide I oppress due to my gender, sexuality, height, weight, type of peanut butter I eat. It’s to make an enemy out of a friend. It’s to become the oppressor yourself.

To simply be told by people who don’t know me that I’m a “privilege rich white kid” and I’m “not a good enough white ally” without being able to explain why other than saying “You don’t understand.” is to not even begin to examine the whole picture. It’s not validating the oppression I face. It’s not validating my family’s struggle so that I can have a better life than they had. It’s not looking at the fact I am using my privilege to try to fight against all forms of oppression. That I acknowledge my privilege but it’s not my fault. I can only work with what I am given and I doing the best I can. I don’t, however, see people of all colors lining up to be allies to me or approaching me to find out how to be an ally for what I need allies for as they expect me to do for them – which I do. I have had people get upset at me for asking how to be a better ally since I should “educate myself” which is what I was trying to do by asking. I’m not a psychic or a mind reader. I’ve never had anyone ask me how to be an ally to me for anything already mentioned. It’s not fair that so much is demanded of me but I can’t ask for the same in return. Because I’m white and I don’t understand oppression.