I am flagrant in my self-shucking of roles these days. I actively refuse to be stereotypically anything. I keep reshaping myself out of every box, and I do so because I have come to understand that I don’t know jack shit about anybody or anything except myself–and don’t know much about me, either.
But also, because I have found myself steeped in privilege that I didn’t recognize as such:
– good, two parent household
– a strong family support network
– real, honest friends
– good, solid teachers growing up
– strong role models that have sometimes become mentors
– decent (mostly) drama-free marriage
– intelligent caring colleagues who believe in kids like I do
– healthy faith in a mainstream religion that is recognized by the powers that be
– acceptable weight and height for a woman my age
– good job and a string of other good, experience buildong jobs
– a partner with a good job who enjoys his work
– no differently abled brain or body to contend with
– solid sense of self and self validation tools
– black but knowledgeable about how to blend into a white world when necessary
– nice quiet neighborhood with friendly yet private neighbors
– kids who are comfortable at school and have friends
– supportive nonviolent spouse who checks his male privilege
– two cars that I can now afford to pay for
– a fridge full of food in a ridiculous variety
– a place to live that I can afford and that I feel safe in
– health and dental insurance that doesn’t destroy the bank account
– clean running water and noninterupted electric service
– a really good public library that gets the books I ask for
– a broad, damn near global social network and the consistent internet needed to access it
– access to multiple resources, many of them free or very affordable
– heterosexual and cisgender identification
That’s not it: I’m sure of that. It’s just that I have an infinite amount of privileges that I have always taken for granted and am just now unpacking. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t got some disadvantages; being black and a woman is one load that I carry, and those two by thwmselves carry the constant possibility of violence and death. It’s just that the longer I live, the more I see and hear and experience vicariously what it means to NOT enjoy the privileges that I DO have.
Love–real love, not passion or emotion–carries with it the responsibility of sitting with someone else’s pain and honoring their experience as parallel to and different from your own. Love demands that you step into another person’s reality and see their struggle from their perspective without judgment or the lens of your own privilege or pain. If I am negating someone else’s experiences for any reason at all, then I am not walking in love. I am being selfish.
So as much as I sit with my own pain, I also sit with my privilege. And I constantly try to view the world through an adjusted lens of other. That’s the only way I know to get everybody to a place of healing: mirroring back love, grace, and mercy instead of shouting down other people’s pain with my own.
Owning your privilege doesn’t mean rejecting it, you know. It means acknowledging it in its totality, then using it to help someone else. Acknowledging it doesn’t call for you to be ashamed of it; it simply means that you shouldn’t hoard your advantages. Because on the hoarding and protecting of privilege, you now intentionally and actively inflict harm. And that’s NOT the lick.