Admitting that you have privilege does not mean that you have not suffered in your life. It means that you have not suffered as a result of that particular thing.
Recently I’ve been involved in, overheard or witnessed a lot of conversation in which people deny their privilege and, in some cases, try to justify that they are the victim. We’ve seen it a hundred times: every time Black Lives Matter trends, so too does All Lives Matter. Come time for Pride month, the straight pride advocates pop up again. Every time a feminist speaks, or goes public about the discrimination they have suffered as a result of the patriarchy, so too does someone state “not all men…”
For one reason or another, it seems that those belonging to the community that has power in each of these situations are so desperate to refute this privilege. Obviously not every white person is bad, nor every police officer, man or straight person. But here’s the thing, if you aren’t a bad person then you don’t have anything to worry about. You can, however, use your privilege to support and advocate for those who are oppressed. Be an ally. The fact is that everybody has some form of privilege. You might be white, straight, cis-gender, a male, able-bodied, between the ages of 18-60, middle or higher class in a socioeconomic sense or more. For a more comprehensive list of where your privilege may be, and how you can use it positively check out this post by Through the Woods.
Over the last 24 hours, across the globe, you would have become aware of the most recent murder of a black man by police in America. In Australia, a major mining company has destroyed a significant, 46,000 year old aboriginal site. For weeks I’ve not only heard disgusting jokes, but I’ve also witnessed horrific abuse of people that are of any kind of Asian ethnicity. Only a couple of months ago I read a story of a girl who lives in my area whose mother and aunty were a victim of abuse because they wore a Hijab. I’ve grown up in a country where a popular, election winning slogan was ‘stop the boats.’ Every incident like this that circulates the internet, in whatever country, and every incident that I witness continues to slap me in the face. Not because it hurts me, because it doesn’t and I am not a victim in those situations and that is my privilege as a white person, but because it’s 2020 and this is still happening. The colour of someone’s skin, the religion they choose to follow or the country in which their family originates from determines their value in the world, whether or not they are guilty or innocent or whether they are just on a run or trying to break into a house.
Every day there is a comment, a post, an angry bigot who continues to invalidate the existence and humanity of the LGBTQ+ community. That we should be forced from the countries of the original posters, that Pride is dramatic, that we are promiscuous and overindulgent. One particular comment that I saw stated that “the alphabet people should be removed from the country, the do nothing to benefit anybody and all they do is complain.” I’ve listened to countless arguments over whether members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve rights, or to be treated as a human. I’ve witnessed and been a victim of some form of abuse or attack based on sexuality.
I’ve never met a female who has not been a victim of the Patriarchy. From the way girls are taught from a young age that the ultimate goal is to find a nice man and settle down, to beauty expectations, the gender pay gap, rape culture and more. For the past however many centuries women have consistently been out-ranked and disadvantaged as a direct result of male privilege. They’re paid less, have to work twice as hard to get half as far, live in constant fear of violent men, rapists and the like and more. For all the reasons on why everybody should be a feminist, check out the post I wrote on Passionately Petrified.
For a long time I’ve struggled to write something along these lines because I am passionate, I am empathetic, I have been directly affected by discrimination and hate speech. It can be really hard to calmly and concisely get your point across when you’re talking about something emotional. But I’ve realised that this is exactly what needs to happen. It’s time to be emotional, to demand that these issues are listened to, acknowledged and rectified. You can continue to say “not everything is about race, sexuality, religion or gender” and other equally as ignorant things such as “I don’t see colour.” But it’s not helping.
Minority groups no longer want to be invisible, they want to be seen and heard. They want to be valued and respected. This is not a fight that any minority can do for themselves, we need to use our privilege to stand alongside of them and advocate for them in spaces where they aren’t yet welcome. We need to use our privilege to protect them and ensure the world is a safe space. If you find yourself responding “All Lives Matter” or advocating for “Straight Pride” or questions where all of the “Men’s Rights Activists” are, stop it. You are using those terms in an effort to silence oppressed communities. Instead of reacting in that way, consider why these aren’t the correct responses. All lives will never matter until Black lives matter, there is no Straight Pride because you never had to fight for the right to love someone, feminism is about liberating women because the current Patriarchal system disadvantages and discriminates women based on their gender.
Privilege is a weapon, it’s up to us how we use it.