Photo courtesy of Brittany Wells and Marley Bangert | Staff Writer Brittany wells wraps up her series with a reflection on the work she’s done.
Privilege is blinding. If you’ve lived your entire life with a VIP sticker on your back, that you never knew was there or knew any different, but the rest of the world treated you more kindly, you may assume that what made the difference was your behavior.
If you realized you were treated better, you may have assumed it was because you worked hard to get where you are, failing to acknowledge the role of the VIP sticker. It’s not that you didn’t work hard, it’s that non-VIP-sticker-toting people worked hard, too, and their work was often ignored and second guessed.
If you had a VIP sticker on your back, you’d also be less likely to want to distribute a VIP sticker to everyone. If everyone got to wear YOUR special VIP sticker, yours would lose its meaning! No longer would you get extra nice treatment or a leg up in the workforce! How dare they take away the significance of your sticker! You may cry out “You socialist!” or any number of defensive comments at anyone handing out VIP stickers on street corners. Luckily, I’m not asking for a socialist society. I’m merely requesting that we, as individuals, offer kindness, justice for all members of society, equal pay for equal work, representation in media that reflects the real makeup of society and a willingness for those with VIP stickers to have empathy for and awareness of the marginalized. The accomplishments of the privileged are not invalidated by the advantages they had in getting them, but to whom much is given, much is required, and treating everyone equally is not only biblical but essential to a healthy and democratic society.
Top 10 Things I’ve Learned:
1) Storytelling is liberating. Most people will testify to their struggles and their triumphs if you listen. It is healing for both the storyteller and the witness of story.
2) It’s a beautiful, vulnerable thing to ask the questions you don’t want to ask. Ask with the intention to understand, not exclusively to reply.
3) Before asking for another’s story, you must first know your own. Don’t consume or appropriate their stories but rather use their stories for connection and share your stories back. Storytelling is essential to conquering the greatest divides of our nation.
4) Allow marginalized people to tell their stories whenever possible, and if you have the means to provide that opportunity, you should. However, it isn’t their responsibility to educate you.
5) People get really angry when you talk about privilege because it is very uncomfortable to question the rules that our own success hinges upon.
6) My own willingness to question my privilege on a public forum has given others permission to ask difficult questions themselves.
7) Calling someone racist, sexist or homophobic isn’t helpful. It is detrimental to having any level of effective conversation with the person. Do not affront the audience you desire to educate.
8) Everyone is, to some degree, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., because everyone is biased. In acknowledging our implicit bias and committing to a daily fight to counteract our initial inclinations so deeply ingrained in the fabric of our culture that we forget it exists, we are progressing.
9) It isn’t wrong to be biased, it’s only wrong not to question it. Untamed bias hurts the marginalized friends around us.
10) Being White doesn’t mean you cannot participate in conversations about race. Being straight doesn’t mean you can’t stand with those who aren’t. Being Christian doesn’t mean you cannot celebrate other faiths. Going to an expensive school doesn’t mean that everyone here is wealthy. Being able-bodied doesn’t mean you can ignore the need for accessibility on campus.
Being privileged isn’t a death sentence to being relevant in social justice. We are all global citizens, and it is our responsibility to stand with and for each other as brothers and sisters.
Brittany Wells is a first-year Montessori education major and staff writer for the Newswire from Cincinnati.