This stands out to me more now that I’ve read a developmental psych book on how the demands of modern life require a higher order of thinking that, oh, about half of us have not achieved. Click through to the article if for no other reason than to read the Literacy Privilege Checklist.
It’s horribly offensive to laud a man who murdered his girlfriend and left his daughter parentless. It’s also irresponsible. When the media reports domestic violence murders as random tragedies—or when individuals say the perpetrator must have “snapped”—they enable a culture of violence against women. Because when you don’t contextualize this violence as part of structural misogyny, you give credence to the myth that there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it.
Insisting that this murder or others like it are “unthinkable” or “shocking” is another way of saying that no one could have predicted it. (He was such a nice guy! A family man!) It’s a dangerous lie that allows us to wash our hands of responsibility when it comes to the violence that is perpetrated against women. Because the truth is that murders like this are predictable.
From Kasandra Perkins Did Not Have To Die by Jessica Valenti via the Nation.
No national conversation is even worth having if we can’t first acknowledge this very fundamental point: these situations are predictable and it’s idiotic to respond to each one as an isolated tragedy.(via stufficareabout)
It was interesting to listen to Tayari Jones discuss privilege, a concept we mostly hear bandied about in regard to the white, the male, and the wealthy. To be sure, it isn’t a term that springs immediately to mind in conversations about black women in this country. Between earning inequities, media misrepresentations, the “mule of the world” meme, and everything in between, we aren’t exactly the poster children for entitlement.
And yet there are several circumstances that can potentially place us at higher stations in life than those around us. Certainly, some of those circumstances are familial and relational. Wives are often in positions of privilege, as it relates to their husband’s other children. Children who have “full custody” of their fathers are privileged over their siblings who don’t. Maternal grandmothers may spend far more time with their grandchildren than paternal grandmothers. The possibilities along those lines are immense.
But there are plenty of other instances where black women may experience privilege. Some of those are cultural. Consider the hiring bias against applicants with “ethnic-sounding” names. In a hiring pool, Sharon Jones may have the unwitting upper hand over Shaquanita Jackson. Similarly, there are situations in which American-born black women find themselves at a distinct advantage over other women of the diaspora.
Because of its connotations, privilege isn’t always something we want to own. The idea suggests an unearned superiority and the power to oppress. And who wants to be associated with that? But what Jones said in her reading was key: It isn’t the privilege or how we obtain it that matters as much as what we choose to do with it. If we use it to lord our better lot over those less fortunate, we abuse it and squander its ability to heal, reconcile, and improve.
Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.
John Scalzi, “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” (via emm-in-sem)
The analogy seems apt. Scalzi makes a good point about the word “privilege” being offputting. I know it’s exciting when you finally learn what exactly privilege is and it’s all you want to talk about because you see it everywhere. But the word “privilege,” while not quite up there with “racist,” does tend to make people tune out, either because they don’t get it at all or they don’t get it in the same context that you do.
What bothers some viewers about the Shit X Says to Y meme is that it targets only white women. Critics have said of Foti in particular that it is always sexist when men use women as the brunt of any joke. But privilege does not work in debits and credits, whereby your lack of cultural power as a gay person is paid back by your stores of cultural power as a man. A white woman can be racist to an Asian man, just as a straight black woman can be homophobic to a gay white man. These videos are important because they ask all viewers – regardless of what power they have and what power they lack – to reconsider if their best friendship with non-white and gay people grants them licence to cross the line.
Yet this doesn’t change the fact that though white men started Shit Girls Say – to poke fun at white women – the backlash is against white women. Shit X Says to Y generalises these women as the only ones who possess a desire for intimacy or approval; that desire which bulldozes over the very real fact that, when differences in identity are at hand, there are parts of our friends’ lives that we can never understand. Love doesn’t conquer all. Still, it’s unfair to put this burden squarely on them. The lack of a Shit White Men Say to Y meme (or Simply Shit White People Say to Y meme) is uncomfortable proof that we always prefer lampooning women than men.
I love every word she wrote.
Something that isn’t spoken of often (at least on here) is what it means to be a privileged black person.
Privilege is rightly attributed to white people, cis-people, middle class/ rich people, male people… even skinny people (if female), conventionally attractive women in general.
But the more I write, the more I realize that there is some sort of privilege that I have (despite being a lower class black woman) that goes beyond my straightness and skinniness (although skinniness is tricky in the black community, because people tell me all the time that I need to eat something). Child, a man ain’t gon have nothing to hold unto. That’s what the older black women like to tell me. Big Sean’s ass song is definitely not for me. Although, I don’t think I’d want any Big Sean song for me. LOL. His misogyny seems to take on a whole new level.
But on a serious note, I’m sitting here in my upper-division Philosophy class, on Tumblr, totally not listening to my Professor (I never do), feeling disillusioned because I sense from my Philosophy classes (and really all of my classes) that white people feel like they created and maintained everything that is intellectual.
Looking at my dash, somebody reblogged my post called ‘internalized superiority’ (relating to how I deal with white people who talk down and around me) and called it an interesting perspective but she can’t wholly relate because she’s not a privileged black woman that can ‘turn off’ white racism, as in block it out and move on.
That makes me think.
So why can I turn it off? Exactly, what kind of privilege do I possess? And how does that affect how I synthesize race, my position based on race, and my opportunities in this white world I inhabit?
I always knew I could code switch. Not just language wise. But I can fully embody the white face too.
I’m doing it right now. I’ve never been called a hood rat or a ghetto bitch by a white person, a distinction that I know impacts opportunities. Although, I have been accused of not knowing how to speak white English. But that was only because the newspaper staff was really adamant about not hiring another black person, they already had one (because I can clearly speak white English perfectly fine).
I can do this white face thing because I grew up in an immigrant household that looked down on black American culture. So actually, everything black & American about me I acquired from school, not how I was raised. It’s ironic, daddy speaks only in patwa but he doesn’t like black American English. He always likes to talk about how he was born an English citizen (because he was born on an English owned West Indian island) & he still calls Africa a country. My mum was born in England to Jamaican immigrants. She can and does speak patwa but she always emphasized the importance of speaking like white people.
But I digress.
Why can I turn off how racism effects me? Why am I generally happy when I am also so simultaneously aware of all of the oppression and subjugation around me?
Why am I not more of a slave to existential angst?
I don’t really have many white friends. I don’t know if I have any, actually. I only define friends as people who I’d call when something noteworthy happens to me, somebody I could count on to emotionally support me when something bad happens. Somebody who I’d feel comfortable and happy hanging out with for a day. Somebody who actually views me as an autonomous human being.
Maybe by that definition I have none.
I did have a white female friend for years. But then I grew more aware and realized I was more of a pet to her or a Strong Black Woman TM than Danielle, a human being. She wasn’t always racist though. I’ve known her since she was 7. She grew into her white privilege. And I grew into an awareness of white internalized superiority. Naturally, we’re no longer friends.
So now all of the white people in my life seem to serve a very specific function: study buddies for classes, people I happen to live around (that I may need a specific favor from, especially my RA), professors, my boss(es)… although one of my Bosses for my internship at the Gender Humanities Ethnic Studies center is an Asian woman. I really like her.
Therefore, I never experience racism (personally directed at me) except when in public spheres… and I spend most of my time around family & friends… and really, the only time I am fully invested in my environment is when I’m around family & friends … otherwise, I am only half interested at best, and if I lack an emotional attachment racism seems less of a deal to me. I expect it. The expectation makes it easier to deal with I guess.
But I don’t know if I’ve still hit the head with my personal privilege. Certainly, the white face is a privilege. Although that often comes with dire emotional/ inner ramifications (akin to Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness). The ability to successfully self-segregate and distinguish between being in public and being in private (where my private life is filled with mutual love & respect).
I think the latter is where most of the privilege comes from. It’s one thing to have the media & the public telling you you’re lesser than, and another thing entirely to have your family and others who permeate your personal life doing the same thing.
I’ll probably think more about this later.