deoridhe: (Default)
Recently, lists of priviledges were tossed around in various forums that I read and participate in. For those not familiar with them, priviledge lists are lists of things that people who have X characteristic don't have to deal with. X characteristic is usually something where there is systemic discrimination against people with N characteristic, for example blacks, or women, where N characteristic is viewed as opposite X characteristic. The common responses I've seen on the people who come out with advantages from the systemic discrimination vary widely, from "yeah, part of the only group that's not discriminated against, let me explain how my life really sucks" to "But it mixes the petty with the major; that's lame!" to "But what can I DO??? I just feel guilty and it sucks!!!" For the record, I tend to fall on the latter side of things. Some examples are: the White Privilege Checklist and the Male Privilege Checklist

I was in a situation once where I said something ('could you please move to the back,' when I was driving a vehicle for multiple people) which was interpreted as racist (I considered the time of picking the person up - e.g. the last people should have the seats closest to the door because they moved very slowly and we were on a time schedule - over the respective skin color of the people involved). This was an example of white priviledge rearing it's ugly head; while I had heard about discrimination on buses, it never occured to me that that interpretation could be given to my words - and that was a privilege. I could never make it up to the gentleman I offended, for he would have rebuffed any attempt and perhaps rightly so. He avoided me from that day onward; he was a dignified man, and I think the shame of the memories and acknowledging them to me in my ignorance would have been too much for him. I did, however, in my way attempt to make resistution. I still didn't want to wait ten minutes for the last two, extremely slow passangers to laboriously move beyond a crowd of people, but I did choose to explain that was the reason why when asking people to move backwards. I don't know if it helped, but with my new knowledge it was what I chose to do.

Privilege lists are a window into a world one can never really experience firsthand, and should be honored as such. Personally, my choice when presented to them is to change my behavior insofar as it resonates with my values. I am unlikely to discuss reproductive rights without mentioning forced sterilization, given the knowledge I've gained from others. I am likely to be explicit in why I ask people to do things. I'll make posts like this. ;) I look for diversity in opinions and knowledge. When I'm wrong, I try to make what resitution I can, accepting that sometimes there is no restitution which can be made.

I refuse, however, to become bitter in my privilege; it was not sought by me, but it was given to me, and that is the fate I have to deal with.

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Deoridhe

September 2007

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