“The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
— Audre Lorde
Privilege, handed out at birth.
White privilege: Yes.
Gender privilege: No.
Born into color. Born into gender. Born into a system.
I am white. I am a woman. In reality, I am neither of these things. Yet, I live in a system, a system full of institutions that are insidiously laced with privilege, domination and oppression.
I don’t know…
what to do with this. I know I’ve been handed privilege. I know I’ve used this privilege and enjoyed its benefits. I know part of me would rather not talk about it.
Yet, I must.
Why must I? Because, not talking about it keeps me in a silence that needs to be broken.
Not talking about it keeps me from seeing my own humanity, keeps me tangled up in a fog of complicity and complacency that go against the nature of what I really am.
Not talking about keeps me from fully waking up to the light that is at the heart of every cell of matter.
Not talking about it keeps us from solidarity, soulful human connection that can help to break apart this system that we all uphold, both consciously and unconsciously. And I no longer want to uphold this system.
a woman told me this story. She was talking with her boyfriend about gender oppression, about what it’s like living in this culture as a woman. He replied to her that she couldn’t know oppression because she is white. He told her she couldn’t be gender oppressed because she was privileged by her skin color. He negated her experience of gender oppression because he determined that her whiteness denied her the very real and direct experience of gender oppression.
I once had a man, a white man, tell me that my whiteness automatically made me an oppressor. The first time I heard this, I was stopped short with surprise. Then anger. Then confusion.
I asked myself,
“What do I do with this?”
So, I sat with it. It churned. There were no clear answers, no short and sweet snippets of wisdom. And then I forgot about it.
Until now. Until my deep, deep desire to see men break the silence about gender privilege invited me to break my silence about what I’ve been privileged with – racial privilege mainly, as well as financial privilege, class privilege, etc.
As a white woman, I know both privilege and oppression. And, yes, I know I experience both, that one does not negate the other.
We were all born into a system that oppresses. We didn’t’ choose it, yet it is our responsibility to see it for what it is. And, for the sake of our children and grandchildren we must come to terms with the insidious ways it keeps us doing things that I know are antithetical to our true nature.
We’ve been born into it through no choice of our own. AND, we have a choice as to whether or not we continue to uphold it, because the system doesn’t do it to us. It works through us. The system is just a collection of beliefs that we internalized. Everything that we create from these beliefs continues the system. Everything that we create from knowing that we are simply many expressions of the One source of all of life will create a new infrastructure based on the love that is this One source.
I no longer want to know separation, because I know I am you and you are me. I know this. I see this, and it is only my internalized idea of the way the world is, and my habitual response pattern to these ideas, that keep me upholding something so painful.
I am angry about what has been done, and continues to be done, to women and children, to the earth. I am angry about the continued degradation of the feminine.
I am outraged at my own complacency.
My love for life, for this beauteous wonder that moves through me, calls me to live something greater than my habitual fear and confusion.
Am I willing to look here? Yes, I am willing to look. And, I hope you’ll look with me.
This post is part one of a series on privilege and oppression, and compliance and complacency. I don’t yet know how many parts there will be, or how and where it will end.
I hope you’ll inquire with me and leave rich comments here. Let’s begin a discussion. Let’s find a way through the fog of not wanting to see and know, so that one day we will meet in the place where there is no ‘other’.