|Anonymous asked: If a person is white and "privileged", what (from your perspective) are ways for white people to alleviate their oppressive qualities?|
thank you for this question!!! it’s a really great one and these kinds of questions actually help me a lot with planning out how my program at NYU will be (since I think the majority of people who attend will be white people—at least I hope so lol since white people are the ones who need to truly understand what white privilege is and what racism is)
anyway to answer your question—okay so I’m going to use the word “you” a lot, and I’m not necessarily directing this at you specifically, rather a general “you” in reference to all white people. It helps with framing and understanding this kind of discussion
okay so I think the most important thing to do first and foremost is to completely acknowledge your privilege. If you are white, you are automatically privileged, no matter what other circumstances are present in your life. You can’t be white and unprivileged; that’s just impossible. It’s important to fully understand this and accept it wholeheartedly, because the next step in my opinion is to understand that this kind of acknowledgement is not exactly a personal, opinionated attack. If I say “you are privileged because you are white,” I am not personally insulting you or insinuating anything about you as a person, that is, I’m not saying “you have privilege,” rather that ”you are a part of a demographic that has a privilege.” I think it’s important to understand this because when white people automatically get defensive about white privilege, it means they’re not truly understanding what the nature of this privilege is or what the implications are. It’s a privilege attached universally to every white person. I hope this makes sense? I guess my point is “you have white privilege” is not the same thing as me saying “you are a terrible person.” You can perhaps be a really terrible person lol but I can’t infer that automatically without getting to know you personally. “You have white privilege,” however, is an automatic inference I can make, if you are white. Because it is a fact. Privilege is not a measure of how good you are as a person, it’s merely a signifier of your racial identity.
I hope that’s coherent, because in my opinion, all of that comprises the first step to what you call alleviation of oppressive qualities. I think as long as you have an understanding of your own privilege and you keep reminding yourself of its existence, then your very awareness of your own privilege can gradually shape your actions and behaviors automatically. Things like the language you use, for instance. Watch what you say and how you say them. Don’t use the n-word (no non-black person should ever use the n-word PERIOD), and while we’re at it, don’t use words (especially slurs) that don’t actually describe your own identity (i.e. if you’re a heterosexual, don’t use the word “f-ggot” [ya I don’t use that word personally and don’t like typing it out either]).
Try to look at things in a different way. Because if you are born into this privilege, you are blind to its existence because you are silently reaping the benefits of the privilege without it ever being brought to your attention. White privilege consists of a social blindness, while the disadvantaged minorities are the ones who are forced to deal with the repercussions of your privilege. They’re the ones who are most salient to what you have, and what they don’t. Think about that in everything you see around you. Why is the race of a black criminal highlighted, when a white criminal’s race is not stated at all? When you watch a movie, pay attention to the way race is represented. Why are there no black people in that movie? Why are there only black people in that other movie? What is that saying about media? About whiteness? About you as a target demographic? Paying attention to media is really important in understanding your privilege even more, and fighting to combat that through what you do. For instance, I took a film class and every paper I wrote for that class and every discussion I raised in that class centered around unfair representations of minorities (of race, of gender, and of sexuality). I ended up helping a lot of people understand the inherent problems with a lot of the movies we watched, and the problems with overall standard film critiques, which are centered on white [heteronormative and male] perspectives. Being aware of your privilege and speaking out against the oppression that it can cause is one of the best things you can do with your own privilege, because you’re not only acknowledging its existence, but also saying that you, as a member of the oppressing majority, do not like that this is happening. That’s powerful and helpful in helping others in the same group as you understand these issues.
Now ok I think this is the most important part, and it’s going to sound like I’m contradicting what I said above, but bear with me. So while I definitely suggest speaking out against racial oppression and standing with those who face the disadvantages of racism and prejudice, it’s also important to learn when to keep your mouth shut. Because, as a white person, you are in a place of (unjust) social superiority, so you automatically assume that you can enter any conversation and have a say in what is being said. Why is it so outrageous, for instance, that old white government officials are the ones deciding what to do about contraception and abortion? Because they are assuming a privilege that they are not allowed to have. As men, they have absolutely no right to deem what is most appropriate for women to do with their bodies. It’s simply a privilege they are not entitled to. The same thing applies to race. While it is important to have discussions about race, try to just shut up if someone is talking about something that is not within your personal experience. If a black woman is talking about how she’s been oppressed all her life, don’t be like “yeah but—” You have no right to trivialize someone else’s life experiences, because you have not had those experiences. You don’t know what it’s like to have someone be racist against you, so a) never assume that you fully understand what that can feel like, and b) don’t offer your opinion on someone else’s racial experience unless that person specifically asks you what your opinion is. If someone is talking about how they didn’t get a job because they’re black, don’t automatically be like “hey it might’ve been something else!!!” Because even if it was something else, you making that kind of statement is a) trivializing that person’s feelings, which are feelings you have never experienced and can never experience, b) reinforces the idea that a black person bringing up discussions of racism is nothing more than exaggeration, and c) makes you assume that you, as a white person, always have a say in these kinds of discussions. So the best thing to do, if you don’t have anything supportive to say, or if no one really asked you for your opinion, is to say nothing!!!! Because just the very fact that you feel compelled to say anything at all is an example of the very privilege you have. If you shut up, then you are relinquishing your privilege, as a white person, to enter a discussion based on an experience you have never had, and thus, a discussion you are not entitled to join. Speak out against oppression, but shut up if what you’re saying cancels out the voice of the oppressed.
sorry this is so long but I hope it’s helpful. As a white person myself, I really try super hard to help other people acknowledge the same privilege
ok ok ok i don’t normally preach about this and if you eat meat that is completely your prerogative and i respect your decisions and everything
but THIS is why i don’t, and i’m tired of people asking me with accusatory glances why i am a vegetarian. it’s not just that we don’t have respect for animals in general—it’s that we pick and choose which ones are worth saving. so many people i know who eat meat are fostering dogs in their homes, looking for homes for them, and side-eye any culture that eats dogs. but i have news for you: PIGS ARE SMARTER THAN DOGS. most have the intelligence of a 2 year old child, and yet we raise them for slaughter as if they are nothing to the world but food for our stomachs.
LIFE IS VALUABLE IN ALL ITS FORMS THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT—