Checking my Privilege

This is the second time I’ve been prompted to “check my privilege” in an official way. Living in Seattle, I feel my privilege almost every day because it’s hard not to notice the gaping disparity in this cruel city. And yet I hadn’t read my privilege list in months. The list started in March 2017, inspired by an article I read about birth rights and outcomes, and how radically they differ based on your race.

That first round of inspecting and acknowledging the privileges in my life yielded about 30 things I could clearly see. Now I’m reading Ijeoma Oluo’s book “So you want to talk about race.” In it, she encourages a regular checking of one’s privilege. It’s important to maintain a realistic sense of privileges, to not let them fade into shadow, to identify and acknowledge new ones as they come into view.

“When somebody asks you to “check your privilege” they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing and may in fact be contributing to those struggles. It is a big ask, to check your privilege. It is hard and often painful, but it’s not nearly as painful as living with the pain caused by the unexamined privilege of others. You may right now be saying “but it’s not my privilege that is hurting someone, it’s their lack of privilege. Don’t blame me, blame the people telling them that what they have isn’t as good as what I have.” And in a way, that is true, but know this, a privilege has to come with somebody else’s disadvantage—otherwise, it’s not a privilege.”

And so, in that spirit, I updated my privilege list.

  1. White
  2. Cisgender (passing)
  3. Neurotypical (passing)
  4. Native English speaker
  5. Documented citizen of the country I live in
  6. Raised Protestant
  7. No physical disabilities
  8. No mental illness
  9. Grew up in relatively stable home environment
  10. Had a room of my own as a child
  11. Parents supported and were interested in my success/happiness (as much as they knew how to be)
  12. Consistent access to books and music since childhood
  13. Reliable access to medical and dental care/insurance since childhood
  14. Reliable access to food since childhood
  15. Never had to use public assistance
  16. Have lived in predominantly white, lower/middle-class neighborhoods/cities
  17. My fitness/eligibility to be a parent has never been questioned
  18. Got to choose where/how I birthed my son
  19. Had multiple people supporting and advocating for me during birth
  20. Was not forced to have a cesarean section
  21. Have access to healing modalities and communities that support my ongoing trauma recovery
  22. Stable housing
  23. Reliable transportation
  24. Tall
  25. Height-weight proportionate
  26. Conventionally attractive
  27. College educated
  28. Teachers supported and encouraged me
  29. Never suspended or expelled because of my race
  30. Employed my whole adult life
  31. Employed in tech in Seattle
  32. Never been denied a job/promotion because of my race
  33. Excellent credit score
  34. Reliable access to clean, affordable water
  35. Most people in my communities are a part of my racial group
  36. Most people in the books/movies look like me
  37. Never been threatened or harassed by police
  38. No family member has been imprisoned
  39. No family member has been lynched
  40. No family member has been killed by police
  41. I don’t have to teach my son to be afraid of the police
  42. Haven’t been forced to leave ancestral land
  43. Ancestors acquired plentiful farmland cheaply (because it was stolen), affording them wealth to pass on
  44. Have been able to choose where I want to live
  45. Majority of my family members mortgage/own their homes
  46. Qualified for down-payment assistance when I mortgaged my home
  47. When I enter an upscale store, no one questions my “right” to be there
  48. When I speak at work, no one questions my intelligence or threatens to have me fired because of my race
  49. No one has labeled my physically large, emotionally exuberant, opinionated young son as “aggressive” due to his behavior at school
  50. I can choose to ignore the realities of race-based violence, oppression, imprisonment, and genocide because it doesn’t directly impact “people like me”

I keep re-reading that last one. Cuz it’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? And yet it’s no longer my reality because that cat is already out of the bag. Once I started looking, everything changed. Reality changed. The lies I was told, the propaganda I was fed began to fall away.

It hurts, waking up to a reality where my “nice life” is built on centuries of dead bodies, crushed potential, conceit, and cruelty wrought by the hands of “people like me.” And I can guaranfuckingtee you my pain is small potatoes compared to how much it hurts to live as a racial minority in a white supremacist death cult bent on consuming everything and everyone it sees. So yeah, I’m going to keep checking my privilege because it feels like an important step on the only path that really matters right now.

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