ON PRIVILEGE

  1. I am a straight, cisgender, white-appearing (but multi racial), middle-class to upper middle-class, young, American male.
  2. When you think about privilege, that's as good as it gets.
  3. Recently I had an experience and a friend of mine inadvertently taught me a huge lesson about how, as a person of peak privilege, to listen, learn, and address issues of inequality or injustice.
  4. It wasn't anything huge or life-changing. It's not a big social issue, it's a small personal matter but I think it shows a lot about how people of privilege can help and advocate for those oppressed.
  5. Small backstory:
    I've been involved at a Christian Summer Camp for over twelve years. I've served in a variety of roles, and always try to get back for at least one week every summer. My theology is very liberal, and I've run into some issues at camp because of that, which culminated in the new, very conservative camp director telling me I couldn't counsel this summer, even though they were short twelve counsellors for this particular week of camp.
  6. I talked to my friend Kinsley about it all.
    She's also very liberal and is as vocal about it as I am. She's been involved at camp her entire life, additionally, her Mom is on the Board of Directors, her Grandparents were founding members of Camp in 1950, and her Grandfather has donated a lotttttt of money to camp over the years. So, in this instance, she has privilege that I don't, and has been treated better at camp than I have.
  7. So, Kinsley showed me some very practical steps for being an ally.
  8. Step One: Listen
  9. Be mad, recognize there's a problem. It could have been easy for her to think that since she isn't experiencing the same issues, that I'm overreacting or exaggerating. Instead, she was angry with me and let me vent, asking for details and wanting to fully understand the issue.
  10. Step Two: Let Them Know You're on Their Side
  11. Again this is such a small scale compared to the social justice an systematic inequality in our society, but on this small scale to hear someone of privilege be like "I'm with you" meant a lot, cause she doesn't need to ruffle any feathers or get involved, but she is.
  12. Step Three: Make Sure They Want Your Help
  13. Sometimes a person just wants to vent, or maybe they know that someone else speaking up will make it worse, or maybe they want to fight their own battle. Ask how you can help or if you have something in mind ask if they're okay with that, ask if they think it'll help.
  14. Step Four: Make sure they know you care, that you love them, that an issue that hurts them matters to you.
  15. Even if there's nothing you can immediately do or you were just listening. Just making sure someone knows you love them is huge! Also, In any situation, it sucks when someone says they'll help and doesn't come through. I really appreciated her saying "here's what I'm going to do and how"
  16. Step Five: Recognize your privilege.
  17. Recognize that for whatever reason, you aren't experiencing the same issues. Be it your race, gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, age, etc. Recognizing your privilege recognizes that the problem is systematic, not a one-off. Knowing that you aren't experiencing issues or oppression because of your privilege keeps that in perspective. It can be so easy to write off individual events, but that's keeping your head buried in the sand and tuning out that social issues are so widespread.
  18. Step Six: add a little humor (optional)
  19. After she set a meeting time, she sent me this. Obviously there isn't going to be humor in every situation and in many larger issues it's probably inappropriate but ending the conversation with a laugh was an awesome reminder that this person knows and loves me.
  20. I think sometimes it can be hard to know what to do or how to help. Every situation and personality is going to be different, but as I read through this conversation I thought it showed, on a small scale, a few simple steps a person of privilege can take to be an ally.