Brownfemipower posted on guilty bloggers. The post really shook me up. Fuck, I’ve done it again. I’ve been coasting on white privilege.
I’m new to blogging, and have struggled with the focus of my blog. I want a heavy emphasis on feminism, but I also want to deal with the hatred the mentally ill face, and with conservation issues. My blog reading focuses on feminist blogs, and I’ve found the atmosphere on many of these blogs quite uncomfortable. People who fall under the umbrella of feminism should be very diverse. However, I’ve found that, as a mentally ill woman, I see both casual bias and outright scorn against people with mental disorders on feminist blogs. It’s easy to use “crazy” as the butt of a joke. I’ve also felt ill at ease, rarely, due to being childfree and an atheist. But I never once felt uncomfortable because of my skin color. The majority of blogs I visited dealt with issues that were relevant to me, a white woman.
I’ve wanted to write about my feelings of alienation in the feminist blogosphere. I’ve wanted to challenge the status quo in feminist blogging. I’ve been furious at the story of “top” male liberal bloggers acting as if feminism wasn’t their concern. Those men rose to the top through their ability, and if women couldn’t do the same, then they must not have any talent. On my blog, I’ve focused on feminist issues that directly concern me. I have not posted about racism. I’ve been coasting on white privilege. I’ve been behaving like those elite male bloggers: only worried about my own ass.
How could I do this? People who care only about themselves sicken me. I have two options: be completely self-centered or walk my talk. The reason I'm a feminist is that inequality enrages me, so it’s time to walk my talk. Everyone matters. Feminism is about equality for all. So why do I fall into the selfish trap? Privilege is a vile, invisible cancer, and it infects every area of life. When I think about feminist issues, I’m well-aware of my position as one-down in society. But I blindly ignore my status and the advantages I have by “virtue” of being born white and straight.
At work, I teach psychology at the community college level. One of my favorite areas is social psychology, because I can spend a lot of time on racism and privilege. In the classroom, I introduce the concept of privilege. And oh, does the atmosphere turn chilly. Formerly talkative white students get quiet, and the anger in the room quickly builds to near breaking point. I get frustrated with my white students, quarter after quarter. OK, so they didn’t know about privilege before, that’s why I’m teaching them about it. But they resist learning about privilege. In spite of numerous examples, case histories, and discussion, they furiously deny privilege exists. I hear “I don’t try to have privilege over anyone!” and “I didn’t have any slaves!” over and over. White students say “I have problems too! People discriminate against me!” One student even said “White people face the same problems that colored people face.” My own frustration threatens to explode. I will not open their minds by screaming that they are miserable little cretins. I try to hammer home that privilege is so destructive precisely because it is invisible to those who have it. This classroom exercise is routinely unsatisfying, nerve-wracking, and unproductive.
Once privilege is explained to you, you are obligated to think about it, take responsibility for it, and fight against it. Why won’t those students get it? I have not posted about racism. Why don’t I get it? Well, I do get it, but I lose focus and return to my comfortable, privileged world. Intention is never enough; fighting for equality requires persistence and dedication.
It isn’t Brownfemipower’s, or anyone else’s job to educate me, remind me, or motivate me. But she did all of those things, and I’m grateful to her. From now on, I won’t coast on white privilege. Feminism is about autonomy for everyone, not just for white women.