P is for Privilege

I sit here in a hipster Austin coffee shop on South Lamar writing about my passion for writing. Fueling my energy into this bloggy blog that I want to start. Seeking out even more comfort for my already comfortable life.

Josh leans over and tells me about refugees that had already been vetted to come to America can no longer come because of an executive order that was just signed that restricted travel from these countries. These families have already sold all of their things to buy these plane tickets. It was already done. And just like that, it’s all taken away. The livelihood of these people. Their entire lives in flux. 

I sit here thinking about how I can make my writing career happen. Writing about how much I love books and words. But, what good are my words if they just promote my own privilege, power, and position?

It’s not my fault that I have privilege. But, it is my fault if I use it all for myself.

I recently had a conversation with a student who questioned whether or not it was possible for marginalized groups of people to use their race or religion as a way to manipulate situations or conversations. As much as I wanted to scream truth at him in regards to his false assumptions, I realize that each of these moments in time is pinnacle in reaching the next generation. The questions that kids raise about racism, justice, and privilege are important.

He asked these questions based on playground banter where someone had called him racist, and he recognized how there was nothing that he could say to that. He didn’t understand why, but he felt ostracized and shut down. His privilege lay in the fact that he had not experienced racism himself, thus he’s never had to enter into these conversations from the victim’s perspective.

We talked about how this was the point where he had to put his feelings of being offended aside. We talked about how this was important because it gave him an opportunity to understand the other side. If somebody called him racist, there was something that he said (whether intentional or not) that triggered hurt in the other person. And because of that, it was his job to start a conversation and seek to understand.

In seeking to understand, this is where we can use our privilege to empower the oppressed. In seeking to build a bridge through conversation and dialogue, this student can learn to use his privilege or position to support the marginalized. Instead of lashing out in anger that somebody called him out on his racism or privilege, he can listen to the stories of his peers and understand the hurt that he has caused them. At a young age, he has the opportunity to be a person of privilege and power that continually learns how to speak up for injustices that do not necessarily plague him directly.

We can’t undo our privilege. What we were born with is what our stories will always hold. However, we can undo the ways that we are accustomed to using our privilege.

The first step is recognizing the privilege that I have. From there, I want to take all the steps that I possibly can to use the gifts, talents, position, power, and privilege to empower the marginalized, bring justice to the oppressed, and give voice to the voiceless.