Often, privileged individuals talk about checking your privilege. In a recent night class, we we had a conversation about biases and the need to acknowledge those biases. It often becomes so easy to articulate how one benefits from systems of privilege, but the follow-up is more than disappointing. What I mean is that individuals acknowledge their privilege, but do little to change their behaviors or the systems of advantage that reinforce privilege. It turns into an event or situation of acknowledgement, but is otherwise is ignored. And, it’s also important to reflect on your actions. I recently read a tweet by Black Girl Dangerous (@BlackGirlDanger).
— BGD (@BlackGirlDanger) February 4, 2015
Black Girl Dangerous (a.k.a. Mia McKenzie) goes on to talk about the uselessness is checking/acknowledging your privilege. At first, I wasn’t sure about the post, but as I read further, I completely understood and associated with the message she was sharing.
For example, as a male I have the privilege of speaking in front of a group and having my words being taken seriously. Regardless of if I’m acknowledging my male privilege or attempting to educate others on the topic, I need to think and talk about how the opportunity to speak in front of people and being validated may be a result of my male privilege. Then, I need to reflect on how I can ensure I work to dismantle the system of male dominance and patriarchy that allows for me to have a position over non-males. Other examples of this privilege is: becoming defensive; expecting the conversation to be catered to your feelings when you disagree with something; feeling entitled to be a leader over oppressed groups; or celebrating Columbus Day but not celebrating MLK Jr. Day (or the history months of oppressed groups.)
I think it’s important to recognize that, while individuals may want to be more vocal and active about privilege and oppression, they often aren’t equipped with the tools to do so effectively. Particularly from white colleagues, I often receive feedback about how they want to help and be advocates but don’t have the skills to do so. My first post for the SAC was talking about the importance of transformative and social action education. As professionals, we can’t always just have a program, discussion, or newsletter talking about these issues. This is true for graduate degree programs as well. We need to teach individuals how to be allies and how to ACT. If not, we just have a bunch of semi socially conscious people doing nothing. This is something we should be teaching our children in elementary school. Social Justice work is a lifestyle. It can’t be seen as an event or a job. Just as Dr. King’s nonviolence principles were a lifestyle.
We are all leaders and have a stake in these issues. Let’s support one another to make meaningful change on college campuses and not just talk about what needs to change.
> BONUS <
Podcast with Maryann Krieglstein on Social Justice & White Privilege