I have been reflecting on privilege recently, especially since I’ve had this little boy. He is the epitome of privilege -white, male, parents (and grandparents) with greater than college level degrees, one of which comes from a premier institution. Born into a family in a wealthy, modernized country. That family has reliable transportation at all times. And a house, and extra income.
On the surface, this could come off braggy. It is not. Not at all. It’s just true, and it can never not be true of him.
And things like this are true for him:
- As a child, he will be able to choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of his own sex. He never has to look for it; male protagonists are the default.
- He does not have to be educated to be aware of systemic racism for his own daily physical protection.
- When he goes to school (speaking of privilege) he will likely get more teacher attention than girls who raise their hands just as often.
- He can arrange his activities so that he will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to his race.
- He has the privilege of being unaware of his white privilege.
- He has the privilege of being unaware of his male privilege.
Deitrich Bonheoffer said,
We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.
Privileged people are often riding in the vehicle itself but don’t even know it.
Almost 9 years ago, while studying abroad in Latin America, I was mugged on my way to meet some friends. Since then, I’ve had PTSD, with various degrees of symptoms at times.
One thing I noticed when I returned to the states was that I was afraid of Latino men who bore some physical resemblance to one of my attackers. The features that would trigger my fear were not very specific, so many men fell into this category. And I struggled with and grieved over the fact that the fear was connected to race, because I do not believe I would have feared so many white men en masse if my attacker had been white.
Honestly, I don’t totally know what to do with privilege, both my own and my son’s. I do not know how to raise a little boy to understand that he has advantages he did not earn and that he must do all he can to offer those to other people, even if offering them to others feels more like giving them up for yourself.
But we are going to try to figure that out, because we must find a way to get out of the vehicle and grab a long, strong stick.