Privilege is a word that’s been rolling around my head recently. Connected to so many areas of the work that I’m doing right now. It feels like a dirty word, I’m ashamed of it. And, I’m having difficulty reconciling my inner socialist with my privilege.
The word came up again today. I’m a “privileged immigrant”. If the shoe fits. Factually, that is exactly how to describe my current migrant status. But, I internally wince at the projections of elitism and the weight that the word “privilege” carries. I’m struggling more than usual to figure out what my issue with “privilege” is. Particularly as an immigrant living in a country that is so obsessed with a very black and white (figuratively and literally) view of immigration.
But why, why is “privilege” a word I’m ashamed of? I’ve been grafting at trying to make something out of nothing with this word. But, at the end of the day privilege is just privilege. When someone abuses that privilege…is that what we’re ashamed of? But, what’s the difference between abuse and the ignorance of privilege?
Stay with me! This feels like a veritable onion I’m about to delayer but I have to get this out of my head and onto paper (read: screen) to begin the process of figuring out how this is all connected. In fact, I’m now sitting questioning why I even started writing this and wondering where the chocolate biscuits are (oh, wait, that is privilege). I guess that’s part of the issue. I don’t know where my privilege starts and ends. Is there even a beginning and an end. What I consider every day life is total luxury for some. I try exceptionally hard to not take anything for granted. But, should that stop me (you) from feeling like we can’t express OUR REALITY without being called-out as privileged whiners.
I once voiced an opinion on an Instagram post that I thought was tasteless, basically. It was a series of images about every day objects that were used to beat children by their parents, back in the day. A shoe, a belt, a paddle, a brush… and it described the injuries that each object would give. The caption was written in a light hearted tone but had undertones of “if you know, you know”. I wasn’t rude or dismissive, I simply commented that I didn’t understand the meaning behind the post but that it made me feel uncomfortable. I was told that because of the colour of my skin, my life experiences and privilege, I would never understand what the post was about. The owner of the Instagram account didn’t even want to explain it to me. It jolted me into remembering that there are certain things in life that I will never be able to learn or fully comprehend, particularly when it comes to privilege or the lack thereof. Since then the word “privilege” has rolled around my head like a loose marble and gotten stuck in the pinball slingshots. It unbalances my rounded view of the world and makes me second guess everything. That’s it! My privilege will always make me second guess my conscious bias. Being made self-aware of privilege is feeding into how I talk about my work, friendships, personal life and life abroad. It’s not a bad thing, but it makes me feel less certain and more cautious. I can’t say the first thing that pops into my head because 9 times out of 10 it will be totally unthoughtful and unformed.
So, is it still ok to speak from a place of privilege? Or, should we all just get on board with the fact that we’re not worthy…
To be continued…