I was contemplating Angry Black Bitch's post yesterday "The battle hymn of an angry black woman" about the oppression that black women face. As I read her increasingly angry prose, I thought...that simply doesn't sum me up. I'm not simply a black woman. Maybe 'the man' hasn't gotten around to showing me that I'm nothing and can be violated and abused at the whim of the state but I got the sense that the straddled with kids, poor, bad health, and barely educated trope doesn't quite fully encompass my story - I don't want be the angry pissed black women today - is that okay? Or do I have some loyalty maintain that front line?
And if I'm not a poor, angry, etc etc pissed off black woman, then what am I? Shouldn't it be essential for people to fully understand and interrogate their privilege? At least in order to make them understand why they should buy in the idea of social justice?
That brought me to the idea of trying to define my privilege. I think we have to find a way to be honest about the way that racism and patriarchy and classism play on our loyalties by rewarding some folks for something and other folks for other things. You want an example I know. What I saying is this...wouldn't we benefit from saying that black men, for example, can both be victims of racism and oppressors as men at the very same time? Yes, we women do, all the time. Yet they don't see it. Partially because it benefits them to be blind to the ways that they create and maintain oppressive relationships with black women but, not to let them off the hook but, because there is some aspect of privilege that is invisible to those who hold it.
Until I began working with the welfare population I never fully had to face my personal privilege. I thought all black women were just like me - not so. I really never understood that one could be illiterate in the United States, never actually knew anyone, never understood what that means, how it really impacts your life - I know people who have been to public school and they read just fine! But there are cracks the size of Wasila that people are falling through and now I work with them almost exclusively - the crack people. So just being able to read and write is a privilege - never mind confidently add and subtract. But even folks who come through our doors who are smart, struggle with presentation, the way they dress, and talk, and walk - basically the hated ghetto word gets thrown around the office everyday. We shake our heads and lament that there is nothing we can do for the 90% of them that embrace their way of being or have no idea that it is something they should be ashamed of (should they be ashamed of it?). Real talk. If you are a rapper...you can get away with it. A poor parole in Brooklyn with an ice cream cone tatooed on his face? Not a chance.
Womanist musing recently had a post about a big girl who was responding to the massive posts about street harassment and the dangerous prevalence of it...she noted that she was never sexually harassed but ridiculed for her size- to the point where she was secretly excited when someone did come on to her in the street. I had to pause -- could sexual harassment also be a part of one's privilege?? Whaaa??? I know intellectually that male acceptance of your sexually is essential ( I know some women who never had at all and the way that their esteem was unredeemable) but daily (unwanted?) reassurance of your femininity as a privilege? Pause... I. suppose. one. must. address. that.
You know it burns me to even think about it. Street Harassment has gotten to be my most hated daily interaction with black men and let me tell you how often I get back at them about it... but one day when I'm old they won't be paying me any attention - how will I really feel about that?? Hmmm food for thought.
Anyhoo - I'm normally angry about something...
especially the way Republicans seem to think that this government thing is a game...or that main stream hip hop can continue to belittle black women's humanity but soon as Kanye puts up a painting of a naked white women/thing on his CD cover its censured (because he is black *side eye. If he was a white man it would be cool, no?),
but I think the day I read the angry black battle hymn post, I just wasn't angry. I felt guilty. I was a black woman and I should be angry at all of the things that are going on in the world. But instead I wrapped myself in my privilege, put my feet up, and ate a bucket of chicken (baked) instead. Fight tomorrow. Promise.
In the back of my head,though, some tiny room with a wooden door in the attic - I thought, "Well crap, if I can't get myself to review and deny my own tiny insignificant privilege how in the world can I demand that white folks, and rich folks, and men, and educated folks, and light skinned folks *side eye, and long hair folks, and you get my drift...acknowledge and deny their own privilege?"
if you know let me know....