Something about privilege




I’ve noticed this dynamic:

  • People will learn about privilege
  • And realize they’re doing a lot of bad things
  • And then think this means they should never interact with or listen to anyone with less privilege than they do
  • Like it’s somehow appropriative or invasive
  • And that they should just keep to people who are just as privileged as they are

Some examples:

  • White English teachers who only teach books written by white people, because they think it would be appropriative to teach books written by people of color.
  • People who think it’s appropriative to read this blog or think about what I’m saying because I write from an autistic perspective and they’re not autistic
  • Folks who avoid people with disabilities because they’re worried about staring or using the wrong words
  • Men who won’t hire women because they’re worried that they will be offended by the current culture that has a lot of sexist jokes and pinups on the walls

These kinds of things are functionally identically to the way that people who are intentionally upholding privilege hierarchies behave. Continuing to act that way, but giving different reasons for it, doesn’t actually make anything better.

oh my god

you’ve managed to perfectly describe exactly how my classmates all behave around me because I’m trans

this is also the definition of *-phobia: because they’re literally too scared of the “different" people to interact with them

It can be really difficult to get past this when you’re worried about making things worse, saying something insensitive or doing something harmful, but growing and improving as a person, and contributing to the improvement of society, is always difficult somehow.

I think part of it is - you’re going to make mistakes that hurt people. There’s no way to perfectly learn ahead of time what all of the issues are and how to avoid doing bad stuff. You can try, but it’s not going to be 100% successful. 

That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or unworthy of interacting with people who are different than you. It just means that it’s important to listen to people when they point out your mistakes, and to keep learning.

It’s a lot better to interact imperfectly than it is to completely ignore folks who are different from you.