Assumptions, Biases & Irrational Fantasies


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the privilege category.

From Other Blogs…

From Resist Racism: How does racism harm white people?

Some thoughtful responses, worth taking a look at.

– Atena


Me and White Guys… Part 2

When I first realized that I was not being noticed because I was essentially invisible to a group of people, it was quite painful. My ego could barely stand such a notion – surely not I? I admit to being something of a megalomaniac, so the idea of my goddess self going unnoticed by mere mortals was a hard blow to take.

Beyond all of that, as people we just generally have a lot invested in being. Existing. When that gets challenged, a struggle ensues.

So, I noticed a blog linked to this one and I went to investigate – it was lainad – one of my favorite blogher.org contributors. She’d written something in her own blog, Writing is Fighting (LOVE the title!) on this topic after reading Me and White Guys… Part 1, sharing an account of her own experience of invisibility-induced trauma. This, in turn, got me thinking about another incident, which I described in response to her post. I’ll share it here, for your reference:

I was at a Chicago Public Radio panel discussion on race relations with my husband and daughter (who was about 6 months old at the time). There was a meal served afterwards, and the radio personalities were mingling and chatting with everyone. I happened to be on the food line right in front of the event’s moderator (who’s name I can’t remember), who’s a moderately well-known radio personality in Chicago. And as I stood there, waiting for the line to progress, a man (a white man) walked excitedly up to the radio dude, and placed himself between us, literally pushing me (however nudgingly gently), as though I hadn’t been there. And there it was – the rage, the shame, the shock of invisibility and out-and-out rudeness. He was so eager to get in with the radio guy (who didn’t notice me either) that he was willing to negate my existence to do it.

Besides all of the typical reasons for being upset about this kind of thing, I was also feeling the exhaustion that comes from being a new parent. I was just glad to be out of the house, and for a few moments, not holding a baby. And it was ruined.

Incidentally, this guy who nudged me out of his way was also the same guy (that guy) who stood up during the panel discussion q&a and stated that he wasn’t a racist, and why don’t black people take back their communities, poverty is so sad, if you tried harder you’d be able to overcome, blah, blah, blah (sorry – hyperbolic paraphrasing in effect).

Anyway – after stewing about it, I happened to run into the guy again coming out of the bathroom. I couldn’t take it, I had to say something. Maybe because I was holding my daughter in my arms, and I couldn’t bear the idea of not standing up for myself when she was watching. So I did.

“Excuse me – earlier, waiting in line for the food, you pushed me out of the way so you could get to [Radio Dude], and I really didn’t appreciate that.”

(Smiling, fumbling over words)”Oh – I’m sorry – I didn’t mean anything by it.”

I don’t remember what I said after that. Nothing particularly dynamic or scathing. I remember thinking ‘That’s a fuckin’ weak apology – I don’t care what you meant by it, you’re an asshole.’ I remember feeling like he was less interested in expressing contrition and more interested in getting back to the party. I definitely remember still being pissed.

But I’ll tell ya, I did feel better than if I hadn’t said anything at all.

I hadn’t thought about this incident until I read Laina’s post, at which point it all came back to me in an instant. The internal struggle I’d had over being bumped out of this guys’ way was overwhelming in its intensity. And so much of my anger came from the fact that the situation had the power to effect me in such a way. Imagine how often people feel this kind of anger and shame everyday – how it is unleashed and left to fester or grow. These things don’t just dissipate – they continue to live inside us, and will eventually get out somehow.

I wonder what it must be like to be on the other side of this dynamic. I wonder how many white guys are wandering around the world, knocking women and people of color toward and over the margins, oblivious to the trail of wreckage they leave behind. I wonder how many actually notice that they’ve tripped over an actual human being, and as Laina submitted, don’t know what to do and solve their quandary by pretending not to see us. How much of this behavior is pretending and how much is oblivion due to complete self-absorption, induced by privilege?

I know I can’t effectively practice anti-bias and generalize about white guys. But I do recognize that these trends occur for a reason.

I’ve met white guys who are nearly desperate to give the impression of having shed their privilege. I can’t say I blame them – when you look closely at white male privilege, and how it has affected everyone else in the world, it’s pretty ugly. No one wants to be a part of something that most people in the world hate. So they distance themselves from it, or deny that it exists. There are some people who are actually making a real and sincere effort to overcome their racism and privilege by not only admitting that it exists, but attempting to actively lay it down when the opportunity arises and lay down their weapons of unbalanced power. This is, of course, rare (to say the least).

I am torn. I do not want to demonize white guys. I want accountability for damaging behavior. I want to be forgiving. But I find it nearly impossible to forgive people who are indifferent to my existence and ways they may have hurt me and others. Dr. Black Girl Pain at Blogs in the Key of Life, wrote something about black people and forgiveness that I relate to on many points, and find to be relevant to this issue:

Isn’t there’s a better way we can handle white folks? One that doesn’t involve us spitting in their faces and going upside their heads everytime they pass, but doesn’t involve us forgetting what’s been done to us as a people and acting as if they’re our saviors?” Read more here…

So, yeah. I find it so difficult to be forgiving and express my understanding. But I have to find a way to do it somehow, because the way that I want to be, and the work that I do demands that I do so. It’s difficult, though.

That’s all for now.