Last week, I mentioned being able to use my dad’s name to receive adequate medical care, and how that was a privilege. This week, I want to get more into privileges, and also how even those in oppressed groups, can have them.
But first, when talking about privileges, we have to talk about the elephant in the room; aka white privilege.
I’m tired, tieddd (yes, tied), of trying to convince people that white privilege exists, so instead, these are the facts:
- White privilege is real.
- White privilege does NOT mean that you will not face hardships in your life. I repeat, it does not mean that you will not face hardships. It does mean, that your whiteness will not be the reason you face hardships, and in many instances, can/will help your situation.
Dassit. Argue wit ya mama about it, not me.
When it comes to privileges that those in oppressed groups may have, this is the perfect time to look at intersections. I’ll start by using myself as an example. The obvious intersections: I’m an unambiguously(yes, this matters) Black woman. There is the misogyny and sexism levied against women in general, and then there’s the added racism, antiblackness and misogynoir (misogyny directed at Black women).
The not so obvious: This would be my education level, economic status, how heteronormative I present, gender identity, sexual preference, “pretty” privilege, homeownership, familial upbringing and how abled-bodied I am.
Where in all of this do I have privilege?
- Education: Due to my parents’ economic status, I was able to get an education with minimal(compared to others) loans.
- Economic status: This one is a bit more detailed. My dad didn’t start to see wealth until I was about 17. Until that time, I had been poor, lower middle class and had a short stint in the upper middle class category. Those 2 (17-18)years of inching into wealth, made a world of difference. I need to also note that I moved out on my own at 18, and therefore, didn’t benefit directly from my parents’ growing wealth. However, I’ve still received benefits from their status, in my adult life.
- I present as heteronormative. My s/o is a man, most of my relationships have been with men, but I am, in fact, bisexual.
- I’m a cis woman. I don’t have to deal with transphobia or discrimination based on this.
- Pretty is subjective. But pretty privilege has worked in my favor more than a few times.
- My parents own a home. In the IWW about the homeownership/wealth accumulation gap, we talked about how wealth is created and able to be passed down, when a family owns their home. My parents were able to better set me up, to be in a position where I could buy a home, and my s/o and I own our home and a rental.
- My bio mom and dad divorced when I was 9, but until then, I grew up in a 2 parent home. I spent the next few years in a single-parent home, until my dad remarried. Most of my childhood was in a 2 parent household, and this is absolutely a privilege.
- I am physically able-bodied.
My intersections are my own, but I say all this to say, that most people have some form of privilege. And whether anyone likes it or not, that doesn’t take away from the fact, that the MOST privileged people are white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, straight men.
When I say that last sentence, I usually get a lot of affirmations from white, able-bodied. cis-gendered, straight women. I won’t claim to know exactly why, but I surmise that it has to do with the fact that this gives some of you all a pass, so to speak. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no pass to be had. You can be, and often are, complicit in/actively engaging in the oppression of others.
At this point in the discussion of intersectionality, is where I tend to lose people. But it’s down here, in the weeds, where intersectionality is most important. Why? Because certain intersections have more value in our society. For instance, whiteness. If we were playing Spades, whiteness would be the Ace of Spades. This card trumps everything else.
That white, cis-gendered, woman, who happens to have a disability? While she no doubt faces discrimination due to her disability, is also looked at more favorably (because of her whiteness and even because she’s a white woman)than a Black cis-gendered, able-bodied man or woman. Remember, that white women weaponizing tears against Black people or POC, works because of how society views/aims to protect white women. This doesn’t lessen the truth that white women face sexism and misogyny; all of this can be, and is, true.
The white, cis-gendered, gay/lesbian, man or woman, will most likely face homophobia and/or sexism. They won’t, however, be followed around stores due to racial stereotypes, looked at as a physical threat by the police/society at large, won’t face hair discrimination and will be paid more then BIPOC. Do you see where I’m going with this?
The same can be said for a poor white woman or man. Poverty is hard, poverty reduces the opportunities available for all people. White people, nonetheless, can get out of and stay out of poverty, infinitely more than Black and Hispanic/Latinx people(see wealth gap IWW for stats). Poor white people don’t experience racism, medical bias(race-related), antiBlackness, etc. Whiteness puts them above BIPOC in our society, even if the BIPOC are wealthy or accomplished or what have you; for example my dad.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve seen me mention some of what my dad has accomplished. I often find that someone will try to use that as a counter to institutional racism, but you couldn’t be more wrong. My dad grew up in the country, with many brothers and sisters. They were poor, extremely poor. Indoor plumbing? Nope, not until my dad was older. New clothes, shoes? Everything was a hand-me-down. In fact, there were times where they walked the multiple miles to and from school, and toiled the fields, barefoot. My dad managed to make it out and better his life, but not without turmoil. He struggled every inch of the way, was harassed, dealt with incomprehensible racism, had to start over and over and over again, wasn’t paid his worth and had to work 5x as hard as his white counterparts; which is why his success came so late in life. They threw everything they could at him, to ensure he failed, and with luck, yup luck, he prevailed. It wasn’t his sheer determination, how hard he worked or how incredibly intelligent he is, a lot of it was pure, ole’ luck. And his “status” today doesn’t prevent him, or my step-mom or my little brother from experiencing discrimination. The last time (that I know) it happened to him, was last week. LAST WEEK. When some passersby couldn’t believe that they lived in the house that they do.
And I know, I know, no one likes an “oppression olympics” type of person. But the reality, is that not all intersections, oppressions or privileges are equal. They just aren’t. It’s why Black and brown people are constantly calling out the racism gay and lesbian white people throw out. It’s why the white person, who has a disability, is given better medical care than a Black person. It’s why that white, trans woman, can speak out about the absolute horrid discrimination she faces at 3 pm, but can join in with the racist comments about Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor at 5 pm.
All people are NOT seen as equal and neither are their oppressions.
Some of us, are sitting at the Spades table, looking at our hand, and noticing that we have an Ace of Spades to throw out. A Spade, that will win you that book. Will that win you the game? Maybe, maybe not. But you were dealt that card, which is more than others can say, and that’s how the game is played.
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com.