I know I've blogged about this before but I just need to do a quick one to get it out of my head again. And to keep me from yelling at someone about it...
I really do understand the frustration some of you feel when you get called out on your privilege. I really do. I feel it myself. People look at me, upper middle class, middle age, white woman, and they make all of these assumptions about me. They don't know me. They don't know where I came from. They don't know my struggle. They don't know anything but they give me a whole group of labels. And then they are shocked that I don't fit those labels.
People assume I have a four year (at least) degree from college. They are shocked to find out I don't. I have an associates degree in accounting and another two years at a trade school to get my massage therapist license. But I worked in a field where everyone around me had a degree. I worked my way in to my job through back pathways. Experience. People seeing me in other jobs and realizing I had the skills to handle the position even without the paper. But the assumption is always that I have a four year degree.
I grew up poor. I've met the repo man. When we moved we took our house with us. Brent's grandmother was livid that he was marrying that trailer park girl. People are shocked by that. Shocked when I say that they don't understand what being poor is like, but I do. They are shocked that I can tell them any number of things that I STILL do because I grew up poor. From eating habits, to squirreling away cash here and there so I have a back up if the credit card gets denied at the gas pump.
People always assume I'm married and have children. That's true. But they are usually shocked to find out that I got married at 18. And not only that I got married at 18 but that I wasn't pregnant when I did it. It goes back to them assuming I was in college at 18. Not newly married, working fast food and then retail, living pay check to pay check with my military man husband. That doesn't fit the label they have assigned me.
They assume they know my religious beliefs and that they are the same as theirs.
They assume they know my political leanings and that they are the same as theirs.
Just one look at me, just a cursory glance at my life right now and they have a whole checklist of things they assign to me. And that list starts to fade as soon as they hear the first, "Fuck that shit" come out of my mouth.
But understand this, that is privilege. Right there. The fact that the labels I get attached to me from one quick glance are all mostly positive.
We form our labels for people based on personal experience sure, but we also form them from what movies show us, what books tell us, what the news portrays as true. It all filters in there and so every single time we see someone we have this labeling system that goes in to place. As a middle class, middle aged, white woman, I have a set of labels people give me. They aren't really fitting in my case. So I try really hard to keep that in mind when I meet someone for the first time and those labels that have been programmed in to my brain start to slide in to place. My labels aren't right, why would theirs be?
But my privilege is that my labels aren't negative.
Not everyone has that privilege.
Pay attention to what assumptions people, the media, the press, the politicians make. Look at the labels they assign. And question them.
That's what putting aside your privilege means. You got positive labels. Even if they don't fit. Someone else got negative ones. Assume those don't fit either. Assume NOTHING you think you know is true. Because it probably isn't.
And then wonder how your life might be different if instead of your positive labels you got the negative ones.
Then you might just start to understand your privilege.