Sunday, October 22, 2017
The Upstander

Dismantling Your Privilege Is the Only Way to Save America


There’s a broad swathe of the country, Democrat and Republican alike, that say liberal snowflakes will be the undoing of America. That it’s the progressive agenda, rather than the tyrant in the White House, that’s going to bring the country to its knees.

But when it comes to the future of America, there is only one question you need to ask yourself. What kind of country do you want to live in?

As a self-professed liberal snowflake, I believe in one thing above all else— the liberation of humanity. And to quote the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s motto: Liberation is a collective process.

This means that people living with privilege have a very important role to play in the liberation of people of color, refugees, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQIA folks, and women.

It starts with understanding what privilege is. Privilege is thinking that something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.

Most white people tend to recoil when I bring up the topic of white privilege. “But I’m not racist” they say. They’re missing the point. Racism as it exists today isn’t overt like lynching and slavery was in years past. The racism of the 21st century is systematic: it pervades our public services, our healthcare, our education system, our welfare state, our government, our media, our jail systems, our police departments, and so on. But it’s also invisible. You have to look for it.

As a first step, checking your privilege means recognizing that you do not walk around with the weight of hundreds of years of oppression on your shoulders. It means listening to minority groups when they say they are being oppressed instead of dismissing them as overreacting. It means acknowledging somebody else’s experience. It means letting go of the idea that we are better than them.  It means showing up to Black Lives Matter Protests as well as the Women’s March.

A few weeks ago I attended a New York Progressive Action Network event, where Bertha Lewis, founder and president of the Black Institute, a think thank, chastised white progressives for volunteering in the “ghetto”  because it made them feel worthy, rather than because it was the right thing to do. It’s hard to hear that kind of criticism when you’re trying to be an ally. But to dismantle our privilege, we need to listen when those who are oppressed speak.

It all comes down to the question of what kind of country you want to live in.

Right now, your fellow countrymen are being oppressed and you are looking the other way because it makes you uncomfortable. That doesn’t sound like the home of the brave to me.


Photo Credit: Tony Webster/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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1 Comment

  1. Lester February 19, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Just the typical crap about how vague privilege theory is. The fact that you support a bigoted hypocritical group like Black Lives Matter is enough to know we can’t take this article or any of the rest of your liberal jargon seriously. Next!