Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discovering privilege

Fizzygoo realised he was privileged.  He had a car which – for some reason – is associated with the gay community:

Less that six months after getting it, I was pulling on to a college campus and a young white man leaned out the passenger window of a large truck and yelled, “faggot,” at me as they passed by. So angry, so full of hate and violence was that word issued from his mouth, that I was truly afraid. I watched in my mirrors to make sure the truck didn’t turn around. I was shaking with the adrenaline.

I expect lots of us have had unsettling experiences like this.  Fizzygoo went a step further:

Once the truck was out of sight, that is when it hit me; gay men (and other minorities in general) have to live with that fear every day and the less ‘concealable’ the person of the minority is within the larger group, the higher risk for daily incidents.

This was a huge moment for me. It was the liminal temporal space between being aware that there’s a problem vs. seeing the problem first hand. For a brief moment my privilege was pulled back and I felt the problem.

Some revelation is good.  For example, blinding and surprising flashes of empathy, where we realise we’re privileged and didn’t notice it.  Most of us don’t make that connection.

He dismounts brilliantly:

So that’s it. That’s my realizing my own privilege (at least the parts I have become aware of…it’s looking to be one of those ongoing life-learning experiences).  That unless I’m driving in a Miata I largely don’t ever have to worry about someone targeting me for a hate crime. That I can walk down dark streets at night without, largely, having to be afraid. My privilege protects me from fear…but it doesn’t mean that that fear, for those that experience it, isn’t real nor is the source of the fear…those who would do harm to others simply because they are “different,” whether verbally or physically, not real. It is, and they are. And that’s a world I don’t want to promote.


  1. Thank you for the kind words. Here's to working towards an inclusive, equality-based, present and future. :)

    1. Well quite. I'm still trying to understand why some people would prefer an exclusive and bigotry-based future. But apparently they do.

  2. SaudiMike3:05 am

    I'd already come to that conclusion (although I may have read it elsewhere years ago!).
    As a white male I automatically take advantage of opportunities that are denied to women or minorities for example without thinking about it - unconsciously racist / sexist / ageist etc. Still, as long as we recognise that we can work towards levelling the inequality.
    amg! I was born with original privilege! brb - need to flagellate!