Welcome to my blog!

This blog is an honest look at what life is like for this particular American convert to Islam. We're taught in Islam to cover our sins, to not air them, for fear of lessening the severity of sinning. In this blog, I may relate past indiscretions from time to time. This isn't to make light of them, but in the interest of educating Muslims and non-Muslims alike as to the realities of life as an American convert, I present my mistakes honestly. I make no excuses for them, nor do I claim that they were okay to make. I am not perfect, and I make no pretenses as to that. If others can learn from my past, know that Islam, and religion in general, is open for people no matter what mistakes they've made, then I will gladly air my sins when needed.

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's Not About You: Identifying and Acknowledging Privilege (Without Getting Butthurt - Because It's Not About You)

So, I recently posted this on my Facebook and a friend of mine mentioned that this was 95% of American citizens. I corrected him that it was more like 95% of white men, to which he replied that I was being sexist and racist. It is so important to recognize one's privilege - I have my own. Most of us do. One of the things about privilege is that you don't even know you have it, and you all know that I love to educate people.

This is what I replied with, with his name removed:

Actually, men, it's pretty much fact. As a white, cisgendered (as in, your physical and mental genders match up), heterosexual man, you, my friend, have a TON of privilege that you don't even realize you have. IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON.

However. You don't have to worry about being sexually assaulted and blamed for it. You don't have to worry that the people catcalling you are going to follow you and get more and more aggressive, or that when you turn down someone's advances they're going to get violent. You don't have to worry that every time someone makes a rape joke, it's because they really DO think rape is funny and think that you really DO mean yes when you tell them no, even when you're screaming and crying.

You don't have to worry about getting pulled over or followed around a store simply because of your skin color. You don't have to worry about the government deporting you and your family. You don't have to worry about landing on the no-fly list simply because of your name or religion.

If you go to a mechanic or a doctor you can expect to be listened to and taken at your word - not second-guessed or talked down to like you don't know what you're talking about.

You don't have to worry about your relationships being legalized or accepted, because they already are. You don't have to worry about getting beaten or killed because of your sexual orientation, or for talking about it/holding hands with your girlfriend. You're not at risk of being fired from your job or denied housing because of it.

THAT is your privilege, gentlemen, and there's a lot more. It doesn't make you a bad person. It IS a part of your life.

But wait, there's more I have to say!

Privilege comes in so many forms that it's scary. And it's not a strict ladder. A gay white man still has white and male privilege, while a straight white woman has white and straight privilege. Wealth and class brings its own privileges - what do you mean, you can't afford a $50 meal for one? It's just $50! - Yeah, well, that's my phone bill for the month. That's a over a third of my paycheck for a week. That's most of my car insurance for a month.

It is absolutely neither racist nor sexist to call out privilege, especially amongst the most privileged class - straight, white, cisgendered men. One should try to be as kind as possible without bending over backwards, but if someone calls out your privilege, for God's sake stop and think about it. What are they really saying? It's fine to be ignorant - ask them what they mean. And think about it.

I have privilege. I have white privilege. I have straight privilege - or passing privilege. And at work, I have another form of passing privilege - I'm white, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed. I have a very Anglo name (all right, my first name is Hebrew so I do sometimes get asked if I'm Jewish). I neither look nor sound Muslim, therefore nobody knows that I am unless I tell them - which has, in the past, gotten awkward when someone has made remarks about Islam and Muslims and I've had to be all, "Dude ... I'm Muslim." I even have some class privilege from not growing up exceptionally poor - on the lower end of middle class and the upper end of lower class, yes, but not nearly as poor as some of my friends.

And you know what? I make mistakes sometimes. I say and do classist and sometimes, yes, racist things. My intention is never to hurt people but intent is not magical and it does not negate the feelings I've hurt. But when I'm called out on my privilege, I have learned enough to listen. I have learned enough to apologize because I hurt someone, and not get defensive when someone tells me "Your white/straight/not-dirt-poor-growing-up privilege is showing." I have learned enough to read books and articles on not just privilege but the experiences of others, and to know that my experiences in life do not trump anyone else's.

FinallyFeminism101 has an excellent article that defines privilege in general and male privilege in particular, and gives examples of other forms. It's an excellent read and I strongly encourage you to read it, male or female or both or neither.

Conversations with My Man is also a good primer on privilege and the importance of realizing that when talking about Group X that you're a part of, it's not about you personally. That, I feel, is the main hitch in talking about privilege - people take it as personal attacks rather than acknowledging that it's not all about them.

So there. Those are my thoughts.

No comments:

Post a Comment