As a white cis woman I’m part of the most privileged group on the planet – which means I am pretty much by definition unaware of most (of my) privilege in the world. If you only have the bandwidth for one piece of input about this topic today, there are other voices far more relevant: Go read “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge instead. Or, if that’s more your cup of tea, listen to the podcast “Queersplaining” by Callie Wright. Or for some really good and entertaining insights, watch the show “Dear White People“.
If you’re still here, though, let me tell you a story. In a time of #BlackLivesMatter, the story will probably seem insignificant to you, but I feel it shines such a pretty light on the outrageous unawareness of our own privilege. Besides, I still can’t stop thinking about it!
On a recent video call (home office, the new normal), we were chatting about the covid-19 situation and the upcoming changes in the lockdown measures. The person I was talking to went on a bit of a rant about the government and that we need more indiviudal responsibility instead of a blanket lockdown. So far, so understandable. and there’s a worthwhile discussion to be had: What is the base level of trust you need to put in people in a democracy? Great question!
They continued their rant, sitting in their home, their wealth represented in their spacious office area, about their upcoming vacation and how covid-19 will ruin it. Think golf club or 5 star luxury suite. They were thinking aloud how to skirt around the rules so they can make their trip happen, and looking for sympathy. After all, they will go crazy if they don’t get to take this trip!
Record scratch sound.
I am not even going to comment how much of a bad idea it is to skirt around the rules in a damn global pandemic. Instead, I am linking this blog post by the fabulous Captain Awkward on why none of us should be looking for “just this once” excuses right now (she’s basically the most fantastic blogger in the universe). But setting that aside, how deeply blinded to your own super-fortunate situation can a person be? There are people out there stuck with small children in a too-small apartment. There are people out there in real quarantine, not allowed to leave their house to check their mail or take out the trash. There’s tons of people that lost their job or their business, wondering how their life will get back on track and how long it’s going to take. As of recent, there are people in the streets in the USA fighting for their right not to be murdered.
I don’t want to turn this into a bash-fest about this one individual. It seems that especially in the western world, we are so used to our privileged way of life – getting what we want, when we want it, how we want it – that it seems opressive to not have that freedom anymore. I’m not going to lie, I can feel it myself. It’s annyoing and disheartening and a bit scary to have that freedom taken away. But a privilege is not a right owed to you by the universe. Nor is it a need necessary for your survival. I wish my fellow privileged people would use this crisis to gain a bit more awareness how incredibly lucky we are to be us, to have that freedom and opportunity all the time. If we could manage to become more aware, it’s the first step to start addressing some of the inequalitites caused by the unfair distribution of wealth, networks, and opportunity (Bring tissues.).
If any of you lovely readers with personal experience as a less-privileged person have tips or resources for calling out this kind of insensitive behaviour that could help me become a better ally, please get in touch and let me know – I’m still kicking myself for not speaking up in the moment.