This post is 500 words long, and at the end there is a picture of a truly adorable kitten. If you skip to the end, you are a cheater. And anyway, 43 of the words are in this paragraph, which you’ve already read.
I sometimes talk to people on the internet about white, male, heterosexual, middle-class, cisgender privilege. I don’t do this because I enjoy emotional turmoil, and I don’t do it to seem like a smartypants or show how much better than you I am. I do it because as a white, male, heterosexual, middle-class, cisgendered person I experience unearned privilege every day. I believe this obligates me to do whatever I can to change things.
I can’t give away my unearned privilege, it’s a feature of my identity in this society. People defer to me because of who I am and how I talk. I talk the way I do because of how I was raised. If I said ain’t instead of are not, or axe instead of ask, or if I had dark skin, or if I was a woman, people wouldn’t take me as seriously as they do. That’s a privilege. Everything I’m saying here is backed up by a lot of scientific studies. I know that because I can read. I can read because I’m privileged. And so are you, unless someone is reading this to you, in which case please give them a little side hug for me. They’re doing good work.
Plenty has been written about privilege, much of it is terse and academic, some of it is accessible and fun. Most of it gets ignored by most people who have privilege because, let’s face it, for a privileged person facing a choice between addressing privilege and ignoring it the easy answer is obviously ignoring it. Having the opportunity to do so is a function of the privilege, which is what makes this structure so hard to address. Having the thing makes it hard to see the thing. That doesn’t mean that white people are biologically too stupid to see their privilege: it means that white people are taught from a very young age to see their own racial experience as neutral and invisible.
White people: when was the last time you really thought about your race and how it impacts your life?
Straight people: when was the last time you considered how your sexual orientation changes the way people perceive you?
Upper and middle class people: how often do you worry about being judged as potentially dangerous or criminal because of how often you can afford to do laundry or take a shower?
I’ve only got 54 words left. The world is set up to give some people a leg up and hold other people down. Nobody is doing this on purpose; it’s in the culture and the subconscious ideas passed from one generation to the next. We can change it, but we have to be brave.
Here’s your cat.