Long title, eh? So, the other day I thought about my high school history teacher whose name I shall not mention here for two reasons. The first is that I don’t remember her name, which as you’ll soon see is a good thing. The second reason is that even if I did remember her name, I wouldn’t sully my tongue or fingertips, in this case, using it. She was one ditzy lady though, so we’ll call her Ditz.
I forgot when the event in question happened exactly. High school was over 20 years ago, mind you. But I remember being in world history and a conversation we had in class veered into race relations, and I distinctly remember Ditz speaking about a student who once asked her what it was like to be white. Her response?
“I’m not white, I’m pink and beige.”
Yeah, I still remember the headache from rolling my eyes too hard. Yes, Ditz said that. What the student meant was, “what’s it like to have privilege?” or “what’s it like to be a part of the dominant culture?” The thing about being in a dominant culture is that one isn’t supposed to know it or be aware of their place in it. With that in mind, I wasn’t at all surprised by what Ditz said. Remember, she’s ditzy as fuck (assuming she’s still alive. She was pretty old then.)
What I also remember was speaking out at that moment by telling her his question carried more weight than she thought. I told her his question meant, what is it like to be the dominant culture? What does it mean to go into a store and not suffer the indignity of the sales associate bringing up the store’s layaway program–assuming they don’t stare at you as if you’ll spontaneously combust or rob them of every valuable item they have (and let’s face it, these examples are quite mundane compared to other more lethal instances)? The most insulting part was that on some primordial level, I think she knew that, felt uncomfortable about the question and deflected. I have no proof, but I think that’s what happened.
For the rest of the day, a friend (whose name I forget) and I spent our last period making fun of her. It was a fun diversion from the boring computer programming class we had as an elective. But what depressed me then and now is that there are plenty of Ditzes running around then and now. Most people don’t even think about their privileges. I’m a man, and with that gender and sex (yes, there is a difference) designation, I have certain advantages that my female counterparts simply do not have. The government isn’t telling me what to do with my dick. I don’t have to worry about earning less than my male contemporaries (cause I am male, duh). I don’t worry about some lunatic jumping from the shadows to rape me on my way to my car at night. I have no worries about not being taken seriously if I’m angry. And being called a bitch is no worry if I’m ever ambitious or persistent in what I want.
I’ve got a penis, and because of that, I’ve got it made. I would be dishonest if I did not acknowledge that. And, I’d be a fucked up person if I did nothing to rectify this inequity.
Ditz is (or was, remember, she might be dead by now) white and with that comes its own advantages. I’ve already mentioned two, so I won’t recount more. What I will say is this, no one wants to admit they are privileged. No one wants to acknowledge that one’s achievements might have been possible not because of one’s hard work and dedication, but because of what one looks like. The idea of privilege destroys any hope of a meritocracy.
I doubt very seriously if Ditz learned or made an effort to understand. She didn’t that day and she probably hasn’t now or didn’t before she died, assuming she’s dead. Remember, she was old–OLD.
Now in this current political climate, and with virtually everyone at each other’s throats, we need to contend with the vice of privilege more than ever. The fear of losing it is why we have Cheetolini in charge now. C’mon, you know who Cheetolini is, don’t make me say it.
If Ditz had children or grandchildren, here’s hoping they woke up or at least they are waking up; and isn’t that where everyone is? We’re all in the process of waking up.