Fellow blogger Sabrina Stevens Shupe has once again managed to get inside my head. That’s why she is so good. Sabrina has been stirring the white privilege pot while critiquing education reformers (I do not have issues with this approach.) For example:
I truly believe that many of you on “the other side” have good intentions, but there is a certain ignorance, born of privilege, that makes it almost impossible for elites to be serious allies of the marginalized in any struggle for justice. Even just the manner in which the problem is approached– “I know best, I will impose my will on you, and you will eventually come to accept my wisdom” as opposed to, “I have the means, you have the knowledge, how can I help you achieve what you want?”– is itself a counterproductive, disrespectful way of doing things, that all but guarantees failure. Until that is understood and addressed, we’ll continue to have this kind of problem.
So if I read this right, my privilege does not impact my intentions, rather it impacts my means by which I go about my work at reform. (I say “I” because I am a white, middle-income, college educated male who has certain privileges.)
I have plenty of experience working with “people of color” on social justice issues. In each of my interactions I have always noticed (probably because I have been enlightened to do so) that there exists a certain tension between me and the “others” who are working towards the same goal. This tends to dissipate over time. I have been accused of not understanding the issue because I am not one of the marginalized; because I have had a different life experience that somehow bars me from doing anything more that working on the periphery.
I persisted in my work because I do not have a big ego that needs stroking and because I was focused on the goal of the work. I also stuck/stick with it because social justice work benefits not only those are directly impacted but it benefits me and society as well.
So, my question to Sabrina is this: After I am done unpacking my invisible knapsack of privilege, what am I supposed to do? Should I just send in my check to the social justice organization? Is it more important to recognize my privilege or is it more important what I do with my privilege?
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