Tag Archives: social justice

How privileged do you feel?

 JamesBaldwin

 We hear a lot, these days, about white privilege, male privilege, heteronormative privilege, cis privilege and more. Often, it’s said with snark. People get defensive. We compete over who has less and how it’s not our fault if we have more. No one connects. And nothing changes.

The events in Charlottesville this weekend, where so many neo Nazis went to spread hate in a university town and someone was killed and many more injured, can’t be ignored. It was obvious, with a US President endorsed by the KKK, that this would embolden such hateful attitudes but no less shocking or horrific. Things have to change.

Through staying connected on Facebook and other social media (and with some, in real life), I can see that people who have very different politics feel similarly to me in other areas. Everyone feels that they are doing their best for their loved ones. As far as I can make out, everyone on the planet wants the same things.

Thinking about privilege, even though it’s often used in that sneering way, can be helpful as long as we don’t get sucked into victim mode. This isn’t at ALL to suggest that oppressed minorities should get over it, more that those of us, recognising the privileges we DO have, can make a positive difference by owning it rather than complaining when someone points out that, in some way, we might have had it easier than them.

And that even the most historically oppressed have privilege in other areas (eg beauty). One of my favourite explorations of privilege comes from Anna Guest-Jelley’s book, Curvy Yoga. She writes, ‘Those whom society has decided to favour (read: white, thin, fit, able-bodied, make, heterosexual, middle-class-at-a-minimum) move through the world with greater ease than the rest of us… that’s what privilege means: Some people move through our world with more ease due to certain traits society deems “better”.’

She goes on to talk about ‘thin-privilege’ and ‘beauty privilege’, ‘age privilege’ and others I’d not considered and while her point is about ensuring as many students as possible feel welcome in yoga classes, by pausing to think about our own privilege – with compassion and curiosity – we can hopefully find more empathy for our fellow humans.

I’m really struggling with the notion of people I consider to be racist who, rather than attempting reparation for the horrors of slavery and colonialism, seem to be trying to turn back the clock to resuscitate it. As James Baldwin wrote, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’

I saw an American on the news last night talking about how his country has been built on genocide (of the native Americans) and slavery and how countries like Germany have reminders of their part in horrors of the past.

They’ve been willing to face their part in the past and vow never again. It’s naïve to think that certain countries are all sorted when there’s unrest all over but, psychologically speaking, it’s a saner approach to acknowledge the facts of history.

How does it feel to consider, no matter how oppressed or invisible you may feel in some areas, you have privilege in others?

My parents were recently laughing at 6 year old me when we were at a friends’ house. They told these friends about how I chose to take a ‘slave’ role in infant school because I hadn’t wanted to be a slave owner / perpetrator. One of the friends immediately said, ‘But you could have set the slaves free.’

This hadn’t occurred to 6 year old me. Now in my 40s, I can see that there’ve been a whole range of ways in which I’ve self-sabotaged because I’ve felt guilty about some of what has come easily and ashamed of what I’ve struggled with.

Do you disempower yourself because you recognise that it’s not fair that your life is easier than others’? 

For example, by taking better care of personal finances, someone can do more good in terms of donating more and making a difference than if they underearn and overspend because they feel helpless about the inequalities across the globe.

By speaking up and offering support to someone who is being targeted with any kind of hate speech, someone can do more than slinking off feeling ashamed of their fellow man/white person.

How might you use your privilege for the benefit of others rather than shame spiralling because (let’s face it, none of us did anything to DESERVE where or who we were born to) of guilt or fear?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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Safety pins and self-compassion

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What a week!

Apart from here, the floods in Ghana, attack in Turkey…

There have been high emotions in the aftermath of the vote. I’ve shed a lot of tears, hearing about the increase in racist attacks, wanting to connect and collaborate with the world at large, not be cast adrift.

Also, respecting the democratic process and knowing we’re all doing the best we can with what we know at any given time.

A lot of us are struggling with our sense of identity.

I’ve been clumsily attempting to be super friendly to people who look like they might be not from here.

Then, to increase the strange looks resulting from my beaming at strangers in London and Essex, trying to be extra friendly to everyone.

Being naturally more introverted (I think I’m an extraverted introvert), I’m sometimes exhausted by it all.

In attempting to be more smiley to people, I’m no longer hiding behind books and newspapers on public transport but making eye contact (the horror! Joke – it’s actually refreshing), I’m remembering that the heartbreaking stories are far from the big picture.

Still, what could I do to (without freaking anyone out by being too smiley), help others feel safer?

I was delighted to hear about the safety pins being worn to show solidarity with immigrant communities (again, as the daughter of an Irish and Indian, via Kenyan, immigrant, it feels a bit odd to show solidarity with myself so am aiming for some self-compassion rather than beating myself up for all the times I’ve cried or welled up since Friday).

The safety pin is such a great example of someone doing something simple to stand up (quietly and maybe not even needing to stand up at all) and say racism is unacceptable. And I can dial back my beaming at people so minimise the risk of freaking strangers out by being potentially over friendly in an effort to compensate for a tiny by vocal minority of racist individuals.

I’m also aware of the reports of Muslim women being targeted more than men (sexism as well as racism) and talk of older people being accused of voting badly and the need (my name is Eve – am still working on my overdeveloped sense of responsibility for the whole world), recent progress for gay and trans rights and desire for everybody to be safe, free to flourish, able to be their glorious wondrous selves without fear of attack.

Is there something you’ve been feeling hopeless and helpless about?

What is something small – safety pin tiny – that might help you begin to remember that no matter what’s going on around you, everyone is doing their best?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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Couch Coaching: My new hero (Betty and Coretta)

BettyandCoretta

Next time you feel overwhelmed, traumatised (their home was fire bombed before Malcolm X was killed in front of her and her children), grief-stricken, spare a thought for the amazing Dr Betty Shabazz.

I grew up aware of Dr King’s legacy (I remember us solemnly learning about the then new Day when I was at a previously segregated elementary school in Wilmington, Delaware for 6th grade). I read Malcolm X’s memoir as a teenager. And I’d remembered, from somewhere along the way, that Coretta was an activist in her own right.

She wouldn’t have married Martin if he wasn’t actively working to help shape the world into a better place for everyone. But, until I saw the Lifetime film, Betty and Coretta, I don’t think I had even heard of Dr Betty Shabazz (played by Mary J Blige).

While Coretta (played by the ever amazing Angela Bassett) spoke out publicly from the time her husband was murdered, Betty, initially, felt that arguing against people who were misunderstanding her late husband’s message (violence as a last resort), was futile.

By the time she was widowed, Betty had 4 children and was pregnant with what turned out to be twins. I feel overwhelmed at the idea of twins on their own. But 6 children? On top of all that trauma, grief, loss and misunderstanding? (Her link with Malcolm X meant she faced a lot of extra predjudice.) My hero.

I loved watching Betty begin to find her voice and to use it. She went back to college to get her doctorate and spent her life doing her best to empower countless students and others. At one point, she tells a struggling young woman not to thank her but to ‘Pass it on. People helped me when I needed it.’

The film was (for me at least) a bit of a tear-jerker (I lost count of the number of times it made me cry) but a wonderful reminder of this amazing woman and how far so many people have come (and how much further we need to go for social justice for all).

And I know that next time I feel like something’s beyond me, thinking of the amazing Dr Betty Shabazz, will help me dig deeper.

Metta x

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