Privilege isn’t something you can give away like a dollar

18 Jun

wpid-img_20150613_122954.jpgI feel like I should contribute something meaningful to the conversation, but I have no words. None. I have nothing useful to say. Nothing that hasn’t already been said. Nothing fresh. No magic to bring us all back together again, to fix the cracks, to rebuild a society that makes sense, that nurtures and supports all its members.

There are people who have plenty to say – plenty that’s useful, that’s healing, that’s strong, calling us back to our best selves. Listen to them.

I’ve got nothing.

I don’t want to claim Rachel Dolezal, and I do not want to claim what’s-his-face who killed nine people in Charleston, South Carolina in cold blood yesterday after praying with them for an hour.

Today, I just want to live in a commune somewhere, to simply skip off the grid and out of society.

But I am a witness now. We are all witnesses now. And we can let this change us, we can step in and change things, or we can turn away.

I know this, and I don’t want to know it. I don’t want to choose. I don’t want to know I’m choosing.

Because of course, I am still very much on the grid – and yes, I choose to stay – in my temperate house on my tree-lined street with my kid in a summer theater camp and my laptop fully charged. What I am is privileged. What I am is white.

What I am is scrolling through my Facebook feed and wondering what to contribute – until slowly and reluctantly, I realize that what I need to ask here is NOT: What do I say? But rather: What do I do?

Do I hold a longer conversation with the guy in the elevator who I’m friendly with every morning, because it’s becoming increasingly clear to all of us – in the building, on the street, on the train, in the neighborhood – that we need each other?

We need to listen to each other.

We need to start over. We need to build from the ground up, from one conversation to the next, speaking even when we don’t have all the words, and listening. We need to do so much more of that.

Privilege isn’t something you can just give away like a dollar, like five dollars, like a meal you can share with someone who needs one. Shedding privilege, balancing power takes time, experience, and intention.

We need to listen to the voices that are hurting, and the voices that heal.

To shift the balance in this country, we – white people – need to listen with intention. But we can’t stop there.

I need to let the actions of these people I don’t want to claim actually teach me to delve into those places where I don’t want to look. To observe my own blind spots. Because what I am witnessing – and we each may witness something different – but what I am witnessing here is where white people go when we spin out of control in the direction we’re headed already.

We need to course-correct, and none of us can do this alone.

We need to see where we’re going.

We need to listen to the voices that are hurting, and the voices that heal.

We need to speak the truth.

And to start shifting the balance in this country, we need to act with intention. Every. Single. Day.

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