June 08, 2006

Classified

"We believe that when people with wealth have a deep understanding of their own privilege, they can play an important role in movements for social justice as both participants and funders. People with wealth can bring needed resources, access and connections to movements. They can talk openly about the ways they've witnessed privilege working and why this grounds their commitment to social change. They can help name some of the destructive power dynamics around wealth and class that often chip away at progressive movements from within. People with wealth can actively challenge others with privilege by speaking from a place of shared experience. However, when people with wealth act without a deep understanding of their privilege, it can undermine their participation. They cannot open up conversations [free from ego] about their connections and resources. They are unable to recognize their own [destructive] patterns or challenge others with privilege, leaving those of us who are the everyday targets of painful power dynamics alone in the role of pointing it out."
A week or two ago, WTTO encouraged us to start thinking and posting more about how we experience privilege. This new book takes a crack at that, if the title is any indication. It's called "Classified: how to stop hiding your privilege and use it for social change." Plus, it looks like you can actually download the entire book for free, which is what I call putting your money where your mouth is. Totally cool.

1 comment:

emily0 said...

My privilege disturbs me. I have it but I don't even feel "qualified" for most of it - I pass for white but I don't think of myself as white; I passed for male for a long time when I wasn't; people assume I have more money in my family than I really do, or did when I was younger anyway. My parents are older and are pretty comfortable right now, although they have no retirement money to live on.

Except when it comes to education. Then I feel it - oh, I went to a private school and then to Harvard, where I shined academically. There's no doubt that I am a wild bibliophile - I have more books in my "I'm giving these away, please take as many as you can carry" pile in my kitchen than most people do on their bookshelves.

I know it, and it's a hard thing to admit is privilege. It makes me sensitive to the point that I "passively lie" - I don't mention where I went to school when I leave Cambridge, and I do it purposefully.

I mean, people don't walk around yelling their school allegiance - well, except for sports paraphrenalia - but I'm aware that I'm not talking about my education even though it doesn't matter because every word I speak broadcasts educational wealth.

My accent, my word choice, my unconscious use of language and the trappings of education all scream it. I work hard to blend in outside of the Tours d'Ivoire - get my twang on in the West, speak colloquial Canadian French rather than Parisian in Montréal, deliberately use local terms in my home state - but it's all an attempt to subvert a privilege I'm radiating anyway.

It makes me look even more privileged to do it.