Weekly Feature

3/2/2020

PRIVILEGED

By Janet Downey


I am privileged.


I am privileged because I was born on top of a mountain looking down on the city that his grandfather built for you. I am privileged because my thighs are not being used to cover what I am ashamed of. I am privileged because I sleep surrounded by four walls that will not disappear
because I love her instead of him. I am privileged because there is always somebody else to blame.


You see, there is nothing wrong with privilege until you start wearing it like a white veil that segregates you from the rest of the world – until what you look like, how you dress, and who you love makes it okay for you to “build a wall” straight through the heart of equality – until John 3:16 only applies to John Deere and John Smith but not John Doe who was brutally
murdered beyond recognition because of things that do not make it okay to stop “loving thy neighbor”.

My skin color does not define me like my mistakes do not define me like my sexuality, grades, dreams, shortcomings, goals, boyfriend girlfriend best friend do not define me. Like you are not defined by the confines of your parent’s mind or the choices of those who look like you, and
you are not defined by what goes where or what someone thinks is supposed to be down there.
But there is no summation of words that can be strung together to define the hurt in my heart when they misgender you, mistake your skin color for consent, misunderstand the most important message of them all: love trumps hate.


I could stand here before you mumbling off definitions to words you’ll never say. I could define the words homophobic, racist, and cynical but those I’m sure you know pretty well.

But how does one define white?
White: free from color
White: free from more than just color
White: can you even define racism?
White: standing on the other side of the gun
White: “ALL lives matter”
White: represented and romanticized in the media
White: can fail for reasons other than flesh
White: flesh? colored band aids, tights, bras, underwear, swimwear what should I wear
maybe I’ll wear white:
Privileged.

He keeps tweeting about how the unfortunate thing about white privilege is that he was born in white skin in a predominantly white neighborhood in which he attends a school where he is the majority and how we have not asked for this privilege yet they are still hated for what I can’t control.


Do you ever wonder what that’s like?

If you aren’t catching my irony, I’ll say it again for the people in the back.
We live in a racialized society where the color of your skin becomes an explanation for your GPA and an excuse for your behavior. Where character and morals aren’t evaluated unless you are a struggling actor looking for more roles.
We are conditioned to look like activists, act like allies, and dress like Harriet Tubman or Laverne Cox but instead of wearing our heart of our sleeves we drape ourselves in pride flags as we stand on the sidelines watching our brothers and sisters march for equality handed to the
silent majority at birth.


Riddle me this: If there is only one way to define definition how does thesaurous.com decide that interpretation and definition are interchangeable but I can’t decide that I love girls AND boys?


If we are not aware of who fits where why are we drawing lines and building boundaries and forcing people into boxes that nobody wanted anyway? If we do not know who we are and cannot define who we love and cannot identify the greater purpose of this world than who are
we to define what is holy or what is right?


Who are you to tell them that there is no such thing as gender fluidity because the big book written by the big man in the sky says so? Who are they to tell me that what I lack makes me less than but what I have makes me more than when in reality I never asked for anything at all.


Because to me, you are all more than a single string of words and you are not encompassed by a list of similar adjectives. You are not your privilege or your income, or the mistakes your mother made in high school. You are not who you love and you are not who loves you, you are not a reflection of what people think you should be. You are not him or her or them or we or
us. You are you.

And as you are trying to define who is you please don’t do what many choose to do and decide that privilege and luck are interchangeable for I am not privileged to be lucky but lucky to be
privileged.

Janet Downey is an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University, studying behavioral psychology. Janet is a member of Psi Chi, a chapter founder of “I AM THAT GIRL”, and a featured artist with Crosby & Me LLC.