Day two of the Social Justice Training Institute. I am profoundly affected by the level of violence people of color endure on a daily basis. It is not about me being affected, however profoundly though. It’s as if there are two parallel universes; one for whites and for people of means, one for those of color and in poverty, and the experiences could not be more different but whites are neither expected nor encouraged (certainly not encouraged) to actually see (to truly see with with their hearts, not on an intellectual level) what is happening.
I have known, intellectually and academically what privilege means, but not until this week have I had an emotional inkling of what it means.
It is heavy, it is old, it is, powerful and it traps whites as much as people of color. I do not believe this country has ever healed the deep wounds of it’s beginnings, it has only shifted how things appear. I am unsure how people I know and love have survived the weight of these daily micro aggressions, the distrust, the prejudice. I am unsure how I have gone so long as a “good liberal” without seeing it so clearly.
There are intersections of this privilege with sex and gender and class and ability and so forth. But race, race flows through us all and in such intimate ways. Many argue privilege is an academic instruction, but I am damn sure that privilege is real and happening today in real time and it is invisible to most white people because simply, it can be. But it cannot be. Not if we claim to love justice, not if we claim to love humanity. It cannot be.
I am aware tonight of how deeply our culture encourages us to define ourselves in relationship to others through power. Othering, one group being better or worse than. This may be a primate thing, but we must evolve past that into a place where it isn’t a zero sum game. We have not, yet. But we must.
I’m also more sure than ever that this work cannot be done without being face to face, in real time, in real intimacy and risk. Online conversations take a level of risk and connection away. I am deeply aware any work I have done online in forums or discussions pales in comparison with stories told aloud with recipients face to face, feeling and energy and empathy and conflict in a real space. Perhaps online is a place to reflect and intellectualize, but for me at least, that work online that I have done has been limited, wounded, and forgive the term, but disabled from it’s full potential.
I feel a deep heaviness and sorrow, but I also feel a sense of release from a past paradigm, a greater connection to empathy, and a belief that humans want desperately to be seen, and that the greatest violence we can do to each other is to deny each other’s humanity. We do this because we want to protect our own humanity. It is a paradox and I hope we can find our way out of it.