Questioning privilege. 

Here’s a little somthing from Facebook. I’m sorry if this seems to be mansplaining. The context is several people of tremendous privilege (one of them me) discussing a problematic Facebook post. I also apologize if the logic jumps around as I am trying to address several lines of questions at once. 

So, a “friend” posted a picture essentially claiming that everyone just need to work harder. The message was being put forth by a white man. I commented, others commented and it got heated. One person asked if I grade the papers of students who reflect minority groups easier than white students. Another asked why I talk about these issues on Facebook. As I composed my response, I was unfriended & the content was removed. So, here is my response:

Clearly not. Your question exudes ignorance. This is not about making things easier for people, it’s about making access equitable. Therefore, I do constantly question why 95% of my college students are white. Our department evaluates what barriers might be keeping non-majority students out of our program and work to remove them. There is systematic racism & sexism in this country. To think that I, as a white male, have had the same road as those who don’t have my privilege is ludicrous. To say to a woman who was denied a promotion because she is female (yes, that happens) “well, you should have worked harder” is just wrong. 

The issue of racism & sexism isn’t about making things easier for some groups, it’s about making them equitable so that all people can achieve the same with the same effort. But you seem to think this guy has the same opportunities as everyone else. Let’s take race out of it and maybe you’ll understand.

Imagine a kid is born to a homeless family. Why might they have a hard time finding that 70 hour a week work? Why might they not even get into college? Why might they not even be able to apply? All of these have nothing to do with the child’s work ethic. 

Similar constraints apply to minority groups and women. Imagine being a high school-aged female sitting in your high school guidance counselors office and he suggests modeling instead of college (despite your having exceptional grades). Imagine walking into stores and always followed because of your race. Imagine having teachers who don’t expect as much out of you because of your gender or race. Imagine not being able to find the 70 hour a week job because those same business owners that follow you in their store sure as hell aren’t going to give you a job. 

Why Facebook? Because people should be called on their bullshit no matter where they spread it. This matters for real people. The bootstrapping mentality continues to keep oppressed people oppressed while you get to say they are just lazy. You get to clear your conscience, while others get to struggle. I’ve been to protests, I’ve written letters to my representatives, I address these issues in my classes, but working for a more just world doesn’t magically stop when I get online.

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