Peggy McIntosh wrote that privilege meant the ability to decide what causes you fight for and what voices you listen to. For example, a white person in America has the option of whether or not they want to support racial equality while the matter is not nearly as much of a choice for a person who is not white. While everybody should support racial equality, a white person's opportunities and quality of life is not at stake, their basic rights and proper treatment is not at the center of the battle for racial equality. This is privilege, being given a choice as to who and what you want to support because you want to, not because your basic humanity is at stake.
In regards to the events of the last couple of months, the point that I keep coming back to is the juxtaposition between those whose rights have recently been greatly threatened and those who have not been put in such a position. My parents, two white middle aged people with savings and stable jobs, can watch the news and frown upon political protests. They can spin the recent election by saying that a president who was not a politician could be good for America. My parents can say that people protesting the recent election need to accept that Trump won and move on, that that these people are being whiny and immature. I have butt heads with my parents on a lot of issues recently in our country and I know that I am not the only person my age to experience this. I have given up arguing against their view because they simply do not see the gravity of what has been going on. To draw on McIntosh, my parents have the privilege of not being put in such dire a situation over recent events.
I have friends who are not white middle aged people with savings and who do not have jobs that are as stable as my parents. These people do not have the ability to be so far removed from the recent upheaval in our country. My friends who are not white are worried, my friends who are not straight are worried, many people my age are worried, my female friends and I are worried, my fellow special education teachers are worried. Many people who live in this country have just been sent the message that their rights can be threatened because of something as fundamental as their race, their gender, or their sexuality.
In response to the notion that Trump hasn't been in office for that long or that some of the things that he supposedly said can be attributed to the media, more damage than people who fail to recognize the problem can see has been done. In his SNL monologue, Aziz Ansari spoke about all of the people who voted for Trump, people who feel that they no longer have to hide their prejudices in today's America. The "KKK with a lowercase k", so to speak, refers to the notion that people with bigoted, biased views now feel affirmed and supported in their beliefs.
On a more personal note, I work with special education students. Many of my students are on the autism spectrum and a main worry of mine is about them, about the future of IDEA and other provisions in place for them, about propter treatment for them.
In my Educating Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students class we watched a documentary on Latin American immigrants and the reasons that they came to this country. The documentary highlighted that fact that, in many Latin American countries, the United States' actions led to upheaval that caused people to flee to America. Many of the people in the documentary said that they came to the United States illegally but that this was not a choice of theirs. These people did not want to leave their homes and their families but the United States' involvement in their countries had led to such violence and instability that they did not have a choice. These people are some of the people threatened by the current events in our country.
I am not well versed in politics and I do not keep up enough with current events but I know enough to know that what has been going on in our country is not okay. The story that I keep coming back to is the gaping divide between those who have the privilege to look down upon people who are fighting for their basic rights or the rights of others and those who suddenly feel unsafe, unwanted, and abandoned in their own homes. This divide is what gives so many people, people who may have the power the help, the feeling that nothing is wrong and that they can ignore all of the recent turmoil. This divide is part of the problem as to why some people rightfully feel unsafe in America.
This divide strikes me because it is why two people who live in the same country, same state even, can feel very differently about current events. One person can feel that things are fine and that people need to accept what's happened and stop protesting and fighting it while another person can feel trapped and helpless, unable to protect themselves and the ones that they love. This should not be the case. We need everybody to be fighting for equality, for the rights of all Americans, we cannot have some who feel that they are safely removed from the battle. The juxtaposition between these two positions is not only striking but harmful. Such as juxtaposition is not uncommon but now is a good a time as any, if not a better time, to fix this problem. Getting past this divide will not only help people struggling and facing an unsafe environment and unfair treatment now but it will set a precedent that just because one may not feel at the center of a fight for others does not mean that they can turn away from it so easily.
This image was taken and posted by a summer camp that I work for. I chose this image because the special needs camp that posted it is a place of acceptance and a great example of a community of support. The community at this workplace is one where everybody is treated like family and we work hard to ensure that every member of our community is treated fairly and equally. Communities like this one help to exemplify what I think we need in America right now.
~ Cristina Ulto