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I started posting this in reply to Janet’s post. And then it got mouthy and righteous, so I figured that was why I had my own blog…
I’ve been thinking about privilege from different points of view since posting about Kim’s post.
We talk about privilege a lot at my current place of work. It’s often not comfortable, but I think it’s worthwhile. I get frustrated, though, because we get stuck in this little circle of Aboriginal Australians. And yes, that is an important thing to dwell on as white people. But there are so many other ways we manifest our privilege. One of the things I have had hammered home – and it’s an uncomfortable truth – is that I do not have all the lovely things and lovely life opportunities I’ve got because I am lucky. I mean, sure, I am personally lucky. I am lucky that my ancestors came out from Ireland, otherwise I’d still be poor. And I am lucky that other people’s ancestors, in legue with mine, STOLE RESOURCES FROM OTHER PEOPLE. I don’t want to hear any ‘but I never did anything!’ neither did I. Neither did my parents or grandparents. They came here at most 4 generations ago. But they came to a place that had resources they could access. And the reason those resources were tehre for them, was because they weren’t there for other people.
Because they were taken. And given to me. That is why I have them. End of story. And really, the same goes with things like disability and housing. I live in my new house that used to be housing trust, because somoene was kicked out of it. Or maybe they died or moved on, and instead of offering that house to another needy person, the government chose to sell it off. On a personal level I am very glad that decision was made. On a social level, it makes me mad. I could afford my house because taxes went into incentive schemes. I can bus to a good job because people choose to spend money on roads and buses, and not on other types of infrastructure, and because I had a good education and I interview well thanks to years of people telling me I am worth something and deserve things – not that I am a bludger and a burden, that I am stupid and worthless and better off dead or at least forgotten about.
And I don’t think it’s ungrateful to consider the flip side of my luck. I am white, able bodied, clever, educated, valued. I have wealth of all types. And the things I am and the things I have are valued by society at large. Many people do not have that experience. Many white, able bodied people do not, because they grew up in Elizabeth and are missing teeth, or because they look like a drug addict, or have ten children, or whatever. I now have blue hair. And do you know what? I have not had one nasty look. I have had many smiles and nods. What sort of reaction do you think I would have if I were black with blue hair? Or if I had my normal coloured hair, but was in a wheelchair or was otherwise obviously disabled? Not as positive a one, I am sure of it. It’s not ok.
Are we so unsure of our luck, of our worth, that we have to keep pushing people down? It’s like watching siblings play ‘keep away’. It’s not about pulling people down (although some sacrifices may have to be made) it’s about helping people up. About valuing them and giving them their fair share of the bounty that life has provided. There is plenty of luck and wealth and value in Australia for every single person living here. And more to spare, I would wager, but that’s a seperate fight. Let’s start small. Let’s start with our own island nation, and spreading the luck.