My Talent is a Privilege

I had originally intended my first blog post to be more jovial, however sometimes you have to address a certain issue while the fire is still burning. I think there is a moment in time for every activist where their eyes widen and they suddenly realize they have been carting along some privilege they weren’t aware of.

I had this moment today.

The Realization

I found myself completely enveloped in an online argument. I spent all day is a whirl of comments and replies. Terms like privilege, racism, and tone policing were debated and discussed. There seemed to be an insurmountable resistance between arguments.

I was poised above my keyboard like a snake ready to strike when someone finally said, “You’re the first person who ever explained that to me in a way that made sense.”

I paused. I hadn’t said anything new. I thought I had just been echoing sentiments so many people had already described.

It then occurred to me: I knew I always had privilege as someone with a formal education, yet I didn’t realize that I had also been holding the privilege as someone who has been immersed in communication theories. Writing came before my activism.

Unpacking Privilege

So now I know that I have privilege, where do I go from here?

I have to understand my privilege and really explore what it means to have privilege. This privilege comes from how my brain works, how I take in information and how I can combine information from different mediums to address specific concerns. This is not easy for everyone.

Learning disabilities can affect a person’s ability to comprehend written, auditory or visual information.  Because I have the ability to understand information from written, oral, and visual sources, I have an advantage. I also have an advantage because I am able to articulate that information in my first language.

It’s not enough to know where my privilege comes from, it’s more important to know how I benefit from it. By being able to use language to frame my arguments in an approachable and authoritative manner, I could end up becoming the megaphone in an argument.

If I represent myself as an articulate and educated person through my work, my stance on a matter might be taken more seriously than through those who may not express their ideas with grammar and tone at the forefront of their minds.

Using Privilege

So I understand what my privilege is and how I benefit from it. Do I now give up my writing to avoid becoming a figurehead of movements I don’t belong to?

Not quite. I need to pay attention to how much space I take up and whether my experiences take priority. I need to know when to take a step back and allow others to speak up in their own way and not talk over them. I need to know when I am clarifying a point and when I’m taking credit for a point.

Just because I can offer information in digestible forms, doesn’t mean I should be the one to do it. I need to know the difference between offering my help to amplify and prioritize marginalized voices, and offering my services to serve my own agenda.

I need to use my privilege as a support for the movements I follow, not as a spokesperson or an expert.

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2 thoughts on “My Talent is a Privilege

  1. Thank you for writing this–I think you bring up some important and challenging points that all writers–but especially writers within the sphere of leftist activism–need to consider very carefully. For that matter, I think you bring up some points that need to be considered not only by writers, but by speakers, since speech as much or more than writing is subject to selective silencing or amplification based on a person’s skill (articulation, eloquence) and identity.

    I wonder, though–what are your feelings about the differences between speech privilege and writing privilege in terms of consent? Meaning, if you and I are conversing face-to-face, and you raise a point, social convention prevents me from ignoring your point and pretending you didn’t speak it. On the other hand, if you write an article for your blog, or for a news outlet, I can easily choose not to read it and go read something else instead. Because of this, I feel like the relationship between writer and reader is more consensual than the relationship between speaker and listener. Do you feel like this lessens the impact of writing privilege as compared to speech privilege?

    Like

    1. That’s a good point! I wrote specifically about writing privilege as I actually have a hard time articulating speech. In fact it can be very difficult for me to just say the words correctly.

      When it comes to speech, I think it’s a lot more complicated. Writing can have an easier impact because we can create visuals and we can take the time to ensure that we’re always using inclusive and clear language. Social convention may tell us that we shouldn’t ignore spoken points, but there are plenty of people who can tell you that doesn’t stop them from getting silenced. At least with written words we can at least have proof of what was said, whereas with speech if it isn’t addressed immediately, it often gets forgotten.

      I think in the end it all depends on the purpose and the message, what would have the most impact.

      Liked by 1 person

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