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.
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.
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.
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.