It’s time to stop getting upset at human rights, and start fighting for them.
By Claire Ward
My last article discussing the Black Lives Matter movement and racism towards the African American community, received quite a bit of backlash. People threw my article in urinals (for aiming practice, I believe – but I hope if you’re in high school you don’t need help with that anymore), balled them up and threw them at my younger sister, tossed them on the ground, and broke out into “All Lives Matter” chants in their classrooms. Honestly, I find this very interesting. Why is it so hard for Dexter High School to hear it has a race problem? We say it all the time; Dexter’s lack of diversity has become a long running joke. So, why does such a large problem arise when it’s in print?
Hearing things that call out unknown, or unacknowledged, privileges can make us uncomfortable or angry. We like to believe that we’re all good people, doing the best we can. Or, at least, that we aren’t disregarding entire groups of people. So, when some dumb 18-year-old girl comes in and tells you you’re ignoring serious social issues, we tend to get upset. This anger can be justified by one simple line: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
When others ask us to acknowledge privilege, we start to feel guilty. The word “privilege” has connotations of guilt in our society. People feel as though they are being blamed for the privilege they have. The truth is, we can’t control privilege. We can’t control having it, or being a part of a privileged group or community. There shouldn’t be blame behind it. Yet, there is, and we still tend to feel this way.
Why exactly do we feel this way? Why does privilege sound synonymous to guilt? A lot of it has to do with age-old stigma. Classical conditioning has led us to associate privilege with the upper-class royalty who treated people poorly (think Marie Antoinette). But, privilege is more than just being born into the uppermost class. This guilt we feel is outdated, and something we need to surpass as a whole society.
But the backlash towards my BLM article wasn’t just about privilege. It was also about an inability to deal with the idea that we may not be as good of humans as we think we are.
Many of us believe that we aren’t doing any bad, that we stay out of other drama, and don’t contribute to the troubles of others. Here’s the thing: doing nothing is exactly that. You aren’t helping or hurting anyone, so you aren’t doing anything. Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” and it explains things pretty well. I said that we have a race problem in our country; the incarcerated population is almost half black, while only 13 percent of the American population is black, and people got upset. Because how could you have anything to do with putting people in jail? We’re just high school students completely separated from these situations.
Here’s a question for you: is the race problem in Dexter a reflection of the race problem in the US? The way we address race here is similar to the rest of the country: dismissal. Racist comments are said every day, but instead of addressing them we brush them off and ignore the fact that people here joke about being black (when we are so white). Our race problem isn’t just a race problem, it’s a social injustice problem that stretches across such a wide range of topics that is not limited to race or gender.
We don’t really make an attempt to fight against the injustice. We just sit on the outside, choosing to ignore the many faces of police brutality, or women in the global sex trade, or the biggest starvation crisis since 1945 going on in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria.
So, when some dumb high school feminist tells us we’re adding to the problem, we get upset. We stand isolated in our little community, watching as outsiders who may think they can’t do anything. Or, maybe you just really don’t care about it and listening to someone who does care annoys you. Or, maybe you do feel this guilt in knowing you have privilege, and you’d rather ignore that rather than face it (if not guilt, then maybe white fragility). The fact is it doesn’t matter how you feel. I won’t stop fighting for what I believe, and it’s time other people take a stand for themselves, too. We, as a society, can’t stop this feeling of guilt alone, nor can we stop child labor, rape culture, or violence against the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s time to stop the little pity parties of ‘Oh my god, she’s so annoying. No one cares about this. This is bull. She hates police, and BLM is a terrorist movement’ (it’s not). It’s time to step up, acknowledge problems facing our world, and start working in aid towards them.