Privilege of a Different Shade

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Privilege is one of those buzzwords that gained a lot of analysis within the last year. It’s always been relevant, but as more of an undertone. It was studied and talked about but wasn’t making it’s way to conversations about race outside of those conversations held by academics. When I first thought I was going to write about privilege I was thinking in reference to myself and my experiences. But as my gears got spinning, as usual, my thought process got a little deeper and I thought about this power struggle within our fight for civil rights…so just understand if this seems bounce around that’s why.

As I’ve expressed before I worry about my place in the Black community. I don’t know if worry is the right word because it implies I care more than I should, and if I have to question it, then my answer is probably right in front of me. I do come from a background of privilege; I’m from the suburbs, went to a high school with the highest API scores in my area, went to college and graduated, my tuition was even covered…. So it’s like what do I know about “The Struggle” and how do I have any room to speak? I go back and forth between feeling like I do and feeling like I don’t. In college I had the opportunity to immerse myself in Black culture in ways I was deprived of growing up. I also became really reflective on growing up brown in a predominately White neighborhood. I have a contributing voice to this movement but at the same time I feel my privilege does alienate me a bit. Personally, I think Black is Black is Black, regardless of where you come from. But there are things that people are fighting for in this community that I can’t directly relate to and I feel more like an ally than a freedom fighter.

In those moments I start to question privilege from all angles. I would feel a sense of entitlement and privilege to this movement, and to the Black community in general, had I shared some of the more oppressive experiences individuals of this community face. Am I whining and complaining about it, no – let me make that clear. But I definitely observe that.

The movement isn’t just about freedom. It’s about power and who controls the narrative. For a long time Black people haven’t had that power and the narrative has been produced in relation to what has already been written for them without consent or approval. There is a privilege in being a part of the Black community. It’s like being on the VIP list of the most influential club in the world. The downside is, given history, this club keeps getting broken into and having their culture replicated elsewhere without credit given where it’s due.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out how our privilege will help us win. Not even claim victory over anyone else, but win in the sense of finally gaining equality and respect. White privilege has opened doors for lighter complexions to “get ahead” and when you look at it like that, there is no “Black privilege”. But I swear there is we just have to figure out how we define it and use it to our advantage.

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