It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. -Eleanor Roosevelt
Have you ever seen the movie Lilo and Stitch? It’s a cute film. In one of the scenes Stitch uses blocks to build the city skyline of San Francisco and then tears it down pretending to be Godzilla.
That scene always makes me laugh, but it also reminds me how easy it is to tear things down and hard it is to build them up, whether it is people or buildings.
In the same way it is easy to point out what is wrong about the world, but it is hard to give useful suggestions on how to fix it.
Since my last several posts have been about power disparities, I want to take some time to offer advice to those who may say: Okay, I have privilege, what do I do about it?
The first thing to do is to congratulate yourself for being aware of your privilege. “Knowing is half the battle” (Says the child of the ’80s).
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by guilt, grief, and a sense of hopelessness when you learn you’re privileged. Most people who have power know they have power, but learning that one has privilege comes as a shock.
It’s a shock because privilege is not something you earn or work for. It usually comes from your place in the social pecking order that you were born into (although power can be inherited as well, when a person is privileged).
The issues are complicated and the emotions are paralyzing.
Here is the good news: having privilege doesn’t make you a good or bad person. It’s how you wield it that counts.
There are ways to live your life as a privileged person and not trounce on the humanity of others, but here’s the catch:
· You must love justice more than privilege; and
· You must be willing to do the work.
Yes, this will involve some sacrifices and it’s easy to feel like you’ll lose everything, by giving up something, but it’s not true.
Being an ally to the disposed requires the Mother Teresa’s who dedicate their lives to the cause, and the people who support her charities. After all, how effective could Martin have been without the people who marched?
Despite the degrees of ownership, both require commitment.
Change is incremental, personally and socially and you have to stay the course.
Beyond being committed you can strive to become more aware, both in understanding your own subjectivity and biases, and understanding history and the embedded structures of power the gave you your privilege.
As you become more aware, you’ll become more effective in combating injustices at all levels: institutional (policies and practices), interpersonal (group and individual), and cultural (social norms and valuing).
Keep going and you’ll help eliminate the power asymmetry that created your privilege…and others’ disadvantage.
It’s that simple.
Ready, set, go.