"if you don't have a strategy, you're part of someone else's strategy."
– a. toffler
"What can we do today, so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?"
– Paulo Freire
Fifth in my series of posts about privilege as a tool, its usefulness and its limitations, links to the rest here.
Firstly, over-using privilege as a tool, and drawing everything back to privilege, can be limiting in the long run.
The strength of ‘privilege as a tool’ is far more in ‘all the people interrupting are men, why is that?’ than it is in individual situations like ‘you interrupted X bcs you’re a man’. Saying that any one action on its own is definitely down to privilege is fraught with trouble, just as it is saying that any one hurricane is down to climate change. It’s unprovable, and also kinda irrelevant - whether it’s down to the person’s privilege or not, the real problem is that a shitty thing was done.
Privilege becomes a helpful lens when you get into ‘why’ it happened, and especially for personal reflection i.e. to look back at your past actions and evaluate how you think your privilege may have affected how you acted.
Secondly, it can be unhelpful organisationally to just leave a call-out at “check your privilege”. People who have struggled through similar journeys should follow up with those called out (e.g. men against ingrained sexism) to help them along their new path. Methods to ensure accountability should be set up within organisations so people can’t just say shitty things/act in shitty ways and get away with them - will they be thrown out of the group?
Thirdly, discussions of privilege are useful as a way to frame the problems structural oppressions create in our society BUT they’re not the only tool to combat those structural oppressions - assuming you can end racism by discussing white privilege in your group is flawed.
Lastly, you’re talking the privilege talk, but are you walking the walk? If you’re a white person lamenting the lack of black/brown/yellow people in “your” movement, what are you actually doing to change it? Holding radical education sessions with undocumented migrants? Helping people with childcare so they can attend meetings? This can be a great way to use existing structures e.g. trade unions for their access and resources.