I also wrote an entry about this in my Ditch That Word blog.
Quinn the Business Bohemian meets me for coffee. Both of us drive our vehicles without a question of whether they will start. Both of us pay our two-fifty without thinking about where we will get our next meal. We talk briefly about the Occupy Everything protests.
“On a global scale, we are the one percent,” he reminds me.
I think about a picture of protestors. Two of them tapped away on MacBooks that were manufactured by labor in underdeveloped and developing countries.
“I went to a birthday party a few weeks back and I was the racial minority. It felt uncomfortable. I forget the power inherit in this sense of comfort that you feel,” I tell him.
“I wrote a blog post recently about being a man in the business world. If I was a woman and acted the way I do, people would call me a bitch,” he explains.
“The tough part of inheriting injustice is that it affects everyone, both the victims and the beneficiaries. We never asked for this power, but we haven’t exactly let go of it,” I say.
We talk for awhile about our privilege and the myth that we have gained our place through hard work. We are the product of privilege. In both a geographical and historical context, I have the winning lottery ticket.
So, it has me thinking about the protests and the notion of “the other 99%” and “occupying” space. For all the talk of occupying Arizona, the reality is that I live on occupied land, taken by conquest first from indigenous nations and then from Mexico. I can complain about trust fund babies and nepotism, but I am the beneficiary of a geographic trust fund. By accident of birth, I inherited white, middle class privilege in ways that I am still coming to terms with.
I struggle to come to terms with what to do with this reality. As a teacher, it means I approach students with the knowledge that I have to step down humbly in ways that I might not in the suburbs. It means I have to remind parents that they should hold as much or more power than me (despite being marginalized). It means I have to be honest in teaching social studies instead of being “neutral.” I need to tell students about American conquest and genocide. It’s why I might show up to an “Occupy Phoenix” protest, but I will definitely show up to a protest regarding immigrant rights.
It gets trickier in our neighborhood or at church or in other social contexts. I don’t think there is a how-to list of dealing with power and privilege. However, I believe that awareness and humility have to be part of the solution.