Reflections Of A Male Social Work Student On Living With Privilege

Reflections Of A Male Social Work Student On Living With Privilege

What my experience has taught me my privilege means.
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In getting my Bachelors in Social Work, we talk a lot about marginalized, or oppressed people groups. If there are marginalized and oppressed groups of people, then there are those groups who are privileged enough not to experience that oppression. Oppression means a loss of something; rights, economic opportunity, health. Then the other group(s) gain what the other group(s) lost.

Discussions of privilege often turn a lot of people off.

Some claim it doesn’t exist, others claim that if you don’t acknowledge it then you can’t talk about any of the issues we see today. Now I won’t necessarily talk about how to get past all of that, but I can talk about my own experience, how I see my privilege, and how I see it has affected my life. But it’s important to note that this isn’t a journey I find myself at the end of, really, I am at the beginning, but for those of you interested, here I am so far.

When looking at my privilege I am left seeing two categories: things I have gained because of it, and things I lack because of it. I will be looking at my experience through these two lenses. Of gaining things that many people have had taken away from them. And of what burdens I do not have to carry.

When my family came to the United States they used the Homestead Act of 1862 to claim their land.

At first, I thought this was just a fun piece of family history that tied me to the larger American story, but upon further reflection, I couldn’t see it that way anymore. The land my family took had been the land of Native Americans. The government had forced them to leave and then sold it to my family. I’ve heard that some relative of mine still owns it. This is just one example of how my family, and ultimately me, have benefitted from the oppression of another group. It’s hard to think of this as a “fun” piece of family history, although it certainly does say volumes about the history America would like to say about itself.

With that being said, what story do I tell about myself in regards to privilege? This was one of the hardest things for me to grasp, but what I have come to learn is; my privilege is obvious, not just because of thoughts I have, but because of the thoughts I don’t have to have. I have never worried that the person in the other side of the park is staring at me as I am on my run and that I should hold my keys in my hand, just in case I need to defend myself. And I have never felt the fear that I might a close relationship after I tell them my sexual orientation. I don’t walk out the door and feel eyes on me, judging me, because of the color of my skin.

In the end, what I think makes it clear that I am privileged is that for me, this is a discussion, for other people, this is life.

I have the luxury of thinking about this when I choose and learning about it when I feel like it. But if you are born into a marginalized group this isn’t a question of when and how to think about it, it’s a fact of life, something that is carried with you every day.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

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Please, If You're Somehow Still Using The 'R Word'— Leave That Habit In 2018

Come on guys, its 2018. Google a new word.

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Maybe it was because I witnessed two boys get in trouble in elementary school for using this word as an insult.

Maybe it's because I fell in love with a thing called Camp Able. Maybe it's because one of my best friends is a special ed major. Or maybe it's because I try to be a decent human being. I do not use the R word.

Until this past semester, I hadn't really heard anyone use it often despite one encounter in 6th grade. Most of my best friends I have met while serving at places like Camp Able or Camp Bratton Green where summers are dedicated to people with diverse-abilities. I think having been surrounded with like-minded people for so long made me forget that some people still use it as an expression.

Let me tell you, it's annoying.

The word itself has been brushed off even in a "scientific" sense. It means to be slowed down, but it has stretched far beyond that meaning and has turned into an insult.

It's an insult of comparison.

Like any word, the power behind it is given by the user and most times, the user uses it to demean another person. It's like when you hear someone say "that's gay."

Like, what? Why is that term being used in a derogatory sense?

Why is someone's sexuality an insult? Hearing someone use the R-word physically makes me cringe and tense up. It makes me wonder what truly goes on in someone's mind. People will argue back that it's "just a word" and to "chill out," but if it was just a word, why not use something else?

There is a whole world full of vocabulary waiting to be used and you're using something that offends a whole community. Just because you don't care, it does not mean it shouldn't matter. Just use a different word and avoid hurting a person's feeling, it really is just that simple.

There is not a good enough reason to use it.

I volunteer at two summer camps: Camp Bratton Green and Camp Able. If you know me, I talk nonstop about the two. More realistically, if you know me, it's probably because I met you through one of the two. Even before I was introduced to the love at Camp Able, I still knew that this was a word not to use and it never crossed my mind to think of it.

The history behind the R-word goes back to describe people with disabilities but because of the quick slang pick up it was sort of demoted from the psychology world. Comparing someone or something that is negative to a word that you could easily avoid speaks volumes about who you are as a person.

The word is a word, but it is subjective in its meaning and in its background.

Just stop using it.

A List of Objective Words/Phrases to Use:

Fool/Foolish

Blockhead

Nincompoop

Silly

Ludicrous

Dim-witted

Trivial

Naive

"A few beads short on the rosary"

"On crack or something"

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Never Ask Your 'Black' Friend These 8 Questions

Don't do it, Karen, just don't. I know you weren't raised to be culturally sensitive but please just don't.

msmry
msmry
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Going to a PWI and finding yourself as the only black person in your friend group sometimes can offer you the title of "Honorary Know-It-All" regarding your race and culture. Now before you start yelling at your technological device, don't.

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I am not saying it is not OK to ask questions especially if you want to be more informed about who to interact with those of minority races. It is good to try and be more informed about a different culture but sometimes the way people try to achieve this can be insensitive.

"OMG Your hair looks so soft! May I touch it?"

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No! Just No! I don't care if it would make your year you can not touch my hair. And for Pete's sake do not do that thing were you ask but YOU ARE ALREADY TOUCHING MY HAIR. Seriously, what was the point of asking? Foreal those don't ask and don't touch unless maybe it's like your best friend. Most people of color work very hard to get there hair perfect and also we don't know where your hands have been. No touchy!

"Is that all your hair?"

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Just don't. Like, seriously just don't. And also don't assume you know the answer because there are a lot of black women now that have a lot of hair. Not to mention because our society pressures us to fit this ideal image that usually results in the damaging of our hair we often use fake hair to protect our own from the everlasting effects of colonization — sorry, I meant "relaxers." (Not really.)

"Where are you 'really' from?"

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OK, this goes for all minorities. Do not do the whole "well where are you "really" from?" because you not "really" from here either Karen. Especially for black people this is a question that is directly related back to colonization because half of us have no clue were our ancestors came from and the chances of us ever knowing is basically none because of the everlasting effect of you know whipping out an entire civilization for reasons I still say is bullshit.

Why is it OK for black people to say the "N" word?

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OK, let's get one thing straight even we can not come to condenses on this topic. However, it is NOT OK for anyone who is not black to say the "n" word. Why is this you ask? Let me give you a history lesson.

The "N" word is a racial slur often directed towards those of African descent. This term is deeply rooted in a very racially charged era of American history and sadly is still used today to have the same offensive derogatory effects typically when coming from those, not of African descent. Now there have been some efforts to rebrand and claim words that were used to degrade areas in society and the word "nigga" is one of those. Again, even we can't get on the same page with this but I would say us using the term is a way of reclaiming the past that was intended to break us down.

"Do you have a mom AND a dad?"

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"You sure that's your name?"

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Yes, I am sure! This is the bane of my existence. My name is MARY ELIZABETH MINNS. And yes, it is spelled just like the queen of England. No, it is not Marri, not Marre, not Merri, not Merre or any other convoluted way you can find to spell my name. No, not all black people have some unique name with some unique spelling.

"You DON'T like chicken and watermelon?"

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Yes, I am black and I am proud. But no I do not necessarily live on fried chicken and watermelon so if you invite me over don't ask if that's what I want. I would rather have pasta. Do not make assumptions off of any type of stereotype but especially this one.

"Can you swim?"/ "Really, you can swim?"

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Yes, I can swim and so can other black people. No, not all of us are good at track and basketball and yes, some of us can swim and enjoy it too. I mean for Pete's sake, our ancestors were brought over in boats and there is still a bunch of us in the Bahamas.

This is, of course, supposed to be a light-hearted way of addressing a serious issue. But, next time you are talking to your minority friends, just be aware and culturally sensitive. Think before you speak. I mean really think before you speak.

msmry
msmry

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