I’m overdue to write. A lot has happened in the last six to eight weeks. The largest mass shooting in modern history for the United States. The Me Too movement. Puerto Rico and the continuing lack of visible support from the United States which they are a part of; five weeks now and the majority of the country still does not have electricity. The Kneeling for the National Anthem. These are just a few of the many things that have been going on.
In many ways I’m not even sure where to start. The reality is that for me, the thing I have been most focused on is developing the next generation of social workers so that they can be the ones “Being the Difference”. However it’s important that I don’t stop writing, don’t stop questioning, and don’t stop finding ways for all of us to find hope, direction, and ways to take action.
I have said before that no one person can take on all of the world’s problems. We have those who are passionate about the Environment. We have those who are passionate about Social Justice. We have those who are passionate about the being a catalyst for individual healing and transformation in the lives of others.
However, no matter what our individual passions are there are some areas that we do need to come together as a group for; we cannot turn a blind eye the forces and individuals who have decided that it is their passion to divide us.
I want to draw a distinction here. We have to look beneath the “currents of power” and take a look under the hood. When you look beneath the hood of the car you can see the buildup of dirt and grease. If you have a trained eye you can see more than just the accumulation of grime. You are able to see where things are beginning to malfunction. You notice the telltale signs of deterioration, malfunction, and imminent breakdown.
If you are privileged enough, you don’t ever look beneath the hood of your own car. You let someone else do it. Someone who has the experience. Someone who perhaps had to learn how to work on their own car because they could not afford to have someone else do it. This isn’t a “bad thing”. I want to be clear privilege in and of itself is not bad. If you have never learned to look at the telltale signs of malfunction and deterioration I am grateful that you have not had to experience a discomfort of wondering how, not that you have seen the dysfunction, you will be able to be afford how to fix it.
That doesn’t mean you have never had discomfort. I want to say that too. Obviously taking your car to someone who can look beneath your hood causes financial distress for most of us. It isn’t pain free. However at the end of the day… you could afford it and you could ignore the actual time and labor involved in getting your hands greasy, dirty, and calloused with the effort of trying to fix your own car.
If you have not figured it out yet, I’m talking about racism. I’m talking about sexism. I’m talking about discrimination, harassment, assault, revenue policing, prison labor, political and financial disenfranchisement, and a host of other things. Don’t stop reading. I know some of you may want to. That is what privilege is. The ability to stop reading this post because suddenly, either intellectually or emotionally, you just got uncomfortable. You don’t have to keep reading because if you just stopped now you would never have to deal with the reality of what is beneath the hood of your car. You would never have to look at the fact that police brutality isn’t something that happens randomly to all races, you would not have to look at the fact that sexual assault/abuse occurs to somewhere between 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 women, you would not have to deal with the fact that your privilege, your ability to get jobs, get an education, or otherwise have supports that have buffered you invisibly through your life are advantages you likely received across the generations – and no, you did not do it “all on my own”. You could stop reading. But then you are turning a blind eye to the fact that others really do not have those advantages. And because of that, their level of suffering, their rates of incarceration, their emotional trauma and their lack of opportunities and financial support is in fact compounded on multiple levels. Having privilege is not something to feel guilty about it. Privilege is simply access to opportunities and resources. If, however, you choose to stop reading, if you choose never to learn HOW to use your privilege to become an ally and to support others, if you choose to minimize and discount the stories and truths of those who experience oppression with distractions of them being “unpatriotic” or “self-victimizing” or worse, stereotypical labels. Then yes, later on, you may realize that in this generation’s efforts to secure civil rights, you were among those who chose to suppress them.
I am not asking you to become a protestor. I am not asking you to take on a hundred social causes. I am asking you to do two things. 1) Find your passion area and use your privilege to provide opportunities and resources in this area to improve the world 2) Don’t turn a blind eye to oppression, at least speak up to dispute the forces that continue to work to divide and suppress.
In other words, get uncomfortable enough to start Being the Difference and passionate enough to love what you are doing.