Unlearning Privilege We are not supposed to be having this discussion It is deeply disruptive Subversive Dangerous I feel it in the pit of my stomach as I walk from my office Lorde, this is hard work I want to stop it but I can’t Can’t unlearn what I don’t really understand Can’t go back to having ‘safe’, comfortable classrooms As with all privileges, the safety and comfort of some come at the expense of many others I am (white) woman, of (white) woman born I am oppressed!? Hell, I came to know this in these very classrooms I speak from this place I know myself from this place I have certain privileges as a result of this place Is it any surprise (white) women don’t want to talk about it? Yet if we are brave If we are truly committed to feminism If we are willing to be uncomfortable To challenge the assumptions of ourselves and others If we are willing to do this in the spirit of building community Solidarity Respect Then we have much potential This work resists divide and conquer tactics It is a refusal to gain equality on my sister’s back This is life long work There is no post-colonialism, post-feminism, post-power If we do, we have the potential to transgress boundaries we hoped we already transgressed ‘I have a black friend’ ‘I have an Indian girlfriend’ ‘My cousins are half-Chinese’ I am not a racist I am not white
What I really mean is I am your ally What I don’t realize is that being an ally is praxis Not declaration or identity It is using my agency to recognize my racism, heterosexism, classism, ablism, sexism To commit to actively challenge the ways I sustain these power dynamics To not wait for others to tell me how to do this But to stand still, listen, and learn when others are generous enough to do so …Regardless of ‘how’ they say it Can a classroom be different? In this Master’s house? Given the track record of education For development For civilization For progress For women’s rights? Given how much resistance there is to change? Given an active refusal to know? ‘You must go back to lecturing’ ‘Don’t let them talk to each other’ ‘Focus on the reading material’ In other words, preach, don’t practice Focus on the ‘theory’ What is our stake in keeping a lid on it? Do we fear it will discredit us as feminists? Do we fear it will discredit us as academics? Do we fear we will have to admit our privilege? Do we fear how much work there is to do right here (much less half way around the world)? If we really want to learn something, banish pink elephants and start asking tough questions.
Krista Hunt, 2009