Illustrating Privilege for the Willfully Ignorant

A few months ago, I published Why I Got Rid of All My Ostrich-Friends. In the article, I explained why I put as much distance as possible between myself and people who like to bury their heads in the sand.

One blogger read the post, and then commented that she often refrained from sharing her political opinions, because she didn’t want to offend others.

After encouraging her to share the opinions she felt were so controversial, she told me she did not believe that privilege was a legitimate issue, and that no race or ethnicity in the United States was at a disadvantage in comparison to others.

In our discussions, I reminded her that even when we set emotional biases regarding slavery aside, there is a section of society that has only been free and working and inheriting anything for about 200 years (ie African Americans). Meanwhile, almost all the others have been working, saving, and passing inheritance through their family line for thousands of years.

How does that not create an unequal starting place? And with segregation only ending in 1964, and the aftershocks still reverberating throughout society today, exactly where is this mystical equal playing field?

If you’re one of the many people in (and outside of) America, who somehow believes that we live, work, and play on an equal playing field, please watch the video below. If you don’t fall into this category, but know many willfully ignorant souls who do, please share and save them from themselves…

If the video fails to load, you can watch it here on Facebook.

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64 thoughts on “Illustrating Privilege for the Willfully Ignorant

  1. Let’s talk about terminology. No argument here about racism and sexism — yes, they exist and are major problems. But how do we talk to people who are racist and sexist, rather than just come on holier than thou? This is too vast a topic to address in a comments sections, so I’m putting up a post about it in a few minutes. I hope others want to talk about terminology, and how important it is — actually getting something done rather than just feeling self-righteous and good about oneself.

    1. I take your point, but words are wind. I’m more focused on actions and illustration. Semantics don’t solve problems. I do however agree that words sometimes affect how people think of certain issues, and their role in it.

  2. To imply that there is an equal playing field would mean that each race and gender is employed at the same percentage, that everyone is offered the same starting salary when being employed at a company, that you’ve been given the same opportunities as your peers. But we all know that is not the case. I don’t understand how people can say that we don’t racism and bias has magically disappeared with the end of slavery and segregation. I hope that I will see in my lifetime, more inclusiveness, more understanding, and forward movement towards equality in opportunity.

    1. Thank you, Marissa. I’m looking forward to seeing the same, not only for the races but the genders.

      Jamaica is as close as I’ve seen to that, so far. Did you know Jamaica is the only country in the world where 60% or more of our managerial work force are female?

      1. That’s amazing! I had no idea! I visited Jamaica a few months ago as a port stop on a cruise and I’d love to go back and learn more!

      2. I lived there and didn’t know, myself — haha. The other 2 countries where your boss is more likely to be a female than male are St. Lucia and Colombia. Interesting no First World countries made the list, isn’t it! I wrote about feminism in Jamaica here:

        And thank you for visiting my island home. I hope you do get to return, soon. The ports don’t do us justice! 🙂

  3. Hi Alexis,
    Happy New Year!
    I appreciate your point about the 200-year head start that some white Americans have had after making their fortunes and building their institutions on the backs of the free labor of enslaved Africans and black Americans. When slavery was outlawed, how many black Americans had immediate access to safety, property, education, financial resources, good-paying employment? ….Segregation may have ended ON PAPER in 1964 but it didn’t “end.”

    Privilege means enjoying and having access to the best of everything without knowing, caring or understanding American history and how SYSTEMIC racial injustice continues to make the playing field unequal.

    I liked the video but to me it was more about class and economic privilege than “white” privilege.

    1. Hi Leslie!

      I think the video was trying to illustrate how economic constraints affect minorities more than others, in America. You really see it when you notice the demographics left behind and the ones stepping forward.

      Don’t get me wrong. I would have taken a few steps forward myself, but African-Americans and other minorities are disproportionately affected by these things.

      I’m glad you caught the point about the 200-year headstart, but it goes back far beyond that. Hundreds to thousands of years of legacy. How many Black people can successfully trace the coat of arms for their African heritage or the tribe they came from? That history is lost. Even for me, I’m only able to fully trace the Irish and Germans in my family. The Blacks are the ones who married that Irish and that German or that Indian. That’s how I’ve been able to find them. It’s sad, but I’m grateful I can do even that. So many can’t.

      Thanks again for dropping by!

  4. This is such an interesting debate. I think there is disadvantage in the short term but some of the most wonderful youngsters I have ever taught have come from underprivileged backgrounds and those that manage to overcome early disadvantage have usually managed to develop wonderful qualities like resilience. a sense of humour, kindness and compassion.

    1. As a Third World Native, I agree that there are perks to learning to fight your way up to where you want to be. But when race is the factor, there is hardly any fixing that. You can’t aspire to not be a minority, without leaving America.

  5. Great video Alexis. The only reason I have ever been able to fathom why people don’t see it is fear. I see these examples of embedded inequality all the time and I don’t count my self particularly sensitive. When I comment on what I see people react in denial.and indignation and it smells like fear to me. Thankfully as an ESL teacher I could often take steps, even if small personal ones, to help. I would have been way out in front in that video, by the way.

    1. Fear sounds about right. That’s where hate inevitably stems from: fear and ignorance. As an ESL, you’re on the right track to helping to bridge the gap.

  6. It seems there is no equality among gender, race, disability, differing ability. Those who think there is equality are truly buried in the sand.

    1. Agreed, Bethany. I guess these are the pull yourself up by the bootstraps people. While this certainly is something we should all do, some people have better shoes in their closets than others, and have varying opportunities throughout life, with or without privilege.

      1. I don’t think truer words were ever spoken. You need to quote that, put it on an image/picture and post it so it can be shared!!!!

  7. We can only hope that we will overcome this injustice, same as with gender discrimation. It would seem we have a very long way to go, but all in good time and a lot has been achieved already. Good post. 👍

      1. Sadly, yes. Equal pay would be nice. I hear that Iceland has become the first country in the world to make it law. You see? There is hope. The rest will follow. That’s a step forward for mankind.

  8. Excellent video! I’m sorry that I don’t have a Facebook account to share it.

    In your post, you mentioned the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That is when Blacks were given hope of employment and equal housing. However, that Act like so many others, are simply words on paper. To fight against unlawful discrimination required reporting it to an agency, such as the EEOC regarding employment discrimination. Many Blacks in the South were unable to file complaints because they had been denied education to write effectively.

    If by chance they received help to prepare and file a complaint, then it was waiting, waiting, waiting, and fighting against extensive misrepresentations, most of which attacked the qualifications and integrity of those filing complaints.

    That still happens today. If the EEOC decides not to file suit, the person filing the complaint can obtain an attorney to do so. Identifying and obtaining a civil rights attorney is difficult in many areas because there are very few, and some want hefty retainers.

    In other words, the very system that some Whites say is available to rid discriminatory practices, is a system designed so that those needing it most cannot use it.

    1. Thank you for watching and leaving such a well-thought out comment, Xena. If you want to share the video, feel free to use the social media buttons on that bottom of the page to share the blog post. That will direct people to the video, as it did for you. 🙂

      What you say about the EEOC makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, even when the complaints make it in, they are often swept aside. Not all cases are won, after all. In this article, I wrote about the ruling where employers in America can legally discrimminate against Blacks for wearing dreadlocks:

      The funny thing is, when non-Whites recognise that the system is biased against them and come up with their own organisations and groups, so many Whites are offended, and want to know why they can’t have White-Only things, too. The irony is, for all relevant purposes, they often already do…

  9. Video wouldn’t load for me for some reason but thank you for sharing it anyway. I have to second LucindaBlogs though — those comments were depressing. I get that it’s difficult to separate our own individual experiences from what everyone else says, but how can anyone deny that being born white and having married parents and having relative financial stability gives you a huge advantage??

    1. I’m sorry the video wouldn’t load for you, either. Did you try the link?

      Some people are just wuillfully ignorant. We can speculate as to why that is, but sometimes I think people know perfectly well what’s going on and why, but don’t want to feel like the guilty party, even though they never chose a life of privilege any more than the other group chose NOT to have it.

      One White Male American I knew was deadset on privilege not being a thing in America. He said minorities were imagining it. Yet… funny enough, on more than one occasions, he made the remark that he was happy to be a White Male in a First World Country, like America, and 6″1. One day I finally asked him if that wasn’t proof of the privilege he denied.

      He was stumped, and has yet to give me an answer… Some people aren’t just ignorant. They’re STUPID.

      1. I did try the link; I got it to play like the first minute but it kept skipping back to the beginning. Not sure what’s going on with it.

        Yes! I don’t understand why we have to see it as a guilt thing, when we should feel more guilty for denying privilege exists. Like growing up with privilege isn’t a choice, but denying it exists sure is. Hopefully you made this White Male American think a little bit. If he doesn’t change his mind, maybe he’ll at least experience enough cognitive dissonance to make him consider it.

      2. Hmmm… well I hope you don’t have that problem with all the videos. I try to share one every Monday. I know not everyone likes to read and my posts can be pretty darn long. 😊

        I agree. I sure as hell don’t feel guilty for the privilege I enjoyed in Jamaica, or the privilege I was afforded by my parents, or White ancestors. I have no control over those things. But that’s all the more reason why I should be concerned about those who fall behind. And in any case, I have other forms of discrimination to face, like racism in America, and xenophobia.

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