This is a comment wellokaythen by on the post “On The Definition of Oppression“.
“A few years ago, I attended a three-part diversity awareness workshop focused on making the participants much more aware of the many forms of privilege and discrimination out there. For the most part, it sort of backfired in my case. The more I heard about how fortunate I was to be an able-bodied, (apparently) white, English-speaking, educated, employed, middle-class, heterosexual cis-male, the more distance I felt towards people who were not in any of those categories. By the end I thought, ‘boy, it sucks to be one of those people. Thank God I was born into the group I was. Thank goodness I wasn’t born a poor black lesbian—that sounds like total hell in this country. I don’t know how I would get out of bed in the morning.’ I felt a little bit like a lottery winner, actually. But, that generated much more relief than it did sympathy.
“The workshop leaders had their own preconceived notions that refused to be challenged in any way. We participants filled out a survey designed to quantify how privileged each of us was. We then lined up in the room according to our points totals. At my end (off the charts!) were all us ‘white’ folks, and at the other end were most of those who identified as people of color. However, in the exact middle of the distribution was one African American woman in her 40’s, which surprised the hell out of the workshop leaders. They grilled her with question after question to make sure she really answered correctly. You got the sense that she was supposed to be at the lower end and the leaders thought she was just being contrary or willful or in denial.
“At one point I raised the question of what to do to reduce discrimination. I wanted to know what concrete ways I could work for more a more equitable system. I was essentially dismissed by the argument that we need to fight against the ‘myth of progress’ and the myth of a post-racial society. Basically, it was racist and insensitive to even bring up the question of how to make progress, and it was because I was a white guy that I was saying such things. I was being goal-oriented and looking for ways to make the situation better, and that was just not an acceptable approach. So, that’s my most direct experience with privilege consciousness raising. It still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.”
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