On Privilege

Something that struck me as odd during my travels was the pervasive awareness of privilege, White privilege in particular.

Not just by people  of color, but by White people with those advantages, coming down on themselves for the abuses their peers have committed, and the legacy they have been born into.

Those of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds other than those of the first English and Anglo  have always known of the challenges that face us simply due to physical appearance,

The mistrust is culturally ingrained as part of our history in this country. But it is making progress.

I have personally heard privileged Anglo individuals admitting that it is people like them that have taken us into the sad state we’re in.

It was literally a rich White male saying rich White males are the problem. But it was that exact statement that truly gave me pause.

He wasn’t actually saying all rich White men are a problem with society, he was just finally acknowledging the fact that privilege and advantage is given to a very small segment of society in this county, and in turn, being exploited for their own benefit to the detriment of nearly all others.

He was acknowledging the fact that our current society marginalizes people of color at every turn.

Some people of color dismiss it as fashionable in these types of situations, but I saw their intent to be genuine.

I come from privilege too. As a second generation American of Mexican descent, I did not know the same rough barrios my parents did. We struggled, but I always had food on the table.

It was not until I got older and experienced those same drug infested crime riddled streets for myself that I began to understand. I had to find out for myself how these realities were, they were not my daily life, as they were for my parents and grandparents.

Still, I see their struggle as part of my own. I am only able to do what I do through the efforts of my grandfathers in the fields and the Army, my grandmothers care and supervision, through the constant raw physical exertion of my father and the dedicated perseverance of my mother. Their struggles to give their children better lives have given me these wonderful opportunities to share information and help facilitate change.

It is the privileges they have afforded me that makes me want to do what I can for others.

We all have certain talents, strengths and privileges. Whether it is our skin color, socio-economic status, natural ability, or hard work ethic, we all have gifts at our disposal.

We should not ever be ashamed of who we are or what we have been given. It is simply that we must use these gifts to their full extent.

Having a gift is not something to be ashamed of, not using it, is.

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On Racial Inclusion

There is a very real mistrust of the Occupy movement among many people of color. This has led to a widespread push to consider renaming or creating sub committees and working groups for the Decolonize movement.

I do not think either movement is exclusive, and do see the value of both, but this post is just to explain a little bit about why the differences are felt so that each side may understand why their is such intense feelings for names.

First is an example of movies.

Pop culture reservations aside, most of America watches movies. Whether it is on TV or the internet or even in a theater once in a while, people watch these movies to be entertained. It shows the a world they can relate to in some way. Even when it is a cartoon or film about another world, there ares still themes and character types that translate into our own experience.

Well what about the people that don’t see themselves in those movies? Or only see things they recognize and identify with portrayed in negative fashions?

This is what happens to people of color.

In the movie industry, which pervades most American’s lives as well as those around the world, race and socio-economic status are typically favored to white individuals. Being a person of color usually makes you the villain or comic relief, very rarely a serious hero.

Only independent or blacksploitation, or foreign-made films really take a look at these serious inequities which are being reinforced with every single piece of media we watch, read or listen to.

Then you look at the history.

This nation was built by imperialist Anglo slaveholders who wished to be free from persecution. They slaughtered most of an indigenous population of unique cultures to create their own utopia.

The system was set up for the benefit of these first immigrant men and all others were marginalized. It has been less than a century since even women could actually vote in our government. Not to mention the Civil Rights movement and Chicano movements, whose gains can still be counted in small victories, later infringed upon anyway. We locked up thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry during the WWII. We’ve swept aside treaties with Native American peoples pretty much at whim for out entire history as a nation.

Reading something so blunt strikes many people as odd, or wrong in some way, but I am not naive. Call it conspiracy or consciousness, adversarial nature or awareness, it doesn’t matter much.

This is reality.

Which is not to say it is not to say change isn’t coming. We should consider these failings as lessons we can build on. The only real failure would be letting the status quo continue and these gains taken back and forgotten.

This is not meant to blame anyone directly, it is simply the system that has been set up and complied with by everyone. Some are simply unaware of what they are doing,

The system is incredibly insidious because of the subconscious delivery of these messages. Anyone not taking the time to deconstruct them might overlook their significance. They might just be pictures on a wall. But that is only on the surface.

Everyone should take a second to look around, analyze their surroundings. They must actually think about the pictures, literature and other messages they are constantly fed.

These messages are not there  by accident.

People in power write the policies that create these messages. Not being aware of their impacts is no excuse. Being aware of them and continuing to comply with them only continues the cycle of oppression.

When you only see good things happening to White people, and people of color being portrayed negatively, you don’t have to be racist, you’re just judgmentally socialized.

It becomes a structural part of your psyche. You don’t have to know it to be the truth, it just is. The same way the military trains you to do things without question, children are being raised with preconceived notions that will rule their lives.

We are all just people, with the same problems, the same successes, the same capabilities. We must show that in everything we do if we wish to see a change. Simply overlooking things so innate as movies, literature and  can undermine a whole generation.

There are only so many times I can say this.

Be conscious. Deconstruct your world. Build it anew. Build it better.

Which all comes back to the movements, whether it is Occupy or Decolonize, I think there is room for both.

They are separate ideals with overlapping concerns. If you are mindful that there are other groups working towards the same goals, cooperation can be used to build both movements, creating a strengthened base while maintaining diversity of thought.

There is long-standing mistrust and issues between those who have been working for specific causes, especially those of color, and the newcomers to the Occupy movement specifically.

The Occupy movements are a larger forum though, Decolonize concerns are directed and specific, combining them and spreading awareness is key to the success of both.

We must work together to make process real.