People ask me all the time why I bother concerning myself with issues that don’t directly affect me. They ask me all the time why I bother advocating for the oppressed, or how I find the energy to write and talk about social justice.
I hear all the time “Vanessa you’re only one person, you can’t fix society”.
The definition of society is a group of people living together. That to me means we are all society. Society is made up of us all as individuals. Yes, as one person I can’t fix ‘society’, but as one person I am part of society and I refuse to contribute to a society that remains silent on issues of inequality, injustice, and oppression. Going a step further, I refuse to be passively patient in hopes that we will grow or change as a society.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
– Desmond Tutu
Being challenged and/or asked to change is a difficult thing and a painful thing. But with it comes the opportunity to work towards growth, understanding and inclusion.
I truly believe most people are good, decent, and well-intentioned. But being so doesn’t mean we won’t unintentionally contribute toward sexism, racism, classism, ableism, etc. Realizing the times we may have unintentionally contributed toward this is hard and uncomfortable. It’s so uncomfortable because when the discussion of privilege enters the conversation, it challenges people’s perceptions of who they think they are.
I hear this all the time when men get defensive and uncomfortable about the MeToo movement. MeToo has given power to women, and some men, in claiming their experiences of sexual mistreatment and/or abuse. This claiming of power has forced a lot of men to examine their own behaviour and how they may have possibility contributed to this culture of behaviour in their own ways, big or small, through their own invisible privilege. That is very uncomfortable, but it’s also very important if we want to see change.
I guess what I am trying to say is that for me, the passive language and language of suppression that I hear all too often, is the exact reason why I bother.
It feels uncomfortable, but it’s important so that it brings awareness and forces us to pay attention to issues and our own privilege. And yes we all hold some form of privilege.