It began with one word: privilege. I was sitting at my makeshift office in the middle of my living room, my desk strewn with cloth masks and paperwork, texting a close friend from the West Coast. This friend — K, as I call him here — is a White male who grew up in a middle-class family, albeit without the perfect childhood or perfect adulthood, for that matter. Amongst our daily ramblings, K mentioned that he was growing tired of seeing commercials for Greta Thunberg’s climate change documentary. With little thought, I somewhat jokingly responded with “that sounds very privileged of you.” K became angry, the fight escalated, and we stopped talking without discussing the topic at hand.
I haven’t spoken with K again in the weeks since, but I have deeply reflected on the anger that bubbled up within him at the suggestion that his statement was privileged. As a woman, I am quite privy to men interpreting my words through a lens of critique. I am achingly familiar with the stance of devil’s advocate, a role filled enthusiastically by many White men. Furthermore, I am a 27-year-old White women and have spent my entire life benefiting from a system that was built for members of my race. I’ve preached that I stand for Black lives, indigenous lives, immigrant lives, and so on, all while continuously holding the power of my Whiteness in my hands. Although I have always held privilege as a White woman, I have never been included in our world’s most powerful demographic: the White-passing male.
Yet, in 2020, something changed. This is the year where, although we were powerless in many ways, we passed the power to those who deserved to hold it. This is the year where White people showed up with their bodies but let others do the talking. This is the year where we cheered on our postal workers and our home healthcare providers and our undocumented farm workers. This is the year we elected a breaking number of women and LGBTQ+ identifying individuals. This is the year we elected our first female, biracial vice president. This is the year that, for the first time in U.S. history, we took the microphone away from the White male majority and replaced it with a mirror, asking White men to do one simple thing: reflect.
It is clear that this request was not a simple one. To ask White men to step back and self-analyze is the equivalent to…