— Climate Change (@GreenLiberation) January 3, 2014
I didn’t choose to be white either, nor have I mindfully and with ill-intent constructed the institutional and societal norms that privilege me due to being white. However, I also cannot just turn it off. My privilege cannot be relinquished. I cannot magically wave it away with some sort of absurdist ideological wand.
“I am GREEN”
omfg srsly wtf
But we see this all the time, and I understand why (at least in part). I have always been white. I wear that privilege like a well-worn perfectly fitting shoe. My privilege is effortless. It’s ever-present. I don’t know, and can probably never know, what it is like for it to be gone.
This idea that privilege can be taken off, rejected, or even relinquished is an emergent symptom of its invisibility to those who wear it literally as their own skin. It is not humanly possible to “transcend” it, only to, possibly (and only in part) become aware of it.
The social and psychological realities inherent in any real introspection, any real attempt at right action are, obviously, complicated as hell. They occupy a space somewhere in the vicinity of simultaneously doing what you feel is right and sitting down and shutting up; deferring and being steadfast; engaging and keeping your distance.
The path is not always clear.
However, a glaring indication that you have completely taken a wrong turn and fucked up, is if you find dismantling the ever-present comfort of your privilege comfortable. If you frame a struggle to dis-empower yourself as empowering and you wrap it in the guise of your own spiritual journey on the road to being a better person, you fucked up. If you can’t stop thinking of “those poor people” who need your care and guidance, consider buying a cat to deal with your oxytocin deficiency.
You will always be white and, in the present reality, if you are functioning in a white-dominated racist society you are complicit in toxic power differentials that advantage you.
Deal with how that makes you feel.
If your society disadvantages you in some way (gender, economics, religion) attempt to use that struggle to grasp, in any way possible, the mechanism of oppression. These struggles are not a license to mask or disregard your whiteness, but can be a vehicle to better understand what it means.
There must be a reason – a real reason – a personal reason to give two shits other than your own sense of self-worth or happiness. How else will you be motivated to tear away your own advantages and blissful ignorance that you have enjoyed your entire life?
It might just hurt a little. You might just fall on your face in epic fashion and get embarrassed. You might just get ripped down from up high and feel like shit.
But, in the end, it’s not about you. This is not your struggle.
We are not the right people to lead the revolution against our own comfort and advantages. The best we can do is get out of the way – and that is NOT as easy as it sounds.
It’s certainly not as easy as declaring yourself to be green.