The First Law of Privilege

I have been thinking a lot about privilege recently.  Privilege, I think, is not inherently a problem.  The problem comes only when people who have no experience of a particular prejudice – racism, classism, sexism, and so on – act in a way which belittles the predicaments of those who are directly affected by it.  These acts are often unconscious, but that doesn’t make their effects any less dangerous.  I wrote the piece below in response to the fact that Parliament has only just had its first debate on the disproportionate deaths of black and ethnic minority people in custody, despite this topic being the subject of tireless campaigns for years.  I suspect that the exercise of privilege, be it conscious or subconscious, is a primary reason why it has taken so long for this debate to come before our country’s politicians.

“The First Law of Privilege”

They make you ashamed of your rage.
They call you the angry black man,
The hysterical woman,
The paranoid Jew.
They make you stand in fire,
Then complain when you yell about the heat.
They say:
“What are you playing the race card for?” –
But I have never known a membership card
That has closed so many doors.
They cause or prolong your pain,
Then tell you how it should be expressed;
If you don’t do so politely,
Then your case will be dismissed –
They talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you –
Then get surprised when you shout.
They don’t think:
“We ignored them,
So they had to scream it out.”
For this is what The First Law of Privilege dictates:
That what to you is daily strife
Is, to them, mere debate.

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