Thursday, November 26, 2015

Today I Give Thanks For My Privilege

(a poemletter to my white American cohort celebrating Thanksgiving today
and anyone else who has privilege who feels compelled to give thanks today)

Today I give thanks for my privilege
at a laptop computer
(Apple, no less)
in my own, relatively quiet, and totally safe home.
A white woman, queer but accepted fully by
by my chosen society
(the immediate 18 miles that surround me).
With a warm, fat cat on my lap and
another in the bedroom -
more than one room, three bedrooms, in fact
(though small, I want to say, and the traffic outside
can be loud when it is not a holiday).

I have today off. The whole day off. Because
I am self-employed doing 100% what I love.
When people ask me:
"How can I do what you do?"
I have to pause in order not to start with:
"Do you have enough privilege to get going?"
An inheritance? Which I did.
A good credit rating? Ditto.
White skin and an educated upbringing? Tritto.
Because these are what made all the rest of it possible.
Even though it took dead parents to get
the money
and a lot of forced independence
for that credit rating -
the skin
the education
came first and most importantly
based on nothing other than chance.
Not a single choice in my life hasn't rested on that chance.
On privilege.

My desire to hedge, to say
"I am privileged, but..."
is itself a privilege, a mark of my own knowledge
the freedom I have to feel responsible
guilty, even,
or not.
Today, I choose not to feel guilty or ashamed.
Today I choose not to brag but to give thanks.

Because it is due to grace
that I am here.
That I am not in Syria
or trying to escape Syria
has absolutely
not one thing
to do with who I am
or my goodness.

This is privilege -
to feel safe. To feel unthreatened
except by my own mind.

I ask you to join me in giving thanks
giving back to what has been given to you.
I do not ask for guilt
I do not ask for shame
I do not ask for hedging or apologies or amendments
I do not ask myself for these
and I do not ask you either.

If you are in North America and your skin ever reads as white,
you are privileged.
Please stop trying to fight it.
On a day like today, where people focus on
gratitude for all the extra things,
I would like you to consider
like I am
giving thanks for being the basics:
for being alive
(because consider the alternatives)
for being here
for being safe.

I am not asking you to give up your privilege.
I am simply asking you to
See it.
Give thanks for this blind gift.

Because it is a gift, it is something that can be given away.
Risk it, risk it for the black people being shot
in Minneapolis,
in Chicago.
For the Syrians fleeing -
the migrantsrefugees the whatever whichever newspaper wants to call them today -
the human beings risking their lives to live.
Risk your reputation with your family
with your careful safe society
and side with those who don't have such safety.
Risk your sense of self
and consider what it would be like
to be born somewhere else
or in another time
or in another body

What you - what I - take as fact
is chance.
This life as a privileged white North American
is not fate.
It is not a manifested destiny you have earned.
None of it.
Not a whit.
All if it comes out of privilege.
And the best way to honor it
is to start by giving thanks
whole hearted
nothing held back thanks.

Then, to show our real gratitude,
we must risk it.
In small ways, in big ways.
Because privilege brings with it power.
Because we can do more
since others read us as not a threat.
We can go into the frontlines
(if that is your way)
or into the headlines
(if that is your way)
and still keep our privilege.
Since it is so indelible, such a given,
give it away. Just try.
You cannot lose it.
It cannot be taken from you.

Privilege was given to you completely.
Give it away completely.
People without it have sacrificed more and more readily
for centuries.
Start small
start today.

Today I give thanks for my privilege.
Today I ask you to do the same for yours.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Miriam. I thoroughly entered into this.
    All the best to you and yours.