Privilege – A Dirty Word

In our society, privilege is a dirty word because it is rooted in race and history. It is not about class. In simple terms it is about white dominance over different institutions of society.  

                We know we have come very far in coming to terms with racism, and even the extreme right does not dream of going too far back to in the past despite the fact it is afraid to move forward.  But even after coming so far, all of us, on all sides of the aisle, still struggle with race, as all its routes run  through privilege, which is rooted in history. The present is the child of the past. Even though this child is eager to be independent, it is still the progeny of the past. Like every child, it searches for a model, but the dilemma is that it has only the past as its model, which he wants to reject. He is like an angry teenage boy who does not know what boundaries are needed and important to become an adult, and when it is important to get counsel from his parents and ask for their advice and help to be successful in his life. He resents his parents because they are bad models and pull him to the past. Like children of narcissistic and abusive parents, the boy (the present) struggles to find high morals and sound grounding because it is in direct conflict with his parents (the past). And so, the society that wants to set new goals in terms of race and cultural tolerance struggles to adopt new values. History may or may not repeat itself but without a past, the present does not exist.  

                So, are we stuck in history forever? Is there no way to make enough distance from the past to change the present? Yes, there is. The present, the child of the past, needs cultural cohesion and active involvement in which good models are established. By cultural cohesion I do not mean immersion where everybody is a cookie cutter representation of the prevalent norms in appearance and expression. Cultural cohesion is the place where the majority, if not all, come to terms with the past and decide to move forward. A place where we decide that the values we cherish now, in the present, are vastly different from the past and we want to adhere to the new ones not only in spirit but also in our day-to-day interactions. A place where we decide that we are the subjects, judges, and victims; all in one. We are responsible for everything that happens in our environment and in our institutions. And if we witness any discrimination, or if anybody uses race as a tool to get leverage on any side of the aisle, we will actively set things right. We need to arrive at a place where we genuinely believe that fixing one discriminatory act in our institution is one step forward towards a better society. This active involvement will bring us closer to the higher values we are aspiring to. 

                The past cannot be erased but it can be healed. Healing takes time and effort but once it is achieved, everybody benefits from it. Its fruit nurtures not only the ones at the bottom of the ladder but also the ones at the top. It sheds off the edginess around race and brings forth new norms which bring ease in communication among individuals, groups and institutions at all levels.

P.S. The artwork in this blog is of my students who won a poster competition on Social Justice

Author: Imran Omer

I am an author and educator, who loves fiction and art. My blog will be on topics related to Literature, Art and Education.

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