Sunday, 13 February 2011

Spark of Wisdom: The Blinkers of Privilege

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

Humanity confuses me at times. With this bruiser on my face I think I’ve had the following conversation several times.

Person: *gasp* what happened to your face?

Sparky: Someone hit me.
Person: *disapproving look*

Yes, they appear to disapprove of my face being in the way of someone’s fist. Yes yes they do.

Maybe they disapprove of my inability to dodge?

Maybe everyone around me secretly believes I am a secret agent or a trained martial artist – maybe I look so cool they can’t imagine anyone could possibly lay a finger on me without me ripping them limb from limb while delivering terribly witty one liners?

Or, as it occurred to me, we live in very different worlds. They haven’t been attacked. They’ve never been the victims of violence. They’ve never, really, face the actual threat of violence, it’s so alien to them that the reality of it catches them out – it can’t happen randomly, the world, their world, just doesn’t work that way. I must have been an instigator, I must have done something I shouldn’t have – not necessarily “asking for it” but at least doing something foolish or silly that put me at risk.

Either that or they’ve never placed me in their mental picture of a victim. For whatever reason, I don’t fir the profile of someone who has to be careful of someone who has violence enter their lives. I wonder if I should take that as a compliment or be vexed by their blinkered vision.

And, well, neither mind sets are ones I can picture. I’ve pretty much absorbed the idea that violence happens, happens to me and happens any time. I’ve accepted the idea that safety is pretty rare and you have to be on guard (though, clearly, this is a lesson I need to practice more). It’s not the first timer. It’s not the 6th time. It’s not the 9th time. It won’t be the last time.

And it has had me somewhat torn in emotional response. Do I envy them for living lives so… sanitised, so insulated from some of the harsher aspects of reality that violence is an alien concept to them? Be irritated at their ignorant naivety? Be angry because they are so ignorant and dismissive and almost doubting of my experiences?

But it also makes me think. It makes me think how hard sometimes it is to bridge the gap of people’s experiences. How hard it can be for people to understand a marginalisation who either do not live that marginalisation or just cannot see you within the context of that marginalisation (either because they have bought into stereotypes or preconceived notions). Part of this relates to my previous post on how if you’re privileged you don’t understand.

But I think it’s more. First a reminder to privileged people that they’re looking at the world through a different lens. But I think it’s also reminder to the marginalised that, no, maybe the privileged people genuinely don’t understand . Yes maybe they are shocked, confused and bemused. Maybe we do have to stop, take a few steps back and let them catch up with the conversation. Not that we need to put up with fail, wilful ignorance or general arseholery, but at least be aware that we may have left someone behind. Remember the nuance or assumptions made me lost (or completely different ones made) and maybe some gaps need to be filled.

Do I know where I’m going with this? No, it’s something of a ramble as is my wont. But it’s something to think about.