Understanding Everyone’s Responsibility

When I write, or even just talking with friends and acquaintances about issues relating to race, I am told sometimes that I sound as if I have no role in the systems that I talk about, even going as far as to say that I believe I am above because I go to Duke and can read. Learning how I come across to certain people allows me to gain perspective and it gives me the ability to reflect and see if there is anything I can do to change how I spread information.

First and foremost, this is not meant to be the all-knowing site of information. What I write or say is based on research and experience, but in no way is my information exhaustive. My information can be interpreted in different ways, and does not always only applies to black issues. I love holding discussions and that’s why I’ve started this blog, with hopes to get people talking about things that don’t always come up in mainstream media. People are welcome to come back with information, data, and their experiences in order to come up with a better understanding for what goes on in our world and why.

Moving from there, it’s still important to understand that the systems of oppression that I bring up are very real, and no matter how much you attempt to tell me that your experiences have never been something where race has made a significant impact on your life, I am not going to accept those arguments. While I do enjoy seeing different perspectives, I am not going to entertain that while I know that I have experienced much more than what one wishes to diminish my life to.  White supremacy, patriarchy, queerphobia, misogyny, anti-blackness, xenophobia. All of these have a place in our lives, regardless of your awareness to it. To take things and claim that one’s experiences are only a minimal thing only proves that much more that these systems are not only in place, but are working. We have been taught incorrectly at school that everyone has a fair shot if they just worked hard, and later on, learning that you are part of something that disadvantages others is very jarring, and understanding that no one gets out unscathed is a big part of moving forward and creating an environment where we can build and actually start the process of moving on. So I have compiled a few things to say in response to those who believe that privilege is not a thing and that they aren’t involved.

  • Everyone Plays a Role: Nobody is without some kind of responsibility in this mess. Everyone plays a part in how we interact with one another. That does not mean that those of power have the ability to blame those who are oppressed for their state of being. They are in situations due to long term power dynamics being unequal, thus granting those who are privileged to get ahead to the point where it isn’t possible to catch up immediately without radically changing the way things are.
  • Taking Responsibility does NOT mean Feeling Guilt: Often when having discussions with those who are privileged, the first defense mechanism used is to try to deflect the situation back onto the oppressed, often by exclaiming how the oppressed calls on them to feel guilty and how they don’t deserve to feel guilty for something they “didn’t do.” Not only do they completely ignore the role that they play in these systems, they put the blame onto the oppressed, which doesn’t make sense due to the aforementioned skewed power dynamics. Taking responsibility understanding that you are in a position of power and that you have to work to not only come to understand why and how these systems exist, but to actively fight it and spread information onto others as you see fit
  • This is Not a Trend: Often times, I get people claiming that the Black Lives Matter Movement is just a trend, and that anyone who supports any type of social activism for oppressed people are simply jumping on a trend. This is not true, and it assumes that people weren’t doing anything for these injustices in the past. The difference is now we can highlight these acts through means of social media and technology in general, and they become something we can easily point it out. Coming into consciousness of the things that are going on isn’t a trend. It’s something that we should be happy that we have more people who can fight the good fight and that we have more minds working to think of a possible solution.
  • Responsibility Means More than Just a Hashtag: When discussing social justice, it’s often a question of who actually is doing something. I consider myself to be an activist, but I know that simply putting out content isn’t the only way that I can contribute. I go out to hear speakers, gain different perspectives, go to marches and rallies, and try to get involved with the community. I do what I know I have the capacity to do. I also understand that my activism is not just a every other day when there’s a trending event. Activism means fighting for revolution, and one cannot just make that fighting something on a “whenever you feel like it” schedule. Activism is a full time thing, not just a hashtag movement. Hashtagging is good as you raise awareness, but there is so much more to do than that, and if you really wish to have things change, you need to be doing what you can to make that change possible.

This is something I will probably add on to from time to time, but these are definitely things that need to be addressed. Understanding privilege is certainly not an simple thing, but we can make it easier by cutting out pointless conversations. Privilege means that your voice has a chance to be heard, and when talking to the oppressed, you need to understand that the time they get to speak with you is a fraction of what you say, and you shouldn’t waste it by asking redundant and extraneous questions. Cutting out tedious and repetitive arguments allows for us to go deeper than the surface of race and its impact.

-JW

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