I am privileged

Saturday, 1 July 2017 10:41 am
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
[personal profile] carose59
"It Was Sarcasm. I Won't Do It Again."*

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I was just taking the privilege quiz only I had to stop because statement two made me laugh uncontrollably.

Statement two is: "I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color."

The correct response is, "I don't know! I didn't ask!"

Because there were these girls, see, these black girls, who would circle me, back me into a corner and play the "let's pretend to be friends with this loser, then mock her when she falls for it" game. Were they doing it because I was white or because everybody else did it? Hell, it was a game the white girls played, why shouldn't they play it too? Or maybe it was my stuck-up, smarter-than-everybody else aura. (Fuck it, I was smarter than most of them, but I wasn't stuck-up, I was terrified and weird.)

This is not a situation where you can say, "Excuse me, but why are you doing this? I might need to know later." Mostly you can't do that because they won't tell you; they're busy pretending to like you and they'll deny they're doing anything at all but being friendly.

Do I sound paranoid?

I don't know why, when I was in the fourth grade, every time I went out for recess a little black girl in a lower grade—second? Third? Again, I didn't ask. It didn't seem appropriate, or particularly important at the time—I didn't ask why she came over and kicked me. Not just once; she'd spend the whole recess kicking me, if she wasn't stopped and I had no idea how to stop her. She was smaller than me—I was tall back then, and older. (Older than her; I wasn't older than I am now. That would make no sense at all.)

I have only the vaguest memories of this and they might not be mine. My mother worked in the school library and saw this happening from the window. The school administration wouldn't do anything about it because, apparently, part of reparations included little black girls being allowed to kick random white girls with no explanation. (I don't recall it hurting; what I recall is being utterly baffled.) My mother finally came out and dragged her away from me. I don't know if it happened again. I have blocked out practically all of that year of school, which you can maybe see why.

These incidents led to me being afraid of black people.

Mind you, I was already afraid of people in general—from the third grade on I was bullied by first white girls, then white boys as well. The incidents with the black girls prefriending me (Look! I made new word! It means: that thing people—usually girls—do when they pretend to be your friend so they can later mock you in a more personal way [because you've told them your secrets, or even just your likes and dislikes] and add how stupid you were for believing them).

Where was I? Oh, yes, that incident didn't happen until the eighth grade. In the meantime I had a lot of the same treatment from the white girls, but there was a big difference: I knew those girls! I'd been going to school with them since first grade, I'd been friends with them. (Why that changed, what happened exactly, I don't know. But being hurt by people you know makes more sense than being hurt by strangers. There's logic to it, it's not just chaotic. It's horrible, but it's less scary.) I didn't even know these black girls; I couldn't figure out what I could have done to make them want to hurt me.

There were no cultural differences between me and the white girls, nothing of any significance; that could not be said of me and the black girls. (It's really culture that causes misunderstandings, not race.) I seemed not to be able to talk to anyone without saying something wrong (smarter, stuck-up) and if I couldn't do it in a culture I understood, what chance did I have in one I knew nothing about?

I think that's when I started to freeze. Don't move, don't make eye contact, don't speak, just wait until they get bored and leave. Because running wasn't an option, and neither was fighting back. I couldn't even be rude, even though everything I said was interpreted as rudeness anyway, stuck-upness, superiority.

I think of myself as having a lot of privilege because I came from people who read a lot and thought outside themselves. With a high school education, I can talk to people and have them think I went to college. But I'm still mostly scared all the time because I do not understand other people at all, and that target feels like it's still on my back.


*John Dortmunder
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