Hello. I’m white. I’m a man. I’m straight. I’m educated, and I was given a job, which I continue to hold. I’m extremely privileged. Everything I say must be taken with a grain of salt re: that knowledge — the words coming out of me are steeped in privilege.
What I hate about the privilege I have is that I’m expected to be silenced by it — to tell myself (and possibly others) to shut up, that the things we have are good, and good enough.
News flash: they’re not.
What I hate about the privilege I have is that every time I want to speak up for the victims of sexism, racism, classism or hate directed toward a minority (in number or in terms of inequality) I think to myself, “but what have you to be outraged about? you have it pretty good.” I hate that it feels like I’m supposed to think that, and I hate the thought when it appears.
I hate all the times I haven’t spoken up. I hate that I’ve written things like this before and not posted them. That voice — This isn’t what a comedian is supposed to write. This isn’t what a fiction writer is supposed to write. This isn’t what a bad cartoonist is supposed to write. This isn’t what someone who has it pretty good is supposed to write.
Fuck all that.
It’s extremely easy to be blind to the world, especially in the age of instant knowledge and a 12-hour news cycle. The potential for overreacting or underreacting to specific events is huge. The potential for picking up and pointing to the wrong set of isolated incidents and sensationalizing a trend that doesn’t exist is huge. The potential for sweeping actual incidents of terror, violence, murder, rape, and injustice under the rug is huge. Often if you want to know what is really going on you have to find it yourself. The days of being fed what you’re supposed to know are gone.
The “knowledge” gained by individuals about the world they live in is no longer broadcast to the masses from a finite number of agendas — you are in control of what you know. This is both a great and terrible thing. Terrible in that you can choose to avoid things that don’t make you feel good. You can watch Netflix. You can watch politicians talk about things they’ve been paid to talk about. You can watch sports, or play poker, or see what a certain celebrity is saying right now or who they’re dating, and continue to ignore the perils of the rest of the people who live on this planet with you, and the perils of the planet that keeps us all alive.
Or you can take the red pill. Choose to learn more, to open your eyes, to let in more light, even if that light shows you things you know may hurt you, make you sad, make you uncomfortable, make you feel small, make you feel unimportant, make you reconsider your place in the world and make you wonder just what — if anything — you can do about it.
There has always been injustice, and war, and greed — it’s hard to sensationalize these things. It’s hard to make people care about things they believe are just parts of “reality.” Things that are just too bad. Too terrible to look at. Too horrible to fix. People are in the habit, have been in the habit, of looking away.
But I’m asking you to consider using your time here, during your short life, to use the tools we have available to us while we’re still able, to look at the world and its people and its problems, and to do it on your own. You may find things are vastly different than what you are told through filtered commentary. You may find there is no such thing as “post-racial”, that rape culture is real and that capitalism eventually destroys everything it makes. You may find that the the answers to the world’s problems don’t fit into columns marked “conservative” or “liberal.” You may find that it is not the poor who deserve our contempt, but the powerful. You may find yourself ignoring the voice that tells you things are good enough and if it’s not good enough for someone it’s their own damn fault.
You may find that what becomes attractive to you is working towards speaking up in every possible instance for someone with fewer rights than you.
Please don’t take my word for it. Look at the world. Actively look for issues and events that don’t directly affect you. Listen to every voice you can — filter nothing. Forget that you have it pretty good and pretend you don’t.
It may hurt, and it may make you feel useless, but I promise you it is not useless.
(I originally published this six years ago, on Tumblr. Would I have written exactly the same thing today? Probably.)
I’m most active these days on Twitter, where you can see the things I care and think about.