One of the common things associated with this topic is the notion of “privilege.” People that are aware of the on-going discourses on sex, gender, race, class, and many other groups and issues are likely to have heard this term used before: e.g. “check your privilege.” It is evident, sadly, that no one likes to admit being wrong or doing wrong, anyone can relate to that (myself included); nonetheless, I find that such a response to the issue is taking someone else’s problem and making it personal to oneself. Of course, if I wish to progress any further, I do want to tackle the idea of “privilege” by giving it a sharper definition while illustrating it with the current festivities.
As I’ve already alluded, there are many people all over the world that cannot be comforted away from the crushing circumstances that they are caught up in. The parents of the 43 disappeared students, for instance, even if they went back to their homes to celebrate Christmas, the lack or void of their lost one would haunt them at the dinner table. Meanwhile, as they try to sit down to celebrate, the struggle in Mexico continues and the emptiness in their lives continues to claim its place – These people cannot afford to forget what has happened to them; they cannot take a break from their political/personal turmoil to give into the common practices of the season: buying presents, making vast amounts of food, getting cozy under their bed sheets, etc. They are the full way in to a circumstance of life through which both hope and despair clash in their everyday thoughts; everyday hoping to see if their loved one will turn up safe, everyday hoping that the government will be there for them, everyday sighing at the passing of time – the clock on the wall makes their hopes run thin.
In the U.S., with so many young black people being killed by police, they cannot afford to feel safe even when they are home. The particular case of Yvette Smith provides an example of this:
“On Feb. 16, 2014 two Bastrop County Sheriff’s deputies went to check out a call at Smith’s boyfriend’s house. The caller said he and his son were fighting over a gun. Investigators say when deputies arrived, Smith came to the door where deputy Daniel Willis shot her in the lower abdomen and hip. The 47-year-old died from her injuries” (kvue.com abc associate).
For the people that are caught in the struggle against systematic racism in the U.S., they cannot forget the suffering and pain that has been caused upon them in order to devote some time to the merriments of the season.
The word “afford” has been central to these illustrations, for I find that what people tend to call “privilege” reflects strongly with such a word. “Privilege” is that ability to afford to do actions without repercussions or discriminations as a result of the intersections of one’s position in the social, economic, and political circumstances and structures that one is caught in. There are simpler cases that one could try to explain; for example: in poverty, people literally cannot afford the spending that other classes are privileged to have. The complexities of the power structures of our society are not limited to economics, of course, for race, sex, gender, sexuality, weight, etc. add on more layers of affordable actions for those who hold a privileged position in society. For instance: a heterosexual white male can afford to not care about sex and gender issues that others cannot afford not to defend. Nonetheless, this notion of “privilege” often allows itself to become the dominant narrative in our society through which others’ suffering is neglected because one can afford to neglect others. I will argue that suffering is a humanizing quality of the lived experience; and by being mindful and aware of the suffering of others, we can try to help our fellow human being in their struggle.