white privilege

Sometimes I fear that I am kidding myself and I also feel like a terrible phony and asshole. I claim my feminism, my queer rights, my lack of representation etc. but I am still living with incredible privilege. I will never know the struggles people of colour have to face.

I’m white. I come from an upscale middle class family living in one of the most industrialised countries of the world. My passport gives me access to most countries without a visa.

I’ve never been hit on by strangers on the street.
I’ve never been cat-called.
I’ve not been condemned for my sexual orientation (yet).
I’ve not been called much more than an equivalent of bitch.
I’ve never been hit, abused or raped.
I’ve been pretty damn lucky.

I can’t help but feel the lack of some rights but sometimes I have to remind myself of the big picture. In German I would call what I’m doing “Jammern auf hohem Niveau” (whining on a high level) because it’s true, it’s what I’m doing.

While my Grandma was never racist towards Jews, having grown up in the time of Hitler and WW2, she is towards Turks (and Arabs in general) and also Russians though much less with the latter. I get where she is coming from and while it is easy to get swept up in it all, I at least try to not follow that kind of argumentation. I don’t always succeed. Just writing this makes me feel like an ass but it’s the truth for me.

But then again, my city and by extension my country, doesn’t feel as diverse as the US for example is. We’re not inherently a nation of expats. While my nation suffered through WW2, we didn’t have a civil rights movement like the US. That doesn’t mean everything is roses and peaches over here, far from it, but it’s a different level. I went playing lasertag the other day and there was a brown girl with us. It didn’t even register until now that she was dark skinned. I don’t know if that is good or bad.

I want to say that I don’t care about the colour of anyone’s skin which is true. Oftentimes, it doesn’t even register with me that someone is not white.

One thing I try to do is not be prejudiced towards people I don’t know. At least not until I hear them speak because a lot of my opinions on people are due to the way their voices sound. It’s weird, just go with it.
I’m polite with the cashier for example, even if I have troubles beyond their control. And when something has slipped through and I was not pleasant to them, I apologise for it immediately if they didn’t deserve my outburst. That’s one objective I apply to everything in life. Be kind to the person on the other side. You don’t know their story and a smile never hurt anyone.

I took this up especially after Mom got sick and needed the kind of chemo that had her hair fall out. People kept looking – or better staring – at her and I know I’m the kind of person who stares when it’s other people. What I’m trying to convey though when I get caught staring is that I don’t mind. That I know and am there for support if needed. I probably still come of as an ass who stared but there’s only so much I can do. Doesn’t that sound like a handy excuse?

When I saw this trans-girl walking around uni in her skirt I wanted to go up to her and tell her how proud I was of her. She hasn’t transitioned yet and still looks a lot like a boy but I have seen her on multiple occasions with girly clothes and I couldn’t even imagine how much courage that would take. Just seeing her puts a grin on my face though. Still does.

It’s those little things that feel though as if they aren’t enough. I’ve never been an activist. I haven’t stood up on my soapbox and waived any flag. I never marched for the greater good of things. For most of my life I have kept quiet unless it was in a normal conversation though even there I sometimes chicken out and I do wonder if what I’m doing is enough.

I easily forget how lucky I am because of things beyond my control, like the kind of family I was born into, my nationality, the colour of my skin. And those are things beyond everyone’s control. Of course there are things you can do when you’re grown up, but for the first couple of years, nothing is your control and that’s sometimes what I have to remind myself of.

And in the end, does it really matter that much that I don’t know what it feels like to be called a nigger? Or a mudblood? I’m lucky enough to pass as straight in my everyday life but that doesn’t mean I don’t brace myself to get ostracised from my friends and family every time I come out to someone. Again, I believe it’s a matter of level. My problems aren’t as big and monumental  but I’ve lived enough to being able to image things. So my plea for everyone is to be kind and openhearted towards one another. We’re all just bones and flesh held together by our skins.

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