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I recently got into a kerfuffle online regarding a ridiculous quote attributed to Katherine Hepburn. A fine actress, but no social scientist. The causes of human behavior are not so simple. Making these issues the fault of the victim, takes all responsibility away from structural racism, sexism, and economic equality. I certainly expect, (but do not excuse) Katherine Hepburn to speak from the ignorant, blind folly of white privilege, but not educated women of 2014…
Instead of brushing by it as I should have, I stupidly took the bait and responded. This resulted in a long tirade of comments where someone insisted that what happens to you is your fault, and your situation is your fault because of what you have done with what you were given. That “Its not what life gives you, but how you take it that counts” and, “Every single person in every single situation can only interpret things based on their own experience. There is no shame in that. None of us ask to be where we are- good or bad or somewhere in the middle. It’s all about what you do with what you are given. ”
What? If that is not the biggest piece of privileged, victim blaming, flaming pile of crap I have EVER heard.
Life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Things do actually influence other things. Sure personal responsibility is important, but to blithely go along thinking nothing else factors into who you become and why, is to be unaware of the harsh realities of life. Why dont we unpack how problematic that kind of reasoning is. “Every single person in every single situation can only interpret things based on their own experience?” That kind of logic is an excuse for every atrocity known to man. That excuses slavery, the holocaust, lynching, homophobia etc. Nazis could only interpret based on their experience, slave owners only interpreted things based on their own experience…were they right? Is there to be no learning? No empathy, no understanding beyond your own limited circle? This is indicative of whiteprivilege, not being willing to acknowledge other spaces beyond ones own. It is ridiculous and exactly why I write, to dismantle this kind of thinking.
I am sure the well meaning, liberal white friends of mine who wrote these things consider themselves the shining examples of equality and fairness. They think because they dont burn crosses in yards or lynch blacks that they are not racist in any way, shape, or form. However victim blaming is an old tactic used by the oppressor. It becomes subversive as we people of color suffering from said oppression, do it to ourselves- Respectability politics
If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem, and ignoring white privilege is enemy number one residing in the hearts of white liberals everywhere.
Yes Virginia, there are other expressions of racism beyond fireboming churches and burning crosses. I have written on this before, but apparently it needs repeating. Racial Micro agressions occur daily, and are also a form of racist violence that must be done away with. My white friends, to dismantle white privilege, you must acknowledge it to end it.
Otherwise, put on your white hood and identify yourself so I can more easily see the Klan member standing before me.