My Privilege of Disbelief, Broken Down

Recently, an article by Sarah Smarsh has been making the rounds.  I’d love to quote several things in the article; I think to save me the trouble, you should just read the whole article. It’s an excellent read.

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Here’s my summary anyway: the media commonly promotes a narrative that Trump supporters are the US’ working class white people. They’re presented as our most dangerous bigots through being uneducated and lower class, careening the nation towards danger for oppressed groups. Smarsh breaks this concept down piece by piece, explaining repeatedly that this narrative is not only incorrect but essentially a shitshow of classism, educational elitism, and, my words, white feminism. Which is basically the worst.

I can sadly recognize this crap within myself, and know that I have fallen into accepting this kind of thinking at least often or more likely as an all-the-time undercurrent. I remember being baffled way back in college, getting an education at the only liberal arts public university in Alabama. For a long time, I’ve “enjoyed” the near-constant privilege of disbelief, which I touch on in a previous blog post:

When I learn about some new awful event, my first feeling is always disbelief. I cannot believe this shit is happening. How can people still think this way? How do people feel justified in verbal, emotional, physical, financial, cultural violence against others? What a privilege, this disbelief! This confusion is just a sign of how removed I am from most oppression (…)

It’s a relief to recognize that my disbelief is a function of this narrative. Not because it relieves guilt, or because it releases me from responsibility – it doesn’t do either. It’s a relief because there’s been a dissonance growing in my mind between the groups of people I’ve perceived as being the bigoted threat to myself and the nation, and what I actually see out in the world performing all of these terrible exercises in hate.

This article explains the educated, monied racism I have started to see more and more in local and national community groups. It explains why my very white, wealthy suburb has a lot of Trump yard signs, and why a large local estate had a huge sign up saying that it’d been robbed through property taxes. It explains why the mommy groups I join (and then leave within a few days) have a nasty sprinkling of racism particularly and also invented, enforced classism which manifests through every kind of parenting issue or product you can imagine, from breastfeeding to cloth diapering and baby carriers. This doesn’t even touch on the ableism, healthism, non-body positive, anti-anything you can think of ribbons that run through it all, too. 

It seems so simple while reading Smarsh’s article – of course it’s easier to jump from any position of privilege and power to thinking others are lesser than it is to be in some taken-advantage-of group that’s too busy surviving to come up with arguments for superiority. Of course it’s easier to  be afraid of losing the privileges you have because others are demanding their fair share – and on some level deep inside, you understand you have more than your fair share. And you don’t want to lose the benefits of it.

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