Friday, February 09, 2018

Five Minute Friday: PRIVILEGE

 Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is PRIVILEGE.


A couple of days ago I saw this meme on Facebook: 

It's a play on Bonnie Tyler's popular 1980's song "Total Eclipse of the Heart," which starts with a man's voice singing hauntingly "Turn around..." between Tyler's lines.

The joke is, imagine if a cop told you to "Turn around" and you responded that way? They'd get so annoyed with you, they might taser you!

My first response was to laugh. It's the kind of "groaner" joke that I like -- and of course I always enjoy anything that pokes fun at the days of big hair and overly emotive power ballads.

But my second response was different: If I were a person of colour, I might not find that so funny.
There have been so many examples of people of colour (usually men) being killed in confrontations with police when it appeared that deadly force was unnecessary. So the idea of responding flippantly to a police officer's command really isn't funny at all -- you might get killed if you did that. You might get killed even if you responded obediently.

It's privilege that allows my first response to that meme to be laughter. I don't have to go about my days worrying that a seemingly innocuous encounter with police will end with my death. I can feel reassured by those who say "But most police officers are good people," because I've never known any different.

Acknowledging our privilege, whether in terms of race, or sex, or wealth, or many other often-intersecting areas, is kind of like putting on glasses for the first time. We start seeing things in a different way than before. It's not always comfortable. Even mentioning to other people that we're starting to notice things differently may elicit complaints about what a drag it is that now we're not even allowed to laugh at a little joke without (ahem) "turning around" to see how other people might interpret it. The words "politically correct" -- and boy, do I hate that expression! -- may be wielded.

Actually, now that I think of it, acknowledging our privilege is more like reversing the selfie mode on our cell-phone camera. Instead of focusing everything on ourselves and assuming the entire world is a mirror of our own experiences, we click that little icon so that the camera swivels and faces outward. We're no longer the focal point, but we can see so much more than we could before.

Are there areas in your life where you recognize your privilege? And if you've recognized it, what are you going to do about it? What am I going to do about it?


  1. Yes...reversing the selfie mode! I'm right there with you friend. I'm trying to listen more and not speak right away. Too many of the people I love would find this joke offensive because of the color of their skin. I also struggle because my dear friend is a highway patrolman. It's hard to find that balance. Blessed to be your neighbor this week.

    1. Thanks Tara! Yes, I can imagine it is really hard when you think about your friend. So often we know (beyond a doubt!) that there are good people of true integrity in these roles. Yet others' experiences tell such a different story. How to see and honour the good that actually does exist, yet understand those people who can't take for granted the things we do -- that is so challenging.

  2. Jeannie, it's amazing how the lack of understanding of privilege finds itself woven into the most subtle voices-like a meme. "Instead of focusing everything on ourselves and assuming the entire world is a mirror of our own experiences, we click that little icon so that the camera swivels and faces outward." Such a great illustration!

    1. Thanks so much, Stephanie. This was such a great prompt.

  3. I love that you were able to "turn around" and look at this from another point of view. It's so easy for those of us in a privileged position to scoff at someone who would get offended at this and wonder why they are getting so worked up. But when we truly put ourselves in someone elses shoes and try to see the world from their POV, everything changes.

    1. Thanks so much for that comment, Stephanie - I'm glad the post spoke to you. I thought this was one of our most challenging FMF prompts.


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