"If you have privilege, YOU ARE THE RED FLOWERS. The red flowers didn’t set up the garden. Not all red flowers grow tall and strong – some get more light, some get more water, some are in areas that get too damp and get drowned, aphids may gnaw some and not others.But the red flowers are benefiting nonetheless.
And if you look over at the pink flowers and deny the difference between your conditions?
If you blame the pink flowers for not trying hard enough?
If you blame the pink flowers for causing strife by speaking up about the difference in your boxes?
If you also internalize the preference of the gardener for red over pink flowers?
If you say “well red and pink flowers are all equal now; that planting stuff, that happened in the past!”?
If you say “well if gardeners don’t like pink flowers, it’s up to the pink flowers to do something about it”?
If every time the subject of the boxes comes up you want to change the subject to how your corner of the box doesn’t get as much light as you’d want?
…you are part of the problem.”
(Skipping to an EXCELLENT part with many answers to the “well, what do you want me to do about it?” question.)
Stuff you can do if you know you have privilege and you want to do something useful with it instead of harmful.
practice saying “not cool, dude” when someone says something racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.
don’t make racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. jokes or comments yourself, even if you’re pretty sure no one from the targeted group is around (especially then).
when someone says “that thing you said was not cool, dude,” practice the art of the simple, sincere apology regardless of your intent. “I’m sorry; I’ll do better next time” works pretty well.
vote for people who will work against structural inequality and improve the lives of marginalized groups. (Reproductive justice and health care shouldn’t only be voting issues for women. Same-sex marriage and civil rights shouldn’t only be voting issues for GLB people. Improving living conditions and schools in communities of color shouldn’t only be voting issues for people of color. You know?)
make sure your chores are divided equally if you live with other people (this includes chores they think are important that you don’t care about or even realize are being done.).
ditto for childcare (if you describe caring for your own children as “babysitting” them? Step back.)
make sure work is divided fairly (in terms of quantity, status, reward, etc.) if you work with other people.
consider devoting some of your time, energy, money, skills, etc. to a group promoting social justice. Maybe even for a group you don’t belong to, as an “ally.”
practice collaborating rather than always leading when you’re in a group.
practice noticing how others different from you are treated in the same situation as you.
listen when marginalized people talk, and practice thinking “what does it mean to me if that’s true?” rather than tensing to react against them or start off by saying “But…”.
ask people different from you how they’re treated if you don’t notice, in order to build this skill (useful questions: “when do you feel unsafe or targeted in your life?” and “how does your race/gender cause people to react to you?” and “what would you want someone like me to know about living in your skin?”).
read writing by people from marginalized groups – Geek Feminism, Racialicious, my gosh the options are far too many to even list here, just find something written by someone who isn’t like you, and start reading. Follow links to blogs and news articles about marginalized people. Listen to what people are saying about their own lives and concerns, and practice taking it seriously (see above). Reduce the chance that you’ll say “but why isn’t anyone talking about ____” when plenty of people ARE talking about it; you just don’t notice.
work on changing how you respond to people with less privilege (talking over women or dismissing their ideas, tensing up around people of color, assuming everyone is heterosexual, buying into stereotypes).
practice noticing how you have been helped even if your life has been hard. Consider what your life would be like if everything was the same but you were ALSO without one of your privileged identities.
use your privilege to increase the volume or platform size of people with less privilege when they speak, and to hold back the tide of privilege-deniers.
teach those like yourself to see and understand structural inequality, privilege, and oppression. Use your power for good, not evil.
My hat’s off to Dr. Addison. Because I know people (who are minorities) who have observed (completely obliviously) (in paraphrase) “well, I’m a gay white male, and I’m oppressed more than women, so really, shouldn’t my minority’s concerns be addressed first?”
Working for equality and basic human rights is a muscle, folks. We, as a society, get stronger the more we use it!