I tried to check my privilege… and It’s hard

Growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico was quite an experience. As a Black person, we make up less than 1% of the population in the entire state, so I grew up as the only Black family in an upper-middle class neighborhood. The experience was, and considering my family is still the only Black family residing there, still is, comment worthy. So when we bring up privilege, I had experienced both sides of the spectrum. Being Black in America has so many different experiences that there have been documentaries about it. But what I do find interesting is how all of my identities intersect and make it crystal clear as to what it is like to be both overwhelmingly privileged and have so much “against” you at the same time. The Sindeloke article does a great job of portraying this. I can think of experiences in which I have been both the unfairly treated, cold lizard and the comfortable, sometimes hot, unaware dog.

I am a Black woman. It’s often considered the lowest of the low on the totem pole, yet, I have been blessed financially, academically and often times don’t identify with what many call “the black struggle.” Sindeloke’s “Of Dogs and Lizards, a Parable of Privilege” perfectly sums up both of my experiences with privilege. I, like the lizard, “get cold easily.” I get “cold” from people expecting an attitude with whatever comes out of my mouth I “get cold” from worrying if people will view my acceptance into college, grad school or getting hired for a position will be based on an organizations diversity quota- as I have been told before. I “get cold” when I realize there is a stigma about interracial dating, about Black hair, about Black culture, about our taste in music and people thinking it’s all the same. I “get cold” when I hear a white person, who I thought was a friend sing “Nigga we made it,” to my face when I told them to stop. #Thestruggleisreal.

But there are things I can’t “get cold” from. I do not know what it is like the be judged because my name sounds “too Black.” “Alexandria Lauren Whittler, sounds pretty German, to many. I can’t “get cold” from having to struggle with student loans or worrying about if there will be food on the table. I find my self struggling right now to list my privileges because often times we are unaware of them. And that’s why they’re dangerous. So when I get asked “what are you mixed with,” and respond that I’m just Black, the fun seems to disappear. I could tell you my great grandpa is Irish, or my Dad’s side is French Creole, but would it matter? You could tell me you’ve come from humble beginnings and had to work four jobs while taking 21 credit hours and watched your younger siblings, but would I completely get it? The answer is no, but the largest portion, the most important aspect of Sindeloke’s article is this: have conversations about things.

In New Mexico, much of the population is White and Latino. I hesitate to use the word Latino or Hispanic for the same reason I hesitant to use Black or African American- not all people who seem to fit a category identify with it and while Black/ African American or Latino/ Hispanic sound synonymous, I have heard from multiple people that they aren’t. What does this have to do with privilege? I can’t make you understand the struggle of defying most Black stereotypes, yet people assuming you fit into them anyway. I can’t make you realize that it shouldn’t be about defying the microaggressions, if this is the way someone is, that’s the way someone is. You can’t make me understand your story, but I can listen to you and I can try. We have to be aware of the things we say. I often joke that I don’t hear very well… not realizing how much more able my body is than others. Once I said, as a joke, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t hear you, I think I’m deaf,” not realizing the person next to me was…I read a Facebook status yesterday, from a littler person. It read:

“I dream of the day that the term “midget” is universally recognized for what it is — hate speech. But that day has yet to come. The media continues to use it as a label for people with dwarfism, most individuals continue to use it in their everyday vocabulary without comprehending its gravity and yet so many people, even those who know me, don’t seem to understand that their willingness to use this term dehumanizes a group of individuals — and me.”

When a fellow student tells you, as someone did to me, “you only got into college because you’re Black,” do you tell him to check his privilege or ignore him? These are the conversations that are tricky, that are uncomfortable. These are the ones that can change the way people think.