After several days at an arts conference where much of the focus of the convening was on diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice, I have been thinking a lot about the best ways to talk about structural oppression to people with a lot of privilege (race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, etc.). Often times the person will push back with something like, “I may do something or say something oppressive, but that wasn’t my intent. I didn’t mean to be racist/sexist/homophobic/etc.” Or someone will write off an oppressive action as being “Oh, that person’s just an idiot. Don’t pay attention to them.” To me, it’s really important to call attention to the fact that while individual actions can definitely be motivated by racism/sexism/homophobia/classism/etc., you don’t need to be malicious to invoke privilege.
I had an experience today that I thought really illustrated this concept, and I wanted to put my thoughts down on the experience so that A) I don’t forget it, and B) maybe someone else might find it useful when talking about these kinds of issues.