Privilege is not something you can get rid of.

Privilege is not something you can get rid of. It is something to refuse in moments, to use strategically in others, and to reflect on constantly. If you speak English, are clearly gendered, male, born in the US, raised middle/upper-middle class, Christian/secular Christian, an adult, able-bodied, college educated, heterosexual, or white, you embody forms of privilege. I am personally implicated by many of these categories to increase my awareness.

1380497_10101835102456795_1668111639_nI think a lot of people talk about “getting rid of privilege” largely by pretending it isn’t there. In my experience, unearned privilege is something you can’t get rid of because the rest of the world will continue to respond to you the ways they’ve been socialized to. So, given that, what do we use our voices for? As a practical example, I know that I can speak, read, and write in English with pretty decent facility. I try to use these capacities to point out different issues that might otherwise not get any attention. Additionally, I try to reflect on the ways I get by easily and find ways to refuse ease of motion in moments, especially as it can inhibit the movement of others. If I see someone who needs help, or if someone is using crutches or a wheelchair, even if it means my day gets slowed down a bit because I’m moving out of the way or waiting (which is a particularly strong dynamic in San Francisco, where everyone is so impatient that they just bulldoze right past or over disabled folks), I try to pay close attention to my surroundings and see what I can do to help others move through their day with the tiniest bit more ease. And, not because I want to be a good person, but because it makes one tiny moment in another person’s life that much easier.

It’s not much, but it’s also not nothing. Privilege flows through us whether or not we admit to it; how can our increased awareness put that privilege to good use?

Mauro Sifuentes

Mauro Sifuentes is a native Californian and a Chicano of mixed-race experience and a member of the Brown Boi Project. He received his Bachelor’s from the University of Southern California in 2007, studying Music, Psychology and Linguistics. From there, he went on to earn a Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and plans on completing a doctorate in Education from the University of San Francisco, beginning Spring 2014. Foregrounding issues of the relationship between cultural assimilation and structural oppression, Mauro’s writing and research explores frameworks of (post-)coloniality, Foucauldian genealogy/archaeology, and feminisms while seeking to deconstruct narratives of gender, race, nationality, education, and violence. He currently works as a youth organizer with a nonprofit in Oakland that focuses on domestic violence intervention and prevention and is also working to help shape a new nonprofit to advocate for the legal and medical needs of transgender communities. An advocate and scholar for social justice, Mauro is committed to facilitating alliance building work across communities of difference in order to create cross-identity coalitions and projects.

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