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10:59 pm: Hesitant Thoughts on White Privilege
Assalamu alaikum, I was initially going to do a voice post, because I was too lazy to write. Well, after doing about 5 (or was it 6?) or so rambling, what I deemed to be incoherent posts, I decided that I'd do a written post anyway. Anyway, my initial thesis was that while I'm a white person, and thus have experienced white privilege, whether I wanted it or not, whether I asked for it or not, that having white privilege can have a fluidity depending on the situation that you are in. Examples I gave were access to employment, education, and socioeconomic advancement that, had I been sighted, I'd have had more access to. However, a comment via Yusuf's blog caused the figurative "ehhhh!" buzzer to go off in my head, and all of the arguments I was going to present, to further my point all seem hopelessly filled with the "white privilege" that I say I don't have.

One statement/example that stuck out for me via the Resist Racism blog was: "14. I’m a person of color myself and …

variant a. I’m white, but I’m a member of a minority group and have faced discrimination …"

Oops, well, there went my whole argument. Although I'm trying to find the "privilege" in having the police called on me because I got lost, or being outright told that I wasn't going to be hired for a job because I had a dog, or because I was blind, etc. So yes, I'm blind, and I'm white and a woman, etc., and I have been discriminated against, and while I by no means want to use that as an excuse to negate any white privilege I have, or to discount the fact that racism does indeed exist, well... It seems that perhaps I'm doing the very thing that I don't want to do, i.e., the "white privilege" seems to be spewing forth from me in ways that I do not always realize. However, getting the idea that your discrimination/prejudice is worse than mine is a bit angering. And maybe as a white blind person I'm not allowed to say that. I suppose the next time a neighbor calls the police because I simply got lost, or the next time I'm denied access to an establishment because of my dog, or the next time a crime is committed against me (God forbid) and the perpetrator is found not guilty not because I didn't know who he was or couldn't identify him, but simply because I couldn't identify him by sight, the "dominant" and "preferred" way of identifying your attacker (because that's what he was in my case), I'll be grateful because Gosh darn it, I'm white and I have white privilege, so I guess I should just get over myself already. Or... The next time airport security decides to select me for "special screening", I'll not mind the humiliation of having my person searched, wanded, patted down, etc. Not only because I'm a "Muslim" and doing so makes the non-Muslim among us feel safer, but, oh, yeah, I'm white, and if I wanted to, I could just rip off the hijab and other "Islamic" atire, and walk through the same airport tomorrow in a halter top, low rise jeans, and stoletto heels.

As a blind white Muslim, I just plain give up in trying to understand how I'm supposed to navigate the complex world of race, disability and religion, because no matter what I do or say, it's always going to be viewed through the fact that I'm white, and thus everything else is seemingly minimized and seen as an attempt by me to gain some kinda street cred with POC, because "hey I've been discriminated just like you", when that wasn't even my intention, and I wouldn't even try to say as much! Because the fact that I had to testify in a court of law to being sexually assaulted, or the fact that I had to give a detailed deposition regarding employment discrimination, or the fact that there are certain websites that are not accessible to me has nothing to do with race, and is a completely different type of discrimination altogether. Yes, I experience white privilege, and I'm sure I do so in ways I don't realize. However, I don't think other forms of discrimination should be passed off as nothing, though at the same time, I don't think that they should be held up as ways that whites "understand" people of color. I'd not go so far as to say that. Because I'll tell you right now that sighted people will never understand what it's like to be blind. So as a white person, I can't tell you what it's like to be black, or anything else for that matter. All I can tell you is what it's like to be a blind white Muslim who benefits from white privilege but doesn't always understand how. And I'm struggling with that. This whole race thing is hard for me to understand, I'm white but I don't know what that means, only what society tells me it means. I'm supposed to have some kinda privilege, I'm supposed to be on the upper echelons of my society but I don't feel like it most of the time. Most of the time I feel less than, second best, not as good as. I'm made to feel that I have to work twice as hard, go twice as far, do twice as much. But oh, I'm white, so I'm supposed to have some kind of privilege. And maybe I do, it's just hard for me to realize what or where that privilege lies.

Maybe it was the privilege of not being more prone to being labeled a trouble maker at school, or being "tracked" and thus deemed not college material, or not smart enough for "normal" classes. Maybe it was the assumption that I'd go to college, while other students were assumed to only be capable of doing vocational work. Maybe within the blindness community and the associated blindness field involved with the teaching/rehabilitation of the blind white privilege is alive and well and at work. However, when you get out into the wider society, that "privilege", in my experience, goes away. Maybe if I knew what "whiteness" looked like, if I knew what white people looked like, could actually see with my own eyes how "white" is heled up as the standard for all things good, and for all things to aspire to, maybe then I'd finally get it. But for me, "color", in any shape or form, is just an abstract concept to me, something that I think I understand, but can't quite grasp, though I'm trying my best to understand.

As Safiya stated in her blog post, it's a really thorny issue and perhaps I, while still having a knapsack to unpack, may just have a different bag to unpack than most other people. And I don't care to share the contents of that knapsack with anyone, or to let them see what's in it. I'm sure many have seen enough to formulate whatever opinions they have about me. And I'm not sure what else to say. There's a lot more I could share but I'm already feeling vulnerable and on edge about this as it is. And this isn't the type of struggle that I'd like to engage in online, in the open, for all to see. I will say that in addition to whatever white privilege I possess, I can tell you that I'm oversensitive, emotional, impatient, have self-esteem issues, sometimes have a lack of will power and self-discipline, have a penchant for self-pity that I will be honest with you and say that I'm currently struggling with as I'm writing this, sometimes take things too seriously, sometimes don't have a sense of humor, and if Pepsi were an alcoholic beverage and chocolate were an intoxicating drug, I'd be in real trouble. What I'm trying to say is that darn it, I've got issues! And a lot of 'em... And I'm working on it, really I am... I'm just not sure I wanna do it on a public blog, in front of everyone, for anyone to critique. And just to bring this back on topic, the fact that I have a hard time seeing how I benefit from white privilege probably goes more to show how I benefit from said privilege than anything else I could say or write. And no, I don't want any pats on the back for being "the other", as a matter of fact, I think I just wanna be left alone, to try to deal with these issues on my own. In fact, the idea crossed my mind to back out of this carnival, however, I'd already said I'd do it, so I didn't want to back out now. But the thing is, everything I wanted to say, how I have always felt like "the other", by virtue of being blind, and that I never felt a loss of privilege on becoming a Muslim because I never felt as though I had it to begin with, and in fact, being totally blind, seems to have lowered my status, because in my experience, having a disability is a defect, something to be corrected, something "bad". And that no amount of white privilege is going to erase the stigma of being blind (something that a study I saw once stated that the majority of people feared worse than death, and that they'd rather die than to be blind). It all seems rather mute now, based on the reading I've been doing and the recent reactions by some to this line of thought.

I'm just not sure I agree with the implicit idea I've been seing that being white would just magicly wash any other issues away, such as say, accessibility, or disability discrimination, or access to jobs, etc. Oh if it were so easy and simple, however, I have found that dealing with multiple minority statuses, whether or not you "choose" them or not, is neither simple or easy.

I'm not sure if this made any sense, it probably didn't. The thing is, I have a lot of thoughts flying around in my head, and as I said, I think this is one of many things best kept to myself. I just wish that I'd have realized this before agreeing to participate in the blog carnival. Because I don't think I had anything to add, and upon re-reading Brooke's post, I'm not sure that I was going in the direction she'd intended. So on that note, I'm going to leave things as they are. And try to deal with these issues offline/privately.

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Comments

From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 19th, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
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Salaam Alaikum,

What a brilliant post, masha Allah.

I think your viewpoint is a valid one and shows up just how ableist so much of the rights discourse is. I really, really value your contributions. They are smart, funny and heartfelt.

I think the area of disabilitiy is one where our thinking has not progressed at all. In the past people used to institutionalise, now they have pre natal screening.

Our society is ableist to the core.

Safiya
From:awallens
Date:May 19th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I agree with this a hundred percent. Having studied both disability culture and the "normal" society, PWD have a long long way to go It's fascinating to study though and to observe. I agree and struggle with some of the same things you do. thank you for sharing.
BTW, I found you via imafarmgirl
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 19th, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)

Asalamu Walaikum Sis

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It's so late here sis, I stayed up for fajr, so I am not even going to try to respond to this right now. I am just so thankful that you participated. I have read through the post three times now as I fear that is will disappear!
With regards to graceful, all I gotta say is machete dancer. Hope that makes sense :)
Love and Peace
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 30th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Asalamu Walaikum Sis

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Oh, I didn't realize that was anony--that's me.
~Brooke
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From:dahlia_and_balu
Date:May 19th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I think the problem that is making this seem more confusing than it needs to be is that white privilege, discrimination against Muslims, and discrimination against people with disabilities are three separate issues, and you're trying to tie them together, and make them all about each other. They're not. Yes, you do benefit from white privilege, and almost certainly in ways you don't even know. At the same time, yes, you do experience discrimination for wearing a hijab and for being blind. One experience doesn't invalidate the other. People and society are complex, so it becomes confusing to try to tie such disparate issues into one neat package.

Of course all of those things are present in you, as an individual, and you are one neat (and totally awesome) package. Those things are all part of your unique experience. They don't have to "make sense" together as concepts; they mesh in the messy way that the human psyche has that so often defies analysis.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 22nd, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)

not a package

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Yeah I agree with this a lot. Privilege is almost an unfortunate word because of the strong meaning in common language of "privileged" to mean having it great. You can benefit from certain aspects of your identity while suffering on account of others. The other thing worth thinking about is that some (not all) of what we call privilege is really just how everybody ought to be treated. It's not wrong that racist white people treat you great - you're a great person and probably deserve any good treatment you get - it's just wrong that they don't treat everybody that way.
- from Bin Gregory
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From:lady_ganesh
Date:May 29th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
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Yes, this, exactly. I think if we're not careful, we start thinking of privilege as a yes/no proposition, when really it's more like a set of tools or a matrix of advantages and disadvantages.

Ginny, this post was linked over at the blog Racialicious as part of the carnival-- thanks for posting it.
From:quickgm28
Date:May 29th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)

Racialicious linked me?

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Mashallah / that's great / I'm flattered! Thanks.
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From:lady_ganesh
Date:May 29th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Racialicious linked me?

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You're welcome!

This is going to seem random, but would you like/do you need a Dreamwidth code? They've made accessibility a priority, and with the topic of your post in mind....
From:quickgm28
Date:May 29th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Racialicious linked me?

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What is a Dreamwidth Code?
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From:lady_ganesh
Date:May 29th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Racialicious linked me?

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Dreamwidth is the latest of the LJ-clones. But they seem to be working much harder than LJ on making the code, etc, more friendly to the visually impaired.
From:quickgm28
Date:May 29th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)

Re: Racialicious linked me?

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So is it like a posting clinet? Where can I find out more?
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From:lady_ganesh
Date:May 30th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)

Re: Racialicious linked me?

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It's the journaling service itself. Here's the FAQ. You can read LJ entries through Dreamwidth now, I believe, though I have both journals and don't bother.
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From:imafarmgirl
Date:May 19th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
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Grat post. I understand much of what you are talking about here.
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From:peace_salaam
Date:May 22nd, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)

Salams

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I can empathize with your confusion about exactly what is white privilege and that racism is not a worse form of discrimination than other types of discrimination based on other things, like disabilities and gender. I'm glad you wrote this post, it is a very valid aspect of this discussion.
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From:sylvanstargazer
Date:May 29th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
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I am glad you were willing to share this. Thank you.

"The oppression Olympics", as we called it when I was in college, benefits no one. Talking about individual privilege is usually only useful in the context of self-examination; I have never seen telling someone "you have privilege" go well. Contrasting their experience with mine may illustrate what privilege they have, but simply saying, "you are white and therefor are better off than me" seems summarily unhelpful to a broader debate. It may be human nature to compare and contrast, to be competitive, but competition runs counter to the search for a more egalitarian society.

I also, personally, believe that the privilege of passing is highly overvalued in the debates about privilege, whether as white, able-bodied or Christian. The effects of oppression are deeply personal, and being told by society "if you'd just hide who you are we'd accept you," is actively hurtful to one's sense of self. It also leads to the tendency to believe that if someone fails to pass, they have earned whatever mistreatment they suffer and deserve it. Which is also harmful, and can divide people who should, logically, be supportive of one another.
From:modestfashioncents.blogspot.com
Date:June 8th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)

Hesitant thoughts on white privilege.

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Hello,

I came across this carnival sort of by accident, from another carnival that another blogger had. Her's was about women who cover their heads and had postings from ladies of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious perspectives.

I've been reading through the posts of this topic of white privilege in the Islamic community when I found your contribution. Thank you for posting, I can certainly see the pain in your post.

I am an American of European and Native American ethnaticity. I'm a Christian who wears a head covering when ever I go out, in which I'm often either mistaken for a Muslim or an Orthodox Jew. I also have an autistic son who has a seizure disorder and often uses a push chair / wheelchair. Needless to say, I've gotten some rather interesting "looks" when I've been out in the community.

I read your post and it brought tears to my eyes. One reason is in just being a witness to what my son has gone through too. Disability is a category all of it's own and developmental disability being somewhat the apple on the orange tree. The other thing is that I too have been a victim of sexual abuse. I'm an incest survivor. So my heart goes out to you in your struggles to overcome your own past.

I'd like to invite you to my blog. It's primarily a "modesty fashion blog" that's open to modest dressing women of all religious faiths or no religious faith at all; in which I write about being creative with the way we dress. Although there are a lot of photos on the blog; (which may not be helpful to you) I like to write about just taking care of ourselves too. I find creativity to be a good outlet for me, it helps keep me sane.

As far as the technical aspect of the blog; if there is anything I can do that would help make it more accessible for you, let me know. If I can install a widget or something that allows your computer to read my blog to you - or something like that. I can do that.

Hope to see you around.
Take care
Renee

From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 11th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)

Just saying "hi" from the Gold Coast, Australia - Looking Forward To Getting Involved.

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Thanks...this looks really interesting. I am looking forward to having my say!
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