Friday, July 7, 2017

What Privilege Looks Like

She came into my branch, no she came to the branch where I work, for an meeting.
"How are things going?" She asked, pleasantly. We had always gotten along, and I felt this administrator was in my corner.
"Things are OK, if you can ignore what Trump is doing in the White House," I tried to say, but as soon as I said "doing" she cut me off.
"I don't talk politics," she said primly, as though reminding me to chew with my mouth closed, and I stared at her.

A few seconds passed of silence.
"Things are fine," I told her.
"Good," she replied.

The event went as planned, and the woman said goodbye to me before she went back to her home office, but I had a bad taste in my mouth.
Not discussing politics is probably a good idea when you work with the public (as I do) because we have to help everyone who comes into our building and we never want to give the impression that our collections were chosen because of politics, or we help people because of our politics. Being viewed as a safe space is crucial to my organization, and we work to preserve that, but doesn't that mean that some element of politics shines through?

Being able to say "I don't talk politics," primly is a way of saying "this is not an appropriate forum," or it's a way of saying "we know that we don't rock the boat."
Perhaps I'm wrong, because my organization depends upon political goodwill. We need the funding from government officials, and this coworker knows that. When an earlier administrator tried to rely more on private funding he did not get support from the employees or administrators, but I still feel that saying "I don't talk politics" is an exercise of privilege because you can decide that politics are not important to you.
But you're just fooling yourself. Of course politics are important.

Black Lives Matter. There is no Planet B. We're all in this together, damn it.
The ability to choose what you care about it, or decide that "those issues don't affect me," is privilege. It's the same thing that leads most of us to think that the wealthy are just planning to buy their own new planet when we've destroyed Planet Earth beyond repair. They'll do the same damage to the next planet, too. Because some amount of privilege allows you to not need to learn from your mistakes.
The Ego in the White House is all about doing deals and not worrying about politics, because he thinks it doesn't matter. It does matter.

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