One of the most difficult yet rewarding pieces of work a social worker undertakes is the analysis of privilege — one’s own privilege and that of others. It’s easy to understand how one experiences oppression: it hurts, it degrades, and it’s a struggle. As a woman, sexism is nothing new for me. I understand rape culture painfully well. I understand homophobia as a bisexual woman — and biphobia, its wicked cousin whose head rears within those I would guess would be allies.
But as a white cisgendered woman with education, I experience privilege as well. And once the woe is me bullshit of “white guilt” gets chucked into the garbage can, the work of allyship begins. This is the reward: you are more open to love and empathy. You are fueled by anger at those who oppress the people in your city, your country, the world.
But to see — to really see and listen to the lived experiences of others — means to feel the ache of the heart when cruelty and hatred rear their heads. It means leaving a room to cool down when people attempt to justify firing nine shots at a young man who, from witness accounts, was likely experiencing an episode of psychosis and needed care, not death. It means shaking your head when news outlets — including the more liberal ones — decided to completely ignore the wishes of a transwoman and call her by her birth name and gender assigned at birth. This is justified by pointing to “legal” names and other nonsense, despite the fact that most celebrities and many married individuals do not use their birth names either.
Some days, I am just angry as hell. It all seems so clear to me that I forget that I was raised rather liberal, in a home without religion and with LGBTQ family members who were embraced as they were. I forget that I have studied social justice, that I have never been indoctrinated by anyone from childhood to hate anyone. I forget that not everyone can see clearly.
And on these days, I need music to cleanse the ire boiling in my veins and pour salve on my wounded heart.