My Women and Gender Studies Prof reminds us,
“Always address your privilege.”
And so, I will.
It is my privilege as a woman,
To never be afraid when a police officer points his gun,
Because I know that men can be just as deadly without a deadly weapon.
Because I am lucky to never be seen as a threat, but rather an easy target.
And I’m lucky to understand that I will always be protected.
Now, I don’t mean the way society rebrands rapists as good swimmers,
Or the way they want us to birth the new generation, but refuse to pay us for time off,
I mean the way they:
Give guidelines on what I can and cannot do with my own body,
And restrict who uses my restroom.
When in reality, I don’t give a damn who uses my restroom,
As long as, I can nurture my baby or erase my attacker’s.
It is my privilege,
To know that my worth stems from my body, instead of my ability to hold a conversation,
That behind every catcall, there’s potential for claws,
So: speak softer, cover up,
And always hold your keys like the difference between getting away,
And being found the next morning.
And, wow, I’m so lucky to know
That I could be the top of my fucking game and I’d still lose,
Whether is twenty-five cents on the dollar or the entire election.
It is my privilege as a mixed-race minority,
To check in at the hotel,
And get mistaken for the new housekeeper.
To make eye contact with the tour guide,
As he notes the college’s generosity with financial assistance.
But then I remember,
I don’t speak Spanish or Tagalog.
I’m checking into a hotel,
And I’ve made it to college.
I am this paradox of privilege.
Like when I try to make conversation with my relatives,
But it comes out more like a persuasive essay on why I am related.
And I constantly feel this need to speak on behalf of my people—
Sometimes of all people.
When in reality,
I don’t know if I really know them.
So, in all honesty,
It is my privilege to not understand.
I don’t know how to use the toilet as a desk,
And the bathroom as my study,
Because my eight siblings overflow onto the living room couches of this one bedroom apartment,
And the light I need to write this paper will keep them up.
And when I am stopped by a police officer,
I’m thinking of the best excuse for my excessive speeding,
Not how best to communicate reaching for my license to avoid staring down the barrel of a gun.
I have never been afraid to hold hands with the person I love in a public place,
And I have never had to choose between worshipping my God and dodging slurs on the street.
And this is what I think my professor is trying to say.
In addressing your privilege,
You can understand the lens through which you approach the issue.
Whether you’re a resident or a guest to the situation.
So that you know to ask the owner what color to paint the house,
Before you douse it in your favorite shade of yellow.