SGM April 2016 Theme: Privilege
In simple terms privilege is defined as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” (OxfordDictionaries.com) Many of us as Unitarian Universalists are presently trying to understand and dismantle historical and systematic privilege. Types of privilege include White Privilege, Straight Privilege, Male Privilege, Able Bodied Privilege, US Citizenship Privilege, and the list can go on. Let us seek, through engaging our UU Values, to work to effect positive change with regards to these very pressing matters of privilege.
Share briefly what has been on your mind lately or your highs and lows since we last met.
Thoughts to Ponder
The irony of American history is the tendency of good white Americans to presume racial innocence. Ignorance of how we are shaped racially is the first sign of privilege. In other words, it is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America. ― Tim Wise
Bad and cruel as our people were treated by the whites, not one of them was hurt or molested by our band…The whites were complaining at the same time that we were intruding upon their rights. They made it appear that they were the injured party, and we the intruders. They called loudly to the great war chief to protect their property.
How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.
― Black Hawk, Black Hawk: An Autobiography
I am conscious of a soul-sense that lifts me above the narrow, cramping, circumstances of my life. My physical limitations are forgotten-my world lies upward, the length and the breadth and the sweep of the heavens are mine!
− Helen Keller, The Story of My Life: With Her Letters (1887-1901)
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.
― Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The battle to find a workplace that’s wheelchair accessible is a feat in itself, let alone an employer who’s going to be cool about employing someone with a disability in a job you actually want to do. − Stella Young
It’s like the Negro in America seeing the white man win all the time.
He’s a professional gambler; he has all the cards and the odds stacked on his side, and he has always dealt to our people from the bottom of the deck. ― Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These it seems to me, are the real disabilities.
− Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things To Remember
…unsolved murders or untimely deaths were readily blamed on the supposedly sinister Jews: If a Jewish doctor failed to save a life, the whole Jewish community might be attacked and fined.
― Robert Winder, Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain
I had begun to see a new map of the world, one that was frightening in its simplicity, suffocating in its implications. We were always playing on the white man’s court, Ray had told me, by the white man’s rules. If the principal, or the coach, or a teacher, or Kurt, wanted to spit in your face, he could, because he had power and you didn’t. If he decided not to, if he treated you like a man or came to your defense, it was because he knew that the words you spoke, the clothes you wore, the books you read, your ambitions and desires, were already his. Whatever he decided to do, it was his decision to make, not yours, and because of that fundamental power he held over you, because it preceded and would outlast his individual motives and inclinations, any distinction between good and bad whites held negligible meaning.
― Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
1. Review a type of privilege that is less talked about, such as ABLE BODIED PRIVILEGE or one that you know little about, and seriously evaluate its effect on American society.
2. Watch the What is Privilege? video and then do the Social Group Membership Profile.
What is Privilege? video (4 mins)
Social Group Membership Profile
For each of the following categories, identify your identity:
Ability Status : ______________________________
Sexual Orientation: ______________________________
Then consider the following questions based on the social group memberships you’ve identified above.
- What memberships do you think of most often? Why?
- What memberships do you consider least? Why do you think that is?
- What memberships give you the most privileges? What are those privileges?
- What memberships hurt your options or opportunities the most? How?
- What memberships do you want to learn more about? Why?
- What memberships make you the most comfortable? Why?
- What memberships have the strongest effect on your self image and how?
- What membership plays a greater role in how others see you? How?
3. Do the Privilege Power Shuffle with your group (from trainingforchange.org)
Everyone lines up across the middle of the room, it’s ok to have a double/triple line. The leader will read the series of characteristics and ask you to take a step forward or backward as each applies to you. When something read is ambiguous in your case, you get to decide how it applies to you. There are no “right and wrong” answers; this is to support your own awareness. Do this exercise in silence so you can experience your own feelings and reactions. (Leader: It’s important to allow a substantial pause after reading each one, because participants are doing their valuable inner work in response to the question.)
Characteristics to Read
- If you are a U.S. citizen, take a step forward.
- If you were brought up working class, take a step backward.
- If you graduated from college, take a step forward.
- If you are female, take a step backward.
- If you are European American, take a step forward.
- If the breadwinner in your family was ever unemployed while you were a child, take a step backward.
- If you went to sleep-away camp as a child, take a step forward.
- If you are under 21 years old or over 60, take a step backward.
- If you are able-bodied, take a step forward.
- If you are gay or are sometimes believed to be gay, take a step backward.
- If you have travelled outside the U.S., take a step forward.
- If your work or school holidays coincide with religious holidays that you celebrate, take a step forward.
- If you attended a private liberal arts college or Ivy League university, take a step forward.
- If you or members of your family have been on welfare, take a step backward.
- If English is your first language, take a step forward.
- If you or a member of your family has a mental illness, take a step backward.Share your reactions to the exercise with the group.
Questions for Contemplation
- Do you feel that you are privileged because of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, lack of disability, etc.? How does this affect how you live your life?
- Do you feel that you are at a disadvantage because of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.? How does this affect how you live your life?
- Are your discussions surrounding privilege limited to certain people or environments such as church, etc. or are you able to discuss privilege in a variety of environments?
- When did you first understand the concept of unearned privilege?
Sitting In Silence
Reflection This is a time to supportively respond to something another person said or to relate additional thoughts that may have occurred as others shared.
Watching/Listening: Same Love, Macklemore with Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert
Extinguishing the Chalice
We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.
− Thomas Merton
Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh (about White Privilege)
The following is a list of examples of heterosexual privilege (drawn from multiple online sources.) If you are straight, these are unearned benefits you receive as a result of the sexuality you were born with.
If you are straight (or in some cases, perceived to be), you can live without ever having to think twice, face, confront, engage, or cope with anything listed below. These privileges are granted to you, and many of them are things you’ve likely taken for granted. (Otherwise known as the “Why it’s easier to be straight” list.)
- Immediate access to your loved one in case of accident or emergency.
- Public recognition and support for an intimate relationship (e.g., congratulations for an engagement).
- Expressing affection in most social situations and not expecting hostile or violent reactions from others.
- Living with your partner and doing so openly.
- Expressing pain when a relationship ends from death or separation and receiving support from others.
- Receiving social acceptance by neighbors, colleagues, and good friends.
- Learning about romance and relationships from fiction movies and television.
- Having role models of your gender and sexual orientation.
- Having positive and accurate media images of people with whom you can identify.
- Expecting to be around others of your sexuality most of the time. Not worrying about being the only one of your sexuality in a class, on a job, or in a social situation.
- Talking openly about your relationship, vacations, and family planning you and your lover/partner are doing.
- Easily finding a neighborhood in which residents will accept how you have constituted your household.
- Raise, adopt, and teach children without people believing that you will molest them or force them into your sexuality.
- Working in traditionally male or female dominated job and not feeling as though you are a representative of your sexuality.
- Paid leave from employment when grieving the death of your spouse.
- Not being asked “how does sex work for you?” or other too-personal questions by strangers.
- Sharing health, auto and homeowners’ insurance policies at reduced rates.
- Not having to hide or lie about women/men only social activities.
- Acting, dressing, or talking as you choose without it being a reflection on people of your sexuality.
- The ability to teach about lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals without being seen as having a bias because of your sexuality or forcing a “homosexual agenda” on students.
- Property laws, filing joint tax returns, inheriting from your spouse automatically under probate laws.
- Joint child custody.
- Going wherever you wish and know that you will not be harassed, beaten, or killed because of your sexuality.
- Not worrying about being mistreated by the police or victimized by the criminal justice system because of your sexuality.
- Legal marriage to the person you love.
- Knowing that your basic civil rights will not be denied or outlawed because some people disapprove of your sexuality.
- Expect that your children will be given texts in school that support your kind of family unit and they will not be taught that your sexuality is a “perversion.”
- Freedom of sexual expression without fear of being prosecuted for breaking the law.
- Belonging to the religious denomination of your choice and know that your sexuality will not be denounced by its religious leaders.
- Knowing that you will not be fired from a job or denied a promotion based on your sexuality.
Same Love Lyrics
When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k, trippin’.”
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, “Yeah, I’m good at little league.”
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And “God loves all his children” is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know
And I can’t change, Even if I tried, Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change, Even if I tried, Even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love, She keeps me warm…
If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself
When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom ’til we’re equal, damn right I support it
We press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Til the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up… sex
Love is patient, Love is kind…