On the Eve of the Women’s March

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Over the past several weeks a specific memory has replayed in my head over and over again.  When I am driving to work or decompressing from the day, I keep remembering the moment in which I first recognized my privilege.  I will never forget when I realized that I grew up as a privileged white woman in more ways than one.  And in that moment I felt embarrassed and sick…

At the end of my 1st Semester of college my new best friend and I decided to spend the summer in my hometown.  We were inseparable and couldn’t imagine spending a few months apart.  Since we had met so many miles away from our homes we only understood each other on one level.  We saw each other as equals.  We had shared our 1st drunken night together, attended ballroom dancing classes, and explored our new world as college freshmen.  In school we were equals… we were attending the same University, our dorm rooms looked the same, we ate the same dining hall food and we had the same group of friends.  We were in an Ethnic Learning and Living Community (ELLC) in which we were surrounded by people from all different walks of life.  We learned together to share our stories but also the importance of being quiet and listening to others.  I remember so many moments in which I sat in silence as I listened to my peers opinions of interracial dating, affirmative action, socioeconomic disparities, and so many more.  I always thought I knew my opinion on a sociological issue but as I listened to others around me I found I still had so much to learn.   At that moment my perspective was based on a very narrow scope of life experiences.  I had never felt the oppression or lack of opportunities that others had faced.  I stopped speaking because I didn’t have anything to say.  My world felt so turned upside down that I needed time to put back the pieces I was experiencing in a way that made sense to me. I learned through ELLC that it was my job to listen, to learn, to be a student whose purpose was to understand where others were coming from.

At the end of our freshmen year my friend and I drove to his hometown first.  He came from a small rural area which was very different from the big city I had grown up in.  He had made jokes about growing up in a trailer or being different than me but when I went to his home, none of that bothered me or surprised me in anyway.  I simply felt honored to learn more about this person that I had come to love as my brother.  It was such an amazing experience to see where he was from and the place in which he grew up.  We continued our drive to Texas staying up late, singing songs, and talking through the long drive.  When we pulled into my neighborhood I will never forget his reaction and the feeling my stomach.  I cannot remember the exact comment he made but I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed of where I had come from.  It was the first time he saw a different side of me and how I was raised.   I instantly wanted to hide it.  I wanted to take it back, I wanted to transport in time, and distance, back to college where we were both equal and my house was not bigger, my parent’s didn’t make more money, and I was a great college friend and nothing more.  I didn’t want him to know that I grew up with more privilege than him or others in our ELLC group.

It has taken me a few days to really analyze why this moment and why this story is so pertinent to me now.  When I look at all that is happening in our country I have come to realize that my approach hasn’t changed much since my college days.  I still find myself being silent and not speaking up.  I still feel ashamed by my privilege but yet don’t want to be uncomfortable so I say nothing.  When it comes to social issues I am more of a listener than a do-er.  I have many moments in which I hide behind my privilege because I am nervous to speak up or nervous of what people think of me.  But I can be quiet no more… I am no longer a student.  I have learned that with privilege comes responsibility and I do have a voice, a voice that must be heard because I am fortunate enough to have the ability to speak and often be listened to.  While I must continue to listen to those around me, it is also my job to fight, to be an ally and to speak up.  What is happening in our country is not normal, it is not OK, and it is my job to find every way possible to fight back against what is happening.

I will attend the Women’s March tomorrow with so many emotions but most of all pride.  Pride in my ability to stand with my family for what I believe in.  Pride in my ability to be an ally, to be a support.  I will also march with a promise; a promise to stand in solidarity with all people who feel oppressed, attacked and silenced.  A promise to be a voice in the community… and finally a promise to be silent no more…

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