One Love

terça-feira, março 22, 2005

St. Paddy: a lesson in privilege

A brief observation from the St. Patrick Day's Parade This Sunday I went to my first St. Patrick Day's parade in Southie. Southie is a traditionally Irish neighborhood in Boston. Everyone was wearing green and they were super excited just be out having fun. Good for them. I accepted a bunch of green beads from a young New York Police Officer, but more out of politeness than with any kind of desire to fit in of blend in. I clearly did not blend in. In my black wool coat and my hair slicked back into a ponytail and my big dark Jackie O sunglasses, I wasn't trying to blend. I was among maybe five people of color that I could see in the throngs of people gathered on the sidewalk. And I can see why. The St. Patrick's day parade is all about being white. It's like a big celebration of white privilege. I remember reading a case in law school about a lesbian and gay organization that wanted to march in the parade but were refused entry by the parade organizers. The court held that there was no 1st amendment violation because the parade in a private organization. I guess you can't be both Irish and gay. My great-grandfather is Scottish. And I have to admit, I like the sound of a bagpipe occasionally. So I closed my eyes when the bag piping fire brigade started up and tried to hear my ancestors in the music. But my overall experience at the parade that taught me a lesson in privilege. I will relate one instance that really made me think: My friend and I were at a party at a friend of a friends place along the parade route. Everyone was tipsy and having a good time. People were gathered out on the balcony to watch the parade go by. I was on the balcony enjoying the sound of the bagpipes as they went by when I turned around to face the living room. It suddenly had filled up with 10-12 uniformed police officers. I went inside and quickly realized that these police officers had just crashed the party. They did not know anyone; they were not even from Boston. They were New York police officers, maybe from the same group that had given me my green beads which at this point I was desperate to discard. They took over the party for at least 15 minutes. They went to the keg, had beer, came into the kitchen to snack, and used the facilities. The party goers were more than happy to accommodate. I hear one man comment “This is the safest apartment in Southie right now!" And that's when it hit me. I was watching the ultimate exercise of privilege. These officers just marched into a party and assumed they would be welcome. A group of 12 men is substantial, but at this party everyone felt safe because of their presence. What if a group of 12 young black men had sauntered up those stairs? I wonder of the crowd would have been so pleased. Or what if the party the officers had walked in on was a black party. Would the party goers be so welcoming then? Personally, I am wary of police officers, especially white police officers. But is not just a black-white thing. It's a privilege thing. Furthermore, it's not that I pre-judge white police officers but I am not so sure I'd be happy to have them come in large numbers into my home. But to not have to even think about these questions -- that's privilege. To feel entitled, that's privilege. To assume that everybody loves you and welcomes you -- that's privilege.


MARI, YOU are an outstanding writer, you know exactly how to say what you need to say.
I know exactly how you feel!!
commented by Blogger Minni, 11:18 PM  

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