Ways to Spend Your Privilege

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death and the acquittal of George Zimmerman there has been a lot of talk about justice. While some of this discussion has been constructive, most of what I’ve heard has been simple, undirected anger about an injustice.

Perhaps the most productive reaction I’ve seen has been from my friend Jacqui Shine. Jacqui shared with me, and others in the facebook community, what her mentor said, “One way to start thinking about this is to realize that even feeling helpless is a sign of privilege. If I were a black male this evening, I wouldn't feel helpless. I would feel scared shitless. There's a world of difference between those two states."

As a white, cis female, I’m aware of my privilege. As a Jew, I’m especially aware of how we as a people and community have had first hand experience with more than our share of both privilege and persecution. Perhaps it is because I am so aware of my own privilege and so motivated to move beyond feelings of helplessness that Jacqui’s writing so moved me.

Here is Jacqui’s take on privilege, and how we can move behind feeling helpless.

Ways to Spend Your Privilege #1: Who do you give your charitable contributions and volunteer time to? What would it mean to choose to support organizations led by people of color and gender-nonconforming people and low-income people? What would it mean to offer your time and money to organizations whose work isn't meant for you at all--whose work might actually exclude you? What would it mean to offer to work in a support role, one that doesn't allow you to lead or reward you for the expertise your privilege has helped you earn?

Ways to Spend Your Privilege #2: Let someone's meaningful action matter more to you than their good intentions do. Not asking people to be responsible for their choices or their behavior because they "meant well" is not kind: it's a pernicious example of privilege. The next time you find yourself moved to speak up for someone who "meant well," ask whether you assume their good intentions because of their racial, gender, or class privilege. It is possible to be kind while asking people to step up. The world doesn't run on people's good intentions. It runs on allowing their good intentions to act as a license for actions without consequences.

Ways to Spend Your Privilege #3: Attend your neighborhood/district's community policing meeting and speak up against racist and classist policing tactics. Challenge your neighbors when they condone them, and make sure others know that you do not feel safer with stuff like stop-and-frisk policies.

Ways to Spend Your Privilege #4: When speaking about and acting for women's reproductive justice, consider giving your time and resources to groups that support low-income women and women of color, rather than national organizations that falsely claim equal solidarity among women. Abortion always has been and always be an option for women of means.


Read more at "What's In Your Invisible Fannypack?"

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I appreciate this for so many reasons. You say it all well, so I won't try to add. I just want to say that #3 reminds me of a moment that I really appreciated in last month's neighborhood civic association meeting. I live in a fairly racially diverse neighborhood, and a string of comments from people of various ethnicities all matched: they all agreed on the people they deemed undesirable, the people who occupy certain spaces on certain streets. Then, a much older white woman, who has probably lived here longer than anyone else present, stood up and said: "We are speaking as if they are not part of this neighborhood too. What do you think __ Street and ___ Street are? They are part of our neighborhood and so are the people you're talking about." I swear, I wanted to get up and cheer, but I also felt schooled in the best possible way. I assumed her contribution would be more of the same. Instead, she made me look at myself...regarding my assumption about her and regarding what I HAD NOT said! That's what you're calling on people to do and that's what you're equipping them to do because you give concrete examples that will allow them to think of more. Thank you for your voice!

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How to cite this page

Rozensky, Jordyn. "Ways to Spend Your Privilege." 15 July 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 29, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/ways-to-spend-your-privilege-0>.