On Privilege: This Is What Happens When You Don’t Check Yourself
You look around and realize that you’re the asshole. Then you’re forced to identify with Azealia Banks and everything falls all the way down.
When I was a teen I hung out with drag queens and trans women fairly regularly. Because I was stupid and thoughtless, I used to use the trans slur that I don’t use anymore so I came back and edited it out, all the time. Constantly. I used it in conversation and at my trans friends and since none of them ever said anything, I took their silence as acceptance. I realize now, that it was way more the horrified kind of silence than the accepting kind, but at the time I thought it meant I was really a part of the group. And, you know, if you’re part of the group it’s totally acceptable to appropriate their language.
This is so embarrassing.
Everyone looks like an idiot in public sometimes. I, happen to be exceptional at tripping over nothing and also accidentally drooling on my shirt. It’s super, and by super I mean mortifying. It’s even worse when the cause is my own privilege.
Yes, I have privilege. Even though I’m female and Black and poor and bi, I have it. I’m abled. I’m above average in the braining department. There are other things too. We’ve all got some privilege. Here’s the thing, even when you write about these things pretty much for a living (she says looking toward her desired future) sometimes you walk into them with your face.
Which is what I did, by using the trans slur that I don’t use anymore so I came back and edited it out for years. I should have known better. Real talk, I did know better. I just wasn’t looking at my own privilege and the way my words could be causing harm, because I was so wrapped up in my own desire to be liked and included that the feelings other women I considered my friends didn’t even enter my thoughts.
I was the asshole. You know, kind of like how Banks and Perez Hilton were both assholes in their recent Twinteraction. Seriously, Perez Hilton called out someone else for seeking attention. That happened. Then Banks raised the asshole ante by using a slur at Hilton and urging him to kill himself. Then she upped it again by trading on the fact that she is both black and bi.
My friends got righteously up in arms about this, as they should have, and while I was supportive of them, I was quiet. Why? Because I have used both of those excuses.
In my defense, I didn’t use them in the same way as Banks did. She was making it clear that was perfectly aware how vicious her slur was and that she didn’t care. I would have cared if I’d been self aware enough to see what I was doing.
But I wasn’t. So I just kept running my mouth.
It wasn’t until one of my friends sat me down, with my head full of color so I was stuck, and basically had an asshole intervention with me. She explained at length that while they loved the fact that we were all women and thus I would throw “bitch” back and forth with them without thinking, I am not trans and shouldn’t be throwing around words that hurt them. She schooled me up, not only on the fact that I was throwing my privilege around all over the place but the fact that no one else was going to say anything to me about it, as well as the fact that I was playing into a really sad stereotype of People of Color. The idea that PoC are particularly homophobic is widespread, insidious and something that I was proving every time I showed my stupidity to my trans friends. Then she dropped the dryer over my head so I had to shut up and think. I think that’s called a “Read and Run.”
Miss Corey would have been proud. I’ll always be grateful for it.
Let me tell you, I did not come to some grand epiphany right away. I spent the entire time under the dryer running through every moronic excuse that I have mocked in the past. Yes I did. But by the time the color was done, I had run out of excuses and was ready for my apology. I fucking went on an apology tour because my friends deserved it.
Janet Mock did the same for Internetlandia yesterday and we should probably say thank you. She also pointed out that Hilton has a couple of advantages that Banks doesn’t have; the automatic pass that gay Caucasians, especially men tend to get when using similar slurs and his ability to retreat into White Women’s Tears. He could and did, play the wounded party while ignoring, and expecting everyone else to ignore, the fact that he jumped in the middle of the conflict snark first.
And it worked, at least on some people. Also, Banks and Hilton got a lot of attention, which was the whole point of the exercise in the first place. But in the process, they both did real harm to the LGBT community. Not to mention, the remarkably race baiting and vicious encouragement the Hilton got from his fans after his first salvo which he did not put in check, call out or apologize for. That too was harmful. But you’ll notice, no one is talking about it. No one appears to give a shit about Angel Haze at all but they seem especially uninterested in her statements about her skin versus Banks.
Hey look! We’re back at that relative value conversation again.
Both of them were wrong. Both of them knew they were going to go all the way wrong as soon as they started typing. That was the point. That’s how they got the attention they wanted. They win. Good for them. But it’s very bad for us.