Tonight, a poetry performance slam at a local college. Organized by Shaggy Flores, a Nuyorican poet and performer, this presentation by a multigenerational group of artists reminded me again why I need to continue to be an ally to people of color.
Even though, as a Jew of European descent, I can claim to understand oppression and suffering (though I am unaware of any of my family members dying in the Holocaust), my whiteness and the priviledge bestowed upon me based on that whiteness is something of which I cannot be reminded too often. While some will say, "give me joy and celebration---enough chest-beating and whining about oppression" (a paraphrase of what a friend said in an email today), I say, go ahead and remind us---beat us over the head about the African diaspora, the raping of Central America by the CIA, the hegemony of multinational corporations. Sleepy acceptance of the status quo is another opium of the masses, and I'm grateful that there are so many people out there willing to step up and remind us of the inequities of the world, since our silence certainly can be construed as complicity.
In order to continue to cultivate gratitude for my many blessings, I also must continue to cultivate awareness and understanding of the plight of others. Scores of Iraquis have died unnecessarily; millions of children go hungry; African-American men are incarcerated in record numbers while their white counterparts avoid jail-time; women still earn a fraction of the dollar earned by men; gays and lesbians can only legally marry in one state; thousands of African-Americans suffered needlessly in New Orleans just a few short months ago, and the suffering continues. (Would we have stood for that in another zip code?) I bemoan my credit card balances and second mortgage, but boy, what a priviledge to even have a second mortgage to moan about, let alone a house that shelters me.
I know that I periodically write about these issues here on DD: my relative priviledge and my need to remember others. It is a staple of my inner reflecting which filters through my writing and informs my work in the world. Some may see it simply as an example of classic "white guilt", but I see it more as a continuing lesson in humility and remembrance.