Almost exactly 3 years ago, I was enthralled by the coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Not because I was outraged that an unarmed black kid was shot, but because I couldn’t understand why people weren’t accepting that the law as written requires a higher burden of proof than that which the prosecution was able to meet. Of course they wouldn’t convict Zimmerman of murdering Trayvon Martin.
Being able to sit there and not be outraged? That’s privilege.
That I didn’t have to personally fear for my safety after the terrible precedent that the case set? That’s privilege.
That it never went through my mind that this could happen to me or my sisters or my father? That’s privilege.
Privilege is a complicated thing. That “you are privileged” is sometimes a really hard pill to swallow.
If my distressing Facebook/Twitter newsfeeds this week are at all representative, this is especially true for my relatively conservative friends in agriculture who work their butts off 24/7 to feed the planet at the mercy of Mother Nature (and Washington).*
But that you’ve worked hard for what you have and face adversity on a daily basis is not an excuse for the (perhaps unintentional) ignorance, arrogance, and unwillingness to learn about what movements like #BlackLivesMatter are actually fighting for.
#BlackLivesMatter is not fighting against you.
#BlackLivesMatter is not denouncing your struggles.
I don’t know how to turn this into a more productive conversation, or what I can say that hasn’t already been said. My silence on this issue hasn’t been from a place of apathy or passivity, but because I’ve been pondering the evolution of my own thinking. I realize I’m not particularly proud of a lot of it.
But I now get paid to think about these things, and am submersed in an intellectual community that challenges me to do so each day.
Most people don’t have that.
So how do we enable a healthy conversation that allows us to on one hand talk about why #AllLivesMatter is such an offensive and ignorant response to this movement — and on the other, one that considers the fact that telling smart, hard working people to “check their privilege” isn’t going to accomplish anything if they don’t know what privilege is in the first place?
K-12 social studies doesn’t talk about our criminal justice system’s origins in slavery, nonetheless “privilege.”
That burden to educate on this issue absolutely shouldn’t be on people of color. It has been for long enough. It’s not their responsibility to be empathetic, but I think it is mine.
*I say this at the risk of overgeneralizing and stereotyping the particular people sharing their #AllLivesMatter opinions. I know. I also do realize that as a relatively recent college graduate who grew up in agriculture, my network is not at all representative of the larger population. Ag blogger and farmer Megan Brown says all of this much more eloquently than I.