Great art changes the status quo and incites critical discourse. Lovecraft’s work, by this definition, is worthy of continued recognition.
Yet we’re in between two eras, where many of those teaching have been formatively educated in the objective journalism aka, the voice of God decades when their privilege had not yet been recognised.
It is the balance of power which determines whether an action crosses the line from hurtful to abusive. When the power dynamic is out of balance and the person with the power inflicts harm on the person with less–even when it is unconscious–it reinforces their position of power and becomes abusive.
Consent is not true consent where there is a power imbalance. You cannot make a free and retractable agreement about something, if that agreement is made in fear of losing your access to income, and resources–financial, emotional or otherwise.
Are you crying because you’ve discovered our present world is far shittier and more abusive than you thought? Are you crying because YOU are far shittier and more abusive than you thought? Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. So cry away but not in the company of people of colour–they know the truth already. Don’t beg them for forgiveness, after all you have albeit unwittingly, been part of a system which abused them.
Gone are the days when I positively affirmed every day in the shower, and shared uplifting memes. Now I see these past behaviours as tragic extent of mine and others’ unawareness. I thought if I changed my mindset and concentrated on dismissing the negative and amplifying positive activism, that the world I wanted would resettle itself with my aligned actions.
Privileged white woman pain is more gradual and less dramatic than that experienced by intersectional minorities. It is insidious. Kind of like bonsai trees, white women have the innate capacity to grow to a normal size but our roots and branches are cut so that we grow far smaller. Stunted or trained along a trellis in such a way that few see, sometimes not even us.
Like Mithridates, the ancient Greek King who–legend has it–ingested small amounts of poison to create immunity, it is the art of swallowing what we hate little by little, of being formed by it, developing an immunity to it and even learning to appreciate the rush it gives us so we can make it in this sick world. If it is no longer poisonous to us, it is easier to dish it out as we deny that it’s poison. It’s still poison though.
Thus a racist, classist and hierarchical society which favours the few over the masses cannot be truly democratic because power is unequally distributed among and through many channels. And where there is a power differential, this compromises the ability of the marginalized groups to consent.
Maybe it was then I first asked the question: would I risk my own life to protect the Anne Franks of this world? The answer was always yes. But hindsight is a flattering bedfellow.
For me one of the real differences between narcissism and privilege is not therefore in the actions of the individual, but in the extent of their internal distortion of reality.
So white folk, we have a task in front of us which might seem huge, but really it isn’t. It is to face our own prejudice when the most obvious and comfortable way to survive is to stay in our bubble. It is to step up and be accountable for our ignorance, even if ignorance is part of our humanity. I will hold your hand as we overcome our fragility and cultivate empathy and battle our minds which tell us that it’s not our problem.
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