“Intersectionality as a label combines a level of abstraction with an appearance of value-neutrality”, says one European White Feminist.
Through this work, an advance reader copy of Turn This World Inside Out, The Emergence of Nurturance Culture by Nora Samaran found its way into my hands. And although at 140 pages it’s only little, its impact on me has been disproportionately large. It has helped me find compassion; it has helped me connect fragments of ideas which existed in my brain already, but floated untethered in abstract (where they were of no use at all).
Power is the capacity to influence others which–notwithstanding systemic privilege–fluctuates, sometimes on a daily basis according to self esteem, personality, age, maturity and in every unique relationship dynamic. How can power be measured or compared, when there is no absolute, and perception of power is also a form of power?
Britain has never taken responsibility for the bloodshed and exploitation which built the empire. This is evidenced by Theresa May’s hardline on Brexit. We want to take without giving anything in return. We make no apologies for our xenophobic attitudes; our comedy ridicules ‘those bloody foreigners’, our narrow-minded and disrespectful behaviour often shames us in the countries we visit.
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.
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.
One reason why this immigration was considered successful had nothing to do with Sweden’s ability to integrate immigrants; only that the type of immigrants arriving were more easily ‘integrate-able’ as is still the case today for me. At first sight therefore, when immigrants are able to fit into Swedish culture at a level which allows them to peaceably live and work within the system, we do not see backlashes against immigration.
Burning Women–as an archetype in our psyche, not a prescribed gender–are rising in the form of intersectional feminists, queer activists and angry people of colour. We are the rule breakers and we demand that our voices be heard. And as we get stronger, so the forces which suppressed us wage an ever more fierce war. But they cannot stop us.
To learn on one hand that I have perpetuated systemic oppressive behaviours, and on the other having to face those who have been oppressed and who are angry at me for doing so makes me want to shield myself from the onslaught which risks triggering the terror I felt as a child.
But if I truly want to be an ally, I cannot ignore it.
Great power comes, with the internet, sometimes completely unexpectedly. You cannot know power before you have it, so you cannot know whether you are ready for it. If you suddenly find yourself in a position of great power, then you can try to wield that power with responsibility and become the hero, or fail (by accident or design) and become the villain. And so, I am afraid. I am afraid that I have invited the mantle of power on my heretofore unproven and potentially irresponsible shoulders.
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I must accept and welcome wretchedness for my daughter, if she is to forge her own way to integrity.