In my last post I had a list of racist organizations Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists as being active in New Hampshire. Today I ran across a reference to one of those groups as being one of the “most violent U.S. racist organizations”[i]. These words sent a chill across my skin. These words made me want to edit my last post.
I have known for a long time that one of the hallmarks of privilege is that we get to decide when take advantage of it. So far, that’s mostly meant deciding if I want to speak at a meeting if I know that I’m using stolen airtime, or if I really want to be one of a handful of people on a street corner saying that Black Lives Matter. It turns out to have a very different feel when I choose to name groups who use physical violence to resist values I espouse. Most of the risks asked of the privileged are social or emotional. Physical risk is a whole other thing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scurry back into that protective privilege, if only for a moment, when I realized these people could now learn about me, find me, and hurt me.
I get it that listing a racist group in a tiny blog doesn’t get me anywhere near the level of risk experienced by members of our marginalized communities for simply existing. This does not mean, however, that I want to ignore that shot of fear and my panicked initial reaction.
Better, I think, to notice what made me want to cut and run. I’m not the only person with some sort of privilege to decline it until the moment it will protect me or people I love. This is why I don’t take it personally when members of marginalized communities are skeptical of my commitment to addressing their concerns. I think a prerequisite for being an effective ally or accomplice is to know that these moments will happen and that sometimes we may fail to live up to our values. What matters more is what we do next.
In my case, I’ll leave in place my blog that names scary groups, and maybe even try to get my butt to the next BLM event. Do you have a story about when you were startled back into privilege by your fear, and what you did next? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.