Life Is Tough. Stop Telling Folks Not to Use Their Privilege.


Speaking of privilege

An interesting article caused a wave of indignation on The Root and Ebony this week when writer Asha French wrote an open letter to “racially ambiguous” girls (aka biracial and/or light skinned girls with long waves or corkscrew curls) where she suggested that they will be given certain privileges that they haven’t earned, but was simply there at birth. She both suggests that these girls reject the reality that they are the “new” beauty standard in media (yes; one look at all the print ads and commercials and mixed chicks are the new baby’s-bottom cuties), telling them to “play in the mud” and “cut their hair short,” while simultaneously advising them to leverage their privilege for “good” so as to affect some change.

Use your privilege for good. People will listen to you, so please have something to say. Read, listen, and engage. Repeat. When you realize that other voices are missing, use your granted power to bring them into conversation. Please don’t speak for them. The tellers of hard-to-hear stories need ears, not translators.

Not sure what the last bit of poetry was about, but whatever. The overall message is kind of schitzo though…telling pretty girls to make themselves not-so-pretty while advising them to use their skin so that they can help everyone else come up. (what??)

You didn’t earn pretty, so don’t be afraid to lose it. Cut all your hair off. Wear overalls like Janie. Play in the dirt. Wear what you like. Create looks. Go Goth. Age without complaint.

I’m gonna be honest. If dark-skinned women with 4 a/b hair, a small-yet-unmistakable gap in their eye-teeth was the universal standard of beauty, would I complain? Reject my unearned good fortune? Probably not.
What was interesting (and not surprising) was that litany of commenters who came out against the author’s suggestion that mixed girls use their privilege was swift. The Root picked up the story and folks went in:
as my grandmother would say…”lawd jesus have mercy on this child”i took a deep sigh when i read the headline, i felt the inner ike turner rising up in me when i read, “use your privilege for good”, but alternate beatings from lena horne and eartha kitt wouldn’t help this poor, misguided woman who thinks that “passing” the paper bag test gives lighter black folk super powers.

i just can’t…and this woman just shouldn’t have.

But one person got it DEAD ON…
Tall men, the statistics show that you have a given advantage in life and will have more success in your career, financial rewards and even male / female relationships. (On average)So, don’t allow yourself to take unearned promotions, raises, appeal to women, or any of the advantages being tall provides you.

Hmmm, somehow I just don’t see that happening. People play up what they and what society believes are sought after attributes. Athletes become athletic stars, great singers become popular, “good looking” men and women with acting talent own the air waves, geniuses become PHD’s and change the world, etc., etc.

Telling people not to use their “strong suit” (perceived or real) or at least socially based advantage is, well it’s foolish when you think about it. I mean who would tell say Michel Jordan it’s unfair for him to play Basket Ball “because of his natural genetic traits” or it was unfair of Whitney Houston to sing so well when most can’t just because she was born with an amazing voice?

My advice, use every possible advantage you have to succeed in life, and then use that success to help others. Absolutely remember where you come from and cherish it, but don’t let it keep you from your own future.

Lovies, life is hard. Use every privilege, talent and asset you have–natural, earned or paid for– to your advantage! I understand the sentiment of identifying privilege to raise the consciousness and instill social justice, I do. But sheesh, everything in moderation, okay? Many of us here are mothers of these “racially ambigous” girls, and you know what I’m going to tell my girls?

“Use your brain. It will take you far. Use your brain and flip you hair. It will take you farther.”


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