by Tsion Mariam Sisaye
March 7, 2017 | Voices
Recently, many people at Dawson have been in an uproar over posters telling people to check their privilege, whether it be race, gender, sexuality, or anything in between. In my opinion, a lot of people have missed the point of these posters. There is nothing wrong with having privilege and it does not make you a bad person. Rather, the posters are just trying to get people to acknowledge their privilege and consequently get a conversation going. The posters were made to be controversial and to cause a stir: no one would be reading or reacting to them if they just contained a bunch of statements and statistics. They’re not trying to demonize the police but acknowledge that if you are part of a visible minority, there is a greater chance that you may not have as much faith in the police and other types of government bodies because of factors like institutional racism. Visible minorities are far more likely to get stopped, brutalized, and arrested by the police, even here in Canada. Visible minorities are also more likely to be convicted for petty crimes than their white counterparts.
However, just because you do not experience or see these things firsthand does not mean they do not exist. In fact, that’s the whole basis of privilege: privilege prevents from having to deal with police brutality or discrimination. Does this mean that you will never have to deal with these experiences? No – but you will probably not be faced with them because of your race, class, gender, etc. However, keep in mind that there are different types of privilege and just because you benefit from one of them does not mean that you cannot be disadvantaged by another. On the other hand, this does not mean that you can step on someone else and silence them because you also happen to be part of some marginalized group.
People with privilege can (and should) help marginalized groups: this is where the concept of allies comes in. You can use your privilege in certain aspects of life to give a platform to minorities who are silenced or respectfully use your voice to defend them. As sad as it is to say, people are generally more likely to listen to people who are not directly part of an issue because of the idea that if you are not 100% objective and emotionally removed from a topic, your view is invalid and cannot be trusted. This demonstrates why allies are key: if you do not speak out against injustice when you are in the privileged position to do so, you are complicit to the problem whether you like it or not.
If people do not believe these controversial posters to be done in good taste, I invite them to go and propose a different idea to the DSU, which would be a lot more useful and constructive than simply shitting on the entire campaign. People are complaining because they feel uncomfortable with posters that are putting them face to face with a reality that they would rather not acknowledge or accept. They would rather ignore these types of issues instead of dealing with them directly. But guess what?
When you are part of a marginalized group, you do not get the option of turning away: it is your everyday reality, and every morning you are reminded of what exactly it entails. You cannot simply ignore the posters or log out of them: this is real life – face it head on.