Happy MLK Day

Ran across a short post by Chris Boeskool that seems appropriate for today.  In it Chris tells a simple story to which I suspect most people can relate.  He talks about going to work one day and suddenly finding himself working alongside someone who insists the people around him always step aside when he is coming through.

Chris comes to realizes how what for many people likely began as a childhood sense of entitlement, can escalate into an adult sense of privilege.  A belief that we deserve some form of special treatment.  A belief that can be quite painful to give up when those around us finally decide they are no longer willing to accommodate it.  For those who fall into that situation:

Equality can feel like oppression. But it’s not. What you’re feeling is just the discomfort of losing a little bit of your privilege — the same discomfort that an only child feels when she goes to preschool and discovers that there are other kids who want to play with the same toys as she does.

It’s like an old man being used to having a community pool all to himself, having that pool actually opened up to everyone in the community, and then that old man yelling, “But what about MY right to swim in a pool all by myself?!”

And what we’re seeing politically right now is a bit of anger from both sides. On one side, we see people who are angry about “those people” being let into “our” pool. They’re angry about sharing their toys with the other kids in the classroom.

They’re angry about being labeled a “racist,” just because they say racist things and have racist beliefs. They’re angry about having to consider others who might be walking toward them, strangely exerting their right to exist.

On the other side, we see people who believe that pool is for everyone. We see people who realize that when our kids throw a fit in preschool, we teach them about how sharing is the right thing to do. We see people who understand being careful with their language as a way of being respectful to others. We see people who are attempting to stand in solidarity with the ones who are claiming their right to exist — the ones who are rightfully angry about having to always move out of the way, people who are asking themselves the question, “What if I just keep walking?”

The only thing I would add is that in the real world these two groups usually aren’t that crisply defined.  The reality is most of us have a foot in each camp.  For what ever reason we all usually have some sense of privilege.  It is usually something that has been a part of us for so long that we just take it for granted.

It isn’t until we suddenly slam into someone who has finally decided that they are no longer willing to be “nice” and just move aside that we are given the opportunity to realize what has been happening.  Unfortunately even then many of us refuse to recognize it.