Do you know what Privilege is?
It is the ability of being able to vote for someone like Donald Trump, to support him and his policies, and yet insist that you are not a bigot.
It is the ability to say “I Matter, Too”, “I’m Being Left Out” and “I Want My Country Back” when people like you have been running this nation ever since it was founded.
It is the ability to ignore the fact that if you are a white, straight, Christian man, you have never had occasion to fear who you are in this country and that so very many people because of the color of their skin, because of where they came from, because of what they believe, because of who they love or simply because they are women have had a very long time to become afraid of you and with good reason.
It is the ability to say something absurd like “The millions of people who voted for Trump can’t all be bigots”, including your family, friends and neighbors based solely on the belief that half the country can’t be so brazenly racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and ultra-nationalist. Yes they can and yes they are, regardless of how as shockingly high a number that appears to be.
What allows us to rise as one people is the understanding that all of us are bigots to some extent. Nobody likes to think they are a bigot, but to some degree everyone is. I’m a bigot. You’re a bigot. Everyone is somehow prejudiced and it is something that each one of us must strive to overcome.
What many of us fail to understand is that prejudice does not require intent. All it requires is the refusal to acknowledge that there are so many people who hate and despise other people solely because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and then justify their hatred as something other than plain and simple bigotry. We must acknowledge once and for all that racism comes in many forms. It comes as traditions, rules, laws, codes of behavior and all manner of things above and beyond calling someone a cruel name or using an arcane label.
It is saying “You people are lazy”, “You people aren’t strong enough”, “You people cheat and are miserly”, “You people are an abomination against God”, “You people are all violent” or just “You people don’t know your place” and not understand that this is bigotry in its purest form. It is the delusion that by depriving basic human rights from others that you are just protecting your heritage, your religion or your “way of life”. It is excusing your own hatred as “just my opinion”. It is this belief that “No, it can’t be me. I’m not a bigot.” which permits institutions that allow bigotry to stand, function and grow unabated.
What is Privilege? It is the ability to excuse a man who divides the country using every form of bigotry there is and then speaks about unity only after he gets his way. It is believing that by having women and minorities on the staff will somehow make him immune to the charge of being a sexist, a misogynist or a racist. It is ability to ignore the reality that this same man, who by filling the West Wing with known racists, white supremacists and even eugenicists, sends a powerful signal to many in this nation that he intends to hold his grip on power by continuing to divide with fear and prejudice. And it is the inability to acknowledge that by supporting him, you have taken sides with a terrible man who has said terrible things against millions of your brothers and sisters and appears prepared to continue to do terrible things because he like all of us is a bigot. But not just any ordinary bigot. He is a bigot with near limitless power to act on his hatred.
November 8, 2016 may in all likelihood be remembered as the day when we literally decided to make this country as ugly as it could be. I remain curious. What was the Great Sin his opponent committed that you couldn’t live with? Perceived dishonesty? The potential for graft? The failure to acknowledge that These People Don’t Belong Here? The desire for vengeance and punishment for crimes that for over four decades the law could not see but somehow he could? What was it that for all the danger, the hatred and the bigotry that this man represents you still found him a better choice? How comfortable will you still feel about what you did that day when it’s Election Day 2020 and you have the chance to validate him yet again? How about four years after that when the true extent of the damage he has done can be seen? Or in ten years, when you try to explain to your children why you did it to begin with?
We were asked by his supporters to give him a chance. But how many chances do you want us to keep giving and how long do you ask that we wait? The next election cycle will undoubtedly be too late for some.
Maybe for all.