A few years ago, I watched my dad deteriorate and die from a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. That, in and of itself, is an agony to which people of any social group, regardless of class, race, gender, and most other social distinctions, are susceptible, and it is going to be a brutal experience for anyone who has a positive relationship with their father.
BUT. However damaging that experience will be for people of any race, it cannot be said that, placed in social context, it is immune to being affected by privilege or lack of it. The noted and well-documented disparities in health care between, for instance, white Americans and Americans of other races would surely have worked against us if we were not white, and made an already difficult experience all the more excruciating.
As if that weren’t enough, I am reminded of a minor incident in the course of my father’s radiation treatments — since he was thought to be seizure-prone, I was obligated to drive him to the hospital daily, something I was just learning to do. Inevitably, one hot summer’s day I crashed his van at low speed into a parked vehicle.
My point is, there are quite a few white people stung by the perception that those calling out our privilege are telling us we have no problems, and while this statement is certainly inaccurate in and of itself — everyone suffers and struggles to some degree in life — whites complaining about their problems should perhaps contemplate how much worse those problems might be with a few minor adjustments in their identity and social position — not for the purpose of making you feel worse, but for the purpose of opening your eyes to the injustices and abuses you could be facing but are not, and hopefully making you more sensitive to those who do face them — maybe even angry about them.
Abby Pollard is a fat white narcoleptic queer who crafts leather goods and talks to her cats. She graduated from Grinnell College in 2009 with a BA in Sociology and lives in Louisville KY.