“You don’t know my story!”
Commonly shouted by the Left whenever someone tries to contradict “their truth” with factual evidence and common sense. When minorities, women, LGBT people, immigrants, religious minorities (a.k.a Muslims), etc… say that, they want to tell you that you have no idea what struggles they faced. On the surface, it makes some sense. Often, a person’s struggles are not as obvious as one would ever guess. Barring a physical disability or witnessing outright bigotry, many of our life challenges remain hidden to others unless they have an intimate look at your situation. Often, white people and men, or any “majority” group are accused of being blind to others’ challenges and any contradiction to them is taken as insensitive and callous.
Even in the face of statistical facts and common sense, apparently it’s callous to point out that the reality may not always be your reality. Another important point to note here is it is indeed very plausible that the individual has actually had a negative experience in their life or has known a disproportionate amount of people who have and genuinely thinks that’s the wider reality while in truth, they or their friends were the exception. When such a discrepancy is pointed out, cries of “you’re blinded by your privilege!” come up. We’re supposed to take them at face value and simply shut up and nod our heads in agreement upon their edict that they in fact, know the REAL truth!
But do they know the whole truth? After all, there’s always at least two sides to a story 😉 Many on the Left want the so called “privileged” to acknowlege their invisible struggles, but what about ours??? You are completely delusional if you think anyone’s life is 100% pure bliss, no struggles whatsoever or the lives of their families are! Do you honestly think that because of a white man’s skin color or gender he’s on easy street? Or the heterosexual couple is in marital bliss with no angry in-laws who won’t accept their spouse? Or the Christian doesn’t feel judged at times by others for his/her faith too with their own nasty stereotypes of being intolerant fundies?
Well, if you were, let me give you an example of how looks can go only skin deep, and the assumptions that go with them:
Like many in America, I have immigrant relatives on both sides of my family who came here to make a better life for themselves. Now take my grandmother for instance. To a stranger who just happened to see her as she was running some errands, she looks like a privileged white woman. Typical. Probably grew up in some nice middle class house in a safe neighborhood with a provider husband. Had a family who through their race built up wealth based off centuries of oppressing minorities and the indigenous population. Always had security and comfort, never lifting a finger to rise to any major challenge. Was probably that privileged suburban housewife of the 50’s who goes to the women’s club and complains about how the neighborhood is being taken over by those who don’t look like her. Never once knew what it was like to face the bigotry minorities have.
Now, the part about the comfortable house, wonderful husband and safe neighborhood are true. However the rest would be a lie! Her parents literally came to the country with NOTHING. Her dad was a refugee fleeing violence and genocide and her mother fleeing inescapable poverty in her home country. They had no time whatsoever to gain any of the “wealth” white families allegedly have gained through decades of oppression. She was barely in the middle class growing up and as a married woman, married a blue collar guy and had to work herself cleaning houses to help her family. She cherished her domestic life, but was no privileged housewife who could live solely off her husband’s income. Her husband was of a similar background growing up in the depression unable to afford luxuries like Christmas and birthdays. As for never having any adversity herself, she was bullied for her ethnicity so badly in school she dropped out of high school due to the vitriol of her classmates AND teachers! Imagine a person of color today sharing a similar story. How appalled would you be to hear that? Almost forgot, her neighborhood gave her family the stink eye for not being Irish in an Irish neighborhood, so don’t tell me she never felt what it was like to not belong! That’s probably why she is so adamantly anti-racist herself…
Do you know why she did live in a nice neighborhood in a nice house though? Her family WORKED HARD and gave everything to give her a better life than the previous generation. She married a man who worked for everything they owned including her nice house in that safe neighborhood. And she carried that legacy of resilience and being a victor instead of a victim demanding handouts to her children, one being my dad. Because of her and her family’s perseverance, my dad and his sister got to go to college and get professional careers. Thus trickling down to me being even more privileged than they. My mother’s side has similar stories of building that family legacy of success and prosperity from almost nothing as well further contributing to what I have today.
I guess in a sense you’d be right if you assumed my grandmother was privileged. She had a wonderful husband of over 50 years, raised two children in a nice household and lived off the success her parents enabled her to have. But that’s FAR from her whole story which also included much adversity and prejudice and a family which came from adversity and poverty. Just looking at her skin color tells you nothing about where she came from and what she’s had to face in her life of almost a century.
I can anticipate some of the naysayer’s responses and I’ll answer with my family’s immigrant story is not inconsequential just because they were white! My relatives on both sides of my family have faced adversity and prejudice, my grandmother being just one example. Their whiteness did nothing to help them gain their prosperity, their actual effort to better their lives did. I challenge you to find one example of how the prejudice your family faced due to their skin color is more “important” than what my family and countless other “privileged” white families have! My grandma had the “privilege” of:
The student body bullying her into dropping out of school for her ethnicity
Her family being shunned in an all Irish neighborhood simply for not being Irish
Both parents coming from poverty and devastation in their homelands
Losing her sister young and a brother disabled by a brain tumor
Being slammed violently into a desk by a teacher who treated her in a biased manner for being different among others….
So, if you see her being helped by a gentleman to carry her things or people looking out for her, don’t automatically assume she was always treated like royalty, or she never had to lift a finger in her life. Don’t think because of her skin color, she had everything given to her and lived a life based off the exploitation of others. Don’t look at her neighborhood or her house and think “her kind” have been there for generations basking in their privilege. And don’t think, most importantly, that her skin color somehow minimizes the pain and adversity she went through compared to what you or your family went through!
I don’t know your story as a minority group or person of color. I can’t say I can automatically know all your struggles or have been exposed to every type of adversity you have. But you also don’t know my story, where I came from, and my family’s legacy from just looking at me. You can’t assume any privilege or lack of it just by eyeballing me for 20 seconds on the street. You also can’t assume that even if someone has “privilege” related to race or gender for example, they don’t have other personal struggles they must overcome like mental illness, crushing anxiety/self doubts and insecurity, chronic conditions, family tragedies, deep personal loss, obstacles due to poverty, etc… So, if you want the courtesy of me acknowledging your story, please stick around to listen to mine before you cast judgement. Until then, when you say my family and I have “privilege” we didn’t earn or deserve:
You don’t know my story!
Do you have a story others don’t know that helped shape who you are? Please share in the comments! 🙂