Podium of Privilege
What is this podium of privilege? One of the most poignant experiences I’ve had in the last few years is the training I did at SafeHouse Center, a nonprofit that provides free resources and support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. The training was led by Paul Leighton, PhD, professor in the Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology department at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI.
He led a talk on privilege which is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. We discussed various types of privilege:
social class privilege
heterosexual privilege or heteronormativity
Cis gender privilege
non-mental illness privilege (or ableism)
The discussion surrounding all of these forms of privilege and what impact these types of privilege would have on survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual assault along with why we, as volunteers, need to be aware of these types of privilege, was one that all who are breathing should discuss.
It humbled me then and as I think of the concept of podium of privilege it makes me think about the discussions I had during the training along with ongoing conversations I’ve continued to have since then.
Oftentimes at events when someone steps to the podium people start to quiet down to hear what the speaker has to say. The microphone is attached to amplify the message so that everyone in the room is able to hear said message. Whatever words are being used, it is the orator, the one who has commanded the room so that all eyes in the audience are on the one who is at the mike.
What I’ve found more and more in the last few years is that many people are unable or unwilling to move from their podium of privilege to speak out against that which many of us claim we’re against. When we realize there are no others, no us vs them, but that the reality is: I am you and you are me, we have the potential to move forward together.
Personally, I realized there was more I could do and that I had not been using my own podium of privilege appropriately when the PULSE shooting occurred this summer in Orlando, FL. It rocked my heart and soul and made me realize I could use my “Christian”*, cis gender, hetero, able bodied, average size, and educated privilege more for the LGBTQIA community and so I did. That’s why we have privilege – not for ourselves, but for others. I don’t speak for anyone, yet I am able to speak up for others. Sadly with privilege, the one that is a member of one or more marginalized or disenfranchised groups is often the one minimized, spoken over or otherwise ignored and ‘othered’. We need to talk about social exclusion and do something to end it.
Another thing I’ve noticed recently is the notion of identity politics which is a great way to add to the divisiveness and convolute the issues and be defensive. It’s what usually happens when people that have all the privilege don’t want to talk about something.
It is my belief that the underbelly of cancer embedded in this country is finally coming to the forefront. We can continue to sit back and remain blind tossing out phrases which are harmful like identity politics or we can have one conversation at a time and have love multiply through the land. The choice is ours.
So what are you doing with this? With your privilege, with my privilege, which is not either of our faults, but what we do with it is. A simple Google search can yield a whole afternoon of educational reading: you can look up all of the privileges mentioned in this article, institutional racism, racial reconciliation, diversity, marginalized groups, microagressions, LGBTQ, mental illness and race, the list of learning at our fingertips is endless. I’ve listened to three amazing podcasts on The Liturgists Podcast. All have a backdrop of faith/church/ministry. One is about LGBTQ community, another one is one gender/womanhood and finally one of the best ones on race entitled Black and White. Another gold mine of information can be found on Austin Channing Brown’s website here, here and here. Enjoy friends there is a lot of good information for you!
I started the hashtag #hoperising in 2017 with the resistence forming after the 2016 presidential election. Some days are better than others, but I still feel the hope.
* I no longer identify as Christian even though that was the faith perspective in which I was raised. In fact, my father is a pastor. Further, it was during the 2016 presidential campaign that I decided to leave the church due to their collective silence on social justice issues which are also human rights issues which is what Jesus would have spoken up about.