I had the deep privilege of meeting and working with Margaret Jacobsen, the organizer of the Portland march, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns. They work tirelessly for racial justice, in addition to gender equality, women's issues, and the vast, inclusive array of building awareness and speaking up for the marginalized among us. Margaret is my new hero, not afraid of confrontation, encouraging conversation, even heated, in the interest of learning from one another, and staying focused on the justice issues that really matter.
In the conversations about white privilege and intersectional feminism, I'm reminded of a truth that struck me when I was a young teenager. Being that I'm white, blonde, blue-eyed, Christian, smiling, and an active volunteer, people have always just assumed that I'm trustworthy. Without ever having to prove myself, I get handed keys, entrusted with funds, called upon for security. Why me? I did nothing to earn that trust. I realized, at about 14 years old, that I could get away with anything!
That was a troubling realization. I did get away with a few things I'll refrain from mentioning here <snicker>, but luckily for everyone who made assumptions about my character, I am, basically, trustworthy. But so are a lot of people who don't smile. Who aren't white. Who didn't grow up in the suburbs. Margaret is a great example of that, and there are hundreds across the country.
Why have we not grown to trust facts, evidence, science, instead of making emotion-based judgments? Why are we still scared of black men at night? And potentially worse, why do we trust people who "feel" trustworthy? No wonder con artists are so successful!
I work for food justice and waste management, that's the little thing I can do. But I also have to work for awareness. We all do. We have to question information, look into our hearts, know whether our decisions about people are based on fact or emotion. We can't elect presidents because they're entertaining or famous. We can't run from people who happen to speak a different language or look different or have fewer resources. Equally, we can't blindly trust the white guy, or the accountant, or me.
Blindness got us into this mess. Only vision will get us out.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.