Why did it take me so long to figure this one out?
That whole thing of people of colour (I dislike that expression but never mind) telling us pinko whites that we are all racists, and us liberals denying it, and then that makes us even more guilty somehow? And even worse, the final upshot of all this über 'wokeness' is that we feel less comfortable with anyone other than people like ourselves, which is precisely what we don’t want, because we want to be able to just see people as individuals, right?
It finally dawned on me that both sides are right, they are just using different definitions of the loaded term.
If I vehemently declare that I am not a racist, I am using the narrow definition, as formulated in an earlier post: Racism is a philosophy that considers certain groups of people inferior to others, and wants to organise society to reflect and reinforce that inferiority.
When someone accuses all people of privilege of unconscious racism, they are using a wider definition. They are talking of the way we go through daily life, coming from our own experience, not recognising the many ways in which we are lucky.
When we are blessed with a functioning pair of legs we do not think of the lack of wheelchair access every time we step over a curb. Does that make us “ableist”? (Another jargon word I thoroughly dislike.)
I say it does for instance if the issue comes up in a municipal election, and we vote against creating more accessibility because it will raise taxes. Otherwise, we are just being human.
I can approach a police officer without fear because my experience has led me to see the force as a helpful part of my community. This is privilege, yes. I should be aware of that and I am. But imho it does not make me racist, unless I support a police officer who has wrongly targeted a POC. And so on.
The question of reparation for historical wrongs is a separate topic. First this.
The first duty of privilege is to recognise itself. Privilege needs to acknowledge that it has benefited from a long history of oppression. Privilege needs to acknowledge that it owes as much to luck as to merit.
That, I am willing to do. Calling myself all kinds of -ist or -phobe and going through life groveling in apology for crimes I had nothing to do with I am not.