Privileged White American. This is the latest “derogatory” label being thrown around the internet. It is exactly that, a label, no different from “poor rural white”, or “poor inner city black”. All these labels do is further divide us. They perpetuate the “us and them” mentality that has infiltrated our society and caused the massive disconnect between us. Such labels keep us in nice neat groups. Separate. Apart. Powerful and powerless. And herein lies the real problem. If your label makes you feel powerless with no recourse to fight for yourself, you get angry. Anger leads to hate and blame. If you fall in the powerful category, you feel, or are viewed as, righteous and “above”, yet fear backlash from those “below”. This combination of fear, hatred, anger and blame is incendiary and dangerous. Is this oversimplified? Of course, because the problem is rooted in centuries of history, but you get the idea.
I am very aware that I write from a place of privilege, and I know there are things I don’t understand because I have never experienced them. I have never gone hungry. I have never had to work 60 to 80 hours a week just to squeak by and still not have enough money to pay my bills. I have never had to choose between food and heat. I do know there are many for whom this is a daily reality. But, one thing I do understand, is that at the core we are all the same. We all desire the same things in life: a purpose, happiness, good health, meaningful connections with others, love. But, because we are physically and socially separated, we don’t really SEE each other. We can’t see these similarities.
So, how do we bring the disparate groups together? I don’t really have an answer, but I know there are a lot of visionary people out there that may. What is most important is that we start the conversations that lead to action, not just rhetoric. Elbow grease, not just words. We need to get past the hate, blame and fear. We need to direct the anger, which is real and warranted, in a productive way. Instead of just pointing fingers from one side of the fence to the other, we need to open the gate and step through. Get involved in our communities. ALL parts of our community. Sit down at its literal and figurative tables and start a conversation. Most importantly, stop slinging labels. They are at the route of the problems that plague us.