WoW Pt. 3: Privilege

To read the previous post: WoW Pt. 2: Slave, Colony, Economy

Individual cases such as American stars on Peruvian billboards or Percy acting the way he did are symptomatic of larger structures of supremacy that determine the results of these situations. The larger structures of white and western supremacy discussed in Part 2 are ideologies or belief systems that govern most peoples’ lives. These ideologies govern most peoples’ lives because they have become normalized and have become the status quo as a result of certain historical events. Through institutionalizing white and western supremacy, these ideologies influence the political, commercial and social spheres within societies around the world. Our interaction with Percy is an example of these social structures influencing individual lives. Percy, Cassie and I all acted according to these structures of white and western supremacy in some capacity. To further analyze how we acted according to these structures, there needs to be a distinction between Percy’s perception of who Cassie and I were versus the reality of who Cassie and I actually were. This is not necessarily an easy distinction to make because these two spheres of perception and reality intersect at different points. The general idea, however, is that Percy acted the way he did because of his subconscious understanding of white and western supremacy.

At a fundamental level, Percy’s perception of Cassie and I was unfair. When the word “fundamental” is used, it describes Percy’s, Cassie’s and my primordial state as human beings. As human beings composed of tissue, muscle, blood, and bones, all three of us individuals are the same creatures. Simply put, we are no different than each other and none of us deserve any privileged treatment. Cassie’s and my existence didn’t’t warrant our music to be selectively played, our language to be specifically spoken or for us to be given a personalized tour. I argued that Percy’s perception of us was unfair because he never acted according to the idea that all three of us are equal at a primordial level. He only acted according to his perception that Cassie and I are wealthy and privileged. I will further explain that his perception of us was correct, but it’s disappointing to think that he never saw us in a manner in which he wouldn’t have given us special treatment.

Ultimately, it must be admitted that Percy had a valid reason for perceiving us in the manner that he did. Due to the historical establishment of white and western supremacy (explained in “Pt.2: Slave, Colony, Economy”), there are many individuals in this world who consciously or subconsciously know that white and western people have power and wealth. These individuals who understand this reality don’t understand it by observing isolated cases, but by watching dozens of tourists stroll through their neighborhoods. They understand this reality by purchasing products made by American corporations. They understand this reality by laboring for American corporations. By watching tourists and laboring for American corporations, non-white, non-western people are conditioned into knowing that white, western people are wealthy and privileged. They aren’t necessarily able to identify these larger structures of white and western supremacy, but they do know the reality nonetheless. It’s safe to say that Percy understood this reality when he interacted with Cassie and I, which is why he acted the way he did.

Lastly, a second confession must be made that Cassie and I did have the privileges that Percy assumed we had. We did have the funds to travel to Arequipa, Peru. We did speak English, which was the foreign language that Percy learned in order to accommodate American tourists (among other reasons why he chose to study English). We did have the skin color that caused Percy and other Peruvians to treat us differently. I don’t want to necessarily speak for Cassie’s situation, but I know that for myself that I was born with some of these privileges and that some of these other privileges were acquired either through my parents’ efforts or my efforts. Many of these privileges that I have been born with, such as the superiority of my skin color and my first language, are privileges due to historical events, such as the annihilation of indigenous cultures and the establishment of western capitalism. My individual life is in no way isolated from the macro social structures that govern our global society.

Knowing the fact that I have certain privileges over Percy due to hundreds of years of western expansion causes me to feel guilty. I recently returned from a trip to Mexico and the same guilt I felt when I was with Percy in Peru is the same guilt I felt when I had a conversation with a Mexican restaurant owner in my native tongue instead of his native tongue, while being in his native country. It’s the same guilt that I felt when a Mexican maid cleaned my room while I was vacationing in her native country. This guilt I feel will always be present on my consciousness as it should be. It’s a guilt that I want to continue to wrestle with because the only other option I have is to pretend that I don’t have this privilege. And for me, that disillusionment, that apathy, only allows these structures of supremacy to grow stronger.

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