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Some People Have A Really Hard Time Admitting What She Admits To Here

A woman who understands that acknowledging her white privilege doesn't mean she's bad wrote a thing to help other privileged people get to the same understanding. It's pretty great. I think you should read it. With an open heart.

Some People Have A Really Hard Time Admitting What She Admits To Here

By Elizabeth Grattan


"Why does it always have to go back to race?!" — Female, white, 25-54

I hear you. I get it. I was just like you. Color blind. Humanist. Our blood runs red, our veins shades of blue. "BET", "Black History", "Affirmative Action" all reverse racism dividing peace and perpetuating the notion some exception was necessary where it wasn't. I was just like you.

It insulted me. My first childhood friend was black. My experiences told me it was cultural and that privilege wasn't a fact. It was just another way to blame me for the past. And I hated it.

Because I wanted so much to believe Rodney King. I wanted us to all get along. To strive for unity. I wanted so desperately for racism to be our history. I needed it to be.



So I hear you. When you talk about equality. I hear you. When you bring up opportunity. I hear you. When you feel insulted and blamed and shamed for the color of your skin. And you think it isn't fair. And you just want it to end. I hear you.

And I don't know how to convince you. I don't know what analogy to use. Because evidence and obvious aren't getting through. So I will use my white privilege to show it to you.

My chestnut haired, hazel eyed child was born into advantage. My three year old son has more opportunity in this nation than a forty year old college educated black woman. And that is the truth. And even in acknowledging that, I am benefited. My acceptance of my advantage puts me at an even greater advantage. Hear that. The mere fact that I strive to unpack the layers and change your point of view makes me more favored than if I never talked about it with you.

Because now I'm a white woman who is seen as "liberated", "aware", "educated", "diverse". I'm viewed as compassionate and empathic and progressive. I'm seen by my white peers and peeps as some sort of altruistic good woman for reaching so deep.

And that is white privilege. Because as a black woman I'd be dismissed. I'd be called angry and irate and someone who isn't grateful enough that times have changed. I'd be making everything about race. I'd be pulling a martyr card and playing a victim. If I were a black woman you wouldn't even listen. Because you wouldn't have to listen. Because it wouldn't have anything to do with you. So I'd never get through. And that is white privilege. That somehow when I, as a white woman, explain white privilege to you, you might listen.

Because that's how it happens. So listen.

Acknowledging privilege is not admitting to be a racist. It's not saying you are prejudice. It's not denying your struggle or your set backs or the journeys you've made. Acknowledging your privilege doesn't take away from anything you've gained. Acknowledging your privilege doesn't mean what you think it means. But it does mean something.

And acknowledging your privilege is as necessary for you as it was for me. Because it's your story. It's your heritage. It's your past and your present and your future. It's what has shaped you and afforded you everything you've ever had and everything you've ever lost and everything you worked so hard to achieve. It's what gave you all your opportunities.

The opportunities that were built on the back of slavery. Hear me. We trafficked human beings. We bought and sold each other like property. We traded people as commodities. We paved roads and farmed fields and fought wars and nursed babies with chains of currency.

And that was recently. And that means something.

Our Declaration didn't include everybody. Our Constitution didn't provide equality. Our Founding Fathers weren't revolutionary. Generations of systematic social injustice and slave labor shaped this country. This has never been the land of the free. It cost us something.

And you can't see it. And you will never see it. And you will never be able to see it. And you will never have that perspective. Because your heritage is different. You will never have to see it. You will never need to experience it. You will never fully understand because you will never have to live it. But you will always live with the benefit of it.





















You don't yet understand that the only reason you are able to be color blind is because you are white. You don't yet comprehend that you are afforded the luxury to stand on today and say it's all different and that things aren't the same only because the system was set up that way. You were born with the opportunity to say racism will end if we just wish it away.

But life doesn't work that way. So listen:

And these are just a few. There are so many more it would take decades to show you.

Privilege isn't about accusing you of being a racist. Privilege is about asking you to look at the evidence and see the difference between whiteness and blackness. Privilege is knowing one has advantage.

Privilege is acknowledging that racism is structural, cultural and institutional. That it underpins the foundation of our nation through integrated bias based on centuries of attitudes and ideologies we passed down in legacies we live with today. Through systematic generational cycles of injustice, in every area of life, privilege dominates the playing field with a head start that began long before we were ever born. That doesn't mean you did anything wrong. It just means it is wrong.

So hear me. I was just like you.

Until someone showed me that denying my privilege wouldn't make it go away. Individually, you can want to be color blind, collectively, it doesn't work that way.

So listen.

You aren't going to see it. You aren't going to feel it. You aren't going to be able to reach out and grasp it. And that is precisely how you can know it exists. Because you won't ever have to acknowledge it if you don't want to. And the mere fact that you are able to dismiss it? That I was?

Yeah, that's a privilege.





Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


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Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."