The Blindness of Privilege


Recently a person I know, the daughter of a friend of mine, said that she just could not understand “Indians.”  Why didn’t they just get over it? Why didn’t they forget about past wrongs? She said, “If our family could get over being cheated by a scam artist and robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars, why can’t they get over residential schools?” I did not hear this first hand, so unfortunately I did not have an opportunity  to challenge her statements.

First of all, I know a little bit about the losses of my friend’s family. They lost a lot of money.  No one would like to lose all that money.  But the fact is that they were still left with lots of money after it happened. The family is still wealthy. They are just a little less wealthy than they could have been and or should have been.

This is actually a common attitude among white people. I have heard similar statements many times.

Frankly, though my white friends are much better off than most indigenous families. None of them were taken away from their homes and made to live in shabby schools with predatory teachers and religious scoundrels while they ate poorly, spent half of each day working literally like slaves, and all the while were taught that their parents were worthless, their culture was worthless, and they were worthless. Then the children that survived (and thousands did not!) were robbed of the opportunity to learn how to take care of children, which they could have learned from their parents. Instead, they were dumped in schools where no one wanted to teach them things like that, they wanted to teach them religion and the benefits of the white ways. Many of those children were then physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually abused. They grew up thinking that they and their families and their race were all worthless. This happened for generations and the effects have cascaded through the generations. Then as adults these former children were subjected to pervasive systemic racism. The trauma of losing some money hardly compares.

Who do you think was better off? Who should get over it? I think these children of wealthy whites should get over it. They should get over their privilege. They don’t even see their own privilege.  And they don’t even see the gross exploitation of others. There is nothing more blind than privilege. And nothing more ignorant. There is nothing so hard to see as one’s own privilege, because it seems so natural and right.

2 thoughts on “The Blindness of Privilege

  1. Even though my maternal family was starved, beaten and most of them, including my grandfather, killed by Stalin, and, my grandmother, mother and her siblings , mere children, were forced to walk from Ukraine through Poland to reach Germany where they were imprisoned in forced labour and concentration camps and starved again, and even though the Canadian government who took them in as immigrants and made them pay back their passage, and the Canadian Government took away my people’s right to speak their own language and ignored their signed treaty to provide schooling in their own language, which led to me never being able to learn and speak my own language, and even though those events have coloured every minute of my entire life, I cannot pretend to understand the enormity of the experiences of indigenous Canadian people who endured these sorts of tortures and more, AND DID NOT HAVE THE ADVANTAGE OF WHITE SKIN or european heritage to give them even one advantage in their recovery from their experiences.
    I can understand and support the healing efforts now being made by indigenous culture, and hope that someday we will stand together as a world culture without doing evil to one another.

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