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When Assumptions Alienate

privilege and community

I’ve observed and been a part of several complex discussions on race and privilege in the last few months and there’s one thing I keep coming back to.

I (we?) tend to write and speak to an audience that looks like me, sounds like me, that shares a part of my context and history.

One of the fallouts of writing a blog that is at least in part confessional is that I share webs of thoughts that are, at their root, selfish. They are about me, what I’m experiencing, and what I’m learning.

And so, as a white woman reared in an Evangelical Christian, politically conservative culture, I tend to share “aha” moments and theoretical explorations as they happen to me. I’ve talked about colonialism, Capitalism, privilege, Christian hypocrisy, ignorance, and humility with a framing that assumes that my reader needs to hear about those things, because, of course, *I* need to hear about those things.

But I am now recognizing that my reader can be anyone at all. And sometimes my framing, while useful for an audience that is some iteration of “me,” can read as trite to someone who has not only explored these questions in greater depth but may, in fact, have been born into a reality that has forced them to absorb and answer to these negative paradigms since birth.

I apologize for assumptions that belittle those experiences.

I think it’s normal, and necessary, to speak to personal experiences. And I think I have much more to offer, ideologically, to people who come from where I come from simply because I can speak from a place of intimate understanding. We have work to do, and it helps to find the people you share cultural guideposts with when you’re talking about ethics, progress, and change. But that’s also where echo chambers come in.

So, I’m not really asking for resources. I’m not really asking for anything at all. I’m simply exploring the psychological reality that people listen to people who look and sound like them, and I see that as a big part of the work I do here. But I never want that to come at the expense of real, intentional welcome.

If you ever want to reach out and share your thoughts and ideas, please feel free to email Injustice is systemic AND personal, and so your individual experience matters.

P.S. I just discovered Adrienne Maree Brown’s writings on transformative justice last night, and I find it very useful for framing discussions around trauma and privilege in a way that leads to accountable insight. I highly recommend it.

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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