I made an awfully silly joke today. The elderly among us may recognise the phrase, ‘that was a joke, Joyce’, but that is what I had to do to cue the younglings that a witticism had been laid down.
The topic at hand related to ensuring that white privilege did not blind editors to the nature of Indigenous or Queer stories. The publishing industry is full of people who do not know what it is like to be marginalised. The key point with privilege, and why some are privileged, is that they have never experienced being marginalised.
For those of us who do, trying to simply communicate with privileged can be harrowing, insulting and dangerous.
‘We cannot know before we know.’ – Kit
How do we help privileged become aware of marginalised?
How can privileged avail themselves of alternative realities?
I reckon doing level of privilege exercises and confirming intersectionality are two great steps for everyone to take, regardless of level of socio-cultural norm or heritage. Grab your chair and pull up a pen: please tally your answers!
Privilege: one ‘yes’ = one point
- Were your parents together when you were born?
- Were they still together when you started school?
- Are/were they still together when you started uni/got a job?
- Did they help/are they helping you financially?
- Growing up, were books, TV and movies based on people with your skin colour and language?
- Were teachers the same ethnicity and language speaker as you?
- Are your family landowners?
- Have both your parents finished high school and been employed through their adult lives?
- Have you ever asked someone with different colour skin where they are from?
- Do you consider yourself normal or the majority in your country?
Intersectionality: one ‘yes’ = one intersection
- Mixed heritage
- Below middle class family/position
- Not heterosexual identifying
- Non- or anti-religious
- Anti-capitalism and anti-consumerism
- Educated non-white
These lists I’ve deliberately made conveniently short but there are many ways to define privilege and intersectionality.
For people who scored over 5 for Privilege and under 5 for Intersectionality, you may find it difficult to understand that your good intentions to accept and include others are sometimes met with stunned silence. Ask about it.
For people who scored close to 0 for Privilege and near 10 for Intersectionality, you have my awe and respect. Please persevere.
I score 4 for Privilege and 7 for Intersectionality, for your information.
Back to the story:
So, the publishing industry and reading market are filled with privileged people with low intersectional awareness. When Queer, Indigenous and (please choose your own label) authors wish to publish, their writing is often altered or silenced.
Not necessarily through ill intent but often simply because privileged cannot hear what is being voiced. This university class is to ensure that we as editors can listen to voices from a different worldview. The majority white-heritage, male, heterosexual, capitalistic and Christian-based values of the publishing industry ensures that editor-author discussions of identity must take place.
This is the approach of the university to ensure that publishing house employees know the right way to edit.
My joke: the ‘right’ way or the ‘white’ way.
Only the high-scoring Intersectionality students laughed before I prompted the Privileged.