Words by Aayushi
Every social justice issue. Every environmental issue. Every human rights issue.
A straight, white, cis-man is likely behind it.
The depth of my rage knows no bounds.
Rage that women are still considered second class, an ‘other’, a ‘second option’. Rage that the knowledge and intrinsic expertise of First Nations peoples is ignored in the pursuits of white academia. Rage that women of colour are thought to be stupid or slow, incapable of understanding the philosophies of the colonisers. Rage that I need to be writing this in 2022.
When we see the world flooding, when we see fires burning, when we see those who have been minoritized continually experiencing violence – we turn to our leaders. And then we are turned into numbers. Statistics that tell us that we are a high-risk group. We are vulnerable to violence. Because of what? Being who we are. We are vulnerable to the vitriol and abuse of the white man, just because he can. While we seek support, inspiration, guidance to move forward with compassion and care, and a solid plan of action, our leaders laugh and scoff, because they do not care.
When we consider any and every environmental, social, and cultural issue and its recent attention, we can point fingers at those whose pockets are being lined. The white cis-men, the “leaders”, who sit in boardrooms with all the power, the privilege, and none of the potential to make good decisions. The dollars they don’t deserve manifest into entitlement and privilege over the generations of ‘leaders’ they spawn. Sometimes they aren’t white men, they might be white women or non-white men. But we have all internalised the ideals of privilege, power and patriarchy which shape hierarchies and infiltrate decision making processes.
Privilege is multifaceted. Privilege comes in many forms and can wield power in nuanced and dangerous ways when left unaddressed. The lack of acknowledgment and blatant ignorance these men flaunt continue to ruin the world. Platforms, space, and meaningless dribble about what they intend to do is accepted somewhat desperately, and we are continually hurt by them.
Problems happen. Acts of violence are committed against those who don’t fit within colonial binaries and visions of what is acceptable of us. The patriarchy sits at the table, waiting to be coddled, asking for a further explanation because they do not understand the lived experience of our lives. We are nothing but numbers and high-risk groups. We need extra training and protection. We must carry tools to protect ourselves, wear more armour, be more prepared, speak softer, keep a lookout because they will come for us.
All this is to say, We are not a high-risk group. Our queer communities are not the high risk group. First Nations people are not the high risk group. Disabled people are not the high risk group. The highest risk group of them all is the straight, cis-white man. Whose entitlement doesn’t teach accountability, who is uninformed of consent. Whose ancestry believes he can pillage all he desires.
Acknowledging privilege, patriarchy and white supremacy is absolutely important in a university context. It is evident in the leadership which serves us. Evident in the way conversations about justice and ‘diversity and inclusion’ are had. It’s evident in the need to protect minoritized communities instead of scrutinising the white man.
This is a callout. To sit and listen. To stop taking up all the space and mindfully transform your privilege into power for the people. To not roll your eyes as you read this and scoff in disbelief. It’s up to men (all men) to change the culture. YOU are the high risk we need protection from. Not ourselves.
Systems which allow the highest risk majority to run the world and maintain the subjugation of our people must be destroyed. Every person is affected by social and environmental issues, perhaps in different ways. Until the needs of all are met by insitutions, we will continue to live in a world in which the safety of people and the planet is considered solely an option. Our unearned privileges and ego must be placed aside as we listen to the lived experiences of people, and work to use them to create justice.