Question from a white privileged voyager
I know I am privileged. I am healthy, not wealthy but doing fine, was born into a country that provides me with the most powerful passport in the world – at least according to these guys – don’t have a religion that anyone deems threatening these days and, yes, I am white. Basically, the only thing I got down “wrong” is the whole gender thing. Kidding.
But I am much more confronted with this reality when traveling cause back at home, well, many people enjoy the same privileges, so I blend in more. (To be very clear, I know I am still privileged by comparison in Germany.) On one hand, this is one of the things I enjoy about traveling: Being confronted. Learning about written and unwritten rules of a place. Seeing myself with new eyes.
On the other hand, I find myself in situations that I am just not used to – and often feel like I handle them shitty.
It makes me uncomfortable being considered beautiful all of a sudden because of the color of my skin, though I’m guessing it is debatable whether you’d consider all that extra sexism an advantage… 😉
But obviously, it does not stop there. There are millions of tiny everyday situations in which I profit. For example when a Policeman in the Dominican Republic literally stops traffic to escort me from one side to the other. Or when I get in Clubs for free in Chile. Or when I get to jump lines in Dhaka Airport:
I was on my way back home from Bangladesh. I arrived at the airport in Dhaka in time when I saw that there are huge lines in front of the airport because unlike most European Airports they have a security check to enter the building. So I joined the line that would approximately take an hour and started to get a little nervous about my flight when a guard waved at me. Being the obedient citizen that I am, I went over there, assuming I was picked randomly for an extra thorough search. In hindsight that was a little naive, having spent days being stared at like a unicorn in a spacesuit, but it took me too long to realize that the opposite was happening: I was allowed in quickly, being checked through in what I assume was an entrance reserved for airport staff. Now, I did not get it fast enough to react to this little thing. And of course, I was happy to get in this fast, because, well, it would not be called privilege if it was not hard to give up.
But since then I have been wondering if I should have reacted differently.
Waited in line, just like everybody else – not only to be equals. But also to take a stand. To use this weird power vested in me by whiteness, that I never asked for, to show that the security check is so slow, even the white woman might miss her flight, or that everybody might enjoy safely crossing the street and therefore walking to a traffic light. The thing is, even if I wanted to, even if I realized quickly what’s happening, I would not exactly know how. I do not have quick go-to-reactions for these kinds of situations. I guess I am in desperate need of “How to use your privilege for good – the travel edition for dummies”. Soooo. Thoughts, anyone?