One Minute Meditation on My Privilege/Power Here and Now
In Fuck White Supremacy v. 02: The Happiness issue (2016)
This exercise is based on the general idea that we can elicit solutions to personal and social conflicts when we engage in debates, recognize heterogeneous and non consensus based opinions, and are accountable for own own positionality. I agree: “White supremacy and white privilege are often invisible.” But I also believe each subject occupies different power positions in different places and times, so the exercise I propose aims to render each subject’s privilege and position visible to themselves. Concretely, I propose to invite each subject to reflect on the privilege/power she/he holds in a given context, and to examine how she/he uses such privilege/power to interact with other people. In other words, I propose a selfreflexive activity where each subject becomes its ow object of inquiry. The two central questions are: What privilege/power do I hold? How can I use such privilege/power to end the power imbalances emerging here and now?
I propose one activity to lay the foundations for social interactions where participants identify their own positionality to ensure that they are accountable for their ideas and practices. The activity is entitled “One Minute Meditation on My Power Position Here and Now.” The title says it all. This exercise can be carried out individually o r it can be used as a warm up activity for workrelated meetings. It consists of asking participants to take one minute to look around, see the people around them, and reflect on their own privilege/power at that specific place and time. Silently and in private, each participant might reflect on some of these questions:
- What is my position in this specific context and what privilege/power does such position entail?
- Do my class, race, ethnicity, professional or personal background, and.or seniority endow me with more or less power than others?
– In this particular instance and within this particular group people, what are the louder and more quiet voices?
- I am willing to give each voice the same attention?
– How does my power position impact the decisionmaking process here? How do I use my power to shape such process?
- Based on clearly stated or unstated power positions here, who is being tolerated and who tolerates, and can such orientation be eliminated?
- Can I overtly recognize my own power here and now?
- Can I overtly recognize when I reproduce oppression?
- Concretely, what I am willing to give away to attain more equality in this particular context?
Those are some suggestions, there can be many other questions. Certainly, one minute is not enough time to reflect on the privilege/power each subject holds, but it can be the beginning of acknowledginging, at a micro, personal, and private level, that we all hold power and being attentive to how we use it in daily interactions.
This strategy might not fall under the category of “politically correctness” but it might be worth trying . First, it is worth trying it individually. Beware, proposing this activity to a group of people can produce discomfort. Feel free to keep it to yourself and take one minute before you hold meetings or social gatherings to ask yourself about your own privilege/power.
The goal of this activity is to get rid of the ambiguity and hypocrisy surrounding social environments where the idea of disagreement and conflict causes uneasiness. I simply believe it is impossible that we all agree. It is difficult to deal with disagreement, but I believe disagreement and nonconsensus can be productively used to recognize that inequality exists is our daily lives and that we can easily contribute to sustain unequal practices and social relations with people we dislike, but also with those we like and love. I propose to recognize that power moves our lives and daily interactions, and to try to build more productive social encounters by being accountable for own own positionality. I believe rendering visible to ourselves the privilege/power we hold can help dismantle both unstated and clearly stated categories that create inequalities—such as class and race, but also hierarchies within family structures and job environments.
Sources of Inspiration
Kathy Absolon and Cam Willett, “Putting Ourselves Forward: Location in Aboriginal Research,” in Research as Resistance. Critical Indigenous, and AntiOppresive Approaches , ed. Leslie Brown and Susan Strega (2005); Pierre Bourdieu, Les Règles de l’art (2002); Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge (1980); Jacques Rancière, Le spectateur émancipé (2008); Adrienne Rich, Arts of the Possible (2001).