Reflections on brown privilege

Reflections on brown privilege

AMY CASTILLO

Contributing Writer

arcastillo@goshen.edu

Often times in this day and age there is an enduring battle of race, in which “White Privilege” is a concept tossed around a lot. White privilege is a term that refers to societal privileges people of a certain race receive, something that is to a point so very true.

Society teaches its children that the color of your skin defines the life you will have. We are marked by a beautiful deep, dark coat of melanin that not only seals our race and identity but also our path. We are taught that light is good and that dark is bad. And yet, for my whole life it has always been the other way around.

Although the world became harder once I became aware of this, it also allowed me to become privileged in a different way. While society gives the Anglo race a sense of entitlement and superiority, it has privileged me with knowledge beyond what a book can teach.

That knowledge is the knowledge of sustaining myself, of learning the true value of things and most importantly knowing that I deserve nothing if I am not willing to work for it. At the age of 12, my mother began to train me for the real world: a world filled with injustice, hatred and difficulty.

The concept is simple: she taught me how to cook, clean, sew and work in preparation for the day in which I will have no one but myself to lean on. Or in my mother’s resonating words, “I won’t live forever, you know.”

Privilege is to know the value of a life when born to a world in which we carry a “shoot me” sign. A life where one breath, one word, one move could end it all. I know the value of a life because I know injustice, the kind where a killer “protects,” the innocent attack with fear, tears and a plea of mercy.

I am privileged to know compassion for others; bonds that last a lifetime. You see, it is one thing to acknowledge racism, to fight it and to unite with those who have suffered, but there is something magical of having been in those shoes. There’s something about that experience at a local store where an employee follows you around just to ensure that your “dirty, sticky brown fingers” don’t take anything, that just connects one another.

It is those experiences which create a bond of pain and rage that empowers us to unite in order to do better, be better and rise higher.

I am privileged to know that my one and only perogative is to remain silent, and in that silence, I have found a sea of voices that grow stronger. It is the voices of those who have tired words that have meant nothing unless a white man has spoken. In these voices I have found strength, passion and bravery.

These are voices that with time will stop being words of the “angry, brown people” and will become the issue that must be urgently fixed. For it is the voices drowned in silence, in our past and present that hold the most power to change the world.

Because I am fortunate to have a different kind of beauty, in return, I internalized self-hatred. For me, this hatred led up to a point where I even began to subconsciously shun other women who resembled any of my physical features: women who typically were not traditionally white and were not considered beautiful.

It has been pointed out to me, for my entire life, every flaw in my body, in order to accent the fact that I was not pretty. This adversity raised a confidence within, that allowed me to see beauty in a new way. Because I have moved past that one single image of beauty, I am able to find beauty in all.

I have become strong and confident. I have a different body than most, and yes, society, I have flaws. But all of those imperfections make me beautiful. I am beautiful because I am brown.

I experience privilege each and every day in which humanity minimizes me, which somehow encourages me to go further. I am virtuous because I know that although the paths set forth for those like me are strenuous, prolonged and ever so bumpy, in the culmination of it all, they will stand where we stand.

I have the privilege of being an outcast in the corners where judgment no longer haunts, a place of freedom. This is a freedom so sweet, to be able to live without care in regards to others’ thoughts. It is advantageous even on the day that life beats and breaks down the last will in me, for that will be nothing more than a regular day.

I am privileged with an access key to two worlds, two cultures, enriched by the knowledge they contain. I am privileged by a life filled with beatings, discrimination, prejudice, sexism and many other adversities. I have lived a harder life than most, I have walked other’s shoes, I have known the value of it all.

I am brown and for that I am privileged.

Written by Record

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