Privilege in Paris

Hi all–I know it’s been a while since I’ve last updated.  I want to make you the same promise that I probably made last time and say that I’ll update more–but we all know that that likely isn’t true.

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about privilege.  Me thinking about this isn’t anything new, given that I’m always trying to be as critical as possible about society’s norms and standards, but a few things have happened recently that has made me want to come back to this topic.  For those of you who don’t know me, or are reading this for the first time, I want you all to know that I’m a white woman who’s currently working abroad near Paris for the year as a temporary immigrant from the United States.

Some really horrible things have happened in our world recently.  Brexit.  #45.  Putin. Marine Le Pen running for president.  Richard Spencer.  Betsy Devos.  Alternative facts. This stuff is scary.  But some really great things have happened too, in light of all of this. Protests.  Solidarity.  The rise of crowd funding.  Fact checking.  Resistance.

Since November, I’ve been trying to do as much as I can for my friends back home.  Unfortunately, living abroad puts a damper on that.  I can’t call my representatives without it costing an arm and a leg.  I can’t show up for vigils, or events like the Vagina Monologues.  I can’t volunteer, or take trainings.

But, one thing that I thought I couldn’t do but was able to is protest.

In an amazing show of solidarity, the entire world got together to help out my home country.  In fact, France got together a minimum of three times since November.  To be fair, a lot of who came out were expats or students living abroad for the year, but I think it’s important to remember that:

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Remember how France gave the US the Statue of Liberty?

France has been in solidarity with us since the beginning (Thank you, Lafayette), and France knows how to throw a good protest.  In fact, they’re the masters of it.  Some of my colleagues didn’t even have to go to work one day because the teachers were having yet another protest.  It’s their way of life here, I’ve noticed.  And it gets shit done.

Thanks to these protests, I felt that I was finally able to help my friends and family out in America.  I was able to protest DAPL; Betsy DeVos; the Immigration Ban (also affectionately known as the Muslim Ban–which, yes, we all know that’s not the legitimate name for it, but can we get real and admit to ourselves that we only care about white immigrants?); Trump’s blatant sexism, xenophobia, racism, and general bigotry; and the everyday unjust things that are currently happening in America, such as the rise of Nazism (read: the acknowledgement that anti-semitism has always existed in America), the failures of Congress, and our own tax money going to pay for #45’s vacations.

I felt good about these protests.  I made really great friends at these protests, I felt loved, and protected.  France feels more like my home now than #45’s United States ever could.  Of course, these protests aren’t without critique, but that’s for another time.

This is where privilege comes in.  I’ve already discussed the privileges I have in other posts, and how it got me to where I am today (France).  But, while what I think I’m doing is good and well-intentioned, it’s also the epitome of my privilege.  I can show up to these protests, shout and yell angrily for a couple hours, listen to speakers, then get up on the train and go to my nice country-side town.  I can protest what’s happening in America right now and go home feeling good because I’m not actually there to see the aftereffects. I know I’m not going to be the most affected by #45’s policies by a long shot, but at the moment, I literally have no worries (save for crossing my fingers that #45 doesn’t enforce a French ban).  I’m trying to keep up with what’s happening in America right now but sometimes, well, I’m not actually there right now, so it’s fine if I don’t every now and then, right?

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is the fact that I feel good about protesting something that will have no affect on me for the time being.  I don’t have to deal with seeing swastikas or white supremacy bumper-stickers on little Peugeots.  I don’t have to deal with pipelines blowing up and polluting La Marne.  I don’t have to deal with a new secretary of education that will make life even more difficult for the schools here in La Ferte.  It’s nice.  I’ll tell you that much.  I go to bed, and I’m not all that worried for myself at the moment.

So, ultimately, this is a call out post for me and others who are in the same position as me.  Understandably, time, ability, and money dictate what we can and cannot do as activists.  And while showing up in support and solidarity to protests is an incredible experience, and shows everybody abroad that they can trust you, it’s not the only thing that we should be doing.  If the time is possible, we should be calling or emailing our representatives.  If the money is possible, we should be donating to places like ACLU or Planned Parenthood.  If accessibility is possible, we should be educating ourselves and sharing information on what’s happening right now in defense of alternative facts and reporters being discredited.

All in all, protests are great.  But we need to do more than that, if we can.  If #45’s supporters say that they want Planned Parenthood to go down, we need to support Planned Parenthood.  If we see anti-semitism, we need to try to prevent it, remove it, and educate ourselves on it.  If we see somebody struggling, we need to help them.  We can’t leave these actions to everybody else, because if everybody else won’t do it, then who will?

Here, have some pictures of the protests I went to:

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