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The Privilege Of The White Writer

The Case For Showing Up

Leigh Huggins
6 min readMay 22, 2019

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I’ve been bumping into people all week. Not literally, but emotionally, culturally, socially. I’ve been stumbling over old biases and beliefs I didn’t want to admit I had. I’ve been running into judgments I wish I didn’t inherit. I’ve been bashing into a new reality: That if we show up, authentically as we can, with our own experience, we will fall.

I feel stupid even writing this because I’ve been reading it from social activists like Brené Brown, friends and mentors like Shauna Ahern, and practicing it in group therapy for over six years now. But therein lies the problem. I’ve merely been an onlooker — in controlled, safe, female, whitewashed environments. I haven’t been participating in that theoretical “arena.”

I say that I hate protests, and I justify that aversion with my own introversion and bouts of ill health. Yes, I donate to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, but automatically recycle mailers from the Southern Poverty Law Center. I’ll read inclusive fantasy, but shy away from true stories and representations like Between The World And Me. I listen to Lemonade, I watch documentaries, I match with non-white dudes on Tinder…I must be woke, right?

Maybe, to a certain extent…but I never show up in these communities. I don’t go to their churches or pay to see their art. I don’t volunteer for the organizations that are making a difference at the local policy level. I’ve never called a senator, or made a public outcry that wasn’t firmly within the safety of general support. I’ve shied away from reading the books and witnessing the stories written by the people depicted in them. I’ve never made it my responsibility to teach myself through experience. I have fooled myself into thinking I was making a difference in the only way I knew how.

This is where I went wrong.

The Need To Stay Safe

I am a cis-het-white woman with a lot of other white cis-het-white friends. No wonder I’m comfortable. I, of course, have the option of remaining complacent and complicit and silent and safe, unlike so many others in this country. I have that choice. It is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. That choice also means that I have a responsibility to lift…

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Leigh Huggins

Professional writing coach, copywriter, and editor. https://leighhuggins.com | LinkedIn @Leigh-Huggins