Andrea Gibson’s Poem: “Privilege is Not Having to Think About It.”

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Here is one of my favorite feminist poets Andrea Gibson. In “Privilege is Not Having to Think About It” she addresses the harsh reality of the continual while male privilege through recounting her experience of working with a black poet.

Privilege is Never Having to Think About it
Touring with a Black Poet-for Sonya Renee

She steps out of the hotel bathroom dressed to the nines, stilettos sharp in her glossy glossy
elegant tailored boom glittering a bold burgundy neckline
Locks her shining eyes in the worn Tshirt I haven’t changed in days and says “are you going to wear that on stage?”
I smile, gloating in the cool of my gritty apathy, the oh so thrift store of my dirty grunge
She says ‘honey, do you have any idea how much privilege it takes to think it is cool to dress poor? You wear that dirty shirt; you are a radical saving the world. I wear that dirty shirt and I am a broke junkie thief getting followed around every store

That conversation happened years ago
On the same tour where Sonya watched me pay 75 bucks to have my haircut in a way that would make me look like quote “I couldn’t afford a haircut”

The same tour that began the day after I was the feature performer at a university’s women of color symposium
No. I did not ask whether or not they should feature a woman of color instead.
Yes. I got paid.
I’m pretty sure it was a good paycheck.

Just like I’m pretty sure someone licked the paycheck when Trayvon Martin’s gun range targets got sold out in two days
I know those things are not exactly the same

I know I wanted to burn every noose white seam of our cotton flag when Trayvon Martin’s mother was on the witness stand trying to convince a jury of mostly white mothers that she could actually recognize the sound of her own son’s scream

I know I wanted to split the fucking sky when I heard the whip of the verdict and Sonya had posted online
“How many different ways can this country tell me I am worthless”

I know it was right then that I walked upstairs and started counting the hoodies in my closet
I have fourteen
hoodies that tell me I will never be forced to dress a wound as deep as my mothers heart
She will never be woken in her sleep to peel my body off gated grass
To beg God to sow the hole in my chest

I know my family will never have to hear justice say it wasn’t until I was lying in my casket that I was wearing the right clothes

I know a woman who once knew a woman who collected the metal collars they used to lock around the necks of black children to chain them to the auction block
I was told she hung them on the walls of her home for decoration
I remember when I used to believe that was the entire definition of racism

Believed there was no one hanging in my wardrobe
Believed my style had nothing in common with king Leopold’s
Thought I am not outfitting the Congo in spilled blood
I am just buttoning up my shirt here
I am just rolling up my sleeves
I am not unstitching the face of Emmett Till
I am not unzippering the wail of his mothers grief
The laces of my shoes are just the laces of my shoes
They could not tie a body to a tree.
I am not fashioning a noose here.
Sonya, do you hear me?
My compassion is not a costume
My passivity is not hate
My privilege is not genocide
This is just how I cut my hair
That was just how they cut the cheque
This is just how I dress
Your wound
I don’t even think about
what I wear

— Andrea Gibson “Privilege is Never Having to Think About it: Touring with a Black Poet for Sonya Renee”

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