You gesture for me to pass
as if I’d been waiting
for your permission
I wasn’t looking at you
but at the traffic
you couldn’t see
judging my safety for myself

I’ve seen you before
sprawling your briefcase
notes, folders, phones, Starbucks
arms and legs
over the territory of the board room table
that extends well into mine
without even noticing
your border violation

Just like you
step in front of me to see
the street performance or
to check your muscular form
in the sweaty mirror
of the weightlifting room
startled and confused
when I materialize through my voice
or nearly head-on collide
when I refuse to step aside
first and yield
to your supposed

Privilege means
you get to take up space
without considering
whether it’s already occupied

Privilege means
you get to grant permission
that’s not yours to give

Privilege means
you get to take up words
and time
volume and decisions
while I budget mine
slip them in narrowly
with moderated manner and
modulated tone

Privilege means
you don’t even have to realize
you have privilege
that you’re breathing others’ air
and standing on our ground
The air around me is not a vacuum
my ground isn’t vacant
just waiting, barren, for you

True, even my body is built
to accommodate yours
I will not be
small and apologetic
scarce and invisible
fast and minimal
just to make room for you.

I don’t hate you
I don’t even hate your privilege
I hate its unexamined injustice
unearned rewards
I hate
your invested ignorance
since privilege means
you get to be BIG
and abundant

© S. Rinderle, 7/13/13


  • Lion Goodman says:

    As a white male, this poem strikes me deeply. It wasn’t until I had a partner who was of Indian descent, dark in color, that I became aware of my white privilege. It was quite a shock at the time. Me? Privileged? I’m just a middle-class guy working hard to work my way up the food chain…. When I realized that I didn’t have to worry about my personal safety around men, didn’t have people watching me when I entered a store, didn’t have to make way for big men… I finally could see through the eyes of my beloved, a petite woman of color… and realized what a great privilege I had – so much so that I could be ignorant of it.

    • Susana Rinderle says:

      Brilliant, Lion! I’m moved by your experience, your clarity, and your openness to receiving this poem. Thank you very much for your commitment to going into your reaction with curiosity, and coming out on the other side more aware, present and compassionate.

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