The Weight of Privilege

I’ve never thought too much about the Israeli-Palistinian conflict. I remember hearing about it in the news growing up – stories usually more on the side of Israel’s point of view, rather than balanced reporting. After moving to Paris, I began reading news stories told from a different point of view, as France seemed more sympathetic to the Palestinian side than America is. But, really, I viewed this conflict as never-ending and didn’t read too many other sources for information.

After reading The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan, the power of storytelling gave me insights into both sides of this story that I hadn’t thought of before. As someone reading from her cozy armchair in front of the fire, many pieces of the conflict seemed easily solved. And yet, here I am, sitting on land that didn’t belong to me or my ancestors, that was taken from someone else long ago. The complications of land, of story, of history are complex and the longer a conflict goes unresolved, the more knotted the outcome is to untangle.

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At the end of The Lemon Tree Dalia, an Israeli, realizes the privilege she has in listening to the Palestinian side of the conflict. She is able to find resolutions and compromise because she doesn’t have as much to lose – she isn’t a refugee nor has her land been reduced over the years with each “compromise.” She still doesn’t agree with her Palestinian friend, Bashir’s solutions, but she realizes the weight of privilege she brings to the conversation.

Her final realizations had me thinking about how we’re choosing to handle the conversations of privilege closer to home. It’s not just about me listening to people who are not being heard – though that is an important practice. It’s about me recognizing the weight of privilege I bring to conversations. Maybe I won’t agree with the proposed solutions or outcomes, but I need to remember my lens is that of someone whose privilege and assets are not being threatened.

How can I more effectively listen and join this conversation of reconciliation while recognizing my privilege? I can feel overwhelmed and feel that I have nothing to offer because I’m not being abused by any systems. And yet, listening and joining in the conversation is important – to speak up humbly to bring about my own point of view and to recognize that I have a unique perspective to offer, even if it is one of privilege.

How do you recognize your own privilege? Do you actively participate in conversations of reconciliation?

I read The Lemon Tree as part of SheLoves Magazine’s Red Couch Book Club. For thought-provoking books and discussion each month, I’d highly recommend checking it out!

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5 thoughts on “The Weight of Privilege

  1. Who knew that when you wrote this piece back in February that you were speaking such truth?
    When I think of it in terms of the refugee situation, the mourning and loss from so much violence in our country (even this very day!), I am drawn up short. Who am I to bluster my opinion into an already whirling conversation? In the spirit of Advent, quiet prayer for the world and a desperate “come quickly” seem to be the most efficacious response.

  2. This is so good, Annie: “It’s about me recognizing the weight of privilege I bring to conversations. Maybe I won’t agree with the proposed solutions or outcomes, but I need to remember my lens is that of someone whose privilege and assets are not being threatened.”

    Loved hearing about the ways The Lemon Tree spoke to you.

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