A Year of Grateful Privilege – February 2017

Ok, so February is done and dusted in my Year of Grateful Privilege. (If you’re new to my Year of Grateful Privilege, here’s the post where I explain what this is all about.)

A highlight

I’ve chosen my favourite post from the month, because it was an insanely powerful moment. The picture is above, and for everyone with normal eyesight, here’s the caption:

“Disembarked the bus this morning with 2 Aboriginal ladies and their 2 little ones. They looked confused and weren’t speaking in English, so I asked if I could help with directions. They wanted to get to a place that would have been a good 30 min walk in the 40 degree heat.

We arrived at me booking a taxi, which I happily did. But the taxi was driving around to find us (it was looking on the wrong side of the road) so we tried to flag other taxis down too. A taxi indicated it was pulling over, slowed down and almost like it was at the same moment the driver saw the passengers – it sped off again.

First thing that sprung to mind was ‘did that just happen because of our group’s blackness?’ And there it is – the epitome of white privilege – I have never had to wonder if a taxi driver wouldn’t serve me because of my skin colour.

The taxi I booked found us eventually and the family got off to their destination – so yay for that. Boo for the fact that in only 10 minutes of time with them, the contrast of our daily existence was so starkly highlighted.”

A lowlight

I had a few dark days when I just couldn’t muster up the energy to really say much. And that was flipping distressing realising that in order to be aware of my privilege, and to empathise with the impacts of racism on other lives, that I have to actively think about it. Racism is an in-your-face daily experience, it can’t be escaped. Privilege is like oxygen – it’s just everywhere, and it’s only by knowing it’s power that you can see its existence. If you didn’t understand the properties of oxygen and how it interacts with the environment, you could just blissfully live not knowing oxygen existed. I know oxygen/privilege exists, and yet I can just so easily go about my daily life without having to give it a second thought. That is a pretty depressing thought when you compare it to the realities of POC. It just feels so unjust.

What would I like to do next?

It’s time to get lighter and brighter. Being aware of privilege doesn’t have to mean a life of serious doom and gloom. As I wrote in a recent post:

“Being WOKE doesn’t require being broke when it comes to the simple pleasures in life. I’m just about to round out month 2 of my year of grateful privilege and there’s no way I can survive this year if it’s all about being solemn, serious and self-flagellation (not a dirty word haha!) There’s joy in being woke, because the more I work to shake my head out of the sand, yes, I am seeing the shadows but also so much light”

So in March, I am marching TOWARDS the light. I want to find the humour. I want to start the party. I want to revel in the joy of being woke.

Please do come and follow me at @sarahmillerau – I would love to see you there!

Related Post

A Year of Grateful Privilege – January 2017

At the start of 2017, I was walking and thinking about how good my life was (I think it was that holiday euphoria) – and it occurred to me that so much of what I’m grateful comes to me out of privilege – whether that be the privilege of having white skin, or being part of the dominant culture.

So I started #ayearofgratefulprivilege – a little Instagram project to make the effort to express gratitude each day for things that would normally slide by – the stuff that underpins so much of my daily existence.

My hope was to build my own awareness of the unique challenges facing those who are disadvantaged by systematic racism. Also, I hoped it would help me to become a better HR professional, and design student – but more importantly – a better wife and mother in my interracial, interreligious, and all things inter marriage!

Well it’s February – so that’s 1 month down and 11 more to go in my year of grateful privilege.

What have I learnt so far?

There are great resources out there – so my ignorance definitely was not for a lack of information being available to me.

In fact, most of my awakening to white privilege was through experiencing life with my significant other who is not white. It was things like him getting pulled aside at airports when we were walking together – why just him? Or how service staff would suddenly become far more pleasant when they realised I was with him. This was what twigged me to it, but it’s definitely stuff I could have learnt about without having to experience it!

What’s stuck with me the most?

This quote from this article:

“You should know that … It’s not the job of those who are disadvantaged by white privilege to calmly educate white people about it.”

This certainly put a fire in my belly to keep going with the project.

Weirdest thing that’s happened?

Being asked if Adelaide is super racist because of my observations when I’m going about my daily life. Um, no. Adelaide is in fact far less overtly racist than Singapore, for instance. But of course it will sound racist if I’m talking about things that most people would usually ignore.

Best thing that’s happened?

Really awesome conversations that probably wouldn’t have happened before, because people didn’t really know that I was interested in this stuff.

What would I like to do next?

Keep posting every day and just see what comes up. An interesting side effect has been how finely tuned my spidey-sense is getting to interactions between people. I am keen to see what things I’m going to observe next that I would normally just ignore.

Please do come and follow me at @sarahmillerau – I would love to see you there!


Related Post

I was ‘one of the boys’ and it made me a bitch

The danger of the boys club is not the fact that there’s multiple men in one space, it goes code red when a girl becomes ‘one of the boys’. How do I know? Because I used to be the chosen one. I was one of the boys with a bunch of guys that I absolutely adore and who really are great people – except that privileged position made me feel like a queen bee. And did I use that power to break open the gender restriction and bring in more women? Hell no, why would I want to lose my incredible position of being their confidant, spoilt bitch and special chosen one? Any other woman was competition (except when she was a mate’s target, because I’m your wing man bro!!). And I cringe at it now, because it goes completely against my ridiculously raging feminist core – but it also obviously pandered to my total adoration of acceptance and feeling ‘special’.

Why do I tell you this? Because from my experience, I don’t think women particularly change a culture just by their mere presence in a merry band of men. In fact, any hint at change will whip a queen bee into a defensive frenzy, afraid that the new order will mean she’s not the chosen one any more. What can I say – I’m just not that confident in measuring culture by numbers.
Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

Related Post

Society Needs to Move On From ‘Man Up’

You know how swearing is supposed to be some terrible anti-social act? Well I think swear words are pretty alright, they add colour to language and make it a tasty mouthful to spit out. There is no phrase that will ever truly capture the mood and sense behind “fuck that” or “bullshit” – I mean yes, the Christian camp mentors will say things like “good golly”, but we all know a “holy shit” would have far more convincingly conveyed it. So, keep up the colourful and ever evolving language.
But if you’re looking to eliminate something, may I suggest the phrase ‘man up’? I hate, hate, hate it with everything in me. I mean, what is a ‘man’ meant to be anyway? People say it’s kind of like this unexplainable concept, but the only unexplainable concepts I will allow are issues such as grace, God, and child/parent dynamics. The dictionary says it all pretty clearly for me that a man is “an adult human male”, but that’s not what we mean when we say ‘man up’. We’re talking about this concept of strength, reliability, and stoicism, all linked in with undertones of heterosexuality, media-shaped body types and unfair burden. A female can be told to ‘man up’, but it’s not really suggesting she emulate Priscilla Queen of the Desert. ‘Man up’ isn’t just another version of a swear word, it’s a deeply rooted cultural stab at each other.

If we want to bring women up to equality, then we also need to dismantle ‘manliness’ from its pedestal – and you know what? That’s a damn good thing, because ‘manly’ stoicism is such a huge contributor to male illness, depression and suicide. I love men so much, I mean, you can see it in my posts. But I don’t need men to be ‘men’ for me. I need men to be themselves for me, if they’re straight, gay, happy, sad, strong, weak, capable, useless, or anything and everything in between. And when I need them to stop whining, pitch in, and make an effort, I will never, ever tell them to ‘man up’.
So here’s some suggested replacements, if you want to convey that sense of ‘get over yourself, get in there and get it done’. What about “step up”, “own up”, “take it on the chin” or “get with it”? 
Or here’s my ultimate favourite, “push harder, your mother did!”
Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

Related Post

Vaginas Earn Little and Cost Lots: Here’s How To Avoid Being A Broke One

Here’s something I tweeted a while ago:

“Women leave approximately $500k on the table by the time they’re 60 if they don’t negotiate an equitable 1st salary” linkedin.com/today/post/art…

— Sarah Miller (@whippasnappahr) January 3, 2013

-$500,000.000 in salary over a lifetime

Here’s a study that came out a day after:

Young Women Pay Dearly for Gender Gap

“Female graduates in Australia are earning as much as $14,000 less than their male counterparts following a dramatic increase in the gender pay gap last year.”

-$14,000.00 in at least first year of professional work

Here’s something I read about a year earlier:

A Tough Old Town

“Unlike the stereotypical male dero, you won’t find her sleeping rough. She won’t necessarily have a history of mental illness, cognitive impairment or substance abuse. Instead, she will most likely have held down a job all her life and raised a family. She will have made ends meet. But a divorce, separation, an illness or domestic violence means she can no longer make it in [Sydney].”

Precarious financial and housing security in older age

Here’s a fact we don’t often recognise about retirement savings:

The Gender Gap in Retirement Savings

“Because the current superannuation system is linked to paid work, it overwhelmingly disadvantages women who are more likely to move in and out of paid work to care for family members. Currently, the average superannuation payout for women is a third of the payout for men.”

Meager retirement savings

That is what your vagina earns you.

A screenshot of the photo essay “It Could Be You”

And on the purchasing side of things, there’s another awful reality.

Everything marketed to women is more expensive. That is what your vagina costs you.

Pens. Tampons. Dry cleaning, hair cuts, insurance, pharmaceuticals. They all contribute to higher living costs simply as a result of your gender.

So with this awful set of facts, here’s what HR professionals need to do:

  • Benchmark & grade salaries in organisations. Same job, different gender, same salary. Bam.
  • Eliminate the stigma of leave and flexibility allowances for male and female employees. Enable them both to invest in their career and family unit, it’s all one big cycle of benefits to eachother.

And girlfriend, this is what you need to do right now:

  • Accept that no-one is coming. Not an employer, nor a husband, not even an enlightened teacher. You are all you’ve got. And tell yourself every time you day dream about your future that no-one is coming to take you there. You are all you’ve got.
  • Ditch the pink. It’s costing you big bucks to purchase pink-ified goods.
  • Salary sacrifice to your retirement savings from day one of your career.
  • Buy a piece of shit property so you can own it outright quickly. Get out of the rental market. Get out of a 2 income 50 year mortgage. Get into some housing security.
  • Make sure you’re not getting screwed out of a salary you’re entitled to. Be vigilant. Be a pushy bitch. At least you’ll be a pushy bitch that’s getting paid well, instead of a poor lovely lady.
  • Get some real friends. Ditch Mrs Jones, she’s spending her husband’s money and her time judging you. Real friends will talk to you about money just like a good conversation on sex, relationships and careers – honest, real and unedited. And they don’t rejoice when things go bad, they pitch in to make it better.
  • Respect money as a worthy object of your serious time and effort, that requires if not a daily, then at least a weekly, investment of time. When people sustain their wealth but seem like money is no object, it’s all an act. Don’t be fooled by the calm swan performance on top, those little feet frantically paddling below are exactly what you need to be doing too.
Good luck babe, and may you, not your relationships or your gender, define your life path.

Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

Related Post