Are you lost in your Privilege, or are you aware of what is around you?
A few months ago, I sat in a packed car with tinted windows overlooking the busy nightlife, well as busy as a scarcely populated village shopping centre can be. Amid our conversation, the person who had driven me home stopped talking and looked outside. There were two young men on a Boda Boda and two young girls standing next to them.
One of the girls had a baby on her back, presumably a younger sibling. Their body language was suspicious, and my companion pointed it out; how the girls drew maps on the ground and shifted whenever a grown-up passed by.
I might have jumped the gun on my assumption since I wouldn’t know what their conversation was about, but the sight was unsettling. These girls were young, probably in their early teenage years. These youngish men were perhaps in their late teenage years or early twenties.
In those moments, we sat in the car, watching their interaction, making conclusions about what was happening outside. I remember thinking how wrong that situation was. How uncomfortable it made me feel. I remembered stories of girls being raped by Boda guys for pads.
My perception of the situation was influenced by the things I have been exposed to. I had no idea what was happening, but in my head, I was concerned that the situation, which might have been entirely innocent, might have also been predatory.
I thought that these girls shouldn’t be there that these men shouldn’t be flirting with them. If possible, I would have walked into the situation and asked the girls aside to inquire if they were okay, if they were uncomfortable.
I projected my fear of predatory men on a situation I had no idea about, and I sat with it.
Acknowledging your privilege
“A drowning man will clutch at a straw.”
My projection of the situation was informed by many young girls who have to grapple with the lack of sanitary products. It is birthed by the fact that many families struggle to provide menstruators with what they need to get through their periods, whether it is information, products, or support.
This moment came with the realization that those young menstruators who seek assistance in predatory situations are driven by things that many of us will never understand.
“A drowning person will clutch at a straw.”
Looking from safe ground, it is easy to recognize the absurdity of this statement and its idea because of what use can a straw be? Over recent years, the word privilege has become common in most conversations on social media. People remind each other to check their privilege and speak from a place of privilege.
As much as this continued reiteration of the imbalance of life and how it affects how you see things continues to flood your timeline, it is easy to find yourself judging others for the straws they clutch on. Often, people hold on to whatever is available and closest to them. These things vary depending on the life each of them has been dealt.
From the outside, the things people do to survive or acquire the life they desire might seem like poor choices. In some cases, you end up thinking that you could have done better had you been in a similar position. The thing is, you are not in that position, you will never understand what that position feels like, and the relief these people seek is all they can get.
Your idea of the right decisions is something other people cannot fathom. They cannot imagine that some things are possible. So, when you look at how far they dream, the life they want, the idea of success they work towards, and the means they use to get there, it is easy to dismiss them as wrong, low, and vain.
You can only dream as far as you can see. The good thing is, you have all you need to expand your horizon. So, as you watch others with contempt in your eyes and ask questions with wonder, it is crucial to remember that their horizon guides them. If you want them to make better decisions, do the right thing, or dream bigger, you need to provide avenues for them to see the extent of all that is possible.
Exposure has a way of helping you reconcile with reality; you see things from your eyes and those of others. Watching people from a safe distance has a way of creating an illusion that you are better, and if you are bold in this, even for a moment, like me, you would imagine that if you could, you would walk into people’s situations and tell them what they are doing wrong.
In your mind, you are trying to save them from themselves. In reality, you are intruding into situations that you cannot understand.
While wanting to let people know that there is more out there, they don’t have to clutch at straws to survive, that as deep, vast, or hectic it might seem, the best way to survive is to find something more stable. Before walking into people’s situations and telling them that their efforts to save themselves from drowning might be futile, how about finding something they can hold on to and extending it.
Give them something better to hold on to, and they will let go of that straw that makes you so uncomfortable, and when you get them to safety, teach them how to swim. That way, if they end up in similar turbulence down the line, their expanded horizon shows them that they don’t have to clutch at straws or wait for someone to help.
They know because you took time out of your privilege to expose them to better decisions; to give them the resources they need to expand their horizon, that there are more choices out there. You show them that although the situation might seem bleak, they have everything they need to see things from a different perspective.
My privilege as a woman who passionately despises that some menstruators have to seek sanitary products in predatory situations is I can get any menstrual product I want. In this realization, I know that my anger does little to help if it is not accompanied by tangible actions that work towards providing better, more humane solutions to this problem.
The Kenyan Government has passed bills intending to provide menstrual products in schools, and like every other thing associated with the government, this has not been implemented, not effectively anyway.
Mwalimus Mind, through Limitless Existence, seeks to donate pads to high school girls, and the first drive is happening on the 19th of November 2020. We want to thank every person who contributed to the course; thank you for joining us in our anger and validating our passion.