Sunday, October 18, 2020

Concerning Privilege

 There's a scene in Long walk to Freedom that really crystallizes and brings home the idea of privilege:

"On the first day we arrived, I was issued long pants, because I am Indian South African, but my leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were issued short pants because they were black. At breakfast, I got more sugar than blacks with my tea, and I was issued a quarter loaf of bread daily, whereas Mandela did not receive any bread for the first 10 years of our prison sentence." - Ahmed Kathrada reflecting on his time on Robben Island.
No rational person can say that prison for Ahmed Kathrada was not difficult or that he did not struggle, but his skin colour afforded him advantages that were not extended to fellow inmates who were incarcerated for similar crimes. He didn't get long pants because of good behaviour, or sugar because he broke more rocks in the quarry, but simply because he was indian.
I think about my privilege and the platform I have to discuss it. I think about power dynamics and how that influences my relationships, professional and personal.
One of my favourite sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is 'None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.'
That saying took on a deeper meaning after the birth of my son. I have to imagine that every parent wants the best for their child, just like how I want the best for Sami. Shelter, food, security. We do what we can with what we have. I have to keep checking my biases and privileges to ensure that not only am I grateful and keep working on humility, but I also recognise my role to support others and love for them what I love for myself.

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