Andrea Gibson Performs ‘Privilege Is Never Having to Think About It’ — Everyday Feminism

Andrea Gibson Performs ‘Privilege Is Never Having to Think About It’ — Everyday Feminism.

Constance…this is a great post, and should make you think.  The link takes you to a performance…I am posting the poem here in transcript form, and the decisions about line breaks are mine…if it is good, credit to Andrea Gibson and if it is bad blame to me.

Give some thinking about privilege, cus chances are, all of us who have WordPress Blogs likely do indeed have some privilege as well…but I will let you figure out how that works!

Charissa Grace


This poem has two working titles. It might end up having five working titles.
The first one is “Privilege Is Never Having to Think About It.”
And the second one is “Touring with a Black Poet: For Sonya Renee.”

She steps out
of the hotel bathroom dressed to the nines —
stilettos sharp in her glossy, glossy,
elegant, tailored, boom glittering,
a bold burgundy neckline —
locks her shining eyes on the worn t-shirt
I haven’t changed in days and says,
“Are you going to wear that on stage?”

I smile,
gloating in the cool of my gritty apathy,
the oh-so-thrift-store of my dirty grunge.

She says, “honey, do you have any idea
how much privilege it takes
to think it is cool to dress poor?
You wear that dirty shirt;
you are a radical saving the world.
I wear that dirty shirt,
and I am a broke junkie thief
getting followed around every store.”

That conversation happened years ago.
On the same tour where Sonya watched
me pay 75 bucks to have my hair
cut in a way that would make me look
like — quote — like
“I couldn’t afford a haircut.”

The same tour that began
the day after I was the feature performer
at a university’s women of color symposium.
No, I did not ask whether or not
featuring a woman of color instead.
Yes, I got paid. I’m pretty sure it was a good paycheck.

Just like
I’m pretty sure someone licked the paycheck
when Trayvon Martin’s gun range targets
got sold out in two days.

I know those things are not exactly the same

I know I wanted to burn
every noose white seam of our cotton flag
when Trayvon Martin’s mother
was on the witness stand
trying to convince a jury
of mostly white mothers that
she could actually recognize
the sound of her own son’s scream.

I know I wanted to
split the fucking sky
when I heard
the whip of the verdict
and Sonya had posted online,
“How many different ways
can this country tell me
I am worthless?”

I know it was right then
that I walked upstairs and started counting
the hoodies in my closet. I have fourteen hoodies
that tell me I will never be forced
to dress a wound as deep as my mother’s heart.
She will never be woken in her sleep
to peel my body off gated grass,
to beg God to sew the hole in my chest.

I know my family will never
have to hear justice, say it wasn’t
until I was lying in my casket
that I was wearing the right clothes.

I know a woman
who once knew a woman
who collected the metal collars
they used to lock around
the necks of black children
to chain them to the auction block.
I was told
she hung them
on the walls of her home
for decoration.

I remember when I used to believe
that was the entire definition of racism.

Believed there was no one
hanging in my wardrobe.
Believed my style
had nothing in common
with king Leopold’s.
Thought I am not
outfitting the Congo
in spilled blood.

I am just buttoning up my shirt here.
I am just rolling up my sleeves.
I am not unstitching the face of Emmett Till.
I am not unzippering the wail of his mother’s grief.

The laces of my shoes are just the laces of my shoes.
They could not tie a body to a tree.
I am not fashioning a noose here.

Sonya, do you hear me?

My compassion is not a costume.
My passivity is not hate.
My privilege is not genocide.
This is just how I cut my hair.
That was just how they cut the check.
This is just how I dress.

Your wound.

I don’t even think about
what I wear.


Days and Nights and Nesting Dolls

We walked in that old thrift shop musty,
dingy light seeping around stacked shag carpets
and formica tables piled high with bakelight plates.
It smelled of dried rain and wet mildew.

It beckoned us luridly, promising hidden treasures
squirreled away in dank depths and skinny aisles
piled high and tippling.

Your eyes glinted with purpose and glee
like Sherlock Holmes on the case,
so I resigned myself, Watson-like,
to the chase and followed
your dashing red boiled wool coat
and white fuzzy stocking cap deeper in
to the belly of this lazing laughing thrift whore—err—store.

And sure enough your squeak of discovery
morphed into a squeal of delight
and you held up your find like Aphrodite
holding up her heart to Adonis’ ruby thirsty gorgeous lips,
and you possessed, moved demi detourné
and grinned gleeful in the tight aisle
when changement you spun to hand me
your thrifty trove plunder…wait…

Russian nesting doll?

“Oh Charissa!!”  You spoke softly
but your sotto voce rang in my heart booming
cus you know that place big and special
that only you live in and call my Lady’s Chamber…
“It’s soo you!” You cooed and fussed in total committed certainty
that this odd intricacy was me.

It was wood, golden glossy with painted folksy face

…and it was male??  Wait.  Whaaaat is…?


You saw me, my confusion in this
the only time in my living memory
you had paid this shell more than
the passing glance and haughty sniff

we all share at how uncooperative
our bodies can be, and your smile
more tender than all the leaves of every Beech and Birch under the moon.

“Oh Sweetie, let me tell you…these dolls…you…well,
there is a history here, right?
Tradition carves these, dolls within the dolls within the dolls
until the core and look!  Just open it up, ‘kay?”

My eyes were blurry and my nose felt raw
rubbed in rough coarse handkerchief flesh
oversized and clumsy and inside my lil toes
throbbed hard in hurt stomped ache
from what you had not done ever
and yet had brandished that day
in triumphant tinkling delight…

but behind your insistent excitement
I saw awareness, I saw your pleading strong
ask of my trusting heart open to you
there and waiting…

So I took it, I felt
its smooth warm grain
inviting and fairly singing
of mystery and glad discovery
and with a last foreboding look
at your face illumined I twisted it open
to find the waiting center was another doll like the first
and painted gaily and it was female…il_340x270.514347819_kdil

and when I looked inquiring
if I should open it too,
your fierce nod was
in time to the trembling
of my hands as meaning
washed me and when
I twisted it open
the skritch of the wood turning
sang together with your
smothered cry of joy in me…

..and I saw the small girl I am
but never was and inside
the baby whole and of one piece…
“See?? I told you, Charissa! It’s SOO you!”
And with that, you pushed past me
like winds pushing past the windmills
and me turning in your wake
to follow you to the place
of purchase and presentation.

I sit and stare at those dolls…
I remember that day when you were here
and our short time was forever and our poor spouses weary
from our fevered pursuits so fueled by that find
and so eager for our next parable-mystery tracked out…
and all the days since, and

who knew that so many dolls
could fit in so many days?
So many you’s in me and me’s in you
as we walked us the streets of life together
and laughed our way deeper inside
from me to you and back to me,
and us, nested there within.