Remember in “Princess Bride” the way the evil dude kept saying that it was “inconceivable” that someone was following them? And Indigo finally said, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

That’s how I feel about the word “normal”.

In the end, there isn’t really such a thing as “normal”, there is only average, but I’ll lump that general concept into what we call “mainstream.” Mainstream is pretty obvious. That is, the things that are “mainstream” about you are the things you don’t notice one way or another in your life or other people’s lives.

  • Do you notice that someone has a TV in their living room, or do you notice that they don’t?
  • Do you notice that someone eats meat, or do you notice that they don’t?
  • Do you notice that someone gardens, or do you notice that they don’t?
  • Do you notice that someone drives to do all their errands, or do you notice that they don’t?

This is a trick question, actually, because it depends on the environment you live in.

If you live in Winchester or Portland or Amsterdam, for example, you’ll have different answers than if you live in, let’s say, Jupiter or Aurora or Rome.

(And yeah, I’m being vague about what state or country I’m talking about.)

And even the questions I chose make the issue tricky, because those questions are ones that are relevant to my life. It was pointed out to me today (as I sighed about how it is tiring going against the tide, being hassled by coworkers and strangers and police and motorists for my very legal and peaceful choices) that no matter how many non-mainstream things there are about me, there are just as many mainstream things I could point out.

  • I’m white, and that’s a big one in this society.
  • I’m a pretty average weight.
  • I do not have hearing, vision or mobility impairment, nor major health issues.
  • I don’t have any food allergies.

This is veering off into stuff that is really more along the lines of what I talk about in a different environment, and I can’t claim that I meant to go here when I started this post. Yet I might as well continue at this point!

Some of the core things of my life that are not mainstream (veganism, bike commuting, living TV-less) are my choices, no matter the deep-seated ethics behind them (well, behind the veganism and environmentalism, anyway) that make them feel more like a necessity than a choice to me. Even if I say that I would choose to starve to death rather than cause the death of another (no matter how melodramatic that sounds, it is my reality), that is itself still a choice.

The color of my skin is not a choice. Neither is the atmosphere I was raised in. The privilege I grew up with and live with now is (mostly) not.

And though the veganism and environmentalism are ethics rooted so deeply in me that I can’t conceive of being separated from them, they are pieces of me visible only when I share those pieces to those around me. That, perhaps, is where choice comes into the picture in my own reality.

I might be tired sometimes of this inclination that seems to take me against the current, but I can take a breather any time I choose. The color of my skin makes a great camouflage.

And that, no matter how hard I can try to put myself in the shoes of those who don’t have the luxury of being oblivious to white privilege, is something I make use of so unconsciously that needing to put effort into recognizing it merely highlights how deep white privilege goes.

On a blog I just recently discovered, an aid that aired in South Africa was posted which really slams home what racism would look like and feel like for those of us who are “white”, and how arbitrary it is. This is the kind of thing that I think “white” Americans really need to think about and absorb. We have a lot of learning to do. We talk the good talk much of the time, but that doesn’t excuse us from the real effort that needs to be made to uproot the unconscious prejudices that are planted in us pretty much from birth. Even if that prejudice is expressed primarily by an unquestioning acceptance of white privilege, it is there, thriving, until and unless we make the effort to see it, recognize it, and uproot it.

I’d also love to see videos like this done to show other kinds of arbitrary oppression. Like one that shows what it would be like if men were the victims of sexism, or if heterosexuals were denied basic rights given automatically to GLTBS/GLTTBS (I recently learned that there is a debate as to whether there should be one T or two (transexual/transgender), so I’ll use both abbreviations), and really that list could go on for a long time.

Well, make of it what you will! I found it powerful, myself.