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Poem: 'Privilege'

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Samer Ghani
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People in Milwaukee and across the country are protesting over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minnesota police custody.

Along with the discussions and marches for Black Lives Matter, another phrase people are learning more about is “white privilege.” It’s a term that refers to the inherent advantages that come from being white — in a culture with pervasive and enduring racial inequity.

As a white man, our poetry contributor Shaun Ranft has been reflecting on the recent protests and he asks other white people to do the same. 

privilege is
being able to say
all lives matter
while living out your day,
while being without fear.
while breathing without care
as another struggles for air.

they deflect
from injustice.
they remove
from confrontation.

those. three. words.
just a vicious reaction
to those who simply want
to be treated as human.

privilege is
being able to wake up
without constant dread in the back of your head.

privilege is
being able to write this
without ever knowing how dangerous it is
just to breathe; just to be.

passive discomfort
isn't an excuse for
silence.
potential confrontation
isn't an excuse for
injustice.

privilege is
being able to choose
to do nothing.

but yet, you tell yourself
those. three. words.
all lives matter...

because you don't have to care.
because you don't have to fear.

they serve as a blanket,
shielding you from the grim reality
that dares to alter your ideals.

disingenuous at best,
irreparably harmful at worst.
that's privilege.

we see the faces,
we hear the voices,
but we choose silence
because it soothes.
and it's long past time
to convert comfort
into confrontation.

privilege is
being able to decide
that you don't have to decide.

and that's power you can't buy.

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Shaun Ranft is a writer living in Milwaukee, Wis. He wrote for and managed the online sports publication The Sports Post, and is a sports contributor for Lake Effect. However, now that the sports website came to an end, Ranft is getting back to his more creative writing side as a poetry contributor. When he isn't at his day job, Ranft finds time each day to scribble something down and eventually workshop it into a poem.