When I came to the US from France in 1985, I had been used to be treated as low class, vulgar sex object because I had no higher education.

 Returning to France 15 years later, with increased social status from experiencing white privilege in the US.

Returning to France 15 years later, with increased social status from experiencing white privilege in the US.

When I came to the US from France in 1985, I had been used to be treated as low class, vulgar sex object because I had no higher education. Arriving in the US, everyone automatically assumed I was wealthy and educated. When I grew up in Belgium, people with working class jobs were proud of what they did, and while the class system was rigid, there was no great desire for most people to move up in society's echelon. This is not to say that there was no racism, of course. Remember the Belgians were the perpetrators of the greatest Holocaust on record, beginning during the reign of Leopold II, when we ravaged Congo and enslaved, tortured and killed 10 million of its inhabitants.

Though Belgium's riches are stained with African blood, Belgians were not confronted with this. In the US, however, colonialists killed the indigenous people and brought slaves from Africa. Colonialists and colonized now live side by side, and while slavery continues in the form of mass incarceration, propaganda would have us believe we are all equal. In this capitalist model, striving to climb up society's ladder is not only encouraged, it is forced. There is no honor in being at the bottom. Poverty is shamed and the poor are blamed. The white middle class disconnects and escapes in comforts accessible only to them, presented as merit, creating entitlement. I believe the physical evidence of systematic oppression of an entire segment of the population right under our noses, causes in many white Americans unconscious attachment to their privilege, that shows up as starry-eyed denial, like members of a cult, believing that everyone can be successful if only you work hard enough. Attachment to privilege is just like any drug; it prevents you from feeling your own pain.

The greater the attachment to privilege, the greater the underlying personal trauma. In Europe, I couldn't hide my trauma. My previous sexualization and lack of education were like a stamp saying "Cheap Whore Forever." I was used to judgment and negative projection, and in the US this turned around to positive projection and encouragement. I could do well and avoid feeling my own pain, because it was felt by my friends and neighbors who were arrested for no reason, and lost basic citizens' rights because of the arrest. The unfelt pain of the nation is handed to people of color through constant negative projection and bias in all its subtle and blunt forms.

Thinking of privilege as a drug and attachment to privilege as an addiction helps us to be mindful. 

M Becker