POET: Adam Falkner
PIECE: Definition of Privilege
TOPICS DISCUSSED:
Race, Whiteness, Privilege
SUMMARY:
Recalling childhood, Falkner grapples with white privilege and his relationship with Black culture.

Key Lines/Phrases

Key Line/Phrase
Discussion

“Not having to think about something sounds like an amazing privilege.”

While the artist states that color doesn’t matter to him because he never thinks about it, the professor states that the simple act of not thinking is itself a privilege. The professor’s response indicates her belief that many people of color and/or strong/culture can’t help but constantly think about how the effects of racial dynamics have affected everything in their lives. These effects can range from the neighborhoods they live in, to the type of friends they are able to make and feel accepted by and even the jobs and opportunities they are presented with.

Full Transcript of Poem

Full text of Poem would go here

In-depth Analysis

Adam Falkner’s The Definition of Privilege is an incredible piece which illustrates the complexity of white privilege with both subtle and brutal outcomes. The power of this poem lies in Falkner’s honest attempts to conceal, deny, or transgress whiteness, only to realize that these decisions or even the decision to not think about this performance is in itself a privilege. The introduction of this poem sets up the bravery to “write into the spaces” which folks are usually silent about, allowing audiences to consider the lack of discourse about white privilege……

Follow-up Resources/Discussions

Resources
Discussion/Follow-up Questions

http://www.nyclu.org/files/publications/NYCLU_2011_Stop-and-Frisk_Report.pdf
(NYCLU Report covering Stop and Frisk Statistics)

This report by the NYCLU reveals that NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Program disproportionately affects Blacks and Latinos relative to the population. While Blacks and Latinos make up only 52% of NYC’s population, they makeup 85% of the stops. Whites account for only 9.3% of the stops while making up 33.2% of the population.

To the key message of the poem, it’s easy not to notice color when no one is holding it against you—and even allowing you a pass because of it. However, when people are using it against you, it’s exponentially more obvious and memorable. Hence, not having to think of race is a privilege afforded to those who have not negatively been affected by it.

Follow-up Sociology questions:

  • Is it ethical/legal to use an aspect of one’s personal identity against them (race, clothing style, piercing/tattoos, etc) even though they have committed no crime?
  • Does collective safety trample individual rights? In what cases is it acceptable to violate an individual’s rights in the name of public safety?
  • Is racial profiling an effective police technique? And if so, is it worth the cost?

Artist Comments

This space is reserved for any comments the author of the piece may have about the points he was trying to get across and the background of why he wrote the poem.