Kassandra, Oh Kassandra — An Open Letter To The Privileged

Detail from the painting “Priestess Of Delphi” (John Collier, 1891)

This is an “I told you so”…

.. but not a gloating one that revels in the fact that I knew what was coming. This is a tearful, devastated and desperate “I told you so”, one in pain about all the foreseeable and preventable, unnecessary suffering that unfolds now. It’s not even my “I told you so” specifically, as most of what I say is echoing people more marginalized, more affected and more desperate than me, to whom I listened, who had the grace to teach me, and whom we should have listened and should listen to in the first place. The “We” I’ll be talking as recognizes that I’m just a small part of it, that it’s not just my story to tell and I’m not just generalizing from my own experiences. As such, I’ll also be speaking to myself and the privilege I held and am still holding.

Detail from the painting “Priestess Of Delphi” (John Collier, 1891)

We told you so.

We told you about what you do, about who it harms, about who it forgets and neglects. We told you about where it will inevitably lead. You did not want to listen. It was uncomfortable, it contradicted the bubble of self-righteous praise and glory you wanted to see in yourself and that we were not able to penetrate. Not with words, not with tears, not with blood, not with our deaths. Your privilege means that you can just ignore us, that no matter how you treat us, how you think about us, you won’t be the ones to suffer the consequences. You can justify, you can argue, you can outright dismiss, all without a leg to stand on, without being accountable to reality and the truth, because the privilege you wield is so powerful that it bends reality. Because reality is a negotiation between people, and if you can just ignore and silence people, can exclude people from the table entirely, reality can be everything you want it to be. And so, as long as you agree with each other, you can soothe your consciousness, you can keep the lie alive that lets you keep on destroying yourself and others and still feel like you’re doing the right thing, like you’re one of the good ones.

We told you where your thoughts, your words and your actions will lead and how one emerges from the other. You denied us. It’s just words, you said, they can’t harm anyone. All the slurs you use for your own emotional support, they’re not meant to hurt anyone, you keep saying. We’re all equal, you don’t see race, you don’t see gender, you don’t see disability. You want it to sound like you truly see all people as being of equal worth, but that’s a lie you need to convince yourself of even more than us. The effect is literal: You don’t see us, you don’t want to see us. It would just wake you from your luxurious slumber. You’re Dorian Gray, smitten with your own reflection and horrified of ever having to face the truthful portrait of you. It would have cost you little and it would have saved your humanity to at least listen. But you didn’t.

And now even you bear consequences. Though your hardship is nothing in comparison to what consequences we have to suffer. To the most marginalized and vulnerable of us your ignorance and indifference is a deadly threat at the best of times. But now, during a world-wide pandemic, which hasn’t even reached its peak yet, and climate change just getting started, both of which your greed and comfort have enabled to run rampant, to come down like judgement day on people already sucked dry by the vampire of colonial, imperial and capitalist exploitation, all the loathing you have for us, that was obvious in your thoughts, in the way you spoke about and to us, that you handwaved and didn’t want to be bothered with, it has become deadlier than ever before. Eugenics are back in full force, only the worthy will survive, and the worthy are those already privileged, while the old, sick and unwanted will be sacrificed. All the distinction in human value in your thoughts and words, that you wanted so hard to not mean anything, they mean everything. It’s exactly those lines along which it is being decided who may survive and who will perish.

You may want to avoid accountability and culpability once more, pointing to the laws of nature, where the strong survive and the weak succumb. But this is not the work of nature, this is your doing. It’s the doing of your ancestors, an inheritance you were all too happy to accept and maintain. It’s human made, it’s not a natural, it’s a purely human social issue. The path you chose could only lead to this outcome, no matter how much of your privilege you used to convince yourself that it wouldn’t, or worse, that it would be a good thing, or at least a thing that happens to other people. And we told you so.

Signed,
You Know Who

Detail from the painting “Priestess Of Delphi” (John Collier, 1891)

Since this is pretty abstract still, and I didn’t want to sign in the name of the most affected people whom I hold privilege over, I will mention us here explicitly, just so you’ve been told:

Black, Brown and Indigenous People Of Color,

Sex Workers

Disabled And Chronically Ill People

Queer People And Marginalized Genders

Elderly People

Poor And Colonized People

All Othered People And Especially Everyone Intersectionally Belonging To Multiple Or All Of The Above

Detail from the painting “Priestess Of Delphi” (John Collier, 1891)

*please let me know if you find this list incomplete or otherwise lacking

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Cat Harsis

Cat Harsis

Just a polynary person (they/them) trying to make sense of the world and share their insights. @ purecatharsis on Facebook/Instagram, @puRRcatharsis on twitter