Erina Pearlstein is an educator who shared an ‘aha moment’ about power and privilege which pierces through the veil of excuses that perpetuates marginalizing groups of people. Erina’s ‘aha moment’ reframes the conversation about who has power which translates to privilege over another. Erina asks the pressing question, whose behavior are we excusing when people are not held to task on abuse of power based on privilege? I am reprinting her post with permission, gratitude, and deep respect.
I wanted to share an aha moment I had this morning…
When folks bring to the attention of the general public the danger of a certain group of people (such as White women, cis men, police officers, etc) there is often a swift, defensive outcry of, “NOT ALL [insert group here]!!!!!!!!!!!!”
The thing is…we all know that it is “not all [insert group here]” that commit these outward acts of violence, discrimination, or hate. What we need to acknowledge is that all the members of that group have the POWER to make decisions that disenfranchise others and have the ability to do it with little to no accountability.
When a police officer murders an innocent civilian through excessive use of force or deadly use of a weapon, only to keep their job and pension and not face criminal charges, and then the response is “NOT ALL COPS”, we ignore the fact that ANY cop could have extinguished a human life and faced the same lack of consequences.
When a White woman calls the cops on a Black man after he asks her to put her dog on a leash in Central Park and we say, “NOT ALL WHITE WOMEN!” we ignore the fact that ANY white woman could have used her power and privilege to intimidate a person of color simply by calling out the color of their skin.
When a man forces his subordinates to provide sexual favors in return for earning a promotion or even just keeping their job and we say, “NOT ALL MEN” we ignore the fact that these power dynamics that have existed since the dawn of time could be manipulated by ANY man without consequence.
This is the world we live in. There are identities in this world that are marginalized by the systems and structures perpetuated by those who have identities that align with power, with the mainstream. If we want to course-correct for this lack of accountability, we have to dismantle these systems and take accountability for ourselves and each other. Especially those of us whose identities are largely mainstream identities (I say as a white, cis, hetero, upper-middle-class woman).
The next time you consider saying the phrase, “NOT ALL [insert group here]”, pause, reflect and consider whose behavior you are excusing and how you may be perpetuating a culture of oppression instead of holding people to task.
Bio: Erina Pearlstein grew up in the Philadelphia area and began her career in Philadelphia as a music teacher after graduating from Westminster Choir College with a Bachelor’s of Music in Music Education. She worked as a K-8 music teacher in the School District of Philadelphia before moving to the charter world to teach high school. Through her experience in the charter world, she took on many teacher leader roles in her school. She also continued her studies, earning her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and Special Education in 2012 from Holy Family University as well as her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Gwynedd Mercy University in 2017 before becoming an Instructional Coach for two years. She is currently pursuing an Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Gwynedd Mercy University. She is thrilled to be transitioning back to the School District of Philadelphia to bring her love of learning to the teachers and students of the great city of Philadelphia.