I think of life kind of like being in high school, but if you were signed up for every single club. You graduate 8th grade and get shoved into the door of OPRF, your name on every club, group, and sport’s sign up list. From 8 am to when you go to bed, no 3:11 break, it’s all club after club. The only chance to get any free time is if you quit the club. This requires an awkward conversation with the group leader. It’s uncomfortable. It takes a lot of guts to walk up in front of the class, in front of friends, people you respect, and tell your superior that the club they run just isn’t for you.
Here’s the catch: you get re-signed up every day. Every hour. Every second.
Some clubs are easier to quit, and some are harder. It depends on your friend group, which teachers you have and which you like, what you identify as, your skin color or gender, the way you were raised. Some clubs you don’t even know you’re in. Some of them can benefit you, and those are the hardest to leave. Some don’t benefit you or harm you, but they’re comfortable. They’re all you know. Freedom, radical subjectivity, finding the true meaning of life, comes when you quit all of the clubs. When you get to go home at 3:11, that is what Camus calls freedom and happiness. Unstructured and un-systemized life.
There’s a racism club, a sexism club, a homophobia club, a xenophobia club, a club for every system, every prejudice, every discrimination – no matter how small. It’s so, so easy to stay in the club, to continue thinking the way you have been since you were born. It’s so easy to hold your privilege in your hands and simply not acknowledge it. It benefits you, it makes your life easier, so why get rid of it? Why feel guilty for it? White privilege is like that. Every day we with white privilege have to consciously make the choice to acknowledge it. We have to see it in our hands and look it straight in its face. We have to be aware of it in every word, we have to quit the club with every sentence.
It’s also easy to stay in a club that harms you. As a woman, I have never once stopped believing that all genders are equal in value, ability, and validity. Yet, as a woman, I have fallen victim to self-image issues enforced by society. I have been influenced by gender stereotypes. Quitting these clubs, the ones that target you, might seem easy. And for many, maybe it is. But the truth is that the work is grueling. Picking apart your identity and seeing what weeds have taken root there, what elements exist that you did not approve, is hard. Quitting these clubs is saying goodbye to something toxic, breaking away from a poison, yet in order to do so, you must be confident enough in yourself to know that you are different from what all of society tells you you are. That is no small task.
Opt out every day. Take your name off the sign up list every second. Maybe one day, some clubs will dissolve. It’ll get easier to opt out until it’s a subconscious process. Not all of the clubs will disappear, we’ll never be free from systems. But some of them don’t harm anyone. And the ones that do, we can burn down.