By Kerri Romeo
While questioning who she may have become since her fall into the rabbit hole, Alice could not bear the thought that she may have become a girl from back home with lower intelligence living in a humble home with fewer possessions.
“I must be Mabel after all, and I shall have to go and live in that poky little house, and have next to no toys to play with, and oh! ever so many lessons to learn!” (from Alice in Wonderland, Chapter II)
Oh Alice. Your privilege is showing.
After vacillating over the concept for an “understanding politics” project I finally launched The Wonderland Campaign (on Instagram) on May 20, 2020. Children’s stories are full of universal themes and inclusivity was to be one of the most important objectives for the project, along with learning to understand politics, history, spirituality and more.
Then on May 25, 2020 the Black Lives Matter movement re-surged after the death of George Floyd and the character of Alice, a white girl from a decidedly affluent background (with adaptations adding blonde hair and blue eyes) along with the white rabbit and my white dove* inspiration felt glaringly inappropriate. Obviously Alice in Wonderland isn’t as universal as I wanted to believe. Is Alice the child version of a ‘Karen’? Am I? Oh Kerri. Your white privilege is showing. I felt embarrassed and ashamed and was going to scrap the series for one that was more diverse. Or better yet, just keep quiet altogether.
And then I listened.
What I heard was not to go about proving my solidarity with a more diverse image while still not actually understanding what needed to change; What I heard was the rationalization that I was protecting black people from their discomfort when I was actually avoiding my own discomfort. What I heard was not to shrink in guilty silence. What I heard was be willing to recognize white privilege and the system that has been created and perpetuated as a result of it. Four months later, I feel like we are still not getting it. Fifty-seven years later we are still not getting it:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action...” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. (from Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963)
So I decided not to trade in or silence Alice BECAUSE of her privilege. Because of my privilege. Because of your privilege? She won’t allow us to get too comfortable. And she will unapologetically expose our truth as she continues through her journey to a place where her special advantages hold no power.
Some may reason that they relate to the less prosperous lifestyle of Mabel more than the more financially (and emotionally) entitled Alice and therefore cannot fit the description of privileged. Others may hear blame in the term white privilege.** Some will point out the exceptions (their successful black friend or colleague or our former black president). While others will look at the violence and turmoil around us and believe we were just better off quiet.
`and things are worse than ever,’ thought the poor child, `for I never was so small as this before, never! And I declare it’s too bad, that it is!’
The situation looks hopeless for Alice as she finds herself once again too small to reach the golden key. Our situation may look pretty dire at times as well. But every time we choose to look away we shrink again. Every time we choose fear over compassion we shrink again. Every time we choose to fight one other rather than corporate and political power we shrink again. Every time we deny who we are (no matter what class, race, religion or gender) we shrink again. Every time we say ‘wait’ we shrink again. But we cannot give up. Even Alice eventually makes it to Wonderland.
Continue your Wonderland Campaign journey with the next article: Tears or Fears
*Remembering the white dove in my story was the only presidential candidate who proposed a plan for reparations https://www.mariannenow.com/issues/the-reparations-plan
**I found this article helpful for clearing up some misunderstandings I had about white privilege https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2018/what-is-white-privilege-really
Kerri is an advocate for the introverted activist. Often at a loss for words in person, she writes to make sense of the world and connect with others. She wishes for more curiosity & kindness in the world.