Great thoughts, Amli! I largely agree that one’s level of privilege determines the level of justice they can expect… or even can circumvent (e.g., white-collar embezzlers who get shockingly light sentences). I also think we can all agree, especially, with the highlighted part. (Although I haven’t noticed anyone acting like Anne Frank’s story was the only one or the worst?)
One thing I’ll have to agree to disagree on, though, is the idea of Otto Frank as “privileged.” Money and status are, sadly, of limited help in the face of racism. After all, even though the Franks had more money than some other Jewish families had, Otto Frank and his family still fell victim to unchecked, race-based, state violence. Granted, privilege isn’t a simple binary, but even along a continuum, I’d say that a person who has to hide for years in an attic on pain of death, and who eventually gets arrested by corrupt authorities and shipped off to a death camp, doesn’t qualify as “privileged.” The fact that Anne’s diary itself survived, when so many other diaries didn’t — confiscated by the Nazis, or burnt in the carnage of war—is also largely a product of sheer luck.
Regarding the popularity of her diary, I imagine that a huge reason why it found such a large audience was because, quite simply, in the immediate aftermath of WWII (publication date: 1947), people were fascinated by precisely that subject. It was published at a timely moment, and unlike other Holocaust memoirs, it was both somewhat relatable to and largely appropriate for adolescents. Hence its enduring popularity in grade school curricula.
… Not to mention, sadly, that the underlying social problem highlighted by Anne’s diary — the idea of an affluent, Western, industrialized society allowing its bigotry to run unchecked against its very own citizens and neighbors — is still a lesson that many readers in affluent, Western, industrialized societies need to hear. (At least that’s my take on the popularity of Anne’s diary.)
There are definitely other brutal stories, and those stories also definitely deserve to be told. The questions become: How to find those voices? How to keep them safe in the telling of their stories, particularly when others might want to silence them? And how to find the appropriate audiences for those messages?
I agree that we need to hear more of them. As I said, “curricula in everything from ivory-tower sociology to […] elementary and middle schools do need to be more representative. And I agree […] that societies that are dominated by whites tend to navel-gaze at the experiences of Europeans, to the detriment of more equitable (and realistic) representation.”
Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, Amli!