Privilege

Privilege.

Somewhere, someone just cringed.

No one likes hearing, directly or implied, that they have privilege.  We don’t like hearing that our race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, or other factor we have no control over, somehow gives us an unfair advantage.

“Privilege” brings to mind partying frat boys.  People who have had everything handed to them on a silver platter, possibly with a side of Beluga caviar.

We think, “Well, that’s not us!  That couldn’t possibly refer to us!”

Or, we defensively rattle off the ways in which we’re disadvantaged.  We grew up poor.  We didn’t go to college.  Our parents had issues.  We have issues.

 

Unfortunately, none of these factors eliminates the pervasive influence of privilege.  Where we might be deficit in some way, – say, economically or by a lack of higher education – we still have privileges to which we could easily remain blissfully blind.

To be conscious of our privilege, we have to be made aware of how oppression – the unfortunate flip side to privilege – plays out in other people’s day-to-day lives.  To do that, someone has to point out our privilege to us.

I’ll give you an anecdote from my life, because I know this concept can be hard to understand without an example.

I once posted to Facebook that I drive like there’s a cop behind me.  I was using this to describe how carefully & safely I try to drive.

A friend, a female person of color, commented that driving with a cop behind her – real or imaginary – made her incredibly anxious.  It was her experience that, when the police were behind her, they were going to pull her over.

I was floored.  I hadn’t thought of that, because, as a white woman, I don’t get racially profiled every time I drive to the supermarket.

She called me out on my privilege, &, to be honest, I couldn’t be more thankful for it.  It gave me the opportunity to see things from a perspective that privilege’s insidious nature covered up.  I stopped, took a breath, recognized that her lived reality was different from mine, & that what I had said was hurtful in ways I hadn’t intended.

She called me out on my privilege & I appreciate her more than I can express for doing it.

 

Being told that we have privilege stings.  I know it does.  However, people call us on it to say there’s a problem with society, from which we’re – through no fault, attempt, or even consciousness on our part – benefiting & under which they’re suffering.

They’re saying that what we’ve said or done has hurt them because it highlights ways they’re treated differently, they’re treated poorly, by society.  You don’t mean it that way, because you don’t see that side of it.  Our privilege shields us until someone tells us how it is.

What we do with that information after it’s brought to light… that’s under our control.  What will you do with your privilege: ignore it, deny it, or fight against it being used to hurt others?  Those are your choices.  Do the right thing.

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10 thoughts on “Privilege

  1. I’m very privileged as a white male. The areas in which I am marginalized are much less initially apparent than my privileged status as a white male. It is something I try to keep in the forefront of my mind, before I judge any situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good!! It’s hard to see it, sometimes, when we’re part of the privileged group, that what we’re saying is, well, privileged! But, keeping it in mind, & thinking about to whom you’re speaking, are great steps to fighting such a wily foe. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having lived in and traveled in a lot of the world, my privilege is very apparent to me. I would have to be blind to not see it. I’m a white woman of a certain age, and, though of very limited resources by US standards, I have the privilege of traveling and leaving behind that which I don’t like, and had the privilege of working around the world simply by virtue of being born to the English language. I can change my life with the cost of the travel to the next country. This is the privilege I am most aware of when I travel. Almost all of the people I see over the course of a day have very few options. And emigrating is but the farthest of dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! That’s incredibly self-aware. Still, some people struggle with it, even when they see how others struggle. Even when they’re told they have privileges. Maybe they want to be blind to it? I don’t get it, to be honest.

      Your travels sound amazing. 🙂

      Like

      1. Thanks. I can understand why people who struggle with poverty, ageism, sexism, and society’s other phobias, can be a bit defensive about being seen as privileged. Having come up in poverty, I get it. It helps a lot to have lived in places where your own poverty is anything but. Perspective is everything, I guess. Thanks for your post.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I totally understand that too. But, we all need to try to see things from the perspectives of others (no matter how hard it might be). I think your world-wide experience must have been illuminating in ways I can’t even imagine.

        Thank you for your comment!! It really has given me more to think about & I’m so grateful for it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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