Privilege has been a hot topic in the news and online lately. We are not talking about privilege in the sense of, “I’m so privileged to be able to go to the store and buy bacon whenever I like,” even though that is a privilege. We’re talking social privilege in the sense of “a special right or advantage available only to a particular person or group of people.” (source: Wikipedia). Things like being strait, or white, or a man. Things that you cannot change or can’t really gain, if born without them, without going to extreme lengths.
By the way, saying that someone “has privilege” is not to say that they have a perfect life or even have an easy life. It simply means that in that specific area, they are ahead of the pack in a particular way/don’t have to worry much about particular social issues.
I could try to explain this, or you could go read this Wikipedia page about it, Google it, or watch the podcast I included below. I strongly suggest listening to the podcast, which is by a guy named Kirk, who is a Japanese-Swedish American man. He does a fabulous job of explaining where he has social privilege, and where he misses out on it. For example, by nature of being bi-racial and appearing non-white, he has experienced a lot of racism. By nature of being a strait man, there are a lot of things he doesn’t need to worry about.
Here are some examples of my privilege:
- I am white.
- I am cis-gender. In other words, I identify easily with the gender (different than sex) that was assigned to me at birth.
- I am heterosexual.
- I was born in a first world country.
- English is my first language.
Here are some examples of where I miss out on privilege:
Why do I bring this all up? Because recognising that some people are simply ahead of the pack at birth, before doing anything at all, helps us be more empathetic and kind. For example, if someone says to me that they have faced discrimination because they’re gay, I’ll probably have an easier time listening to them and not projecting my own experience as a strait person onto their story.
Basically, recognising our privilege helps us see things from other people’s perspectives and breaks down misconceptions about “what it must be like” to be them… which in turn makes us more caring people, and more willing to help those in need.
I hope this all makes at least a little bit of sense. Have a nice day, everyone!