Answering Some Questions about Privilege
Happy New Year everyone! I’m only 6 days late. With the close of 2015 and the exciting New Year upon us, I’m sure everyone has given thought to what they consider their new year’s resolutions.
You may be thinking, “I’d like to lose weight,” or, “I want to travel more.” But I have an alternative option for you guys. It’s free, it’s productive, and you can do it alone. My suggestion for everyone this new year, mixed or not, is to evaluate your privilege.
Oooooh, touchy subject?
This past week, I had the displeasure of reading a TIME opinion article titled, “Why I’ll Never Apologize for my White Male Privilege,” and it got me thinking.
First, if you read the article, this young man clearly has no grasp on what the term White Male Privilege means. More people should be aware of what privilege is. Second, there’s more than just WMP in the world. There’s all kinds of privilege. People should know what they are. Finally, people should know the true purpose of acknowledging one’s privilege.
So here are some answers.
What is privilege?
From a standpoint of social inequality, privilege is an advantage given to a particular social group over another. In America, the clearest form of privilege is white privilege. Now, some of you might not agree with me than white privilege exists (as is seen in the TIME article). It was in my scholars colloquium at UMD that I heard a young Caucasian female get very angry at the concept, saying, “I find it insulting that you’re invalidating my life struggles because I’m white!” Thankfully, my roommate kept me from having a word with her.
I’m going to come right out and say it: white privilege is real. It’s alive. It’s all around us. The chattel slavery system in America was very unique, in that black people were being actively oppressed and held back during the formation of a new country. Heck, they weren’t even given full citizens rights until the 60’s. You cannot truly expect everyone to be on equal playing fields when schools were segregated a mere 51 years ago. (Voting Rights Act of 1965) This is a white person’s world, people. Look around any magazine (Ebony and Essence don’t count) and tell me how many women of color you see? How many black leads are there in TV shows? Just look at CBS as a channel. I could probably count the amount of non white leads on my fingers.
Privilege is having statistically higher self-esteem because you have representation in the media. (Marques)
Privilege is when you don’t have a 1 in 3 chance of being incarcerated at some point in your life. (Kerby)
Privilege is when your race is more likely to deal drugs, but black people are more likely to get arrested for it. (Ingraham)
Privilege is thinking a problem doesn’t exist because you haven’t personally experienced it.
No one is saying your life isn’t hard. White privilege is the fact that you will not be actively discriminated against for your race. That’s all. No one’s saying you have a Caucasian patron saint guiding you through all of life’s difficulties, handing you things on a silver platter. Just acknowledge that you have one less obstacle than a person of color does.
So now, what kinds of privileges are there? It sounds like you’re just bashing white people, Skye!
There’s all kinds of privilege. Class privilege, color privilege, gender privilege, the list goes on. This is why I’d like everyone to evaluate their own privilege.
Here goes my privilege check:
I am mixed. Mixed people are often fetishized and seen as exotic. There’s so many situations where beautiful women of color’s physical characteristics are attributed to being mixed.
I’m thin. That’s privilege.
Both my parents went to college. Privilege.
I was born in America. Privilege
I live in a relatively big house. Privilege.
I am able-bodied. Privilege.
I don’t have mental health issues. Privilege.
I’m light skinned. That’s privilege. Colorism is real y’all, and darker skinned people experience more discrimination than I could ever imagine.
I’m not trying to brag here. What I’m trying to do is give you some examples of ways you can evaluate your own privilege.
So what’s the point in creating these classifications of privileged and unprivileged? It seems like it’s just made to pit people against each other.
The point is not to create an “us vs them” mentality, which I see so often in social justice spheres. The point of a privilege check is to understand that other people have things happening in their life that you will never relate to. You couldn’t imagine some of the struggles that others go through. So when you are interacting with others, consider your privilege. Consider their life. Instead of thinking about what you think you know, think about what you don’t know. Their problems. Their lives. Their struggles.
If you have any questions or comments, you should definitely leave them in the comments section OR you can email me (link is in the sidebar). Don’t be afraid to let me know what you think, I love discussing viewpoints like this.
Ingraham, Christopher. "White People Are More Likely to Deal Drugs, but Black People Are More Likely to Get Arrested for It." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.
Kerby, Sophia. "The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States." American Progress. N.p., 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.
Marques, Michelle. "Watching TV Can Lower Children's Self Esteem, Study Finds." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 23 June 2012. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.