It's been a privilege

It's funny to me how many folks misunderstand the concept of "privilege". You can point out that certain groups have them and automatically people get angry and defensive. Let's get a couple of things clear:

1.) You are not evil just because you have privilege.

All privilege means is that some things are going to come easier to you than to others who don't enjoy the same privilege. A cactus isn't evil because it enjoys a water retention privilege over the hapless human that enters its desert. OK, that's a silly example, but it does make my point. The cactus has the odds stacked in its favor to survive the rigors of living in a desert better than a human.

2.) Most people have some sort of privilege

I am a Latina female. I do not enjoy the same level of privilege white women do. However I enjoy privilege as a heterosexual (I get to kiss my husband and call him sweetie without the fear of getting beaten up), middle class privilege (which isn't the same as upper class privilege, but it does mean that I can chose to not shop at Walmart and it only means a few less lattes at Starbucks - it doesn't mean not having enough food to feed my kids), educational privilege (which yes, I worked darn hard to get, but it does mean as a college graduate I have a lot more opportunities than someone with only a high school education, and worlds more opportunities than someone who never finished high school) and physical privilege (as someone who has all of her limbs fully functioning I have easy access to enter buildings without ramps, I don't need to depend on a helper to get around, etc.)

Now, going back to the first point, this does not mean that I automatically hate or am bigoted against LGBT people, people in difficult economic conditions, people who didn't go to college or people in wheelchairs. It just means that there are some things that just will come easier for me, things I may very well take for granted most days. I think the best explanation of privilege I came across described it as having cheat codes for a video game. Some tasks and levels are going to be easy for you while others might struggle with the same things.   

3.) Sometimes you don't get everything you want because you have privilege - but that doesn't mean you don't have privilege

This one drives me nuts. Privilege means that video game I talked about in the last point is easier, but it doesn't guarantee a win. People without privilege will have a harder time, but there is still a possibility a few of them can "win". Just because Privileged Person A doesn't get as far in life as Unprivileged Person B, doesn't mean the concept of privilege doesn't exist. The concept of privilege is more of a societal thing for one - stuff is harder for all the people who share person B's lack of Privilege across the board. And in general, people with person A's privilege don't have to put up with the same issues. Still not convinced? Still think if person B were a famous and beloved TV star he automatically is immune from not being part of a privileged group? Watch this and see what you think afterwards:



4.) Just because you find that your privilege is reduced or even disappears in some circumstances, if for the most part in the culture in which you live, belonging to a certain group gives you some advantages, guess what - you still have privilege (but don't worry, you still aren't evil).

No group of people of any race, color, religion, etc has a monopoly on jerks. White privilege is definitely a thing, but that doesn't mean there aren't people prejudiced against white people. However, you can fill a room (or neighborhood) for that matter with people who truly, deeply hate white people, that still doesn't mean you don't have privilege as a white American, because most of America is not set up the same way as that room (or that neighborhood). If there are more places where your race is an advantage rather than a disadvantage, then you have privilege. Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it doesn't make you evil, it certainly doesn't make those folks good, but it doesn't take away from the fact that you have privilege.

So what brought this on? Well on Facebook (I sometimes think Eris must be the matroness of that damn site) there was a conversation about an article in the Huffington Post about a man and his White Pride Month float in a parade. While some people agreed that the symbolism displayed was offensive, they also wondered why there is no White Pride Month or why history books don't spend 5 minutes talking about white people and their achievements.


I just needed another Star Trek reference

Maybe it's escaped some folks notice, but every month is White History Month, because the achievements of white people are constantly on display around us. Again, it doesn't make them bad for achieving! But it's not hard to find examples of white people doing well for themselves and it is still easier for them on a general societal level. History books don't talk about white people? So I guess they never mention the Founding Fathers ever, or any of our white presidents, not to mention white poets, artists and scientists. All reference to George Washington must have been dropped to devote an entire chapter to George Washington Carver.

Right.

Look, I'll mention it one last time I swear - you aren't evil if you have white privilege, but you still have it even if you are the nicest person in the world who never had a bigoted thought in their head if you are white. Don't go around feeling all guilty over it - that won't solve anything. But do recognize it, because perhaps that way, if enough people do, things can change someday. And we can all of us be fortunate ones.

Song pick for this post: Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival

6 comments:

  1. Kestril - calling you "friend" is a privilege. THank you.

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  2. Echoing Kallan's thunderous applause!

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  3. I agree with you, Kestril. I'll also add that with so many wonderful accomplishment by White individuals (you mentioned some of my favorites, I want to add Johannes Gutenberg because I'm biased). Anyhoo, I always shake my head when I see so many amazing things that can be listed, but people focus to show off the not so wonderful ones. Take Christopher Columbus and all his "discovery" ventures. The man was brilliant in the sea, but he was also a butcher. Yet, we find his statues all over the place and most kids ignore the errors of his ways.

    Our histories (and many times our pride) lack balance, methinks.

    P.S. I don't care for lattes, but when I go to visit you, you are paying for all the cheesesteaks ;-)

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