Recognizing that you have a clear, societal advantage over your peers is never comfortable. Especially when you may have struggled immensely to get to where you are in the world. However, it is important to recognize when you possess privilege so that you do not abuse the power it gives you. Having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person. Using it to harm, or erase the experiences of others can.
White privilege is simply a set of benefits that white people have which prevent them from systematically being oppressed by another minority group. Because of the slave trade in the first hundred or so years in America (and much longer looking at the world as a whole), white individuals were seen as being socially superior to black individuals. Even after slavery was abolished, white people continued to (and still to this day) benefit socially from the effects of racism.
For example, statistically, it is much easier for white people to get job offers, even if a minority competitor has the exact same qualifications. In some cases, these privileges go unnoticed because they are so ingrained into our minds as being a normal thing that happens, causing frustration when these privileges are called out. But the fact of the matter is, there is privilege everywhere! Able-bodied neurotypical people have privilege over disabled people. Men have privilege over women. Citizens have privilege over illegal immigrants. White people have privilege over people of color.
With great power comes great responsibility. While privilege has the potential to hurt people, it can also be used to help others. Able-bodied people can use their privilege to build wheelchair ramps and support wheelchair accessible businesses. Neurotypical people can help tutor individuals with learning disabilities on subjects they need more time with. Men can advocate for women’s rights along side their mothers, sisters, and friends. Citizens can vote in favor of laws and policies that will protect illegal immigrants and refugees from being wrongfully deported. White people can speak out against racism and prejudice, and stand beside their non-white brothers and sisters to make the world a better place for them too. See? Good can come from privilege as long as a conscious effort is made to use it to benefit minorities.
Saying you are privileged is not an insult. It is just a warning and an observation. Special care must be taken to use privilege in a way that will help your peers.
Fight fire with fire. Fight privilege with privilege.
Until next post,