Got Privilege? maybe you do, maybe you don’t.. it depends…

upside down?

You hear lots of talk about ‘privilege’ — and, for the most part it’s a discussion that should have happened a long, long, long time ago…

The tricky thing is that privilege is relative — it depends on the context a person finds themselves in…

For the most part, if you’re caucasian, heterosexual, cis, male, and in the religious majority – you probably have the whole privilege bingo card played out… but, oddly enough, most people AREN’T all of those things.

Having privilege doesn’t mean that you automatically get MORE of something — but, rather, you’re FREE from a kind (or kinds) of discrimination or other poor treatment other folks get — because of how they’re different from you.

So, white privilege is perhaps the easiest to tackle, identify, and talk about.

As a white gal, I don’t get some kind of super-secret ‘white-girl-extra-paycheck’ or anything — it’s just that some things are easier for me than they are for others.  I see that, and I think it sucks.  I don’t get strange looks when I shop in white neighborhoods.  I feel comfortable doing most things in most parts of the city.  I don’t have a nagging worry when I’m turned down for something that it was due to my race — I have the confidence to speak my mind on things in most situations — and when I look at TV, movies, advertisements, or even Barbie Dolls and band-aids, I see my skin color reflected in others.

I have some news for the other white folks out there — that’s not the way the rest of the society lives…

Perhaps, most important, when my step-son goes out into the world — as a white dude — he doesn’t have to be extra-cautious around police.  He’s free to make some basic mistakes without a good chance of being arrested or hassled.  This is the world he’s growing up in — a suburban white kid, into girls and hockey, tall enough now that he’s more or less adult sized, blonde, blue eyes, and generally handsome (he get that from his mom and dad, not me).  He doesn’t have generations of familial experience passed down to him telling him that if the wants to get recognition, he has to be THE BEST to get it, otherwise, he’ll be assumed to be a “thug” — or, that his position is due to affirmative action.

Sure, he needs to obey laws — generally be a good person, and if he’s not sensitive to privilege issues his dad and I will keep working on him until he gets it… but, he’s not growing up in a system that has a long history of laws that are uniquely unfair to him and folks like him.  He’s not growing up seeing movies and other media in which his ‘kind’ are the no-good, criminal, violent kinds — over and over again.  He sees that people like himself have been in charge of the major western civilizations for centuries — he sees faces like his own in Congress (although, if he ends up a Republican — we’ll have to have another talk with him 🙂 )…. In short, he doesn’t have a reason to think that most of the world hates him for who he is — so, that’s the face he presents to the world.

When my step-son sees media coverage of Ferguson (for example) he doesn’t see faces like his own being called “thugs” and “rioters” — instead, he sees faces like his own on coverage of sporting event wins and the stories are played out as if that’s just rowdy college kids doing their thing — (about the same thing as in Ferguson — setting fires, overturning cars etc..) but, for a much-less valid reason (winning a game — really!).

It’s stuff like that, the subtle yet insidious messages sent by our society that some people are more OK than others — that’s the root of privilege.

I’m not sure what to do about it — I’d like everyone to enjoy the world in the ways I do — when my privilege is appropriate…. and I know change is hard, long etc — and I know that non-whites and other folks (GLBTQ folks, for example) have made huge legal advances in my lifetime… but often it seems like that’s not enough to shift the culture… and it’s the culture that’s the real problem now…


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