Check Your Privilege
Do you skip lines? Do you take up two seats on the subway? Do you feel safe walking home alone after midnight? Did you get that job without going through the whole application process? Did you grow up in a Western or English speaking country? Did you assume your parents would cover your university bills? Do you expect to be treated well because of the color of your skin or eyes? If so, it is time to check your privilege.
You may be asking, “What is privilege”? It can take many forms: your gender, the color of your skin, the country you’re from, the clothes on your back, the way you speak, the suburb you live in, what school you attended, the numbers in your (or your parents’) bank accounts – the list goes on. “But I didn’t ask for those things, I was born this way,” is a classic excuse. People may naturally acquire or inherit privileges, but what matters is whether or not they choose to benefit from them maliciously.
Whist you have been benefiting from your privileges, it is highly likely that you’ve made someone else’s life unjustifyingly worse off. Too many of us are selectively blind to our privileges, and it is frankly making this world a sickeningly tiresome, unfair and disappointing place.
The more you’re threatened by the word “privilege”, the more you may be dependent on your own. So set up an intervention for yourself. The sooner you face the facts, the sooner you will educate yourself about being considerate to others who have had to go through struggles that you couldn't even imagine.
How do we check our privileges correctly? By being honest with ourselves.
I have ‘English-speaker privilege’. The English speaking world, which is the dominant one open to me, means my chances of employment and high standards of living are almost guaranteed. Many immigrants search for these opportunities, for themselves and/or their children, without having any English skills. Whilst I can stand up for myself when I need to in English, they cannot. I can use my English privilege to stand up for those who have not had the opportunity to learn.
I have ‘pretty privilege’. I realize people are not averse to my physical appearance, and thus I realize the majority of them will treat me ‘better’ than another person that may not have this characteristic. This privilege can, sooner rather than later, be a burden when unsolicited male gazes feel like a violation or when catcallers turn into stalkers. I can use this privilege to explain to others that this behavior is unacceptable and perhaps stop it from happening to another person.
I have privileges – characteristics I cannot change and in some instances, don’t necessarily want to change. Nevertheless, I will try my absolute best to not use them to take advantage over someone else. I realize that others who do not have my privileges may have it harder than I do, and I need to be considerate of this. I hope people that possess privileges that I do not will think about my situation before they judge or tread over me. Believe it or not, you do not live in a vacuum. You are part of a much greater whole. Are you making that whole better or worse?