Privilege can often be a tough subject to breech, even with well meaning and generally Liberal minded folk. The mention of White Privilege causes an instant defensive reaction, a kind of venomous rejection, a bristling hostility.
But why? Why should it be so? The concept of being born into privilege or of privilege existing is not some strange bizarre concept, some SJW liberal fantasy concocted to spread guilt and blame. Privilege is part of society, it always has been, in every culture, since the dawn of civilization, and we all know it. We are all born and raised supremely aware of the privileges we do not have and those that others do.
Some cultures has a formal and institutionalized system of Privilege known as a Caste System.
Most of us would hardly argue that there is a privilege associated with being born into a wealthy and well connected family, or into a higher caste. The fact that such Privileges exist is so clear and obvious that it seems absurd to even argue against it. Being born into wealth and connection will make getting a good education and landing a good job easier at the very least, but most reasonable people will even go a step further and readily admit that being born into a wealthy and connected caste will also usually mean the Law treats you better, you have better housing, better food, better healthcare, etc. Being born into wealth goes a long way towards becoming a financially stable young adult, able to start a family, buy a house, own a reliable vehicle, travel, and most of all, screw up, due to the safety cushion your position affords you.
Most of us also recognize with ease the privilege of being attractive. Some people are just, well, hot. Those people are treated better, networked with more eagerly, they are more likely to get promotions, more likely to get better offers, and more likely to attract mates who also have those benefits. Most of us who are merely of average beauty can see this privilege play out all throughout our lives. Again, the existence of this privilege is so clear and obvious that it goes without saying for most people.
Who would even deny that Wealth Privilege and Beauty Privilege exist?
Well, the Wealthy and the Beautiful, that’s who. Surely you have noticed the tendency of wealthy people to staunchly defend the fact that they are self made successes who earned what they have through hard work. Likewise most Beautiful people are loathe to acknowledge they are probably better off at work and in the social lives than they would be had they been less fortunate in the genetic lottery. To get an Attractive or Wealthy person to look around at their life and acknowledge that the privilege of their birth or genetics has granted them boons can be incredibly difficult, despite it being so obviously to the rest of us.
The lesson here is that while people are great at recognizing the privileges they don't have, they are terrible at admitting to the ones they do.
If we can all accept that being born into wealth and being born attractive can confer undeserved privilege, it is really so crazy to think that being born White (the dominant race in this nation for 500 years) or that being born Male (the dominant gender for, you know, all of human history) might, just might, confer some level of advantage?
Now I am a White Male, and I am fully aware of the privilege I have. It is not as great as the privilege of being wealthy of course, not all varieties of Privilege are created equal, but non-the-less, it undoubtedly exists.
I want to take a moment now to make it clear that there is nothing at all wrong with being privileged. There is nothing wrong with being born rich, or beautiful, or white, or male. We all want to be beautiful and successful and wealth and respected and some people being born with a leg up on that race is just life, and is not a mark in anyway against the quality or character of those people.
But if this is not about shame or assigning guilt, then what is the point? What function does this concept of White Privilege even serve? It is about awareness, awareness which can inform actions, which can create incremental change over time. It is about learning to recognize privilege, how it affects our lives, and making small day to day changes to help level out that privilege, make the next generation a more equitable one in what ways we can, moving towards a better tomorrow, as humans are always doing.
There is no shame or guilt required to recognize your Privilege and work in small ways towards helping others overcome their lack of privilege.
What are your thoughts? What are some examples of White Privilege that you’ve seen play out in the real world? Leave your comments below, I look forward to productive discussion.