Let’s not sugar coat things. Privilege is out there, and it sucks.
It sucks if you don’t have it, because you are systematically denied the advantages and opportunities that people with privilege have. And as a result, you have problems that people with that privilege would never have, and most frustratingly, often don’t even have the experience to understand.
Of course, if you are a decent human being with actual feelings, privilege sucks for you too, because it makes you feel guilty. You know what I say to that? I say, seriously?! Boo-hoo! How sad and hard it must be to tackle that burden of guilt! I don’t mean to be mean or anything, but the truth is that the worst thing that faces those with privilege is the washed out emotion of “feeling guilty.”
That’s not to say that privilege is a cut-and-dry concept. It definitely isn’t. The planes of privilege are vast and complex, but the first step to unravelling it all, is to understand it. So consider this a surface-level crash course in the nuances of privilege.
For example, I have some privileges that make things easy for me — such as physical safety or access to an education — but I am also acutely aware that in other areas, I am woefully underprivileged. Whenever I find myself sad or frustrated, I remind myself, “I’m feeling down while people are living at the rock bottom,” and that I don’t have the right to victimize myself, because I am still utterly privileged. On the flip-side, even when I’m feeling completely on top of the world, I like to remind myself that I have an unspoken duty to prioritize helping those who don’t have the privileges I have. I remind myself that there is a need for me to help and raise awareness for the lives of the people without the privileges that I enjoy on a daily basis.
There are so many different types of privileges: Economic privilege, White/light skin privilege, the privilege that comes with your country of origin or your passport, functional family privilege, and so on. To give an often overlooked example, if you have the means to earn a living or board a plane, that was made possible by a form of privilege. The point is, though, every privilege has a different level of impact and importance in changing lives. For example the privilege of growing up and learning two languages is cool, and can help you in high school, but that is achievable for a lot of other people as well. On the other hand, if you aren’t born in what is considered a “developed” country, or if you’re dark-skinned, you most likely have to endure A LOT more obstacles than anyone else, whether it’s at the hands of the police, or a bigoted president who wants to ensure that the dominant population of the country he oversees remains White.
Most of us have at least one or two privileges, and a small number have all the privileges. Fun fact: those same people with all the privileges run the world, and make everything, from laws to taxes, go in their benefit. Maybe it’s time to give a damn about everyone else?
Why? How do I know this? Look around you. Look at the world we live in. Why do we have climate change? Why are people forced to leave their homes? Why do we have actual, honest-to-God concentration camps? Why are women still protesting for their rights? Why are so many people suffering from mental illness? Why do we still have wars going on?
All this aside, we can all make a difference. Every small act matters, whether that means speaking up when we witness injustice, or through our buying power, or even through our votes. Because, yeah, those in power don’t really seem to be helping those who need it the most. But then again, who’s giving them their power?