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Why You Need to Know Your Privilege

With the election rapidly approaching I think that this would be a very appropriate time to talk about privilege.

This past weekend I got into a conversation with a friend about our personal views on world issues and how they played into this upcoming election. Towards the end, our conversation had escalated to a strongly worded, loud volume debate. By this point I was feeling incredibly frustrated, and made the statement “the only reason you are supporting this candidate is because you are a white, cis-gendered (meaning your self conforms with your biological sex), heterosexual, wealthy male, and those are the only people this candidate will ever represent so that’s all you care about.” To my absolute surprise he replied saying, “yeah you’re right, but at least I admit it”.

My initial thought was okay at least you’re admitting it. However this was interrupted by my second thought, which was how absolutely screwed we all are for this upcoming election.

Confused about why I just told a story about a political argument and not one about privilege? Well this is actually the perfect real life example of privilege.

Lots of people hear the word privilege and automatically assume that it means you’re spoiled, or that you’ve never had to work for anything, or that you’ve never faced hardship. They often become defensive because they feel as if they are being accused of doing something wrong. This often means that they don’t understand what privilege is. While you CAN’T control the privileges that you have or don’t have you CAN control how you use them.

 

In the simplest of terms privilege means having a set of unearned rights solely because you fall into a specific group. For example since I am a straight, white, cis-gendered female I will never face the same struggles that those in the trans communities, African American communities, and gay communities face every single day. This doesn’t mean that I agree with these injustices, or believe it is okay for society to treat others in these communities differently. I didn’t choose to be born white, straight, or cis-gendered and I do not wish to live in a world where those who are not born like this are treated differently. But I acknowledge it exists and that it’s messed up and that I should be actively doing something to make a difference.

Why is it important to know your privilege? There are three types of people in this world: people who are completely oblivious to their privilege/ denies its existence, people who know their privilege but do nothing about it, and those who know their privilege and use it to help others.  Therefore in order to use your privilege in a way that benefits society you must first need to recognize the privilege you were born with.

So lets tie this back into my story about last weekend. When I made the statement about all the unearned benefits he had solely by being born into all those categories he said yeah you’re right. Maybe that was his first time his privilege was ever brought to his attention. Maybe it wasn’t. But acknowledging the privilege you have is the first step to making a difference. It is so so so important to use you privilege in a way that positively impacts others. Or else your just feeding into the system of oppression that’s in place.

During this election season, more than ever, I urge you to take your privilege into consideration. Acknowledge the benefits you have and think how you can use it in a way to make a difference in the lives of others. Think about your privilege before choosing a candidate and consider how they are going to benefit not only your community, but other communities as well.

 

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