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The Value of Acknowledging Privilege

One of my favorite parts of college is having so many like-minded friends who I can have deep conversations with even in the most routine moments of our days. We’ve debated politics while filling up gas tanks, discussed religion while brushing our teeth, and analyzed our favorite poems while struggling to put sheets on our loft beds (which just so happen to be taller than we are). One of our more recent discussions arose during a late-night car ride and has lingered on in my thoughts.

We were lost and trying to find our way through some of the back roads of Covington when we began discussing the differences between entitlement, arrogance, and self-pride. We agreed that there is nothing wrong with pride in your work, your status, your possessions, or in any other aspect of your life so long as you are humble enough to understand the value and the privilege you have to be whoever you are and to do whatever it is you do.

Knowing that you worked hard for something is an amazing feeling and should be celebrated! Issues only arise when someone enters the realms of entitlement, arrogance, superiority, and condescension. The moment your pride is corrupted and evolves into looking down on others is the moment that your pride is no longer respected as a sense of accomplishment in your personal success. Feeling that you are somehow more deserving of praise, affluence, reward, or any other superficial or material thing is no longer a sign of self-love and self-appreciation but a sign of cruelty towards others. Humility should have a place in every action we take and every word that we speak. Humility lays the groundwork for mutual respect, collaboration, and basic human decency.

We backed this reasoning up with examples of people we have encountered in the past and how their actions illuminated the troubles that arise when people speak or act without acknowledging the opportunities made available for them to be able to obtain the wealth that they possess. We also shared examples of how people who are extremely privileged were taught to recognize their privilege but not to rely upon it. One example was a girl who never received an allowance as a child, having to find work for herself if she wanted to have spending money. She says that as a kid, this vexed her, but now she can appreciate the value of hard work and the difficulty of earning your own way in life. She expects nothing and believes she only deserves what she works for, a mentality I both admire and appreciate.

We concluded that you could be humble and proud without being arrogant and assuming rights of exclusivity on the unfounded basis of supremacy or superiority. It is important to know the value of your work and to know that if you enjoy reaping the benefits and privileges obtained by the effort you have put in, you should also realize and remember every doorway was opened for you by somebody else. For each opportunity you take advantage of, never forget that that opportunity is not open to everyone and that knowledge of personal privilege should be the cornerstone for your work ethic, pride, and overall self-awareness. 

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