Overcoming Your Own Privilege

As a white, Christian, CIS, straight, able bodied, male university student born on stolen land, I have a significant amount of unearned privilege. I’m less likely than other people to be stopped by the police, harassed on the street or bullied. I’m often given more time to speak and people are less likely to interrupt me, and various other benefits that I may not even be aware of. In a society that has deemed all these things to be “normal” and relegated everyone else to “special interest groups” or minorities for so long, anyone who doesn’t fit into the small box of “normal” is given less of a voice.

I’m not saying that people who don’t have these privileges have never succeeded, and I’m not saying that having these privileges is the ONLY reason someone might succeed; however, as someone who benefits from these privileges, it is important to acknowledge that it makes things easier for me whether I like it or not. This is the point where, I feel, a lot of people get stuck. They say, “So I’m privileged, what can I do about it?” Or, “It’s not like I can give my privilege away.”

It’s true, you can’t simply give away your privilege, but you can start by acknowledging that your life is easier because of things you did not earn and most importantly, you can listen when others who do not share this privilege are speaking. If you ever catch yourself taking your privilege for granted, ask yourself this:

  • Have you ever been stalked, catcalled or harassed on the street?
  • Have you ever been pulled over or arrested because of your skin colour?
  • Have you ever been bullied because of your sexual orientation or gender?
  • Have you ever been punished for speaking your own language?
  • Have you ever been treated like an outsider or a danger because of your religion?
  • Have you ever been barred entry to a country because of where you were born?
  • Have you ever felt like the police posed a danger to your safety when you did nothing to provoke them?

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but try to consider how things might be different for other people who do not share the same unearned privileges, and never speak over them when they share their experiences. Privilege blinds us to the way the world truly is, and the only way we will see is by listening.

 

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