“Check your privilege” is not a phrase meant to invoke guilt or anger at your own situation but to recognize your standing in society and how others are affected by it. It is not an easy thing to accept when someone first tells you that you have privilege because it calls forth the notion that you have not experienced hardships. It is beneficial to understand that while you may experience hardships, they may not be due to the color of your skin or sexual orientation. The information discussed was introduced through my Women’s and Gender Studies class and this topic states that certain people have more privilege over others, and recognizing that can help dismantle the stereotypes society places upon these privileges.
There are two types of privileges: daily and systemic.
Daily privileges are faced throughout regular life that others may not take into consideration because they are not affected by it. For example, as a white, cis-gender woman, I can see myself on TV commercials and advertisements more frequently than people of another race or ethnicity. The lack of representation may not be noticeable if you are not looking for it. Another instance is going to a hotel and that shampoo and conditioner offered only works well with certain types of hair, mainly those with straight hair.
Systemic privileges are deep and institutionalized. For example, they affect people of color more than white people. An article by The New York Times documented a case where a married couple consisting of a black woman and a white man was trying to sell their home. The house should have been worth more, but the appraisal fell short of their expectations based on the other homes in their neighborhood. They decided to have it appraised again, but this time they removed all aspects in the home that could be considered “black.” The result? Their house was worth more than 40% from the first appraisal.
Both of these privileges are easily recognizable by those who are educated on what it means to have the privilege. Privilege is something you cannot help; it is not something you earn. Not only does it have to do with the skin color, but also with numerous other parts of your life. Your wealth status growing up is due to your parents and what privileges they hold in their lives.
As a white woman, I have certain privileges over women of color. However, as a woman, men have more privileges than we do. It is a privilege to walk home at night and not have to worry about being harassed or be put in other sorts of danger. It is a privilege to not carry pepper spray, hold keys between your fingers, or let your friends track your phone when you go out on your first date. Some men will argue that men endure these issues too, and while this is true, the point is to explain that they hold certain privileges over women in general.
The key is to not deny that you have privilege because that only reinforces it, not lessens the effects. There is also the concept of a “progress narrative.” These narratives create the idea that everything is fine, and we don’t have to worry about these issues anymore because “we have come so far.” Yes, women have more rights than we did just last century or even last decade, but there are still problems in society that inhibit the growth of true progress.
Privilege needs to be recognized and talked about for it to dissipate. Allowing yourself to learn about your standing gives you the push forward to dismantling it.