Privilege is often a fact of unconscious bias. How do we deal with it?
“Privilege is a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.”
To be privileged is not a failing, it is a fact of your birth and circumstances. I personally have not been very aware of privilege, as an issue. Yet it critically affects so many lives.
I always believed that to be privileged was to be rich. Yet privilege is about those advantages that society gives to you because of the group/s you belong to, your language, how you look, your education, communication ability, gender, or even your physical being.
Privilege is something which is often unseen and not noticed by those who are privileged – this is all normal to them.
Privilege causes discrimination. Recognising it and reducing its effect on others must be our focus.
There are many aspects to privilege.
I am neither wealthy, nor highly educated. I did not have rich parents. I do not belong to any secret society, or political party. Yet, I am personally privileged by my:
- Choice of education.
Physical ability. (I can hear, see and have all my limbs. Others do not have those advantages.)
- Gender. (As a male I am unfairly shown more respect, will be first in line for job opportunities, get paid more than others.)
- My sexual preferences. (As a heterosexual male, I am unreasonably more respected and do not have to tell anyone of my preferences.)
- Race and colour. (As a white person – I am seen to be trustworthy and honest, will be first in line for job opportunities and will get paid more than others. Many others are denied, or judged only on their appearance.
- Where and how I live. (Others have far less than I do.)
- Age. (I unfairly get more respect than younger people do.)
I may find many reasons why I am not privileged, but nothing can outweigh the fact that I was born into many forms of privilege. Yes, I have social privileges that others so not. This is simply unfair and is social discrimination of the worst form.
It does not make sense to remove privilege from one group and bestow it upon others.
So in accepting my obvious privileges and the lack thereof for others – what will I do to change this unfair status quo?
- I will speak to others who are as privileged as I, to reduce their fears, and help them to understand.
- I will be open to listen to others, to understand their lives and their pain.
- I will stand up to injustice, wherever I find it.
- I will continue to use my advantages – in particular my abilities in languages, communication, race, colour and gender to build respect for all.
- I will work towards ensuring that all humans are equally respected, so that harmony, equity, equality and respect reigns in the world.
So how are you privileged, and what can you do to increase opportunity amongst the less privileged.
23 November, 2015.