Benefits: Redefine and clarify the word “privilege.”
So That You Can: Begin to recognize and accept your own privileges and focus on being grateful for them.
Go From Inspiration to Action With the Worksheet Below!
Stop Worrying About Privilege and Be Grateful
You are privileged. If that statement made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up a bit because you feel offended or ashamed in some way, stick with me! I’ll explain why I say this. Plus, I’ll explain why it’s important for us to recognize, understand, and accept our privileges.
I was inspired to write this post because I’m sick of hearing the term privilege, especially “white privilege,” thrown around as if anyone knows what it even means. All this term does is lead to misunderstandings and preconceived notions that widen the gaps between us.
So I offer this post to encourage Deliberate Thinking and increase our collective understanding of what it means to be privileged. In addition, I hope that we can stop worrying about who is and who isn’t “privileged” and focus on being grateful for the many privileges that we have.
Privilege Isn’t the Problem
Our definition of privilege and our response to the word is the problem. As a society, we are allowing this word to steal our power. Let’s take our power back!
Your power lies in admitting that privilege exists, accepting it as part of the human condition, and understanding how it impacts your life and the lives of the people around you. The first step toward taking your power back is understanding the response(s) you have when you hear the word privilege.
Your response to hearing the word privilege could be to deny that you are privileged. Okay, I think I understand where you’re coming from, but I think this response is based on a different definition of privilege than is commonly used today, so we’ll discuss that.
Another response could be to realize that you are privileged and to then feel guilty about it. If you can objectively look at privilege without becoming defensive (which is extremely hard to do by the way), you’ll see that privilege is nothing to be ashamed of. More on that to come.
Yet another response could be to blame someone who you perceive to be more privileged than you for your lot in life. Honestly, I can’t speak to that response from personal experience because, in my opinion, I have experienced a lot of privilege in my life. So, I won’t address that response other than to say:
When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
— Dr. Robert Anthony
Lastly, your response could be to accept that you are privileged and to choose how you are going to use that privilege to realize your full potential. That’s the response we want to have!
We Are Not All Created Equal
Before we can accept our privilege(s), we have to be able to admit that we are not all created equal. We don’t all need to be treated the same way. We don’t all need to have access to the same opportunities.
And that’s okay! If I say, “Men and women should have equal rights,” what I mean is that men and women should have the same options to choose from and should be given reasonable access to the same opportunities. But, if I, as a woman, want the same opportunities a man has, I have to be willing to accept the terms that come with those opportunities. Why? Because men and women are not the same; we are not created equal.
Case in point, I don’t have the natural, physical strength that most men my size have. That’s just a fact of life. Could I gain comparable strength if I were willing to? Sure, but I’m not willing to, so I shouldn’t expect to have equal access to opportunities that require physical strength.
Let’s take this example a bit further. If I want to join a men’s hockey team, I have to accept the terms that come with that opportunity. I’ll have to take the same hard hits as the men. I’ll have to be able to shoot the puck as hard as the other players, or I might not get equal playing time. And I’ll have to be ready to take a punch in the face from an opposing, male player.
Although I should be given a chance to prove myself, I shouldn’t expect the team to give me equal playing time unless I put in the work to get stronger, and that work might be harder for me than it is for a man. I can respond by saying, “That’s not fair”; or I can respond by accepting it for what it is and exercising my equal right to pursue something that I’m better suited for.
Can These Hockey Players Deny Their Privilege?
The Common Definition of Privilege Has Changed
There’s No Need for Shame
Again, Privilege Isn’t the Problem
Where Do We Go From Here?
Only Have 1 Minute
The Privilege of Being Normal, Doug Muder, The Weekly Sift, 7.22.19
The Distress of the Privileged, Doug Muder, The Weekly Sift, 9.10.12
How ‘White Guilt’ in the Age of Trump Shapes the Democratic Primary, Astead W. Herndon, The New York Times, 10.13.19
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