On Privilege

I want to preface this post by saying that I’m going to be making comments and generalisations about various groups of people. I am not in any way saying that there is anything inherently bad about individual members of any of these groups. So, please, read this post without taking offence or getting defensive. I am not making judgements, just stating simple facts. 

What exactly does privilege mean? According to the definition below, it is ‘a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.’

As you can see, the definition does not state that you can’t have multiple privileges. In fact, it’s quite common to be privileged in more than one area. It’s also possible to be privileged in one area while lacking privilege in others. And if you take only one message from this post, it’s this: lacking privilege in one area does not somehow ‘cancel out’ being privileged in others. 

I am White. Though technically I’m mixed race, my looks and skin tone mean I’m treated as white and so benefit from white privilege. I means white people are not automatically suspicious of me when I walk down the street or enter a shop. It means I will receive better medical treatment than someone with the same disability as me, but who happens not to be white. It means I would have a higher chance of receiving a formal autism diagnosis. It means so much more than this. I avoid so many micro-aggressions every day because of my white privilege. Again, this does not mean I’m a bad person, it does not make me a racist. It simply means that I benefit in certain ways merely due to my skin colour and perceived race. And it’s important for me to acknowledge this and try to help those who don’t have White privilege. 

I am female. Again, technically I’m not, I’m mostly non-binary. But I do not stand out in any way as being non-female and so am treated like one. So, in this way, I lack Male privilege. In interviews, I would be less likely to get the job. And if I did, I would likely be paid less. I am more likely to be seen as emotional, weak, and unable to be an effective leader. Just today, I read about how period pain is worse than heart attack pain but ignored as it doesn’t effect most men. (I say ‘most’ as obviously trans men can suffer from period pain.) There are so many advantages that are denied me due to my lack of Male privilege. But, again, that does not negate my white privilege. 

There are so many different forms of privilege. In addition to white, and male, some of the more obvious ones are heterosexual, cisgender, educated, middle-class, intellectual. I could add so many more. But I think you get the point! 

Again, I am not saying that you are “to blame” if you benefit from privilege. But I do think it’s important to recognise it, to examine it, and to think of ways to help those less privileged. And if we all do our bit, perhaps we can chip away at the systems that keep Privilege in place. Maybe it’s naive of me to think that, but I do think it’s worth trying anyway. And the first step is simply to recognise and acknowledge the privilege that we hold, whatever that may be, and not to go on the defensive when people point it out to us. 

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