You don’t want to be called out on your privilege… but the fact of the matter here is that, if you have to question whether or not you are privileged, you most likely are.
Please don’t take this as an attack: I am a privileged person too, and I’m not saying that you’re a bad person for being privileged. Many things that determine privilege don’t even fall in our own control, like race, ability, or sexuality. However, if you are privileged, you need to acknowledge it and do something with it to help those who do not house your privilege in their own lives.
The first mistake that is often made in assessing privilege is that it is not solely about race or financial income. These are two big components, but nowhere near all of them. There are so many facets to privilege, and components having to do with each facet, that make privilege a complex label to throw around quickly. Some facets are heavier than others, which can make the analysis of privilege confusing. The intersections between different facets of our identities are extremely valuable and largely overlooked as well. Never fear, IIB readers, I’ve got you covered.
Let me break down for you how I look at privilege, as I said in my Odyssey piece titled “Intersectionality Matters Because Our Identities Are Not So Simple.” Here is the actual list from the article discussing the major facets of privilege in my eyes.
Race: Is the color of your skin the one that is most predominant in your country of residence? Have you ever been the only person in a crowded room of your skin-tone?
Ethnicity: Is your ancestry that of many people in your country of residence?
Nationality: Is your nationality the same as many of the other inhabitants of your country of residence? Are you an immigrant? Are you a child of immigrants?
Gender: Are you a part of what your country of residence’s society considers the “superior gender”? Is your gender identity one of the two genders of the traditional binary system?
Sexuality: Is your sexual orientation considered the norm in your country of residence? Can you kiss your romantic partner in the street of your country of residence without facing backlash or discrimination?
Socioeconomic Class: Are you financially privileged? Do you come from a family with higher education degrees? Is money a concern in your family?
Ability Status: Are you physically fully able? Do you suffer from a chronic physical illness? Do you suffer from a mental illness?
Size: Is your body the size that is considered “normal” in your country of residence? Can you easily find clothes of your size at popular stores?
Religion: Do you practice the predominant religion in your country of residence? Do you practice the predominant religion in the world?
First Language: Do you fluently speak the language that is predominant in your country of residence? Is your first language different than that of most people born in the country that you were born in?
There are many other aspects to privilege, way too many to fully list or count, but here I have a few more that come to my mind (aside from those that I listed above/in my Odyssey piece).
Name Pronounceability: Is your name easily pronounceable in the area that you live? Do people usually pronounce your name right on the first try? Do people make assumptions about you because of your name?
Family Structure: Are your parents together? Are both of your parents still alive? Do you have living family members? Does your family look uniform physically? Is your family structure what would be considered the norm in your area of residence?
Health Care Access: Do you have easy access to health care? Can you get medical attention easily when you are sick? Are you able to get cosmetic health luxuries like dental braces?
Education Access: Are you expected to attend college/university? Or would you be the first in your family? Can you attend elementary/middle/high school? Are you able to be fully devoted to being a student? Are you encouraged to get an education? Is it fully possible for you to get a good education?
Dietary Restrictions: Is the way that you eat common in your country of residence? Can you easily find foods that you can eat at popular restaurants or grocery stores?
Hair Type: Is the texture of your hair what is considered to be normal, or beautiful in your country of residence? Do popular or standard hair products work for your hair type? Are you societally expected to hide or change your natural hair?
There are so many other components that could be factored into talking about privilege, so many that I cannot even think of. Some of the above-mentioned questions are derivative of a larger facet that is stated above, and some may not be broad enough to even really have a facet. Privilege is complex, not just about being Black or White, rich or poor.
I’d like you to consider this: how can you help those who are not privileged in the areas that you are? Can you be an ally? Can you be an advocate? Can you be an activist? How?
Here’s another bit for thought: in the areas in which you are not privileged, what can you do to help yourself and others who are not privileged in this area? Is there anything you can do? How do you do it? Is there nothing you can possibly do? How can you cope with the effects of this lack of privilege?
I think that if everybody genuinely played with these two clumps of questions and took action with their answers, the world would start becoming a better place.
Stay tuned for a piece in which I go through this list and break down the facets of my privilege.
Lots of love and fight on,