Many of us talk about privilege but do we really think about what it is and the affect it has on our world?
Privilege is preferential treatment on the part of the system towards certain individuals based on identity traits such as the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or national origin, socio-economic status and other identity such traits. Privilege is generally invisible to the recipients yet starkly visible to those denied the same privileges. Privilege inherently means that some are offered these privileges while others are denied.
For privilege to sustain there much be some rational as to why the system of privilege functions in the way that it does. Generally these explanations are ubiquitous in all messages projected upon the populace. For example, the explanation of class privilege is that poor people could just pull themselves up by their boot straps, and therefore it is their fault and they are lazy, and thus wealthy people deserve to be on the top of the economic classes. One more example related to heterosexism privilege is that the bible states that homosexual relationships are immoral and thus it is acceptable to discriminate against such individuals.
As individuals who embody privilege, yet who acknowledge that the explanations are ludicrous and that the system of privilege leads to oppression and pain, we must speak out against the system and fight against the privilege that we are granted. The system of privilege certainly damages the lives of those who are denied privilege, but also wreaks havoc upon the lives of those who accept the privilege as well. An example of this is the concept of 'White guilt,' which is related to the long history of White privilege and has many negative effects including damaging the minds and souls of Whites, and strains relationships between Whites and People of Color.
The system of privilege is so ingrained in our thinking and in our lives that the privilege has infiltrated out laws and legislation for as long as laws and legislation have been around, at least in the USA. A current example of this is the fact that it is legal to discriminate against people who do not identify as heterosexual in housing and other realms of society. A more historic example is that we only valued Black citizens and African citizens two thirds of the value that we gave White citizens in the voting process. There were many more subtle forms of privilege related the voting process, but this was a clear and overt way to give White citizens more privilege than Black citizens.
Personally, I strive to fight privilege in my thinking, words and actions and despite my education and consideration of this issue, I still must work at it and don't always succeed at recognizing when am accepting privilege or when it is occurring in front of me. At other times, I recognize it, but due to the systemic qualities of the practices, I sometimes find it hard to fight. But I strongly believe that my actions make a difference in the world, and I am dedicated to use my times and energy to make a positive impact on the system and the world. I believe we must speak—no shout out—about the privilege that exists. We must fervently illuminate this oppressive system that damages our collective peoples, if that means not accepting the job promotion due to privilege, or if it means shouting about this important issue from the rooftops –we must not give up!