Privilege is something that you are born into and which gives you an advantage over others. It exists because of the power structure in place that has allowed for the dominance of a privileged group while creating a marginalized group that is viewed as inferior. Privileged groups are those who have greater access to power and resources.
It might be hard to admit such privilege when the problem occurring doesn’t affect you personally.
I would like you to take a moment and think about your identity and where you fall under the following chart. This might not be a complete list and is not meant to classify you one way or another but it’s meant to give you a general idea about yourself and how you compare on the privileged/marginalized scale.
Oppressive structures discriminating against marginalized groups could seem invisible to those who are privileged. Marginalized groups on the other hand might face struggles on a daily basis. Among various privileges that someone could have including social class, gender identity, and Ableness/Disability, white privilege and male privilege are two areas I will expand on.
Those of you who hold white privilege hold an advantage. It’s not something you are blamed for and it shouldn’t be something that you should feel defensive about and would want to distance yourself from it. It’s simply there. You benefit from it without even recognizing it. As a first step, it is important that you recognize that you have such privilege under the dominant system. This is essential in order to be able to work on improving the problem and helping other people benefit. Saying that you don’t see color is one of the examples where you deny such privilege. Color should be something that differentiates us but brings us to celebrate and respect our differences at the same time. Denying your privilege will only make the problem invisible and perpetuate it further.
Racism isn’t just a position of prejudice and hatred. It is about being in a dominant position and able to exert power to oppress others. I cannot speak of the experiences or put myself in the shoe of a non-white person because I will never experience what they go through, but I can only try to understand their struggle by connecting with them and taking a stance against oppression. As Peggy McIntosh points out in her article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, a list of ways that show privilege such as:
“I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented. “
“Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability. “
“I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.”
“I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.”
You could be privileged in one aspect and marginalized in another. For example, even if I am privileged as a white person, I am marginalized as a woman. It is frustrating to live in a patriarchal society that is blind to the micro aggressions against women. A person denying male privilege would say that injustice doesn’t exist or other things among the line that women already have rights. But what is really happening is that they are unable to see the problem because it doesn’t personally affect them.
After all, privilege in one area or the other would put you at an advantage. The least you can do is recognize such privilege and try to understand the struggles of those who are marginalized.