The Silence of Privilege

In light of recent politics and social issues, the word privilege is becoming a part of more conversations, making it onto protest posters, and in large speeches at rallies. It’s easy for us to talk about privilege when we are condemning the acts of others, claiming they are unjust, and sticking up for those without a chance to be heard.

What is privilege? Is it our opportunity to speak for those who aren’t heard, using our power, education, or unearned advantage we have in the world? Is it being able to walk into a grocery store without worrying about whether or not I will find hair products, Band-Aids, and make up that matches my skin and hair?

Beginning the video at 1:10, Adam Falkner recites his poem/spoken word entitled, “The Definition of Privilege”

In this video, the speaker, Adam Falkner recalls a time when his college professor questioned him about race. She asked him, why whiteness made him so uncomfortable.

“Because I don’t ever think about it,” he answered her.

“Not having to think about something sounds like an amazing privilege,” she responded.

According to the dictionary, privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” In relation to our own lives and the lives of others, it may seem as though we don’t have this special right or immunity, because we don’t think about it or talk about. “I’ve worked hard for what I have, I earned everything I owe, I’ve never gotten a handout,” is a common and defensive response that is easy to spit out when the topic of privilege arises.

It’s easy to take this idea of recognizing our privilege and saying, “Well I don’t want it,” “I know I’m lucky to have these advantages, but I don’t want them…” But how do we transform our thought processes into realizing that we have had a tremendous advantage just by being born into a country where water is clean and available? How do we “combat” the messy strings attached to our privilege? This is where the question arises, is the ultimate privilege, being able to acknowledge that we have the ability to be silent about our privilege?

I challenge you to begin the conversation. Embrace the awkwardness. Don’t just acknowledging privilege. Diminish the silence around our own privilege.

-MAO

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