In the midst of a pandemic, we hear more people speaking up about privilege than ever before. Why is that? Because, racial injustice in our country has become so prominent and public, that communal action has become necessary… AND there are people out there who are still acting unbothered! Humans are collectively being called by the present issues to either stand up against unjust decisions of racist people (that we’ve been seeing for years), or, to fall into a choice of ignorance that allows us to be blind to problems that may not concern that person.
If you are able to make the choice between where you stand on the issue, that means you have the PRIVILEGE of not being affected by it. The lack of understanding in privileged individuals has evolved into ignorance of morally wrong problems happening in our communities. Coming to accept and understand your individual privilege can be difficult, but it is what is necessary in creating a better world.
You would think that from a young age, we would understand that it’s unfair for birth privilege to allow some people to make more money than others, have more opportunities for growth, or give people in the same places different standards of safety based off of their looks/origin. The tricky part to understanding that, is that it’s NOT just black & white. Humans have a wide range of privileges, and each person has a story that is not revealed in their appearance.
Privileges I am aware that I have:
- Being white
- Being heterosexual
- Being able-bodied
- Having a clear gender identity
- Having a roof over my head + more (plenty of food, public education, braces, etc.)
- Having a mom (who also prioritized my future in cheerleading)
- Having a dad (who also paid for my first year of college)
- Being offered a career before I graduated college
I am a white (Irish, German, English, French-Canadian, maybe a little bit Native American) woman. I have blue eyes and light hair. I look younger than my age and was born with an approachable face/body. I do not look intimidating. I grew up in a progressive area that encourages acceptance of diversity. I never have to leave my house fearful that I will be attacked or treated negatively solely because of the way I look.
Privileges I don’t have, that you should be aware of if they apply to you:
- Being a man
- Being a Christian (or being raised with a defined religion)
- Growing up in a home with parents that are married
- Always having both parents present in my life
- Financial stability
- Having someone to give you a full education, job, or home
Some battles I will face are issues in pay/career ceilings, coming from a “broken” home with underlying issues, or being stuck behind other millenials financially. Those issues feel like nothing when I think of what I don’t have to face due to my privilege: not feeling safe/at home in my own body, hiding my truths from my loved ones, or being afraid that on any given day, someone will unfairly take my life due to the color of my skin.
Although none of us have chosen the bodies we were born into, a majority of the generations before us allowed society to arrogantly believe that judgments are appropriate based off of appearance. This harmful idea implies that we should accept that our bodies/families define our paths in life, regardless of basic rights we have as humans.
Any mentality that justifies certain lives over others is prehistoric and frankly, inhumane. If enough of us want the world to be better, we will need to steadily change the hearts of the stubborn. We have a generation that knows the power of our voices, we just need to stay consistent in standing up for our goals. We should collectively take responsibility in speaking out against racist issues until EVERYONE truly believes, AND SHOWS, that black lives matter.
Being aware of your privilege, whether it’s white privilege, gender privilege, or any other characteristic that assures you any advantage over others, is humbly appreciated more than it is required. Educating yourself on how to understand the battles of those without your personal privilege means SO MUCH on the path to finding justice for societal issues and lack of prior equality.
It’s OK to feel guilty for this privilege, because you didn’t ask for it, but you may have been thankful for it in some way, and that part is tough to un-learn. You can channel any of your guilt toward change and choose how you’re going to act about on it in the future. Coming to understand your privilege can actually help you make things right in the future.
Being “colorblind” isn’t enough. Being “not racist” isn’t enough. The current protests, begging to relay the message that black lives matter, are a result of the unheard (no matter how you “don’t see” color). Being overwhelmingly anti-racist, or stopping any attacking on another race, is what we need to make long-lasting change.
- When I hear racial slurs, I can patiently explain that any unjustified attack on ANY human/race will not be acceptable in our conversations. I can share my goals to stand up for those who need to by amplified by my voice. I can start breakthrough conversations without seeming argumentative, antagonistic, or defensive.
- I can continue to educate myself and therefore, educate others. We will keep learning and encouraging the next generation to do the same. We will raise our future children with more insight.
- If I am ever faced with a role of hiring employees, accepting students, or allowing participation in any way, I can mindfully and fairly disregard factors that are out of applicants’ control. I would encourage people in power to see people for who they are without making assumptions based off of looks, name, or origin.
- I have the right to protest, and can choose to support peaceful protests for issues I agree with. When an issue doesn’t concern you personally, you have an even bigger voice to protect others! *Nobody is asking you to protest if you do not feel safe*
- I can become more aware of my own obstacles vs. privileges. This will give me more time to develop my understanding for battles other people face and educate myself.
- I can reach out to friends who may be in a bad place emotionally. I can remind others (especially those struggling to be heard) that I am here to listen and will have their backs. A simple text, snapchat, venmo coffee, facetime, or black lives matter post shows powerful support.
- When in a stable financial situation, I can donate to organizations who share the same beliefs I do, or who act on the issues I’m focusing on. I can help fund causes for change.
- I can register to VOTE and have a voice in electing officials that will make changes in the community, at the state level, and for our country.
- I can focus on being a better ally. I can be vocal on the internet and give others the strength to use theirs. I can set a better example for peers and generations after me.
- Most importantly, I can keep this movement in mind when it’s no longer blasted on the news from rioting. We can accept that we have changed for our future and being silent is being against change.
To my friends who have all of the privileges and handouts the world– be mindful of what you’ve been given. You can be proud of what your family has built up for you, but be more humble knowing that others are not able to progress at your rate without your advantages. Knowing your privilege is the first step in eliminating some of those negative judgments toward people who don’t have that sense of security.
To my friends who have less than I do, or who don’t experience the privilege I have, I hear you, I am continually working to understand your struggle, and I will have your back when you need me.
Black lives matter. My friends matter. Stop racism. Be the change.