One item that has become apparent as the world becomes more connected is the idea of privilege. However, it’s also one of the words that gets thrown around without necessarily being understood. Understanding privilege is a good starting point.
Privilege is different from opportunity. Instead, privilege is the lack of a particular barrier to achievement, which makes it more challenging to recognize. It’s often a case of asking, “what things were not a barrier for me?” to figure it out.
Typically, we associate privilege with things we do not have control over, like our skin color, where our parents work, or the quality of the school we attended. These are considered “unearned” and are part of what makes recognizing privilege challenging.
For example, social conditioning tells us college is a valuable opportunity to get ahead. However, items like reliable internet connections and transportation are a privilege that affects how college goes. The same can be said for not needing to work during the college term.
A more straightforward example is religious privilege. If you belong to the dominant religion in your country, then public holidays follow your religious schedule. Those automatic days off for major celebrations are a privilege many others do not enjoy and must use PTO for.
The first step is always recognizing our privileges. Whether they’re from the color of our skin, religion, orientation, or something else, recognizing our own privileges helps us understand how it affects everyone else.
The next step is finding ways to mitigate the barriers other people face. This should not be approached from the viewpoint that folks need saving. Instead, we should focus on building a just society for all.
Privilege often doesn’t mean what folks think it means. That’s a good starting point for the conversations about how we can create a more just and equitable society for all rather than continuing as it has always been.