Let’s Talk About the “P” Word (Privilege)

Lately there has been a lot going on in the news about racism and the cops and injustice.

And by lately, I mean the past several years…

Why?

Because racism is still a thing.

But…we aren’t talking about it in the right way. We’re playing the blame game, pointing fingers, and getting emotionally charged.

Which, is understandable…don’t get me wrong, racial minorities have every right to be upset and even outraged by discrimination and injustices that they have experienced.

I don’t think violence is ever the answer…but I can understand how frustration with the system can lead to this.

This past year in my graduate program and my recent experience of being a mother to a biracial child has really opened my eyes to the racial injustice in this world…it opened my eyes to my privilege.

Privilege.

Privilege is a funny word. It’s a trigger word, really. It triggers anyone who may have privilege.

Why??

Because we have misinterpreted the word to mean: If you have privilege, you have not worked hard in life.

This is not the case…but sadly that is the common belief and it stops the conversation. [See my post “If Life Was a Race” for more on this]

Privilege has nothing to do with work ethic…but everything to do with uncontrollable variables in life.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that those who are born into a home with food are more privileged than those who are born into a third world country in the midst of famine.

Some people have the privilege of access to clean water, some do not.

Some people have the privilege of growing up in a safe neighborhood, some do not.

Some people have the privilege of their parents paying for their college, others do not.

So we can see that these things are pretty uncontrollable….

Privilege is really as simple as this picture…

IMG957297_1

In this picture, there are 3 moms, with their kids. All similar ages, they all know each other.

One of these moms is married and able to stay at home.

One of these moms is married, but has to work part time.

One of these moms is single and has to work full time and live at home.

One of these kids is a girl, the others are boys.

One of these kids has food allergies.

Some of these moms have higher educations than the others.

Some moms were able to go to private colleges, some were not.

Some moms have debt, some do not.

Some of these moms live in better areas than the others.

Some of these moms have more money than the others

Some of these moms are racially and ethnically diverse or have racially diverse children.

So you see…privilege is just the differences we all have in life. Most of them are uncontrollable, and even components that are “controllable” are still affected the “uncontrollable” variables.

Well, when we start moving this conversation about privilege to the access to financial resources, and academic opportunities, and the “American Dream” and so on…the tension starts to build.

Yes, some people are born into financially stable homes and some are not. But we tend to blame the parents for the state of life that their child is born into.

It’s the parent’s fault that they are not financially stable, because anyone can just work hard and become wealthy.

We say:

“Well…those parents just didn’t work hard”

“They’re just druggies”

“Lazy, immigrants”

“They could have left the gang life…”

Now, let’s take a step back. So we blame the parents for their state of life, and yet we understand that whatever kids they bring into the world in that state of life are going to be severely affected by their this upbringing.  They are, in a sense, crippled by the atmosphere they are raised in…and it becomes a cyclical cycle that is hard to break, because then they become parents and are just living the same life that they were raised in and so on.

The truth is, few break out of the “systems” we are raised in.

But…it can be broken!

And often times it is broken through the help of understanding, compassionate, humble, privileged people who advocate for change.

Because, let’s be real….we don’t all have equal opportunity in this world. The American Dream says, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps…”

Excuse me…what if I don’t have bootstraps?

Nothing has shown me my privilege more than by training to be a counselor and becoming a young single mother.

I’ve never had such a strong “privilege” check in my life.

My eyes have been forever opened to the brokenness in this world.   Trauma is not fair….some people have to endure certain things that others will never come close to even realizing.

And if trauma isn’t distributed “equally” why do we insist on treating people “equally” as the answer.

Sometimes that concept doesn’t make sense, and I had a hard time grasping it myself. We are all created with equal value, worth, and dignity. But our life circumstances are not the same or “equal” so sometimes “equality” is not the answer, but rather “equity” is the answer.

This picture explains it perfectly:

There are 2 things that need to happen if we want to have an honest, real conversation about injustice.

  1. Those people that have more privilege need to learn how to become vulnerable enough to take a look at privilege and how it has affected their life (without becoming defensive-because remember, privilege does not mean you didn’t work hard. YOU ALL WORK HARD…it just means there may have had more access to resources that were, in a large part, out of your control because of the color of your skin, the money you were born into, the location of which you were born, etc.)
  2. Those that are experiencing injustice need to figure out another way besides violence to express the anger and frustration that is 100% warranted.

This is a very tough topic and everyone is touched by it, which is why we quickly become emotionally charged when talking about it.

But injustice is real. Discrimination is real. Racism, sexism, ageism, etc. it’s all real.

And it’s hurting people.

And we do need to talk about it…

But first things first.

  • Check your privilege
  • We are all doing the best we can with what we know (most of the time)
  • Be vulnerable enough to let personal defensiveness go
  • Oppression affects us all
  • Oppression is not our fault, but we must accept responsibility to make a change
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • Stop the violence
  • Sometimes we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are
  • Hear each other’s stories

Here’s some awesome resources on this topic:

Talking About Race and Stereotypes

The Danger of the Single Story

Sometimes You’re a Caterpillar

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About the “P” Word (Privilege)

  1. Great post. It cleared up a lot that I was confused about and overall just made me think. Thanks for always n writing in such a way that makes big topics seem relatable all while motivating me to make a change in my actions or ways of thinking God Bless

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