Before we can figure out how oppression is affected by privilege, we should first understand privilege. Who has a good definition? I define it as an advantage. A benefit. Something that not everyone has. Privilege gives you power. In the wrong hands it can be very dangerous, but for those with good intentions, privilege could be what saves the world.
I have a ton of privileges. Here are my picks:
- I am in a heterosexual relationship.
- I am white.
- I am young(ish).
- I got pregnant easily…twice.
- I was able to breastfeed for an entire year…twice.
- My family is healthy.
- I don’t look suspicious to most people.
- I own a vehicle.
- I have a job.
- I have two degrees.
- I have a relationship with both my parents.
- I live in a safe town.
- My husband stays at home with my kids.
- I can feed my family.
- I was able to get birth control from Planned Parenthood in college.
- I was not a teen parent.
- I am not dependent on alcohol or other drugs.
- I do not have pre-existing conditions.
- I can put gas in my vehicle.
- I am able to get to my polling station on election day.
- I can voice my opinion without going to jail.
- I can hold hands with my husband and no one would look at me weird.
- My kids have access to sports.
- My kids have access to music lessons.
- My kids have access to art programs.
- I can walk.
- I can see.
- I can hear.
- I have cable and internet.
- My house has not been foreclosed.
- I live in a vacation destination.
- I know how to use a computer.
- I work at a university.
- I have professional development and educational opportunities.
- I have somewhere to sleep.
- I send my kids to great schools.
- I had enough savings to heat my house last winter.
- I do not live in fear of my death or hell.
- I can listen to NPR on the way to work everyday.
- I have a library card.
- I can get to the library easily.
Some of these privileges are earned and some are unearned. Many people have these same privileges and more. But, many people do not. These privileges give me a lot of power to make assumptions and/or judgements. For example, I am not addicted to alcohol. That makes it very easy for me to say to an alcoholic, “Why can’t you just stop drinking?” Or, “Am I not enough to make you stop drinking?” I assume that not drinking is as simple as, well, not drinking. I assume that you can love someone enough to make you not want to drink. I assume it’s as easy as just making the simple choice not to do it. I assume these things because I’m examining the problem from my place of non-addiction privilege. Privilege gives you permission to lack empathy.
Privilege is a user. In our country, privilege blinds people and uses them to oppress others. It has a ton of power over people. But, here’s the trick. If you can recognize your privilege, you can take the power back. You can start using your privilege to do what you want. This is where you save the world!
What do you think privilege means? What privileges do you have? What will you do with your privilege?