I’m hearing Tina Turner in my head as I start this blog post. “What’s love got to do with it…” Sing it, Tina!
I’m starting a series on privilege. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be examining some of the ways it shows up in our lives. At the end of the series, we’ll have an opportunity to talk about it – and share some of the ways it has shown up for you – on a Zoom call (details below).
Privilege is a hard word to define. Often in workshops people want to equate it with how much money one has “Those people are privileged” or being lucky “I’m so privileged to have had the chance to do that”. Those are not the types of privilege I’m talking about.
The privilege we are going to explore is “a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.” Definition source: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/what-is-privilege/
The social groups that have privilege are dominant groups/identities. In North America (and in many parts of the world) some of these are: males, cisgender people, white people, people who are abled (in mind, body and spirit), heterosexual/straight people, Christians, people of upper-middle class, and people for whom English is their first language.
Privilege exists because the rules, systems, and laws are made by those in power (see dominant groups/identities above) and are therefore made with those realities and needs in mind.
Having privilege is a slippery concept to grasp if you have it – and a very obvious concept to understand (and see) if you don’t: If you move through the world with relative ease, because the rules are made with you in mind, then it’s likely you won’t recognize that you have access and benefits. But you certainly notice the barriers that exist when you don’t have privilege.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore some of the ways privilege can show up.
Here is the first example: breaking the rules. If the rules are made with you in mind, then it stands to reason that you might feel comfortable breaking them.
A few weeks ago I was driving in a car and saw a van cut off another car. I noticed because there was a loud honking of horns, and then I saw the driver of the van (a white male) giving the driver of the other car the finger. The next thing I knew, that same van made an illegal turn across a solid yellow line and across traffic, into the onramp for the highway.
I was aghast. And my first reaction was “What?! I can’t believe he just did that!” But he did. No big deal you may be saying. That guy was just being an (fill in expletive here). Yes. And here’s the thing: privilege lets you believe that you can break the rules. Afterall, if you “own the road” you can do whatever you want. Because when we think we own something, we have a different relationship to it. Privilege also means you will often (or even usually) get away with breaking the rules if you’re caught).
Although this is a traffic example, “owning the road” manifests itself in many other ways; it’s a feeling of entitlement that comes with social power. When it’s about money, those with social power know they have it. But this entitlement applies to all other identities – although it is often much more subtle (as we will see over the next few weeks).
Take a look around this week and see if you can notice how people exercise their privilege by breaking the rules.
Mark your calendar! Post-series Zoom call to talk about Privilege: Thursday November 16th, 2:30pm-3:00pm EST.
No sign up required, just join us at: https://zoom.us/j/856382748