Anyone who thinks the idea of privilege means you didn’t have to work hard for the things you have needs to see this.
The Editors at Everyday Feminism
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When people bring up the concept of privilege, it’s usually met with a lot of resistance. People hear “privilege” and think that it means “everything that you have has been handed to you.” That’s not really what privilege is. Let me give you an example.
I was raised in an upper-middle class neighborhood. That means I was able to go to a good school, I never had to worry about being in a dangerous neighborhood, I always had access to technology, and there were very few cases in my childhood where money was an issue. I hadn’t done anything to earn these privileges. They simply existed for me.
See, each of us is born into a world that has history. That history means that there are certain people that will have less obstacles than others. Being raised upper-middle class means that it was very easy for me to, for example, pursue an education. An education that has made it easier for me to create the videos that I create.
Someone who is of less means has to overcome poverty to gain access to good education and technology. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have to work hard for the things that I have. I absolutely did! But I also recognize that these things were more accessible to me.
All of these things aside, my life has been far from easy. I’ve had to struggle a lot harder than a lot of people that I know. I had to overcome a lot of hurdles, especially as a black trans woman.
However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t benefited from pre-existing structures that have made my life easier. Acknowledging that is what people mean by “checking your privilege.” You cannot truly fight for equality while fighting to maintain structures that oppress other people. It’s important to check your privilege and be aware that it’s there.
While I can never deny that there are certain areas where I am privileged, I’m also, at the end of the day, a black woman. Being a black woman in this world really doesn’t come with privileges.
Being raised upper-middle class does not mean that I don’t experience racism. It means that I simply have more tools to cope with it. The reality is that we live in a world where I’m seen as black first, and a woman second.
We currently live in a society that still very much judges and defines people by their race. I could have enough money in my pocket to buy the entire store, but I’ll still be followed in stores because I’m black. Being privileged in one way does not mean that you aren’t oppressed in another. Being oppressed in one way does not always cancel out the privilege that you have in other ways.
For example, I recently made a video about gay misogyny, where I discussed Andy Cohen’s interview with Nicki Minaj.
Andy Cohen is a gay, white man. His homosexuality, I’m sure, has given him struggle, but he is still a white man. Being both white and male comes with privileges in this country that aren’t afforded to black women, like Nicki Minaj.
On the subject of Andy Cohen, the drastic change in representation of gay characters on television is a great example of how certain privileges exist despite specific types of oppression. Think of just how many gay, white, seemingly hetero-normative men are currently on television.
Think of how many of them not only host their own television shows, but produce them. I can’t think of very many gay, black men with media empires behind them outside of RuPaul, and trust me, it’s not because there aren’t enough qualified black men out there. It’s because their face is not the preferred face.
Outside of the LGBT community, think about the fact that Samuel L. Jackson and Morgan Freeman have both been the token older, black man in films since I was a child. There’s this notion in Hollywood that if you hire one black person, then suddenly you’re good.
The notion of filling a quota and tokenizing people of color as a means of saying we’re okay ignores the fact that there are other people who aren’t really being allowed a chance because society has decided that they’ve met their quota. It’s super important to recognize that the success of a few people does not mean that the problem is solved, or that privilege no longer exists. In other words, having a black president does not mean that racism is over.
There are some people who’s possibilities are limited because of existing structures of oppression and privilege. When my father was my age, he wasn’t able to pursue the things that I’ve been able to pursue. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to pursue them, it’s because he legally wasn’t able to. Slavery might have been abolished 152 years ago, but the impact of slavery still exists. Segregation in Boston still existed when my father was a child, and it still exists today in the education system.
I understand that when it comes to conversations about privilege, people can become defensive, but leave your feelings at the door and recognize that we’re having a much larger conversation here. As I’ve said, we’ve each been born into a world that has history, and there are certain structures of power that are in place. Some of those structures benefit some while oppressing others. If you are truly invested in changing that, you’ll acknowledge how you benefit from these existing structures.
Acknowledging that is truthfully the first step to making those changes, because when you’re in a position of privilege, you are an asset of change. The reality is that you’re not really helping us fight against these things if you’re not willing to acknowledge them for what they really are. You can say that you’d like for things to be better, but if you’re not willing to tear down these systems, then you’re a part of the problem. On that note, I hope this video helps you check your privilege. As usual, I want you to always remember, and never forget, that you are beautiful, and you are loved. Bye!
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- 4 Uncomfortable Thoughts You May Have When Facing Your Privilege
- 5 Ways Marginalized People Can Recognize Their Privileges In Other Areas
Kat Blaque is a Contributing Vlogger for Everyday Feminism. She’s an opinion vlogger, children’s illustrator, and thrift store addict. Check out Kat’s website and YouTube channel and follow Kat on Twitter @.