What is privilege?*
When people hear they belong to a privileged group or benefit from something like "race privilege" or "gender privilege," they don't get it, or they feel angry and defensive about what they do get. Privilege has become one of those loaded words we need to reclaim so that we can use it to name and illuminate the truth.... As Peggy McIntosh describes it, privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they've done or failed to do. ... The existence of privilege doesn't mean I didn't do a good job, of course, or that I don't deserve credit for it. What it does mean is that I'm also getting something that other people are denied... The ease of not being aware of privilege is an aspect of privilege itself, what some call "the luxury of obliviousness." - Allan G. Johnson, Privilege, Power, and Difference. P. 23-25
1. Please identify one or two identity groups, from the list below, in which you have privilege.
2. Reflect on situations listed for your identity. Take a few minutes and jot down your reflections to these questions:
- Reading the example of situations and thinking about my privilege, I felt .........
- How does this kind of privilege show up in my actions (consciously or not) at work, in my community or in other settings?
3. Ask yourself. What might I do to be more aware of my privilege in my daily activities.
- How might your experience as a white person differ from the experience of a person of color in:
- applying for a job?
- passing police on the street?
- preparing your child to go to school for the first time?
- How might your experience as a cis heterosexual person differ from the experience of an LGBTQ person in:
- expressing affection, love and comfort in public?
- preparing to introduce your partner to your family of origin?
- participating in a lunch discussion at work on what you did this weekend?
- How might your experience as a Christian differ from the experience of a Jew, Muslim, or Atheist in:
- testifying in court?
- arranging time off at work to celebrate a religious holiday?
- openly displaying religious symbols without fear of disapproval, violence, or vandalism?
- How might your experience as an able-bodied person differ from the experience of a person with a disability in:
- commuting to work each day?
- negotiating where the annual work dinner is to be held?
- how people interpret an expression of anger or frustration?
- How might your experience as a man differ from the experience of a woman in:
- taking the car to a repair shop?
- walking to your car after the store closed at night?
- reading your performance evaluation in which colleagues describe your performance as aggressive?
- How might your experience as a professional wage earner differ from the experience of someone who is unemployed in:
- responding to school requests for supplies for your children?
- responding to old acquaintances who want to meet up for lunch?
- answering a want ad for a job 60 miles away?
*The content in in this blog post was created in collaboration with The Center for Assessment and Policy Development (CAPD), MP Associates and World Trust Educational Services, funded by The W.K. Kellogg Foundation.