‘Check your privilege‘ – Most people have been told this during a conversation, in one form or another. Also, people often have one or another type of privileges but they don’t know about it. It is like an invisible cloak that goes unnoticed to them.
Before we delve deeper into this, We need to understand what privilege is.
According to the dictionary, the meaning of the word Privilege is –
A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.
You don’t earn the privilege. You are simply handed it over by society.
Having privilege doesn’t mean that you are untouched by life’s adversities but it does mean that you have that unearned advantage because you identify with this identity that is given the privilege by society.
Privilege can be present in different forms. For example, few are gender, caste, race, financial status, country of origin, religion, language, ability, sexual orientation.
You get the gist.
Privilege simply means that under the exact same set of circumstances you’re in, life would be harder without your privilege.Phoenix Calida
Think about this. Being a man is hard. Being a man with disability is harder.
Being rich woman is hard. Being poor woman is harder.
Try to think in terms of which part of your identity makes it easier for you compared to others.
Because most people will understand it easily, let’s try to understand what gender privilege might be. I am picking gender privilege as an example because as an Indian woman, I have experienced some things first hand. So it is easier for me to identify that.
Ask the below questions to yourself.
- As a child, Were you ever asked to sit with your legs crossed?
- Can you go for a walk at any time of the day and would feel safe?
- Do you pretend to talk on the phone when you are in a taxi alone?
- Were you ever asked to talk in a lower tone?
- Do you always carry pepper spray with you?
- Is your heartbeat up while walking to the car park which is dimly lit?
- Did anyone grope you in public spaces? How many times did it happen to date?
- Did anyone ask you about changing the last name post marriage?
- Are you ever told that you do not look married?
- Did anyone assume that you don’t go to work?
- Were you ever asked about stopping work because having a family is more important than work?
If you answered with No to most of the questions, You have an Indian Male privilege.
You can apply the template with different questions about other kinds of privileges. Maybe think about the ways how religion or racial privilege can hurt society?
What should you do now?
Once you have checked your privileges, what should you do? People often get defensive if someone reminds them of their privileges. But, You don’t need to be defensive or feel guilty about your privilege because remember, the privilege was given to you by society.
Having the privilege and choosing to not push back against your privilege are two different things. You need to challenge the oppressive systems to promote social justice. So what should you do?
- Listen to people who are not as privileged as you.
- Be part of movements that fight against oppression.
- Teach other privileged people about their privileges.
- Try to identify your privileges in your surroundings.
- Ask questions. Raise issues. Notice when bias is playing out around you.
The first and foremost step is to acknowledge your privilege because once you have done that you can utilize that information in being more conscious about bringing justice to our societies.