Why does talking about privilege cause some people to become defensive or upset? Does it still do that? Well, I think sometimes when people have worked really hard to get where they are, the idea of privilege might seem to reduce all the work they’ve done. But the term privilege is not meant to diminish anything anyone has done or what they’ve gone through. Privilege does not suggest that the privileged do not work hard for what they have, but what it does is acknowledge that some of us have advantages that others do not have – for reasons we cannot control. The idea of privilege is an acknowledgment that this is the world we live in. Many things in life are not fair, including privilege.
As such, I don’t think there’s a need to become defensive or upset when privilege is discussed. There is no reason to become defensive or upset when disease is discussed or when third world hunger is discussed. These are things in life that we have to navigate, with no fault on any one person. It is the system that we live in. However, I think we should acknowledge that it exists. Not acknowledging this can make a person seem pretty much like a dolt, to put it a nice way, as in this example: “On A Plate”
There’s plenty of proof surrounding the problems of privilege. For instance, education. Here we find how economic status can set a child up for future success based on brain development through vocabulary and interactions: The New Brain Science of Learning.
Here’s a short info graphic that helps explain the taxing effects of poverty on the brain (Although, privilege can extend to many layers. I mean, there’s gender, race, economic status, you insert the next social norm here…): How Poverty Taxes the Brain.
Okay, so there’s lots of evidence of the effects of privilege. Educational foundation is affected. Confidence is affected. Expectations, challenges and goals are affected. Continued learning is affected. And so on.
Let’s just paint a picture… well, an extremely quick and simplified picture.
Imagine starting out as the slowest person in math class who has not learned to count. The class is doing addition and continues on to subtraction and multiplication and so on. Without the basic understanding and foundation of basic numbers and counting set, the gap continues to widen for you. On top of the fact that resources and opportunities are also disparately different for you than for the more privileged. Maybe you have no teachers or educators to devote any amount of individual time to you. You get very discouraged and come to believe that math or school is something you will never overcome. You’re lost. You’re distracted. Maybe you give up. Maybe you find something else that you can do well in, outside of school. On the streets. Maybe it’s illegal, dangerous and unethical by all “normal” standards. But there, you “thrive”.
Would it be right to hold you to the same standard? To shake a finger at you and yell, “shame!” For others in society to hold their heads high, and in disgust of your actions or life. And then to applaud the unique few among you who rise above these sets of adversities only to join the norm. Like it should have been you too. Implying that it’s acceptable to require you to work harder and overcome all odds, in order to get any sort of “acceptance”.
My answer is no. Okay, I know it’s not cool to agree or be okay with actions that cause hurt or pain or destruction. At the same time, it’s also not cool to lack empathy in the matter and blame the issue on those who are living in the results of societal injustices. Sure, everyone needs to take responsibility for themselves. Really, that’s the only way to improve oneself. But what I’m saying is that it’s not right to blame and condemn a person because that does NOTHING to help. Perhaps guidance, encouragement and support would be a better option than blame. But I’m no expert. My point is, there’s a bigger problem here than just with the individual… like so many issues. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix.
Although I understand there’s no easy fix to societal injustice, I do now understand (or believe) that change can happen. It starts with us as people and our attitudes. We have to understand the problem and not fear it, and eventually we need to address it. And hopefully, one day, it will not be.
Okay, now on to the fun stuff!