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Politics Here's a nifty little guide to checking your privilege

Apr. 19, 2017
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For all my fellow activists and social-justice warriors out there, the concept of checking your privilege is not new to you. You know just how essential it is to acknowledge the advantages you have due to certain privileges, and you’re constantly aware of how those advantages influence your everyday life. You also know how essential it is to be aware that not everyone has the same privileges you have--not to mention the ways in which lacking those privileges can cause certain disadvantages.   

You also understand that having some of these privileges may not be in your control and that having privilege doesn’t mean that you have not struggled in other ways--but you also know that it does mean your experiences and struggles are different from those who do not have your same privileges. You know not to take offense when someone asks you to check your privilege, because they are not trying to insult you: they are asking you to acknowledge the fact that they struggle in ways that you do not. Lastly, you know that it is essential to check your privilege because we cannot possibly hope to change an unjust and unequal system without first recognizing the ways in which we are unequal. 

Does all this sound like Greek to you? Not to worry! For the uninitiated, we’ve compiled this primer of the various major privileges that are present in our society and how to check them. 

via: Tumblr

1. Male Privilege

What is it? 

The concept that men have advantages which women do not have. 

What are the advantages?

Not worrying about whether what you wear will lead to being sexually harassed. Not worrying about being discriminated against for having sex. Not worrying about walking home alone at night for fear of being sexually harassed. Not worrying about taking up too much physical space. Not worrying about not being taken seriously for the way you look. Not risking repercussions for failing to conform to beauty standards. Not worrying about having to give up your career once you become a parent. Not worrying about about physical violence if you turn down a date. Not being constantly interrupted or talked down to. Not worrying that you might get raped if you drink too much. Not worrying that your rape will be blamed on your drinking. Go here for more examples. 

How do you check your privilege? 

Realize your privilege exists. Listen when women are talking about the disadvantages they face and don’t interrupt or mansplain their experiences. You are not a woman, and you do not know what it is like to be a woman, so don’t attempt to tell us about the struggles we face as women. But that does not mean women have to educate you on these matters either. It is not the job of women to explain to men how they are being oppressive. Figure it out on your own. The internet awaits. And once you do have a greater understanding of the various types of disadvantages we face, hold yourself accountable to providing more opportunities and advantages for women.

2. White Privilege

What is it?

The concept that white people have advantages which people of color do not have.

What are the advantages?

Not worrying about your safety during a police encounter. Not worrying about whether or not your history will be taught in general education. Not being discriminated against by school officials on the basis of your race. Not worrying about not getting a job because of the color of your skin. Not worrying about being presented accurately in the media. Not worrying about your actions being criminalized. Not being harassed for the color of your skin. Not worrying that you will be refused medical or legal help because of the color of your skin. Go here for more examples. 

How do you check your privilege?

Realize your privilege exists. Listen when POC are speaking and don’t disregard what they are saying just because it makes you feel uncomfortable. Imagine how uncomfortable they feel about the discrimination and racism they experience on a daily basis. Allow POC to combat systemic racism however they feel fit, and don’t try to lead the charge for an anti-racism campaign. You are not a POC, and you have never experienced racism, so don’t try to tell POC how to combat it. In order to be an ally, you need to take a step down from your position of power as a white person and stand behind POC, not in front of them.

3. Class Privilege

What is it?

The concept that people of higher socioeconomic status have advantages which people of lower socioeconomic class do not have.

What are the advantages?

Never worrying about whether you will have food or not. Never worrying about whether you will have shelter or not. Not worrying about being able to get a good night’s sleep. Not worrying about transportation. Not worrying about having access to education. Not worrying about whether you can afford to call in sick to work. Not worrying about having access to health care. Not worrying about being able to buy clothes. Not worrying about being discriminated against due to lack of money. 

How do you check your privilege?

Realize your privilege exists. And be grateful. Having food and water and clothes and a home and available education is not a given for some people; don’t take these privileges for granted. Use your position of greater economic status to bring light to the disparity between the classes. Your financial stability allows for you to have greater convenience in certain areas of your life, so don’t allow the comfort of convenience to interfere with your ability to create social change. Donating money is a great way to leverage your class privilege, but don’t stop there: make sure to also donate time and effort to creating the same opportunities and environments for lower-class communities. 

4. Straight Privilege

What is it?

The concept that heterosexual people have advantages which people in the LGBTQ community do not have. 

What are the advantages?

Not worrying about losing family or friends because of your orientation. Not worrying about being a target of hate crimes because of your orientation. Not worrying about losing a job because of your orientation. Not feeling the need to change your appearance to prove (or hide) your orientation. Not worrying that people of the same sex always think you are interested in them.

How do you check your privilege?

Realize your privilege exists. Recognize that heterosexuality is treated as the norm in our society--not just in the media and in the entertainment industry but also in education, religion, language, and even everyday interactions. Don’t allow yourself, or those around you, to keep promoting these heteronormative behaviors or actions. Ask for representation of the LGBTQ community in media coverage, demand that LGBTQ history is taught in schools, and do your part to change the dialogue to be more inclusive and accepting of those who are not just straight. More representation allows for the possibility of equity. 

5. Cis Privilege

What is it?

The concept that cisgender people have advantages which transgender people do not have.

What are the advantages?

Not worrying about being harassed, attacked, or killed for your gender identity. Not worrying about which bathroom to use in public. Not having to risk harassment or assault when revealing your identity. Not worrying what will happen when you disclose your identity to a potential partner. Not worrying about having to get very expensive surgery should you want to undergo a sex-change. Not worrying about people using the proper pronoun to address you. Go here for more examples. 

How do you check your privilege?

Realize your privilege exists. Think critically about gender identity, and recognize that it is not the same thing as biological sex. Respect each person’s identity as it is without question, judgement, or reservations. No one has ever questioned you on yours, so don’t do the same to others. Work actively to include the experiences of trans folk and genderqueer individuals in discussions on your gender politics. Not including their experiences invalidates their identity. Support your sisters, not just your cis-ters (or cis-bros). 

6. Able-Bodied Privilege

What is it?

The concept that able-bodied people have advantages which people with disabilities do not have.

What are the advantages?

Not worrying about whether you will have access to certain areas. Not worrying about pain management throughout the day. Not worrying about whether your home will be able to accommodate you. Not worrying about travel. Not worrying about being hired solely because you have a disability. Not worrying about not being hired solely because you have a disability. Not worrying about whether you will need help completing everyday tasks. Not worrying that people will assume you always need help completing everyday tasks. Not worrying that people think you are lazy because of your disability. 

How do you check your privilege?

Realize your privilege exists. Understand that there are significant challenges that come with having a disability which you will never be able to fully comprehend, and that having a disability is a part of that person’s daily experiences and identity. That being said, recognize that they are not solely defined by their disability, nor are they to be put on a pedestal for it. Talk to people with disabilities without disregarding their disability or highlighting it to the exclusion of all other traits.  


image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter